The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

Minneapolis


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Modern Masculinity, Breaking Gender Norms

Crediting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks for pioneering a new wave in fashion
Modern+Masculinity%2C+Breaking+Gender+Norms
Bernadette Whitely

In Vogue Magazine’s December 2020 issue, Harry Styles, an acclaimed singer-songwriter, dawned the cover in a Gucci designed ball gown. With the release of this image came two narratives. One, wrongfully stressed that men in dresses “undermines masculinity” and, the other, praised Styles for his ‘revolutionary’ clothing choices. While Styles’ cover image is an important step in eliminating gender-conforming fashion, he is hardly the first to attempt this challenge. 

Alok Vaid-Menon, an author, performer, and speaker, took to Instagram and eloquently expressed the larger problem at the center of the Vogue cover, explaining, “Am I happy to see Harry be celebrated for openly flouting gendered fashion norms? Yes. Do trans femmes of color receive praise for doing the same thing every day? No.” 

Gucci designer Alessandro Michelle has applauded Styles, repeatedly describing his dressing as revolutionary. But Styles is not revolutionary. Many marginalized groups have been mocked and even killed for self-expression through clothing, and Vogue has failed to award due credit. 

From A$AP Rocky to Jaden Smith, numerous Black celebrities have similarly stretched the bounds of fashion. However, they have not gained the same level of media attention as Styles. Billy Porter is a prime example of this discrepancy. Porter, an actor, and a singer, wore a tuxedo dress to the Academy Awards in Jan. of 2020 and has been a consistent advocate for gender-nonconforming fashion throughout his career. Yet, he received little media attention, unlike Styles. 

Styles is the first solo male to appear on the cover of Vogue, an important milestone. However, in an article for Insider, Rachel Askinasi writes that in choosing Styles for the cover of the magazine, “[Vogue] strayed from its status quo in the most status quo way possible.” Askinasi exclaimed in her writing that she would have preferred to see Billy Porter, a true pioneer of the movement, on the cover. 

With that being said, we shouldn’t dismiss Styles’ courageous fashion choices and Vogue’s willingness to portray it on such a large scale. We must ask that Black celebrities like Billy Porter, receive equal media recognition and remember the struggle of those before Styles in addressing gendered fashion norms. The same Instagram user as prior, Vaid-Menon, explained, “We can both acknowledge this unprecedented moment while also remembering that it could only happen because of the resistance of trans femmes of color.” 

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About the Contributor
Bernadette Whitely, Editor-in-Chief | Creative Director | In-Depth Editor
Hey, I’m Bernadette and I’m a senior! I'm the Editor-in-Chief and the Creative Director of The Spectrum. I also edit In-Depth pages. In the past, I have edited both Arts and Culture and Opinions sections. Last semester, I was the editor and leader for the Features section. I started Spectrum at the beginning of my freshman year and continued to be a staff writer until the end of my sophomore year. During my time as a staff writer, I wrote articles, created graphics, and took photos. Since starting Spectrum, I have always loved it. Being able to write about topics I am passionate about and interested in was an amazing experience. One of my favorite things about Spectrum is talking to and meeting new people through interviews and collaborations. 

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