Challenging Masculinity: A History of Gender Expression in Music

Did you know that it’s scientifically proven that creative individuals are more likely to stray from gender norms of masculinity and femininity? Psychologist Donald MacKinnon came to this finding in 1963 – decades before society was ready to have the gender fluidity conversation. And challenging masculinity isn’t a new thing for music either, throughout history male artists have leaned into the feminine as a form of gender expression.

Throughout music history, some of the most legendary musicians have challenged masculinity by leaning into femininity in their hair, makeup and clothes. But David Bowie, Prince and Kurt Cobain, did more than wear feminie clothing on stage – they opened the conversation for how we understand gender identity and expression. Today we see artists doing the same thing – Jaden, Young Thug, Lil Nas X, Yungblud, Harry Styles, Machine Gun Kelly, and the list goes on. 

Even the Beatles donning long hair was revolutionary in the 60s. Whether these choices were an expression of their gender identity or strictly a means of sticking it to the man, it pushed the boundaries on societal norms, and in doing so, moved the conversation forward on gender fluidity.

In this episode, we break down the history of musicians who have challenged masculinity to understand how gender expression has evolved, and what we can learn from expressing our true selves.

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If you liked this episode of Name 3 Songs we’re sure you’ll also love Sexuality and Bi-Fetishization in Music with Joseph Dubay and Men in Music and Their Mental Health

Sources for Challenging Masculinity: A History of Gender Expression in Music

Glitter Up The Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary (Sasha Geffen, 2020)

Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them (Rhian E Jones, and Eli Davies, 2017)

The Evolution Of Androgynous Fashion (Bustle, Marlen Komar, 2016)

The history of nonbinary genders is longer than you know (The Tempest, Meg Leach, 2020)

Pop Music’s Legacy Of Androgyny Continues To Guide Us (Medium, Sean F McGowan, 2018)

Pop Music’s Legacy Of Androgyny Continues To Guide Us (Medium, Sean F McGowan, 2018)

Jaden Smith August 2016 Nylon Cover Story (Nylon, Melissa Giannini, 2016)

Pop Music’s Legacy Of Androgyny Continues To Guide Us (Medium, Sean F McGowan, 2018)

Billy Porter on Why He Wore a Gown, Not a Tuxedo to the Oscars (Vogue, Christian Allaire, 2019)

Men wearing dresses is more than just a statement, and it’s been that way for years (The Central Trend, Meghan Kennedy, 2021)

This Was the Decade That Hip-Hop Style Got Femme (Vogue, Chioma Nnadi, 2019)

Men in blouses, boys in brocade: the return of rock star androgyny (The Guardian, 2015)

Where Did The Androgyny In Rock Go? (Bustle, 2016)

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