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Bring Back Manly Men

Roar writer Annabelle Pope responds to Candace Owens’ Tweets about “manly men” following Harry Styles’ appearance on the cover of Vogue.

For the first time in 127 years, a man was featured on the cover of Vogue. And that man was none other than Harry Styles. Appearing in a dress and jacket, both made by Gucci, Styles has yet again challenged gender-norms, continuing his mission to become a figurehead of gender-bending. The central theme of his shoot and interview is the promotion of non-censorship, as the quote on the cover suggests: “Anytime you’re putting up barriers in your life, you’re limiting yourself”. 

Despite largely positive feedback from his adoring fans and fellow stars, some conservative traditionalists were unable to contain their disdain. On November 14, Candace Owens, an avid American conservative whose favourite pass-time seems to be sharing her unpopular opinions about society, shared this tweet: 

Owens’ reference to Marxism is not the only part of her rant that escapes me (what has a concept based on a criticism of capitalism have anything to do with male feminisation?). It was her conclusion that stirred controversy: “Bring back manly men”. She further defended her point of view in a video posted to Instagram, stating that “the left hates anything normal”, “women do not find men in dresses to be attractive”, and “if I see a man in a dress I think he’s a crackhead”. Safe to say she’s completely missed the point here. 

It is tough to know where to start when trying to break down her fuddy-duddy opinions on the matter, as so much of what she says can be seen as grossly disrespectful and contemptuous. Her complete disregard for the drag community is just one example; comparing a man in a dress to a crackhead discredits an entire art form. Let’s hope she never stumbles upon Ru Paul’s Drag Race. 

Owens does make clear that her attack is not aimed at Styles himself, but at Vogue and Hollywood in general, stating that “conservatives are done bending to the weird, perverted will of the left and their Hollywood cohorts”. She believes men wearing dresses “castrate themselves in front of the whole world”. Well, let’s look at it in a different way, shall we?

Gen-Zs are lucky enough to have the resource of popular social media platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok to broaden their horizons and learn that we do not need to share the narrow views of previous generations. We are lucky to live in a society where people of all backgrounds are slowly becoming more accepted. We can be unapologetic about who we are, regardless of skin colour, gender, size – the list goes on. Of course, that is not to say there isn’t a tremendous amount of progress left to be made. If a man were to wear a dress publicly fifty years ago, though, I don’t think they would have seen anyone in the streets saying, “work that runway, queen”.

Owens seems to believe that men who are more feminine have been brainwashed by what she calls “the left”, but let’s not pretend that men wearing feminine clothes is a product of 21st-century society. America’s first drag queen is said to have been “former slave and LGBTQ+ crusader” William Dorsey Swann, born in 1860. The men in King Louis XIV’s court, among many others, would wear wigs, ruffles, and makeup way back in the late 17th century.

I believe that Owens is actually totally contradicting herself. Okay, she wants to bring back manly men. When you look up the term “manly”, here is the first definition that comes up: “having or denoting those good qualities traditionally associated with men, such as courage, strength, and spirit”. Well, I think I speak for many people when I say one of the most courageous, strong, and spirited things a man can do is be himself – regardless of what people like Owens think.

Let’s try and forget this warped view of a man’s strength stemming from how much he can bench-press. Let’s bring back men who are unapologetically themselves and not taught to fit into a certain mold that conservatives want them to fill. Owens says, “let men be masculine”. Okay, fair enough; but why shouldn’t we let men be feminine? Let’s just let men and women alike be whoever they want to be, and leave it at that.



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