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: https://www.vogue.com/article/harry-styles-cover-december-2020