A photo that has challenged gender norms


Drawn by Taryn Morris

Cartoon of Harry Styles posing in a Gucci dress and jacket for Vogue December cover

Angelina Pascali, Reporter

Tapping through each of her friends’ stories, sophomore Miriya Mattern began to see a common trend. They each reposted a photo of a man in a dress taken in a Vogue photoshoot. Mattern found it unusual that this post had been getting so much attention.  

Harry Styles is the first man to ever pose solo on a Vogue magazine cover. The magazine has been in existence for over 120 years and has only ever featured men solo on the cover 10 times.

He not only did it first, but he did it in style, Mattern said. Styles is pictured wearing a jacket and dress by Gucci in Vogue’s December issue. This caused an uproar of criticism for the singer.

“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,” Candace Owens tweeted. “It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.” 

The singer responded to this comment by posting another photo of himself taken at the same Vogue photoshoot on Instagram

“Bring back manly men,” Styles said in his caption.

Candace Owens is an American conservative author, commentator and political activist who speaks out onTwitter to criticize celebrities including Cardi B, Nick Cannon and Kanye West. 

Although Owens disagrees with the photoshoot, Mattern supports it.

“I think it’s amazing,” Mattern said. “It breaks society’s standards of what a man should be, what a man should wear and what he should look like. And he’s done that in many ways too. He’s always broken gender norms, and I think it’s really important that he does that because toxic masculinity is so ingrained in our culture. In our society, it’s the norm.” 

Styles has been known to defy masculine norms. He often wears nail polish and feminine clothes. Although this photoshoot is seen as the beginning of a progressive movement, the music industry has been battling gender norms for years.

“It’s not something new in the music industry,” sophomore Azkar Madison said. “It’s been in the music industry quite often. Especially with Prince, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix. That goes back all the way to the 70s.”

Styles said in an interview with vogue that he thinks with music it’s so important to evolve, “and that extends to clothes and videos and all that stuff.” Styles has used his platform to show that clothes and preferences have no gender.

“He wears nail polish,” Mattern said. “I think that was the first major thing, because, according to society, only women wear nail polish, and if a guy wears nail polish, he’s automatically gay. And so I think that he really attacked those gender norms and toxic masculinity.”

Coming from such a big influencer, this unorthodox photoshoot encourages young boys and girls to be true to their identity and continue on the path of discovering who they are.

“Harry Styles is such a prominent and big figure in the music industry,” Mattern said. “And for girls, it’s a sign that once you get rid of toxic masculinity, you can move forward and move towards gender equality, which are all connected. These beliefs are restricting for boys because they feel like they can’t express themselves. They don’t feel manly enough if they were to do something that was feminine. So it’s sort of like a safe feeling, you know, and I guess it makes everyone, sort of, have the pressure on  their shoulders lift slightly more, because now, someone who has a platform is using it to attack what society has held in place for such a long time.”

Although it may seem over-hyped, it must be looked at from the bigger picture. Madison said men should be allowed to wear what they want and be vulnerable.

“I feel like this is just a photoshoot,” Madison said. “But the more casual it becomes, the more it’s normalized and then, in the long run, the more progessive our society can become.”

Sophomore Payton Ohler said she believes the photoshoot does not deserve the hype it is receiving. 

“No one cares that much about what other people wear, or say, or do,” Ohler said. “It doesn’t make sense. I feel like no one was truly bothered by the photoshoot, people are just saying their opinion on the subject and others are making those people’s opinions sound worse than they actually are.”

Junior Roman Williams agrees with Ohler.

“I think everyone can have their own opinion on the subject, but they shouldn’t go to extremes over it,” Williams said. “No one cares what people wear, celebrity or not. It’s not a big deal.”

Styles believes clothes are a form of expression and empowerment.

“I think if you get something that you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit. Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with,” Styles said in the Vogue interview.