The Myth of the Manly Man

Welcome to the Clandestine’s column, Children of the Patriarchy! Every other Wednesday we will post a column on anything and everything patriarchy related. Whilst most of us are already painfully aware of the patriarchal structure surrounding us, we often do not realise how deeply rooted its effects are. That’s why we are here! Every week we will be calling out the patriarchy left and right, whether that is at KCL, in the UK or in the wider world. Because whether we want to or not, we are all Children of the Patriarchy and the responsibility of cleaning this mess up, falls upon us.

[Featured Image: Harry Styles Vogue Cover, Shot by Tyler Mitchell. Source.]

After Harry Styles’ American Vogue cover was released, many praised him for wearing a ball gown. However, some conservatives criticized him, with American author and commentator Candace Owens slamming Styles’ cover in a tweet saying, “there is no society that can survive without strong men”, ultimately saying that society needs to “bring back manly men”. What Candace Owens clearly does not understand though, is that we need to do the exact opposite.

Like a true conspiracy theorist, Owens argued that “In the West, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack.” In 2020, are we still pretending clothing needs to be gendered? 

Styles’ choice to wear a gown and therefore disregard traditional gender roles with regards to clothing is in fact exactly what our society needs. Whilst in 2020 we still have an extremely long way to go, we still have made some significant process. Most of us would agree that when it comes to gender roles, we should definitely not be going backwards in time.

In the Vogue profile accompanying the photos, Styles talks about his love for clothing we traditionally classify as female. Wearing whatever you want can be empowering, especially when our world in so many ways still dictates our behaviour according to a misconstrued conception of our gender.

As a whole, the idea that we should divide clothing into gender binary divisions is ridiculous in itself. Considering sex and especially gender is not at all binary, why should clothes be? Of course, to conservatives like Candace Owens gender is in fact binary.

Owens’ comment about Marxism and the feminization in the West was particularly frustrating. She seems to be implying that his cover was radical and had some sort of political motive behind it. While Styles’ cover is indeed a step in the right direction, it was not exactly radical. Where a trans person or non-binary person could have been extremely radical, Styles is a cisgender white man. His privilege as a result of this is undeniable.

There is a further question to be asked. Why do people tend to equate burgeoning social movements such as this with Marxism? Even years after McCarthyism, in modern day society we are still being scared into believing Marxism is the end of all our freedom. Equating these movements to Marxism then, is merely scaremongering people into opposing them without any substantial arguments as to why.

In reality, the reason these culture wars are being created to pit people which traditionally would be class allies against each other. Equating things like Styles’ cover to Marxism makes people then believe that the cover is unacceptable, as Marxism continues to be viewed as unacceptable.

This misconception of Marxism limiting our freedom then directly seems to imply by comparison that our current capitalist system in fact ensures our liberty. This however could not be further from the truth. Under capitalism, we need these gender binary roles, because capitalism thrives on it. Her opposing Styles’ cover then, might very well be because she truly believes that it is harmful to our society. More convincing, however, is to argue that she is in fact the one making the issue political, when it is not a political argument.

It is not the first time conservatives have used events like Styles’ Vogue cover to further their political agenda, nor will it be the last. As a society, we should be wary of the term Marxism being used to convince us things are bad, just because society views Marxism as bad without any reasonable grounds to do so.

By, Milou Klein, Column Editor of the Clandestine

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