by Sophie Lindner

As soon as we’re born we get told what colors we should like, what games we should play with, and most of all how to behave according to our gender. Basically, as soon as we open our eyes we are brand-marked as our gender and with it comes our societal behavior; thanks to the glorious gender reveals. Girls do pink. Boys do blue. Girls be quiet. Boys be dominant. Girls be emotional. Boys don’t cry. Girls wear dresses. Boys never wear dresses. What happens when someone doesn’t apply their lifestyles to these schemes? As a boy you are told you are weak and queer. As if that would be a bad thing.

Harry Styles is THE music pop star right now. He is collecting his awards as he does his Gucci suits. His top single “As it was” is still, after more than 15 weeks, on No.1 in the charts. He was known as the long hair guy from One Direction, but during his solo career he managed to make himself one of the most popular singer of all times. He is also known for his gender fluidity in how he dresses, such as painting his fingernails with iconic yellow smiley faces for his album promotion shoot. Styles, who now owns his nail polish company called Pleasing, said, “Me seeing a flower or a wallpaper or something and thinking, ‘Oh, I wanna put that on my nails’.” Obviously, since he is a man he is considered to be weak and feminine.

In December 2020, Styles became the first male person to be on the cover of Vogue.
He stunned in a blue laced Gucci dress. This raised a worldwide debate on what is considered to be masculine, and why Harry posing in a dress is not it. A video of the political commentator, Candace Owens, made its rounds on the internet as she was referring to Styles’ cover and said “bring back manly men.” This sparked even more discussion as she was implying that men are weak if they wear “feminine clothing,” which is called toxic masculinity.

Toxic masculinity is relevant in today’s society. You might think the world has bigger problems than men wanting to wear dresses, too, but here we are demanding men to be strong, powerful, and most of all manly. Toxic masculinity is generallydefined as the stereotypical behavior expected from men put on by society, but it is actually harmful for them. For example, it is expected that boys and men act powerful and strong. Society puts pressure on them to not show weakness at any point such as crying or showing emotions at all. Typical phrases that young boys hear while growing up are “men don’t cry”; “man up”; “toughen up”. This can led to severe mental health issues later in life, such as men not wanting to seek help when needed. Additionally, as already mentioned, men are also pressured into wearing masculine clothes. The question obviously is what is considered to be masculine and feminine, but we won’t go there now. Simply put, men and dresses don’t work according to our 21th century mindset, or rather the 1950s.

Harry Styles challenges and fights toxic masculinity. He does big photoshoots in pink dresses and colorful skirts and most importantly is comfortable in it. “To not wear something because it’s females’ clothing, you shut out a whole world of great clothes. And 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,” he says. With wearing what’s considered female clothing, he is defeating gender norms. It is important to have people, in particularly popular men, step up and 

talk about toxic masculinity is crucial influence for society. He is blurring a fine line – yes that is his second album’s name – between masculine and feminine, gay and straight, male and female. He shows the world that it is okay to do and wear what you want without being in fear of what other people might say.

With men wearing dresses comes automatically, unfortunately, the accusations of being gay. First of all, using homosexuality as an insult is not it. Secondly, why does society connect men, dresses, femininity automatically with being weak which leads to: gay. We live in 2022 and society still has a problem with same-sex love. Harry Styles, proudly (!), waves pride flags during his concerts. He helps teenagers come out during his concerts with thousands of people in attendance. One of the most memorable ones was when Styles played his second night in the Wembley Stadium in London, which was the first time in his solo career to sell out not only one but even two nights of 90,000 people in the stadium. An Italian fan held up a sign that said “From Ono to Wembley: Help me come out.” Harry picked up the sign, took a pride flag and ran across the stage to shout “When this flag goes over my head, you are officially out. I think that’s how it works: When this sign goes over the head, you’re officially gay, my boy.” To do that in front of 90,000 people is important.

Most of all he always says: “Please feel free to be whoever you have always wanted to be in this room tonight.” He creates a safe space for everyone at his concerts.

With waving pride flags but never publicly acknowledging his sexuality, why would he in this cruel world, comes the accusations of queer baiting. People think that he is exploiting his fans as he is advocating for the queer community but never announced on social media or the public. He thinks coming out is “outdated.” In his Better Homes & Gardens cover interview he even said that “I’ve been really open with it with my friends, but that’s my personal experience; it’s mine.” If that doesn’t tell you enough then I don’t know either.

You don’t have to come out to be queer. Clothes do not have
a gender. I am not less of a girl just because I don’t like wearing dresses. Men are not less of 
a man if they choose to wear a dress. Let everyone be who they want to be. As Harry Styles himself always says: “Treat People With Kindness.”

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