Linking clothing and homosexuality could ‘increase visibility’, but it also encourages stereotyping

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By Vivi Smilgius, Associate Editor of Express, Associate Sports Editor

Last Wednesday afternoon, the New York Post tweeted a link to an article titled “‘Dressing like a lesbian’ is the new sexy and ‘powerful’ fashion trend.”

The image accompanying the tweet featured several photos of female celebrities wearing suits and other menswear-inspired outfits on the street and on the red carpet. And, horribly, the first sentence of the article reads: “Lesbi-honest, weird fashion is totally in!”

This article highlights a variety of misconceptions about clothing and its relationship to gender and sexuality, most of which are rooted in binary and patriarchal gender roles. The idea that lesbians dress masculine fuels gender stereotypes about sexuality itself, including the notion that every relationship should have male and female counterparts (i.e. that one of the women in a lesbian relationship should “wear the pants” while the other should be more feminine). It also plays on the stereotype that lesbians are inherently masculine and gay people are inherently feminine.

Whether conscious or unconscious, these patriarchal beliefs are the reason the Post article refers to wearing suits, or adopting a masculine style, such as “dressing like a lesbian” instead. to “wear traditional men’s clothing”. But what does menswear mean, anyway?

Over the past decade, brands have started to embrace the idea of ​​androgynous clothing lines and retailers. started to fade gendered components of shopping. Today’s fashion world retains terms such as menswear and womenswear, but some brands have adopted the terms to refer to fit and style rather than the target market. Kirrin Finchfor example, “defies fashion industry norms” through androgynous clothing inspired by menswear and inclusive of the waist, according to its website.

Society’s new appreciation for androgyny in clothing is what Harper’s Bazaar author Jill Gutowitz calls fashion’s Sapphic makeover. In one article titled “Sapphic Style Is Going Mainstream,” Gutowitz credits the change to an “increase in queer visibility,” citing Kristen Stewart spencer press tour and a variety of celebrity outfits, including Zendaya’s infamous hot pink costume.

Gutowitz says the rise in popularity of “lesbian fashion” has made her more comfortable wearing stereotypically lesbian clothing without facing backlash or criticism. She also adds that she feels a bit resentful of today’s queer women who are able to wear such clothes and be seen as “fashionable” instead of being shamed.

“There’s also a security in knowing that I won’t be called a dike for wearing something I’ve always wanted to wear but was rightly afraid to do,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, queer people often have to to learn to love each other after enduring a lifetime of messages telling us not to… It feels good to be widely accepted, finally, after decades of feeling otherwise.

But does labeling a certain fashion as “lesbian” mean that lesbianism or queerness itself also goes in and out of the style? While real-life queer visibility and representation in the media is important for fostering inclusivity in today’s society, viewing certain trends as queer crosses the line from celebration to stereotyping. This can reinforce harmful gender narratives that have been perpetuated for decades.

The Post’s tweet received hundreds of sarcastic replies, many of which included photos of the “power dressing” trend popularized in the 1970s and 80s, which involved similar menswear elements like blazers, pants and silhouettes. square. Journalist Angela of Avignon wrote a article for The Atlantic in 2017, looking back at the “Power Suit” and its place in 1980s business. She saw it as an attempt by women both to emulate the authority of men in the power and to escape the sexualization that follows women in almost all environments, especially professional ones.

“Challenging the male gaze in the workplace and in public life required serious negotiation,” d’Avignon wrote. “This negotiation started, in part, with power combinations.”

Women used – and continue to use – power suits to gain respect and establish a level of dominance that is otherwise unattainable in male-dominated workplaces. Thus, costume as clothing is not related to sexuality, but to power, a power created and perpetuated by patriarchy. Deciding that women become powerful when they dress like men are supposed to dress is just as inaccurate as considering a woman sexy only when she dresses like lesbians are supposed to.

The problem with linking lesbianism to some level of high fashion — not just beanies and flannels, but suits and menswear as well — is that people will inevitably confuse the link with an invitation to stereotype.

Clothing should accentuate a person’s confidence and convey their personal style. It’s not an indicator of gender or sexual preference and there’s no need to praise it just because it’s unconventional.

Just because Harry Styles is wearing a dress, for example, doesn’t mean he’s pioneering uncharted frontiers of sexuality and self-expression, but rather that Gucci has decided to make his archive closet her Love On Tour wardrobe.

That being said, it’s important to recognize that clothing is used as a universal means of expression, especially within the LGBTQ+ community. Clothing is one of the easiest ways for LGBTQ+ members to escape “gender dysphoria,” the sense of conflict between identified gender and assigned sex at birth. And, in an even simpler way, everyone likes to be confident in their own skin or clothes.


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