Written by Timarea Kimbrough, Writer
If you are on Twitter you are probably aware of the term “toxic masculinity”, and are aware of the mediocre white men associated with the term. These men are overpraised and receive all the credit that their stylists and makeup artists should receive. They do little to actually stand against toxic masculinity, these men know that and understand that if they perform in this way they’ll get praised. Pop-feminism is a term used to describe the popular aspects of feminism that are digestible to the general public. It allows young women to be exposed to concepts that empower them. However, pop-feminism does not allow these young women to deeply understand complex concepts and think critically about the media they consume. We could use the status of Harry Styles to understand how these male celebrities gain clout from performing outside of the traditionally masculine roles.
Oftentimes toxic masculinity is reduced down to an aesthetic choice and how men present themselves. In some ways that is true, masculinity can be represented in the clothes one wears and in the way they express themselves. A toxically masculine person may come across as manly man and only follow their own set of rules. Toxic masculinity as a concept can be defined as “cultural norms that are associated as harmful to society as well as to men within our society”. When we focus the toxicity of masculinity on aesthetic choices we fail to see just how damaging it really is.
Harry Styles is an interesting person. He reached fame through a reality television show, “X-Factor”, where he was paired with four other teenage boys. They became a globally popular group (One Direction) and toured the world for years until going on hiatus in 2015. During his time on this reality t.v. show he was oversexualized, played the part of a womanizer and even dated older women (31) at the ripe age of seventeen. On this show, he was forced into this trope that conveys toxic masculinity. As a young boy being continuously sexualized is harmful and can change your own view of yourself. When One Direction went on hiatus the public could see the shift in aesthetics.
Former womanizer and bad boy Harry Styles switched to the aesthetically “soft boy”. When asked in multiple interviews (Howard Stern, Ellen) about why he dresses the way he does he simply states that it makes him happy. We can never really truly see or understand how the constant pressure of being thrown into a toxically masculine role can affect a celebrity negatively, but we can understand the person we see changing right in front of us.
Harry Styles, as well as his bandmates, started off his career confined to the roles of toxic masculinity, having to keep up that persona and ideology was psychologically damaging. Former One Direction member Liam Payne discussed how he turned to alcohol to soothe the pain and stress of the band. Luckily they were able to break free from it and had the means to receive psychological help. Toxic masculinity is not only harmful to our society but harmful to the men within it.