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So, Harry Styles put on a dress or three in a piece for Vogue Magazine.

Apparently, it’s the end of the world!

Or at least the manly parts of it.

So says Candace Owens.

It’s cool though, because the internets needed a good laugh.

Enter the cavalry…

It’s all kinda ludicrous.

The reaction, I mean.

And by ‘kinda’ I kinda mean ‘definitely.’

No, definitely. I definitely mean ‘definitely.’

Anyway, I’m gonna ignore the larger battle here, because better social justice warriors than I are on this thing already. I’m just going to comment on one thing that seems to escape a few folks here. It might even escape a few of Harry’s defenders. It definitely escapes Candace and Ben, as most things seem to do. They totally forgot about the jocks from my high school.

Totally!

Once every year, the jocks from my old high school would dress up in cheer-leader outfits and perform a kind of burlesque for the rest of us. It was one of the few assemblies I genuinely enjoyed. Hell, it was one of the few things that actually got me out to one of those assemblies to begin with. Dog knows, I hated assemblies!

Still do, actually.

I don’t remember much detail. I can’t remember if it was a cheer or a dance that they did, or if it was a little of each. One thing I am sure of is that these guys were not exploring their feminine side.

Far from it!

The point of these bro-leader performances was clearly to underscore the masculinity of the young male athletes doing them by juxtaposing their ostensibly feminine performance with all the manliness they could muster. The cheer-leader outfits didn’t belong on them. The dance moves were not meant for them. Everything about their approach was meant to enhance this impression. Far from breaking down gender-roles, these performances were meant to re-affirm them, to show us once and for all that men were men, even if you put them in a cheerleader outfit. What made the show so funny was precisely the incongruity of the whole thing. These young men were not cheer-leaders. They were not girls, and they would not become women. They would soon become men.

…manly men.

That was point was driven home with every botched move they made.

No exceptions.

Don’t get me wrong. I laughed. Not at them; with them. At 15 I was down for this message. For all my contrarian thoughts at the time, this perfectly conventional message resonated for me; men were men and women were women, and Hell, this time, we could even laugh at the whole thing. I didn’t get the politics of the performance at the time. I doubt they did either. It was just funny.

Anyway, I think about this whenever somebody seems to assume the only reason a man would put on a dress is to muddy the waters between manliness and femininity. Sometimes, men put on a dress to become a woman, yes, and sometimes they do it (as these young men Bro-leaders did) to affirm the difference between men and women. Frankly, I don’t think Harry Styles fits into either of these profiles.

The Vogue article in question speaks a lot of fashion and of Harry’s eagerness to play around with the possibilities of dressing up. No great agenda there, and you certainly don’t see Harry minxing it up in the photos. He’s in a dress, yes, but neither his pose nor his overall demeanor suggests any serious effort to feminize himself. The dresses do seem a little incongruous on his body. He isn’t exaggerating that effect, but it is certainly there. Seems to me that Harry has his own reasons for donning a dress, and those reasons may not have much to do with the culture wars some people are trying to fight over this.

It is at least possible that Styles was counting on some folks to bite at the bait of seeing a man in a dress and generate controversy. Of course it is also possible that some of those folks who bit at the story of Harry in a dress may have been counting on the rest of us to get mad at them and add fuel to that same controversy.

…oops!

Ah well! The whole thing makes for quite a sordid story.

Might lead to dancing.