American Vogue just put Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik on the cover of their latest issue, labeling them as the trailblazing celebrity couple making gender-fluid style the trend it is.
We have to protest this claim. There are so many other celebrities that have actually made gender-fluidity flawlessly part of their existence and daily wardrobe. Hadid, maybe. But Malik? Not a chance.
In the essay titled “Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik Are Part of a New Generation Embracing Gender Fluidity,” Vogue writer Maya Singer begins with a meditation on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, whose protagonist wakes from a long sleep to discover he’s switched genders from male to female.
“The pronouns shift, but the person remains the same. Woolf’s words, written in 1928, could easily be mistaken for a manifesto posted yesterday on Tumblr, the preferred platform for the growing cohort of ‘fluid’ young people who, like Orlando, breezily crisscross the XX/XY divide.”
As Paper Mag’s Kristen Stegemoeller points out: “I guess I’d probably define them as celebrities that dabble in some light androgyny but hey, I don’t know their lives.”
Vogue’s article claims that because the pair have shared tracksuits and t-shirts, they qualify as gender-fluid.
“This new blasé attitude toward gender codes marks a radical break. Consider the scene one recent morning out in Montauk, New York, where the photos accompanying this story were shot: Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik snuggle in interchangeable tracksuits as, nearby, Hadid’s younger brother, Anwar, rocks back and forth on a tire swing, his sheer lace top exposing scattered tattoos. For these millennials, at least, descriptives like boy or girl rank pretty low on the list of important qualities — and the way they dress reflects that.”
The photo shoot only really features Hadid in any sort of gender-fluid look. Where is Malik in a dress? Heels? Can we get some lip liner, here? Or would that be too queer?
“I shop in your closet all the time, don’t I?” Hadid, 22, flicks a lock of dyed-green hair out of her boyfriend’s eyes as she poses the question.
“Yeah, but same,” replies Malik, 24. “What was that T-shirt I borrowed the other day?”
“The Anna Sui?” asks Hadid.
“Yeah,” Malik says. “I like that shirt. And if it’s tight on me, so what? It doesn’t matter if it was made for a girl.”
Hadid nods vigorously. “Totally. It’s not about gender. It’s about, like, shapes. And what feels good on you that day. And anyway, it’s fun to experiment. . . .”
There is also nothing creative about Malik’s or Hadid’s sexuality or gender identities. We’re not saying cisgender straight people can’t be gender-fluid, but to us, both celebrities seem pretty heteronormative and remain within the constraints of that definition.
Who should have been on the cover?
When we think gender-fluid, we think Justin Vivian Bond, Tilda Swinton, Ruby Rose (who was interviewed in the article), Andreja Pejić, Steven Tyler, Evan Rachel Wood, JD Samson and Jaden Smith.
“One day you can be this,” she says, watching as Malik is buttoned into a bedazzled Gucci blazer, “and another day you can do that.”
No Gigi, everyday you’re pretty much the same.
If the cover featured Ruby Rose in a tux and Jaden Smith in a dress, something he wears in real life, we would praise this cover.
But not this. Malik in a flashy printed suit, speaking of wearing his girlfriend’s baby doll tee is not enough to qualify a person as gender-fluid.
Vogue is supposed to the harbinger of what’s next, but this type of inane pandering proves there is nothing new to actually see here.
Update: Vogue has apologized for their handling of gender-fluidity. In a statement released on Friday, a Vogue spokesperson said:
“The story was intended to highlight the impact the gender-fluid, non-binary communities have had on fashion and culture. We are very sorry the story did not correctly reflect that spirit — we missed the mark. We do look forward to continuing the conversation with greater sensitivity.”