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Why was Harry Styles’ Vogue Cover Controversial?

The December edition of Vogue was the first time the magazine ever published a male solo cover since it was first launched in 1892. Styles is most stunning in a glamorous cornflower Gucci gown. Vogue Harry Styles Magazine created quite a buzz in the industry. It invited backlash from gender conformists, but was celebrated by the gender-fluid community.

Vogue Harry Styles Magazine was a victim of ridicule

While the feedback has been mainly positive, the Vogue Harry Styles Magazine wasn’t short of criticism. Individuals like Ben Shapiro, a conservative American political analyst, were enraged by Harry Styles’ statement outfit on the magazine’s cover. In reaction to the Vogue cover, Shapiro tweeted, “This is perfectly obvious. Anyone who pretends that it is not a referendum on masculinity for men to don floofy dresses is treating you as a full-on idiot.”

Candace Owens, a conservative author, labeled the Vogue Harry Styles Magazine cover as a steady feminization of contemporary males and urged for the return of “manly men.” Owens has often highlighted that the garment is too girly and not masculine enough. 

Gender advocates and the LGBTQ+ community were outraged by the post, which drew widespread condemnation. Owens and Shapiro were chastised by many for their anti-LGBTQ attitude. The backlash highlighted deep-rooted gender bias still largely prevalent in the fashion industry. 

After actor Elijah Woods replied to the tweet, “I think you’ve missed the definition of what a man is. Masculinity alone does not make a man.” Olivia Wilde and Jameela Jamil were among the celebrities that supported Styles’ decision and aesthetics.

Celebrities praised Styles for challenging preconceived notions about male dressing. Vogue Harry Styles Magazine tried to represent and portray fashion as universal. 

Harry Styles' Vogue Cover

Groundbreaking or self-serving?

The chatter about men wearing dresses showed that Styles is indeed a groundbreaking icon for wearing what is generally classified as women’s clothes. It is shocking to learn how many oppressed individuals have been humiliated, shunned, assaulted, and even attacked and killed for doing what the Vogue Harry Styles Magazine cover portrayed.

According to Insider’s Canela López, 2020 was the most dangerous year so far for transgender individuals. According to the Human Rights Campaign, as of 6 October, 2020, there were 31 transgender and gender-nonconforming deaths reported. According to Lopez, most of them were black and people of color.

The problem of no representation on the cover

Individuals were ecstatic that it was now OK for men to wear dresses on the cover of Vogue. Indeed it heralded a new era in fashion.  Fans were overjoyed that a publication like Vogue had chosen to go with such a bold cover. On the other hand, people felt that the cover glamorized the issue, and didn’t do much for under-represented communities who had been fighting for liberties for decades.

LGBTQ+ groups have slammed the December issue, blaming Styles for queer-bating. It is a marketing strategy in which members of the LGBTQ+ community are referenced but not depicted. Others said this issue should have featured an LGBTQ+ man who has already been wearing gender-neutral clothing but had never received any recognition, unlike Styles.

Not only did the Vogue editorial portray Styles as the “leading candidate” of this “revolution,” but it also omitted any recognition that should have gone to the genuine leaders of the gender-nonconformist style movement, both deceased and living.

Marsha P. Johnson, a self-described drag queen who played a critical role in the Stonewall revolt, was perhaps the most well-known of the group. Numerous transwomen of color have followed in her footsteps, only to be met with harsh, and often lethal, retaliation.

In a blog post, Alok Vaid-Menon eloquently emphasized how individuals should celebrate this momentous occasion while noting that it was only possible due trans femmes of color who put up a tremendous fight. Humans have been incarcerated for decades due to anti-cross-dressing laws. This explanation has now become popular on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Even though the Vogue Harry Styles Magazine cover must be recognized for what it is, it should not obliterate the legacy of people who inspired and laid the foundations for a movement that transcends barriers of gender, race and class. One can argue that ordinary individuals who defy gender-based fashion conventions in their daily lives are the true trailblazers of gender-fluid clothing.

Conclusion

Even while Ben Shapiro accused Styles of undermining masculinity by wearing gender-neutral clothing, the negative chatter soon died down. However, there is still resentment about under-representation of people who are the true flag bearers of the gender-neutral movement. Fortunately, for the fashion industry, being feminine or masculine is a social construct that becomes less relevant with each passing year. 

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