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“That Moment When Your Wearing A Dress With No Pants And You Swerve Way To Hard.” It was the tweet that shook a nation.
I have many mixed emotions when it comes to Jaden Smith wearing dresses in public. Correction: I have many mixed emotions when it comes to the media’s coverage of Jaden Smith wearing dresses in public.
Whether it be on his terrace, at the gym, at Coachella, or just out and about in LA, the After Earth star’s decidedly gender bending style has caught the attention of fashion and tabloid media with the sort of furor that stinks of something insidious. From GQ to People to Complex, the sight of the androgynous adolescent was impossible to miss on the Internet last week.
As noted in my piece “Are Millennials Killing Fashion?”, social media has helped create a culture in fashion that focuses more on individuality as opposed to respecting norms. Smith himself nailed it in the caption of a recent Instagram selfie (in which he just happens to be wearing a dress): “Went to Topshop to buy some girl clothes, I mean ‘clothes.'”
It seems the Fresh Prince progeny has caught on to something that the media hasn’t – namely, that his recent fashion choices are not a big deal. Clothing is clothing, people are people, and the male/female binary is rapidly becoming a relic of the 20th century. The enormous amount of media attention and speculation given to the matter feels uncomfortably reflexive.
It speaks to a double standard in fashion, where women can be as experimental with menswear as they choose while men must conform to pre-set ridged gender norms. This narrow conception of maleness is ultimately harmful to everybody, maintaining the hegemonic masculinity paradigm that posits men are the superior gender, which doesn’t do anybody any favours.
(FYI, hegemonic masculinity is a form of patriarchy that promotes the dominant social position of men through the subordination of women and all things deemed feminine – including men who don’t perform to a predetermined standard of maleness.)
By wearing a woman’s clothes, a man is giving up his male privilege and lowering himself to the weaker sex. He is being “effeminate.” He is being a “sissy.” He is being “gay.” All words –rather, insults– which cut like a heated knife through butter in male culture. Sociologists note hegemonic masculinity is often why men learn to not display emotion and avoid asking for help, leading to a waterfall of adverse results including significantly higher levels of alcoholism, (violent) antisocial behaviour, and a suicide rate that is three times higher than women’s.
While the media may have used words like “quirky” to describe Jaden’s style (or tried to absolve themselves of responsibility altogether with “What do you think of Jaden’s skirt?”), the underlying message was clear. And that’s fucked up.
One can only hope that the old marketing rule of familiarity –or the idea that you normalize and like something the more you see it—applies here. Either way, we’ve still got a long way to go.
What are your thoughts on the media coverage of Jaden Smith’s style? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet your thoughts to @ViewTheVibe.