On November 14th, Harry Styles stole the internet with the first-ever solo-man cover for Vogue, and he wore a dress. This is not the first time Harry Styles wore a dress, but Candace Owens chose this moment to express her negative opinion. That caused ire on Twitter, with many leaping to the defense of Styles’ outfits or Owens’ comments. Harry Styles vs Candace Owens, who is a man, and what is manly? This is the debate the internet has invested interest in, not how this debate affects anyone who lives their life outside the gender binary. 

In his interview with Vogue, Styles commented, “I find myself looking at women’s clothes, thinking they’re amazing . . . I think with music it’s so important to evolve—and that extends to clothes and videos and all that stuff. That’s why you look back at David Bowie with Ziggy Stardust or the Beatles and their different eras—that fearlessness is super inspiring . . . There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never thought too much about what it means—it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”

For many gender non-conforming people, their lives are not about “playing with clothes” or “an extended part of creating something”. It is not a choice they get to make, it is who they are. Still, when Styles makes his choice to break gender barriers with clothing, he does so knowing the backlash he will receive and the stigma attached to such a decision. He does so proudly, as a man, as his authentic self. 

Candace Owens’ Reaction

“There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. 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. Bring back manly men.” Candace Owens tweeted in response to Harry Styles’ Vogue cover.

There is no evidence to support any of Miss Owens’ statements. What made her so angry was the fact that Styles, for his entire photoshoot, wore what many consider feminine apparel. That is what Owens views as the beginning of the fall of manhood.

Celebrity Responses

Many celebrities rushed to his defense following her tweet.

“You’re pathetic,” Olivia Wilde responded.

“Harry Styles is plenty manly, because manly is whatever you want it to be, not what some insecure, toxic, woman-hating, homophobic [d***heads] decided it was hundreds of years ago. He’s 104% perfect,” Jameela Jamil commented, adding that makeup, wigs, frills, and tights were once manly by European standards.

Elijah Wood clapped back, “I think you’ve missed the definition of what a man is. masculinity alone does not make a man . . . in fact, it’s got nothing to do with it.”

“Why does Harry in a dress come off as threatening to these pseudo-intellectuals on the right? He looks great, but he’s hardly the 1st to do it. Queer communities of color pioneered this and get [s***] on for it/ignored, but per usual, they don’t consider bipoc in…anything,” former Glee star Kevin McHale wrote on Twitter.

Candace Owens Continues

“Since I’m trending I’d like to clarify what I meant when I said ‘bring back manly men’. I meant: Bring back manly men. Terms like ‘toxic masculinity’, were created by toxic females. Real women don’t do fake feminism. Sorry I’m not sorry.” Candace later tweeted in response to the outrage.

“PSA: Mining pictures on the internet of men in dresses is not going to suddenly make me attracted to men in dresses. I’m impervious to woke culture. Showing me 50 examples of something won’t make it any less stupid. #BringBackManlyMen.” She tweeted again.

It is fine that Miss Owens does not like the appearance of men who wear dresses. After all, beauty is in the beholder’s eye. However, she needs to respect someone who has a different opinion. There are plenty of traditionally manly fish in the sea for Candace. One man on a Vogue cover in a dress will not end society’s championing of hetero-normativity. That is a fact.

Another one of her tweets read, “newsflash woke idiots: when you send me pictures of Freddie Mercury and Kurt Cobain dressed as women to prove your point, you are actually proving mine. Stable men do not wear ball gowns. The end . . . ‘Look at this drug addict and man who committed suicide— they wore dresses too!’ Just impossibly stupid.”

Her tweet implies that men who wear dresses are not stable, stigmatizing not only Harry Styles but also gender-non-conforming folks across the LGBTQIA2+ spectrum and those who have mental illness.

Harry Styles Responds

Harry Styles remained silent for about a month, not commenting or firing back until November 2nd. He then posted a picture of himself from an interview/photoshoot for Variety on Instagram. He wore a sky blue suit with pink fringe on the end, no undershirt, and a banana in his mouth. The caption for his post, “bring back manly men.” The sarcasm in his non-existent tone was obvious. There was no holding back for Harry Styles with this post.

Candace Owens Can’t Stop

“When people try to tell me I don’t have influence, and then @Harry_Styles dedicates an entire post to my tweet. I inspire global conversation. #BringBackManlyMen. Shots fired. 😂😂😂😂😂😂.” Candace Owens tweeted in response.

Again his supporters tweeted, re-highlighting the flaws and the offensiveness behind her previous claims.

“She sounds like a fan. Unfortunately, her hateful comments are inspiring violence against gender-nonconforming people and it is atrocious. This isn’t something to be proud of, @RealCandaceO. It isn’t a discussion when people’s safety and lives are put at-risk.” Frangell Basora, a former Democratic Candidate for Congressional District 15 of New York City before he lost the primary, tweeted.

“Your heterophobia is the reason straight men all across the world are dying.” Candace responded to Basora.

Straight men are not dying because they are heterosexual. “Heterophobia” is not an epidemic, or a pandemic. There is not a single country on this Earth that criminalizes heterosexuality, nor any mainstream group that wishes death upon straight men. While the ability to cross-dress and de-gender fashion affects straight men, the global LGBTQIA2+ communities who shaped the movement to de-gender fashion receive more backlash for doing it. There is a worldwide pandemic and many epidemics surrounding the criminalization and murders of gender non-conforming people. It is illegal to be on the LGBTQIA2+ spectrum in many countries. Many mainstream groups advocate against identities across the LGBTQIA2+ spectrum, believing they are abominations and should not exist.

“Your comments not only inspire hatred against gender-nonconforming individuals, homophobia & transphobia, but it also inspires ‘heterophobia.’ When you attack men for their free expression, you are attacking men’s, straight men’s, mental health,” Basora replied.

“Women who objectify themselves by spreading their legs for the world are lauded as courageous. Men in ball gowns & little girl’s clothing are lauded as icons. Hollywood is no longer about diversity, it’s about perversity. I speak for people who do not worship perversity.” Owens later tweeted.

This Feud Is Not Over

It is interesting that she does not care when Billy Porter or Jonathan Van Ness, among so many others, de-gender fashion in a similar way. Of course, Harry Styles has more international acclaim and is a better target with which Candace can promote her platform. 

The discourse surrounding what defines manhood or manliness will no doubt continue. Beyond the Twitter-sphere, Harry Styles/Candace Owens feud, the criminalization of gender non-conforming people is real and deadly, with gender non-conforming BIPOC facing the brunt of that violence. That is what she misunderstands. This debate should center on actual people living outside of the confines of society’s view of gender norms instead of one man in a dress for a fashion photoshoot. One day people may approach these topics with more empathy and concern for gender non-conforming folks. Until then, people will keep clapping back at Candace Owens for her simplistic and archaic view of masculinity.