Oh Look, Someone Who Wants to Tell Me About 'Manly Men'

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Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy / AFP (Getty Images)

Harry Styles sent right-wing media personalities into a tizzy last week when Vogue dropped its December issue, which features the singer—the magazine’s first-ever solo male cover star—clad in a ruffled blue gown.


Naturally, panic about traditional masculinity and gender presentation has been the focus of these meltdowns, though of course conservatives wouldn’t put it in those terms.

Over the weekend, conservative commentator Candace Owens said the photos were evidence of the “steady feminization of men” which she said unsurprisingly coincides with the rise of Marxism. (Lol.) “It is an outright attack,” she wrote on Saturday. “Bring back manly men.”

On Monday, Owens doubled down, 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.”

There’s lot to unpack here, should anyone consider it worth their time to take Owens remotely seriously, a task I find impossible. As usual, Owens’ criticism is a hodgepodge of buzzwords more often used by conservatives than by the liberals they mock at this point.

Styles’s Vogue spread is the sort of thing I often forget can lead to a multi-day rage cycle for conservatives, because it seems so matter-of-fact to me. Styles enjoys wearing dresses and so now he’s in a fashion magazine, wearing a dress. I know anger forms the emotional core of the right, and creating and recreating outrage via the so-called “culture wars” gives conservatives a specific kind of perverse pleasure.

But doesn’t it seem like much more fun to allow for the possibility that a man might wear a dress?


“I’ll go in shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes thinking they’re amazing,” Styles told the magazine. “There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never thought too much about what it means—it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”



I hope she doesn’t find out about what David Bowie used to dress like. Or that men used to dress up as women to play female characters in plays back in the 1500s. (And probably still do. I saw a reverse-gendered version of “King Lear” in college, which was done because the drama department that year not only didn’t have enough women to play all the female characters, but also their big star of that class also happened to be a woman and was a natural to play the titular character.)