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What Does Harry Styles Vogue Cover Teach Us About Standards Of Beauty

What we’ve learned so far and what’s yet to come.

POSTEDBYMAGDALENA PULIT

It’s 2020 and people still lose their shit when a man wears a dress. At least the American Right does. Yes, we’re talking about Harry Styles whose ruffled Gucci dress on the Vogue cover sparked controversies on Twitter. 

Candace Owens, a conservative commentator and activist, currently promoting her new book, cried to ‘bring back manly men.’ Ben Shapiro, another right-wing author, joined her and pointed out the dangers of male feminization.

Twitter hit back immediately, including the responses from the director Olivia Wilde telling Owens ‘You’re pathetic,’ and the actress Jameela Jamil saying that ‘Manly is whatever you want it to be.’

Jamil has a good point and the American right knows about it. Their desperate cry for the return of ‘masculinity’ is not about certain gender roles but about the articulation of division between scary leftist progress and good conservative order. At the end of the day, President Trump, the guardian of traditional values, has probably worn more makeup during COVID than Harry Styles in his entire career.

Tons of celebrities defending Styles’ gender-fluid fashion are right to speak up in this beauty discussion but they’re missing another important point. The white cis guy in the dress doesn’t revolutionize the gendered fashion standards as much as a trans woman of color, still to appear on the Vogue cover, would. Until Lizzo’s recent feature, Vogue has never even included 'a big Black woman' on the cover, so the photoshoot with Styles in a dress, valid and beautiful, is nevertheless far from radical or brave. 

While his version of masculinity is setting an important example for future generations, we can’t forget that he’s coming from an easier place to promote androgynous fashion. Meanwhile, violence towards Black trans people occurs every day, that’s why Vogue has more steps to take if it really wants to set up new standards. 

Twitter is full of examples of cis men of color, challenging the masculine standards of beauty who deserve some praise. In the world of Asap Rocky’s babushka look, Kid Cudi, Lil Uzi, Lil Nas, Miss J Alexander, and, of course, Lenny Kravitz and Prince, Harry Styles is not the only gender-fluid fashion icon. 

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