Toxic Masculinity and Harry Styles in Vogue

Menaka Garapaty, Guest Writer

Men don’t cry. Women are too emotional. This archetypal image of what it means to be masculine and feminine thrives on degrading those who don’t conform to this social norm. The minute someone defies the norm, society immediately concludes that either they aren’t “manly or girly enough” or they aren’t straight. I never realized how intricate the concept of toxic masculinity and femininity was in the world today. 

I always figured most of society had similar views as I do on the topic: Let people feel, dress, and do whatever they want. If a man wears makeup, it doesn’t negatively affect me in any way, so why judge and jump to conclusions regarding their “level of masculinity” and sexuality? However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. All it took was one magazine to help reveal the vast amount of people who build upon these stereotypical norms. Fortunately, many used this magazine to educate themselves on the concept of toxic masculinity and femininity.

The minute the December Vogue Magazine issue dropped, I visited three different bookstores to cop a copy. It was sold out everywhere. I should have known there would be a high demand for this issue, as it was the unproblematic singer and actor Harry Styles starring on the cover. More notably, he was the first man to appear solo on the cover of Vogue. With such a strong fanbase and a monumental moment for both Vogue and Styles, it was clear why a single magazine was sold out at the local Barnes and Noble in a matter of hours. But what made the December issue remarkably popular was that the first solo male to star on the cover was not wearing the typical pants and a t-shirt look. No, Styles wore dresses and skirts throughout the photoshoot. As I awed at the stunning pictures, I didn’t realize the impact a dress on a man could have on the media until I opened Twitter. 

As I and many others fangirled over the revolutionary magazine article, numerous individuals turned to social media to share their differing views. The December issue is currently facing backlash from those who uphold society’s outdated standards that all men must be masculine, and all women must be feminine. A firm believer of this is a conservative commentator and author Candace Owens who claims that Western civilization depends on masculine men. Owens fears the dismantling of boundaries that sustains the traditional gender hierarchy. I find it odd that she has devoted so much time and so many tweets to hating a magazine company. I think to myself: why would someone put in this tremendous amount of effort to stir up conflict with one of the most successful artists of our time and one of the most prestigious fashion publications in the world? My answer to that is Owens and others with her conservative views feel threatened with the damage our generation can do to their precious, restricting norms. And it’s Styles creating the first significant dent.

Not only did Harry Styles serve in the photos, but he also spoke about the barriers of clothing. He explains how looking at clothes specific to men’s and women’s only limits oneself. I think it’s about time our generation sees more successful figures who redefine what it means to be “manly” and “girly” and who normalizes being comfortable with what feels natural for you.