Why Harry Styles’ Controversial Vogue Cover is a Monumental Breakthrough for Feminism and its Misconceived Barriers.

The definition for feminism and the idea around who can be a feminist has been manipulated for a long time, to which, even in the 21s​ t​ Century, Harry Styles – who is a keen advocate for the cause – can face heavy criticism by making history for being the first man to grace the ​Vogue​ cover in a lavish Gucci​ dress. Not only did he become the first man to ever withhold such a position on the front cover, but he also did it with style that makes us cheer in support. So what is the burning issue surrounding this situation, you may ask? Well let me start from the beginning.

When the issue was released on December 1st, it didn’t take long for the praise to be replaced by right-wing backlash. Conservative author, Candace Owens, delivered disapproval to the magazine and its star for the decisions made around his outfit selections. She also showed unhappiness over Styles’ Instagram caption, ‘Bring back manly men’, alongside an image of him wearing a pale blue suit and eating a banana. It is quite evident Styles’ play on image and words that a manly man is more courageous owning their desired fashion and feminised beliefs than going with what the traditional views associated with the term state.

However, this got lost in comprehension for Owens who took to Twitter to rant about the situation and express her volatile beliefs. She stated​, “There is no society that can survive without strong men”, adding, “….In the west, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack”.

Her words were quickly summoned to the attention of Styles who disregarded Owens views in a recent interview with ​Variety,​ stating:

“To not wear (something) because it’s females’ clothing, you shut out a whole world of great clothes,” he added, “I think what’s exciting about right now is you can wear what you like. It doesn’t have to be X or Y. Those lines are becoming more and more blurred.”

Although everyone is entitled to their opinion, as a female, Owen’s lack of approval for Styles’ input was more harmful to the feminism cause than what she believed Styles to be inferring. A misunderstanding can lead to an inevitable disruption to an individual’s reputation but also referring to the feminisation of men as an “outright attack” is beyond excusable. Her comments were picked up by ​‘Scrubs’​ actor Zach Braff who wrote ​“Our whole lives boys and men are told we need to be manly. Life is short. Be whatever the f–k you want to be.” ​House​ actress, Olivia Wilde, also came in defence of the singer and called Owen’s comments “Pathetic”.

What Styles’ represented on the ​Vogue​ cover, his social media posts and in the ​Variety i​nterview, surpasses the initial processes of what feminism should look like showing there isn’t a barrier to being identified as a feminist or even just being you and having feminised views.

To be contentious, traditional beliefs should be kept in the past, to allow young people to live and express themselves. The world will only bloom if we learn to adapt with the world that is evolving around us. There is more freedom and expression in this day and age than we have ever previously experienced, and understandably so, this can bring fear and great animosity. But, at the end of the day all that matters is to live and let live without harming someone’s happiness by expressing a reality that is no more.

Equality is at the heart of Feminism and you don’t have to be a female to support the cause. Styles’ grew up with his mother and sister as influences and experienced the empowerment of women first-hand. From this he grasped the true meaning of feminism and removed the stigma from being a male feminist and wearing clothes that are advertised for women. With 2021 on the horizon, it may be the right time to release our dated teachings and perceptions and learn to be more open minded towards the wonderful revelations that exist in our world.

Blurring the lines between masculinity and femininity is at the essence of Styles’ approach and it’s an iconic execution from both the cover star and Vogue. From a young age, boys and girls have been taught in a stubborn patriarchy inflicted with sexism of what one should be eligible to attain based on their appearance. Styles’ cover is a monumental breakthrough for feminism, because it breaks down the barriers of toxic masculinity. By having a cis-gendered straight man, express his individuality and wear clothes that are not just gorgeous but fitting to Styles’ exuberant and loveable personality, it shows how ‘being a man’ means embracing your individuality. In a way, the freedom of 21st century fashion mirrors a new world which shatters the gender norms and encourages others to follow suit, and be able to express themselves without the fear induced by toxic masculinity. Styles’ efforts may not have rid the issue of the insidious side to masculinity that still exists but its an inspirational message to young people especially those stuck in a mundane cycle of meeting crooked expectations.

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