Male students defy traditional gender standards

Some male students use cosmetics, clothing and hairstyling to express themselves.

Freshman civil engineering major William Pierce applies lip gloss in his apartment at Vantage Apartments on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 12th Street on Oct. 10. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Joey Pace, a senior music education major, can often be seen with perfectly manicured nails.

“I feel really hot when I have them painted,” Pace said. “Right now, they’re red and black, and that’s just sexy.”

Gender roles in society define how we’re expected to act, speak, dress, groom and conduct ourselves based upon our assigned sex. For men, it means being expected to act strong, aggressive and bold, according to Planned Parenthood.

Some male-identifying students at Temple are defying these norms.

Pace has been described by others as “metrosexual,” he said. Merriam-Webster defines metrosexual as a heterosexual male who enhances “his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments and fashionable clothes.”

Although reactions to his personal style are usually positive, Pace said his parents threatened to stop contributing to his college tuition if he got his ears pierced, something he always wanted to do. Pace said his parents were concerned about him finding a job if he wore earrings.

“That definitely has homophobic undertones because an ear piercing in and of itself does not denote anything,” he said. “It’s definitely just the potential, like, ‘Oh, this man might be a homosexual, so we don’t want to hire.’” 

Alankato Cobb, a junior neuroscience major, wears his long hair out naturally and sometimes straightens it, which he said is not typical for a man.

“Most people would think that I’m gay right off the bat, which is true,” Cobb said. “There’s some people who think I’m transgender, which is OK and annoying at the same time. It’s cool that they ask and they’re being respectful, but I don’t have to be trans to present myself this way.” 

It’s important for boys and men to have exposure to other men going against societal norms, Cobb said. He started wearing makeup after watching Tarek Ali, a Black, gay man who posts makeup tutorials on YouTube.

Ali isn’t the first to break barriers in a female-dominated industry. James Charles, a makeup artist and YouTuber, became the first male CoverGirl spokesperson in 2016, Allure reported. Other men who are makeup artists include Patrick Starrr, Manny MUA, Jeffree Star and Mac Daddyy, among others.

Cobb said men applying makeup now is normal to his younger brother.

“Sometimes I’ll do my makeup and he’ll sit there and watch me,” Cobb said. “He’ll ask to watch YouTube videos on it. My parents are totally fine with it. When I was younger that was totally not a thing.” 

William Pierce, a freshman civil engineering major, said he defies gender norms by wearing earrings, having a skincare routine and dressing “more in the androgynous area.” 

“I like to put on lip gloss a lot,” Pierce added. “I just love wearing lip gloss. It makes me feel good.” 

Pierce ignores people’s judgments on how he dresses, he said.

“I tell myself before I put on a crop top or put on the giant, hollow platforms, I’ve gotta just disregard it,” he said. “If it’s something that’s breaking the social norm, you’ve got to be mentally strong and mentally tough enough to just push that all back.”

As a gay man, Pierce is also cautious when wearing androgynous clothing and makeup because of possible verbal or physical reactions.

“It’s always in the back of my mind when I’m out, or downtown or alone I should kind of reel in on how extra or flamboyant I’m acting because there’s always the fear,” he said.

Trying to make men adhere to gender norms in terms of attire denies them from fully expressing themselves, according to Refashioning Masculinity, a research project on men, masculinity, and fashion.

Regardless of sexual orientation, Pierce said his male friends are often hesitant to wear what they want if it’s not masculine presenting.

“There’s a lot of different widely accepted ways that women can express themselves and act. With guys, for some reason, it hasn’t changed,” Pierce said. “I feel like the ideal man throughout history has been almost exactly consistent. And even in today’s society all the celebrities, all the influencers, they’re all like that … plain white bread guy that everyone expects to see in the media.”

Pierce said he has felt very comfortable expressing himself at Temple.

“It’s so almost natural to express yourself in an over-the-top kind of way because there’s such a diverse, colorful group of people here anyway that you almost blend in while standing out,” he added.

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