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The new fresh prince of social change

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Author: annie trussler – contributor

All too often, when faced with a controversy in modern media, the best question to ask is, “Why, really, do I care?” Very few people take the time to ask themselves such a simple question, or if they do, even fewer genuinely consider their own answer. In my experience, it is those who arrive at embarrassingly juvenile conclusions that consciously decide to overlook their own childishness; or, worse, they are ignorant to why they care in the first place and it does not dawn on them that they should even have to ask. I have witnessed this phenomenon umpteenth times, and a number of patterns have made themselves clear to me: the subject of scrutiny is often a person of colour, a woman or feminine presenting, subverting societal norms, or a combination of all three (what I like to call a redneck’s poison cocktail).

What happens, then, when the subject of controversy is a young black man, embracing femininity, thereby subverting rigid societal norms? As one could probably guess, unfortunate as that may be, that unpleasantly large denomination of the populous choose to ignore the above question, and turn to outrage. Across all platforms of social media, grown adults with internet access have chosen to publicly demonize Jaden Smith, an artistic, intelligent child, for taking part in Louis Vuitton’s women’s wear collection. Smith is pictured with three other models, all dressed in Louis Vuitton designer skirts and dresses, posing comfortably in front of a brick wall. Smith himself, with his sister, Willow Smith, takes great pride in his involvement in the project, but as always, there are a choice number of “deeply concerned” individuals that disagree.

Which brings us back to my original question: why, really, really, do you care? What about this photo-shoot genuinely outrages you? I have taken time, yet again, to compile a short list of possibilities. Either you find yourself outraged that a person of colour is allowed to express themselves in a white dominated industry; you find yourself mortified that the up and coming generation is challenging the fashion world; or, this being the most likely of the three, the idea of a young, intelligent, culture-defying man is comfortable, even proud, in stereotypically “women’s clothing.” So, I reiterate, why do you care?

Simple minds lead to simple conclusions, sadly. They care because they are afraid of femininity. They are afraid that we, as a generation, are working to deny the toxic structure of masculinity they have in place, so that feminine are no longer demonized. What it comes to is grown adults who are functioning members of society directing their anger and resistance to change toward a skirt, a young black man, and a society in evolution. Decisions like Smith’s are viewed as the undertaking of “Youth in Revolt,” but what about this photo-shoot garners such a radical title? Why does the very notion of a young man wearing a skirt enrage so many? Is femininity really so repugnant, so repulsive, so ‘weak’ that the very thought stirs supposedly mature adults to arms?

I have another question. What about traditional femininity frightens you? Why are you so afraid of the feminine? Are you afraid of the skirts, dresses, heels, and makeup? Why do we constantly work to tear children down when they choose to defy predetermined gender expression? I have found that despite their claims, despite their arrogance, and despite their ‘experience,’ those who take the time to degrade Jaden Smith fear change. They fear a world where their ignorance no longer benefits them; and to that, I send my love to Mr. Smith, and every young adult who dares to defy. Ignorance can never last. Not with bright stars taking the scene.

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