A week ago, I would have wagered money on the fact that Harry Styles had no idea who Candace Owens is—the former One Direction heartthrob is a voracious reader, as many recent profiles have made explicit, but I doubt the enlightening texts he chooses to engage with in his free time have anything to do with the right-wing propaganda personality. But that was then, and this is now.
Last month, Styles scored the cover of Vogue, becoming the first-ever solo male cover star in the magazine’s history. Naturally, he used it as an opportunity to wear a slew of skirts, going all out for the cover shot: a pale blue, lace-adorned, custom gown by his friend Alessandro Michele for Gucci. Styles has been known to wear fashion traditionally viewed as feminine, and his looks for Vogue seemed to further his playful view of masculine style. (Which, for most of us living in 2020, should register as fun, but relatively innocuous.) Because it was a slow news day, Trump-y media commentators like Owens decided to chime in, admonishing Styles for his chic clothing choices. She claimed Styles’ Vogue cover symbolized the “steady feminization of men.” “It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men,” she said, later tweeting, “I said ‘bring back manly men.’ I meant: Bring back manly men. Terms like ‘toxic masculinity’ were created by toxic females. Real women don’t do fake feminism. Sorry I’m not sorry.”
Fast forward to this week and Styles is on yet another cover—this time, for Variety, after being named their Hitmaker of the Year—eating a banana, arguably the most phallic of the phallic foods, and wearing a ruffled blouse and baby blue suit, ruched at the waist for definition. Styles shared the image on Instagram, captioning it with Owens own words, “Bring back manly men.” He’s not one to comment publicly about any sort of personal controversy, so let’s just say the Directioners (me) are eating!
Immediately, Owens decided to capitalize on the move, tweeting Wednesday, “When people try to tell me I don’t have influence, and then @Harry_Styles dedicates an entire post to my tweet. I inspire global conversation. #BringBackManlyMen Shots fired.” I’d say the saga will never end, but I’m confident Styles is done here—it will only be Owens, screaming into the void about “real dudes,” when the apocalypse finally arrives.