Opinion by FrannieCihunka
What’s a dress? It’s just a scrap of fabric that has stereotypically been assigned to women to wear. But really, it has no meaning. So then why is it controversial for a man to wear a dress? The December issue of “Vogue” featured Harry Styles on the cover modeling a Victorian style Gucci gown. While some praised the singer for expressing his feminine side, others criticized him for not sticking to the stereotype of a man and circulated the hashtag “#BringBackManlyMen.” It’s been a month, and I still cannot understand why.
I think my first question is: why? Why does it matter? I’ve always thought of clothes as a means to express yourself. Why should clothes be assigned to certain genders? Women wear pantsuits and they’re powerful, but men wear dresses and are emasculated and ridiculed? People still fall back on stereotypes about how women are weak and dainty. So if a man wears a dress, something typically assigned to women, they are weak? The last I checked, women have a higher pain tolerance than men. I knew a girl who was curled into a ball with period cramps before a show choir performance, and went out like nothing was wrong. Marian girls can do three all-nighters a week and come out with good grades and a good attitude. If a man wearing a dress means he is seen as a woman, that shouldn’t be a bad thing. It’s really misogynistic, actually, that a man wearing a stereotypically feminine piece of clothing is seen as insulting.
What makes me most angry about this #BringBackManlyMen thing is how it is promoting toxic masculinity and unrealistic images of men. This hashtag promotes the stereotype that men must be strong and show no emotion because emotion is a sign of weakness. This mold men must fit into is so damaging to their mental health. Men actually commit suicide more than women do. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, white males made up 69.67 percent of those who committed suicide in 2018. Not to mention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in this country. All of these toxic stereotypes make men feel like they can’t express emotion or be vulnerable. Men deserve to have their emotions validated.
So yes, this hashtag and controversy angers me. Because number one: who cares? It’s a dress. A cute dress, at that. I would kill to wear it to prom and look half as majestic as Harry did. What I’m trying to say is clothes and makeup have no gender, nor should they. And number two: it’s healthy self-expression, which should never be degraded or invalidated.
We need to stop promoting this unhealthy image of masculinity and the degrading image of femininity. We can’t put each other in boxes of strong or weak or macho or dainty. Societal norms like gender roles need to be challenged to create a safer, more accepting space for each other. Women aren’t just feminine and men aren’t just masculine. Feminine and masculine are just adjectives attributed to stereotyped actions of each gender when, in reality, no human is this black and white. We need to stop restricting each other from expressing ourselves just because “that’s the way it’s always been” because at the end of the day, a human is just a human and a dress is just a dress.