Harry Styles has been criticised by right-wing pundits for wearing a dress during a photoshoot and, in the process, apparently, threatening to destroy conventional masculinity.
Last week, Styles made history by becoming the first man to appear solo on the cover of Vogue in its 128-year history. Photographed by Tyler Mitchell, he wore a blue Commes Des Garcons gown paired with a black tuxedo jacket.
Plenty of people welcomed this androgynous styling, but it also provoked a backlash from the socially conservative right.
Prominent American right-winger Candace Owens tweeted, “There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. 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.”
Karl Marx, who wrote extensively on the subject of androgynous fashion in his iconic text Das Kapital, would undoubtedly be thrilled by Vogue’s latest cover.
Fellow conservative pundit Ben Shapiro agreed with Owens, tweeting, “Anyone who pretends this is not a referendum on masculinity for men to don floofy dresses is treating you like a full-on idiot…Pretending that men dressing like women does not feminize men is ridiculous, particularly coming from the same people who are celebrating Styles BECAUSE he is feminizing masculinity.”
Half a century of androgyny in pop music still hasn’t led to the destruction of the patriarchy, which means this outraged reaction feels a little hyperbolic. Styles looks good in a dress, but him wearing one isn’t exactly revolutionary.
Besides, one of the outfits he wore for the shoot was more of a kilt-type affair than a dress. And the fact that a kilt is, in fact, a signifier of traditional masculinity shows how arbitrary all of this stuff actually is.
Let’s hope these right-wing American pundits never have to attend a Scottish wedding, the shock of seeing all that transgressive gender-bending might give them a heart attack.