It doesn’t. That’s it, there’s no maybe with this one and the fact that it seems to bother so many people still is quite frankly exhausting.
Clothes breaking traditional gender norms is not even that much of a novelty, it’s been going on for years. Gender-fluidity is a habitual thing on the catwalk, has been for the better part of a decade. Nevertheless, it has only been recently that we have begun to see this trend transition to the streets and everyday life. Many credit Harry Styles’ dress Vogue cover as a pivotal moment, whereby gender-fluidity was officially embraced by the mainstream. For the purpose of this article, we will leave it at that rather than go into the fact that Styles’ was praised for something Billy Porter had been doing for years, enduring all sorts of discrimination in the process. Which is just another example of the racialized society we live in, which will deem something as acceptable when it comes hand in hand with a white cis man, and erase people of colour’s contributions to culture.
Billy Porter throughout the years / Source: CNN
Anyway, back to the original debate…
Traditional masculinity defeated by a skirt
Sean Penn came under fire this week due to his comments on how masculinity is being lost these days, explaining that men are feminized and no longer act or dress like men. This got us thinking, why on earth are people, particularly older people and often men, so baffled and distraught by a guy in a skirt, or being in touch with one’s feelings?
Isn’t it clear by now that there’s nothing harder and stronger than being vulnerable and in tune with oneself? It takes courage and resilience to express oneself, and break the mould you were raised into. Toxic masculinity on the other side seems rather fragile. Centuries of “what made a man manly” challenged by a skirt. This sort of tough-guy masculinity can’t be all that tough if it crumbles at the sight of a man in a dress.
It seems to us, that this rigid, unwavering rejection of contemporary gender expression as well as a downright aversion to gender fluidity bordering on repulsion, has more to do with someone’s innate insecurities regarding their own masculinity rather than any conclusion drawn out of common sense.
Could insecurity be at the core of fragile masculinity?
Could it be as simple as that? Does it all boil down to intrinsic human insecurity? Why else would anyone feel their masculinity threatened because someone else is wearing a skirt if not because of their own lack of confidence and consequential need to ascertain their masculinity solely via their clothing, as well as that of others?
Perhaps deep down there’s this human need to have the beliefs of others mirror our own, in order to feel validated. It’s easy to imagine why someone who’s been told their whole life that masculinity is one thing, and seeing everyone around them adhere to the same norms, would squirm to the point of being phobic at the thought of someone breaking those norms. Because if someone can be masculine outside of the traditional box, how can you be sure that masculinity exists inside the box at all?
It’s about time we reclaim individual masculinity and femininity, in fact, it’s overdue.
We are social creatures, that is true, but maybe somewhere along the way, we forgot that we don’t need to abandon our individuality to be valued members of society. Moreover, we are free to understand life and expression from our own perspective, and the same thing having different meanings for different people is, quite frankly and simply, okay. Something that Gen Z seems to be reclaiming. And thank the universe for that.
Source: Edward Berthelot / Getty Images
Now of course we’re not saying that clothes play absolutely no role in presenting yourself as masculine or feminine in society, of course, they do. They have for centuries and we can’t expect clothes to not be gendered from one day to the next. We’re simply stating that it’s about time that people as individuals decide what makes them feel masculine or feminine freely. The transitional period we find ourselves in may be challenging, but it is moving forward and will continue to do so.
Thankfully, there are many brands such as Swedish label Acne, Vietnamese venture Figi Studios, and NYC founded Luar, that have already embraced gender fluidity and are doing absolute wonders design-wise, creating uniquely styled pieces that no doubt have inaugurated, or at the very least solidified, a new era in fashion.
At this point, masculinity or femininity being anchored to a skirt or a pair of trousers seems rather ridiculous, and the debate is getting tiresome. Unfortunately, we’ll have to keep at it, time and time again, until people aren’t discriminated against for what they wear, or beaten up, or ostracized, or cancelled, or you name it. We’ll take a deep breath, ready our words, and charge at it again.