This weekend, Jaden Smith was spotted by paparazzi wearing a dress in public. The pictures circulated the Internet, and people exploded. They were attacking Smith for his fashion choices, targeting Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith for their parenting skills and basically making a huge deal over something as insignificant as a dress. Granted, Jaden Smith has created a weird persona for himself through his social media presence, tweeting cryptic phrases with the first letter of each word capitalized, such as “How Can Mirrors Be Real If Our Eyes Aren’t Real” and “Most Trees Are Blue.” However, I think Smith is onto something here, and I think he’s making a good point.
Smith posted the picture on Instagram with the caption “Went To TopShop To Buy Some Girl Clothes, I Mean ‘Clothes.'” This was a really powerful statement to his 1.8 million followers, even if he didn’t realize he was making it. Societal gender labels on clothing are harshly enforced for basically no other reason than to keep things the way they’ve always been. What’s so bad about a guy in a dress?
Girls can and have been wearing pants with no objections for decades now. The last few years of award shows and red carpets have brought in a new and sweeping trend of women in suits, which people have praised. This trend has spread to “normal” society outside of Hollywood as well. I’ve seen multiple girls wear suits to their high school proms. Meanwhile, if a boy wears a skirt or a dress, it’s seen as out of the ordinary and strange. If a boy wore a dress to prom, it would be a huge deal. Why the double standard? Why can girls wear typically masculine clothes and receive compliments while boys get ridiculed if they wear stereotypically feminine clothes?
This stems from the idea that men are looked down upon for doing anything that would portray them as feminine. By wearing a dress, they’re “destroying” their masculinity. I don’t think, though, that clothing and masculinity necessarily have to match up or have to be mutually exclusive. Someone can still wear a dress and be masculine, and when it comes down to it, a “loss” of masculinity isn’t the worst thing in the world. We are throwing ourselves into these restrictive gender categories for virtually no reason with gender specific colors, clothes and ideas. Gender fluidity exists, but many people like to pretend it doesn’t and silence those who try to express it.
Boys can’t wear makeup because it’s seen as unnatural. Meanwhile, it’s seen as odd if girls don’t wear makeup. Baby boys are surrounded with blue clothing, while girls are wrapped in pink. Young boys who like pink, or more “feminine” colors or clothes, tend to be bullied. There have been stories on the news about boys being kicked out of class for wearing makeup, skirts or high heels. We have these pre-set gender expectations for boys and girls as they grow that society enforces without really stopping to think about why.
This weekend I was hanging out with some friends and for whatever reason some people decided to switch outfits, regardless of their genders and what the items of clothing were. The boys were in spaghetti-strap tank tops and girls were in baggy jeans and sweaters, with no criticism whatsoever. Everything kept going on normally, just with everyone in gender-swapped clothes. My friend Conner ended up in my floor-length floral dress and honestly, he rocked it. He got so many compliments and he looked better in it than I did. I don’t think this attitude should exist just at college parties. Men and women should be able to wear whatever clothing they want, no matter what color or pattern it is. People get so angry about it, but if it’s not negatively affecting them, why should they care?
I’m completely on board with this new wave of fashion. Although it is a small step, I think it’s an important motion in the move for gender equality. Just a few decades ago, women couldn’t wear pants without being looked down upon, and I think the new movement of men wearing “female” clothing without facing harsh criticism is up next. There’s no need to conform to these gender limitations, and using clothing to push gender boundaries shouldn’t be frowned upon. I see this as progress, and the people pushing for it shouldn’t have their voices stifled.