Redefining Masculinity: Men in frilly dresses?

by Cindy McGarvie


2020 has certainly been the year of firsts, and here’s the latest, the December issue of Vogue Magazine features on the cover for the first time ever a solo man. And more specifically, a man in a dress. Literally thousands around the world are discussing this hot topic and it’s been heated.

Pop star Harry Styles, a heterosexual male, idolised and adored by today’s youth culture -- his latest YouTube video has ticked over 48 million views in just a few weeks -- reportedly “left fans breathless” wearing a ruffled, lacy, floor-length Gucci gown and navy tuxedo jacket …”

But it also sparked outcry from dissenters of the current progressive culture.

Styles wears a Gucci jacket and dress. Photographed by Tyler Mitchell, Vogue, December 2020

There is no society that can survive without strong men.

- Candice Owens

Candice Owens, a conservative cultural commentator reacted: “There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminisation of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.”

Ben Shapiro also spoke out on twitter: “…The POINT of Styles doing this photo shoot is to feminize masculinity. Otherwise, why would it be headline-worthy for Styles to don a dress?” And again: “Femininity and masculinity exist, they have indicators. Dress has always been such an indicator. That’s why men wearing female garb has been a sign of femininity in virtually all cultures for all time.”

As you can imagine, these comments did not go down well. The backlash was quick and harsh, here are some of the main arguments and comments supporting Vogue’s decision to feature Harry Styles in a dress:

Clothes don’t have gender.

If you don’t like seeing Harry in a dress you’re pathetic, insecure, toxic, woman-hating, homophobic, … [and many more adjectives like this.]

Harry Styles is manly because manly is whatever you want it to be.

Binary fashion norms are systems of transmisogyny and racism and have kept people oppressed with the gendered fashion norms.

Harry is hot in a dress. [Lots of support for Harry in a dress.]

Harry makes way more money than those who criticise him (reported net worth of $75 million), so he can do whatever he * wants. (“Styles emerges victorious without lifting a finger, for as they say, the best revenge is living well.”)

… there is nothing more manly than a man being so secure with his masculinity that he can wear a dress.

Harry Styles is manly because manly is whatever you want it to be.

- Internet Commenter

And in case you are under the misunderstanding that this is an adult conversation, a child responds to Candace Owens on the same thread:

I’m a 14 year old girl and i’m more educated then you will ever be, why can’t people express themselves the way they want to, if harry wants to wear a dress then he can wear a dress, it’s not harming you is it? So why does it matter that he’s wearing a dress?

Vogue’s Hamish Bowles commented in the Los Angeles Times, “When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play.” In the same article one person said that “this was a sign of progress of society’s evolution away from binary gender.”

 

The narratives above might be unfamiliar to the older generations, in fact some are quite hard to understand or see the rationale, particularly the comments about how our fashion norms are systems of transmisogyny and racism. But they are very familiar to today’s generation who have been saturated in critical theory ideology which I wrote about here. In fact, these secular narratives have been bombarding our children since they were very young, coming at them in wave after wave every day through social media, ads, music, stories, movies, pop idols and much more. Pastor and author Timothy Keller believes that because of this onslaught of secular narratives the church needs a new catechism for today.

Let me explain. The catechism is a book that teaches biblical truth in an orderly way in the form of questions and answers with supporting Scripture verses. It was designed for instructing children and new converts in the faith and to counter the prevailing beliefs of the time. Up until about 50 years ago children were taught the catechism in Sunday school. Keller laments that today the catechism has been replaced by shallow bible stories which have left our children ill-equipped to refute or recognise error, or understand the why behind Biblical principles and values.

Objective reality has been replaced by subjectivity and there is no limit or boundary to hold people back from identifying as anything they want.

Here are just some of the secular narratives our children are absorbing, as you will notice, there is an element of truth to them that sounds right. I’ve picked out a few from the above rationale of Harry in a dress:

There is no right or wrong, you can do whatever you want so long as it doesn’t harm anyone. (See 14-year-old girl’s comment above.)

Male and female (binary gender) is a social construct and therefore gendered clothing is too.

Forcing people to identify with a binary gender is oppressive.

There is nothing wrong with men wearing women’s clothing.

If you have money and power, you can do whatever you please.

Breaking social norms is progress and is a good thing.

How does one give a biblical answer for each of these narratives? Are our children instructed well enough to detect that the narrative contravenes biblical truth and why?

Vogue’s bold new front cover is just another confirmation of Keller’s directive that we need a new catechism to counter the secular narratives of the world. This catechism would definitely have to provide a biblical definition of gender and what defines a man and a woman, because gender identity, once irrefutable, no longer takes into consideration biology. Objective reality has been replaced by subjectivity and there is no limit or boundary to hold people back from identifying as anything they want. But is this a good thing?

Buckle up. We are in for a wild ride. Parents raising children in today’s generation will need incredible wisdom.

And to the church, as Jesus warned us, wake up, stay alert, as the spiritual battle for the souls of our children is fierce.

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