The imperfect ensemble

Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran recently sparked a worldwide debate concerning gender expectations after performing their “Perfect” duet at the Global Citizen Festival on Sunday.

In a ruffled, pink gown fit for a runway, Beyoncé dressed to impress, while Ed Sheeran casually wore jeans and a T-shirt layered over his long-sleeve shirt.

On one hand, many believe the artists’ contrasting outfits are due to their differing brands and styles, while on the other hand, many believe their outfit choices go much deeper than personal taste and actually reflect society’s gender expectations.

Shon Faye, a writer, artist, comedian, and activist with over 40,000 followers on Twitter tweeted a photo of the performers’ stark contrast and wrote, “Ed Sheeran is a 27 year old man the fact we’ve enabled him to feel it’s ok to dress like this at all, let alone next to Beyoncé really boils my piss.”

Faye’s tweet particularly gained momentum as another Twitter user quote-tweeted her, adding, “This photo is v v v v [very] representative of what we expect from men and women at the top of their game, isn’t it?”

With the quote-tweet’s 27,000 retweets and 144,000 likes, it’s evident that many people agree with both Faye’s and the quote-tweet sentiments.

Although I believe there’s a valid argument to be made about gender expectations playing a role in celebrities’ brands and personal styles, I vehemently reject the idea this issue can be solved by holding men to the same outrageous standards as women.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that Ed Sheeran’s identity as a white man does allow him to enjoy the casual persona he’s created for himself, whereas Beyoncé’s identity as a black woman plays a large part in the queen bee image she’s expected to maintain.

However, I think the widespread notion that men should not be enabled to feel it’s OK to dress a certain way in someone’s presence is not only hypocritical, it’s problematic.

Is it important to call attention to narrow-minded gender expectations?

Yes – but in doing so, one should advocate for the erasure of such high expectations altogether, not project those expectations on to others.

I’m a firm believer that people should be enabled to feel it’s OK to dress any way that makes them comfortable regardless of whose presence they are in – take it from the girl who wears a backwards baseball cap on the daily.

The best way to challenge gender role expectations is to get rid of them, not spread them.

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