an essay by Eman
art by Fiza Mohsin @fizventures
“Whats it to you?” To know that breaking gender norms is frowned upon more than rape culture. Vogue magazine, November 13th 2020. The face of Vogue this season? Harry Styles. Harry Styles in a dress, Harry Styles in a skirt. Of course, men have long worn skirts and frocks before Styles but to have had the 1st male in 127 years on the cover of Vogue wearing a dress; is an inspirational feat many will advocate, and never forget. Gender ‘norms’ have raised many controversies since the early 90s as breaking them became more and more a part of the mainstream life and media -whether this was due to pure rebellion or a socialist movement is objective. As a South Asian female, the pressure of abiding by specific gender roles is still very apparent. “Close your legs when sitting.”, “Don’t speak when not spoken to.”, “No, you can’t go to the bodega after sunset.” Although many chose to blame religion – and albeit, Islam is more male dominated – it does not suppress women; we all hate to admit, but these gender roles have stemmed from our culture that’s been misunderstood from our religion and intermingled with cultures from our neighboring countries. I’m slagging off the 3rd world countries here, but 1st world countries aren’t any better in tackling female gender roles – yeah, they might be liberal regarding it, but it doesn’t mean their expectations for women have differed from over the last 50 years. Women are still stereotyped to swoon at the sight of children or yearn for a life long partner. This is far, far away from the realities of what women expect out of life – getting married shouldn’t be looked at as a milestone. The same idea applies to men and the gender roles they feel they must live up to. Ergo, the dress. The sort of stigma revolving around dresses and skirts is inherently just pure meathead mentality. Claiming that the dress hinders a man’s masculinity is hypocritical because it shows how much more the man is comfortable with the way he expresses his masculinity than you are. Being ripped and wearing shorts doesn’t mean you're masculine, a woman can be ripped and wear shorts but it won’t mean she's masculine. In the same way, a man can be ripped and wear a skirt but it won’t imply that he lacks femininity – the only thing it applies is the ability for us to judge and group based on our own accord – when, at the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter why a man chooses to wear a skirt or dress – it’s simply not our business. Male Kpop idols have broken many gender roles by wearing crop-tops while performing on stage or wearing skirts during magazine shoots, such as EXO’s Kai and BTS who also wore skirts and dresses to promote breaking clothing gender norms during their photoshoot for “Singles” magazine. In addition, make – up is normal for them to wear makeup when performing, attending interviews, etc. Disregarding Kpop idols, back in 1993, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain wore a dress when he was on the front cover of “The Face”. His intentions for doing so was primarily to support the feminist movement that had arisen during the 90’s; the goal of the movement was educate the public on redefining what it actually means to be a feminist. Feminist was no longer batting eyelashes, frilly dresses and floral scented perfumes, feminism was gender equality – standing equally amongst men, feminism was embracing individuality – whether you liked the color ‘pink’ or ‘blue’ instead of having ‘pink’ chosen to for you at birth. Despite the backlash that’s received when gender norms are broken, I hope their strings continue to break until we reach a stage of prosperity among which we can walk freely. Even if it takes a century.