Jaden Smith doesn’t care about fashion rules. After all, the 17-year-old wore a white Batman costume to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s elaborate wedding, and he’s been spotted around town in a dress on more than one occasion. Now, Jaden’s the face of Louis Vuitton’s Spring ’16 womenswear line.
Of course, everybody wasn’t feeling the move. The biggest criticism I’ve seen so far is that Jaden’s inclusion in the ad campaign is nothing more than a ploy to emasculate young Black men and boys, because “dressing like a girl” is just wrong in their eyes.
Never mind the fact that fashion trends are super fluid, but why do we care when men and boys engage in things that are typically associated with girls?
Often times our society polices boys’ toy choices (no dolls!), their favorite colors (no pink!), and the sports or hobbies they choose to engage in. We socialize boys to act tough, to mask their emotions, to “be hard,” not to “act gay,” but when the only emotion many young men and boys rely upon most is anger, we get worried.
In his TED Talk on “the man box,” Tony Porter talks about the danger in caging men and boys in rigid definitions of masculinity.
I come to also look at this as this fear that we have as men, this fear that just has us paralyzed, holding us hostage to this man box. I can remember speaking to a 12-year-old boy, a football player, and I asked him, I said, “How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you you were playing like a girl?” Now I expected him to say something like, I’d be sad; I’d be mad; I’d be angry, or something like that. No, the boy said to me — the boy said to me, “It would destroy me.” And I said to myself, “God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?”
The problem, according to Porter, is that by keeping boys in “the man box,” we teach them to “have less value in women, to view them as property and the objects of men,” while also robbing them of being able to have a full spectrum of emotions.
While so many young men his age conform to traditional, hyper-masculine roles, Jaden doesn’t seem to be into it. He dresses however he wants, waxes poetic on Twitter about science and homeschooling, and feels completely comfortable doing his own thing.
I wish there were more young Black boys who enjoyed the same amount of freedom.
Though some make fun of his quirkiness, his commitment to fully being himself is admirable, and it’s absolutely dope.
Cheers to Jaden and all the young Black boys who dare to be themselves!