mas·cu·lin·i·ty : qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men

Jack and Ennis in “Brokeback Mountain” have homophobic conceptions about masculinity that they developed from their fathers and society. Societal norms tell Jack and Ennis that men are strong, dominant, and heterosexual. Especially as cowboys, these two men believe they can’t break from their facade. However they are masculine men in both their physical features as well as their mannerisms and likes, the only thing that sets them apart is their sexuality. Unfortunately they allow their sexuality to define them and control their lives when it really should only be one aspect of their identity as they should be allowed to be cowboys and gay.

Harry Styles recently pushed masculinity boundaries in a very public manner by appearing on the cover of Vogue. He is the first man to ever appear solo on Vogue, and to appear wearing a dress. Unfortunately testing societal gender norms is not taken well even today. Many people lashed out about the cover such as Candace Owens who took to Twitter saying “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.” The restraining box society puts itself into leads some to believe that pushing boundaries is a form of sabotage and a threat. Styles could very well be just as strong as any other man, even in a dress.

The question is what is masculinity suppose to look like? While yes traditionally it is associated with men/boys and their rugged qualities that plays into fashion, profession, and personality. But not all people see themselves as that way, therefore each man should be able to define masculinity for themselves. A man should be able to live how Jack and Ennis wanted to, as cowboys, while also accepting their sexuality. Being gay does not feminize them just as wearing a dress does not feminize Harry Styles. Society shaming people for being who they want to be only puts limits on all of society. Breaking these century long holds on gender and allowing people to be who they are naturally and freely is not a threat. I wish Jack and Ennis could have lived in a world that would have allowed them that freedom just as I hope Harry Styles will be able to dress however he pleases without being ridiculed.



Harry Styles:

5 thoughts on “mas·cu·lin·i·ty : qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men”

  1. Hi! I loved your post. You did an excellent job of tying together Brokeback mountain, written in 1997, versus the Vogue article, which came out on December 2, 2020. I think something that needs to be addressed is that society still views masculinity the same way 20 years later. Although harry styles received backlash for his shoot, it revealed that fashion business is built on these binaries. The Fashion industry needs to see gender fluidity not as a trend but increasingly visible to people who need clothing just like everyone else. Harry’s Styles shoot was to reflect on the ongoing boundaries and gender norms within the fashion industry, and people like this need to continue to break these barriers.

  2. Yes, yes, yes! It is so frustrating to be that being a gay man almost always comes with the connotation of being unmanly in the eyes of society. One of the more upsetting aspects of Brokeback Mountain was Jack and Ennis’s inability to explore their relationship beyond sex because being romantically vulnerable isn’t “manly.” I think it’s significant that Jack died doing a stereotypically manly task, changing a tire, and even this outward show of masculinity wasn’t enough to protect him in the end.

  3. I also wrote my blog post about a similar topic of the representation of gay men in the media. There are so many frustrating things about the concept of masculinity and gayness in our society. I totally agree with you that men should be allowed to be what they want and also be able to express their sexuality freely.

    It’s really interesting how media plays such a massive role in all of this, especially now. The Harry Style’s cover photo was very impactful, but after the comment from Candace, Owens Style’s responded to her comment by posting a picture of him in a suit with ruffles, eating a banana, and using the same saying, “Bring back manly men” as his caption. I personally thought this was a fun, cheeky response to Owens comment, but then she responded by talking about how she was trending for her comment, and that’s how powerful her comments can be; this made me frustrated because it took away from the real importance behind what Styles was trying to do.

  4. I loved this post for its more modern lens at viewing a close reading of “Brokeback Mountain.” Specifically, I enjoyed when you questioned what masculinity is supposed to look like? This question pushes towards the so what question, perhaps in an attempt to answer it you could compare the commentary the boys from the book got towards their relationship to the comments Harry received. For example, the comments from the dad or the ex-wife towards their relationship held negative connotations and were passive aggressive compare to Candace Owens’ comments towards Harry criticizing his overt femininity.

  5. Hi! I really enjoyed reading your post and found that you made some interesting connections. It is very interesting seeing a comparison between Harry Styles and Brokeback, both stories containing controversial attacks against toxic masculinity and internalized homophobia. This post analyzes how our outward appearances are closely connected to gender. We “put on” gender in the way we dress, our mannerisms, and how we speak to others. In my opinion, this is an issue that affects male members of society most intensely. Masculinity has very firm boundaries and men must act accordingly. When men such as cowboys or celebrities go outside the status quo and act outside of their gender, they can be met with ridicule and violence. Our society closely ties certain attributes to specific genders and sexualities, and completely excludes those who act outside of these.

    P.S. Thank you for including harry styles in your post you made my day<3

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