Harry Styles in a Tutu Isn't "Performative Femininity"

The pop star posed in full ballerina garb for "Saturday Night Live," and the internet had conflicting thoughts.

Harry Styles further solidified his status as an international treasure over the weekend, pulling double duty as both the host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

The former One Direction heartthrob showed off his knack for precise joke timing and his best crack at multiple accents, using his monologue to poke fun at his own boy band history. To celebrate the momentous occasion, Styles shared a few photos from set on his Instagram, in which he's sporting an embroidered, bubblegum pink leotard, tights, and a full tutu. Combined with his moppy hair, chunky rings, black nail polish, and collage of tattoos, it's an unmistakable portrayal of what makes Styles so emblematic: his ability to take aesthetic inspiration from classic rock stars and mix it with his own campy flair.

But some took issue with Styles' ballerina ensemble. After a fan account shared the photos on Twitter, another user, @posebitch, retweeted them, commenting: "This performative femininity s**t has to stop, and what's worse is how y'all eat it up." The fan account has since deleted their tweet.

To an extent, these concerns are valid. The trope of hypermasculine, presumably straight men dressing in traditionally feminine clothing for comedic purposes is growing more tired by the minute. But to those familiar with Styles, these ballerina photos shouldn't come off as performative: It feels like a genuine part of his brand as an artist, particularly considering his reputation for rocking statement jewelry, ruffles, and bold patterns and textures.

Styles has never explicitly defined his sexuality, but he's left clues in his music before that have led fans to believe he might not be straight: 2018's "Medicine" references him " messing around" with men and women, while a crowd of both are prominently featured caressing him in the music video for this year's "Lights Up." He's a recognized advocate for the LGBT+ community, going so far as to claim "we're all a little bit gay" onstage at a Los Angeles show in 2018, and even helping a fan come out as bisexual to her mother. Not to mention for the entirety of his solo career, his concert and event attire has famously erred on the side of flashy and feminine (he wore alternating pink and blue nail polish for the duration of his SNL episode). With all this context—enough to solidify Styles as a genuine supporter of queer folks and potentially a queer person himself—why would a photo of him in a tutu be considered "performative?" It's understandable that comedies like White Chicks, 2007's Hairspray, and Tyler Perry's Madea franchise might trivialize the experience of gender expression for trans women, but coming from Harry Styles, these photos feel like a (presumably cisgender) man genuinely expressing himself and not a man just putting on a dress for some cheap laughs.

It's also important to think of the flip side of this circumstance, as female stars have long been heralded for donning menswear-inspired looks. Of course, Styles' tutu is absolutely more costumey than an oversized blazer and slacks, but these women weren't chastised nearly as often for transcending fashion's gender norms. Why is it OK for women to embrace their masculine side, but when the reverse occurs like in Styles' case, it's accused of being a performance?

While cultural appropriation is unfortunately still alive and well among white artists, this instance of so-called "gender appropriation" is a non-issue. Part of what makes Styles so beloved as a public figure is that he doesn't restrict himself to the confines of traditional masculinity and manhood, and as a result, fans of all genders can hopefully feel a little more comfortable in their own individual gender expression. There are bigger things to worry about than a man in a tutu—especially if doing so helps that man feel more confident in his skin.

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Why Amazon's "Crucible" Game Needs to Fail

Crucible needs to fail. Thankfully, it already is.


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Harry Styles nearly broke Ticketmaster on Thursday morning, when tickets to his exclusive performance before his Fine Line tour went on sale for only $25, with a presale code available for early access.

Styles, a beloved pop singer who's rebranded himself from boy band heartthrob to quasi-indie solo phenomenon, purposefully had the tickets marked down without service fees in order to make them more accessible to fans of his pearl earring-wearing, looks-great-in-sheer, could-be-bisexual persona. Sadly, after the online queue reached over 2,000, tickets sold out, leaving thousands of fans disappointed and making lucky opportunists richer, terrible people.

After a sensational feature interview with Rolling Stone in August, Harry Styles is the unholy amalgamation of a millennial Beatle, sad boy, and hedonistic, satyr-like cult leader. His psychedelic description of Fine Line is simply: "It's all about having sex and feeling sad...We'd do mushrooms, lie down on the grass, and listen to Paul McCartney's Ram in the sunshine," he said of his creative process. "This is where I was standing when we were doing mushrooms and I bit off the tip of my tongue. So I was trying to sing with all this blood gushing out of my mouth. So many fond memories, this place."

So on Thursday, thousands flocked to Ticketmaster to be close to their maybe-bisexual, gender fluid god. But soon, the $25 tickets were gone and being sold secondhand for as much as $800 online. The show in question was a special concert event and part of an exclusive promotion. Only fans who pre-ordered Style's album received the coveted presale code: "Harry Styles has returned with a new album titled Fine Line, release date of December 13th, 2019. To celebrate the occasion, he is doing a one-night concert at The Forum in Inglewood, California. To get presale code access to the One Night Only show, you must preorder Harry's new album from his official website before 10pm PST on November 6th, 2019."

But, of course, the set up wasn't perfect from the start. Namely, many code recipients reported that when they awoke and logged on as early as 5 am, they were placed in the back of the queue, regardless of whether or not they possessed the code. This resulted in many presale codes being wasted, as tickets were purchased by many who hadn't spent nearly $100 in Styles merchandise beforehand.

Clearly, buyers beware when it comes to sponsoring your favorite artists' album bundles. As a marketing tactic, the deals can manipulate charts or be plain cash grabs to sell extra merchandise, especially in the streaming era when album sales often suffer. As Rolling Stone noted about album bundles linking clothing merchandise with record units, "Bundling has become increasingly pervasive, even on a modest scale. The goal is to boost both chart position — Billboard counts bundled sales in many cases — and revenue: In the streaming era, the margin on selling music has shrunk, but there is still profit to be made from selling clothing."

album sales Buzz Angle / Rolling Stone

And there's hope to boost flagging album sales if they're bundled with a special code for a "One Night Only" concert. This is especially true when album sales are dropping every year—as much as 18.2% from the previous year, like they did in 2018, according to Rolling Stone. Additionally, "song sales fell 28.8 percent, according to U.S. year-end report figures from data company BuzzAngle, which tracks music consumption. Meanwhile, total on-demand music streams, including both audio and video, shot up 35.4 percent."

Obviously, Harry Styles is not personally responsible for a glitchy presale plan that sent his fans into a frenzy, turned Ticketmaster into a target of Twitter hate, and made ticket scalpers very rich. But he did have the power to set ticket prices as low as $25, which suggests that his witchy powers have sway over his marketing team, if he's willing to use them.