This morning, social media networks became abuzz with last night's announcement that Jaden Smith, son of the Fresh Prince (Will) and Jada Pinkett Smith, has become the new face for Louis Vuitton's Women's Collection for 2016.
What is interesting about this occurrence is not the actual announcement but rather the shock and aw that has accompanied it. Smith's affinity for what society has branded "womenswear" is nothing new. Having been pictured on numerous occasions donning a skirt or dress, Smith has been quite open and, dare I say it, bold with his fashion choices in world that often casts judgment on those who do not fit its misconstrued cookie cutter expectations.
The announcement has brought up numerous questions as to Smith's gender identity and sexual orientation as well as their future potential, all of which Smith has yet to publicly announce (nor should he have to). One Twitter user, SanDiegoGurl420, commented "Maybe he can be 2016's Woman of the Year!" While being an obvious jab at this year's transgender recipient, Caitlyn Jenner, this statement and those similar to it are flooded with incorrect assumptions of the relationship between gender, sex, and sexual orientation. Due to the lack of education of these topics and conservative (some hateful) views, this comment and many more transphobic sentiments are currently being favorited and retweeted on Twitter.
Furthermore, it astounds me that wearing a skirt or dress has turned Smith into tomorrow's Woman of the Year in a time when countless trans identities are rejected, discounted, or denied. How is it that this one piece of fabric is capable of transforming the perceptions of individuals into one thing or another without consistency or reliability? Today a male assigned at birth (MAAB) individual wearing a skirt is called a woman and moments later another is called "a man in a dress" in order to deny them rights to necessary facilities.
While many are looking at Louis Vuitton's announcement as being radical, surprising, and even distasteful, I urge you to look at what is being said and the rationale that is being used to support these opinions. Yes, Jaden Smith is beginning to break down some of the gendered barriers that exist in the fashion industry today but more so his actions have allowed for a deeper, more intellectual conversation to take place. Allowing a conversation regarding this news to end with "Yeah, that's pretty cool" or "I don't know, I don't like it" is a missed opportunity to explore societal assumptions, expectations, and inconsistent rulings of validation.
Jaden Smith is no more of a woman today than he was yesterday or the day before that. Louis Vuitton skirts, while certainly plenty expensive, do not come with a complimentary sex change. Jaden Smith is the sole individual who has the power to decide who he is, how that is expressed, and what it means. Jumping to conclusions about any part of this young person's life because of a fashion choice, robs him of the ability to speak to you with clarity and understanding that all human beings deserve.
Let us be honest to ourselves and others that we do not fully understand this world, the way it works, or those that inhabit it. In doing so, we not only invite the potential for being wrong but the opportunity to learn what is true in the lives of others.
No matter what others say, no matter the assumptions made, be boldly you.
Ashleigh Bingham better known as “Bing, ”creator of I Dream of Dapper, is a dapperwear Tumblr style icon. She contributed to popularizing the long-haired "queer pomp" and is known for her daring pattern mixing, complimentary rich colors, lapel pins, wild thrift finds, variety in neckwear (featured in her "50 Days of Dapper" project), & ability to write about Harry Styles. In the past, Bing has contributed to Autostraddle, and has been featured on DapperQ, S Moda, Hudson, Buzzfeed, and included in the top 10 of a national menswear online competition. With a tendency to mix fashion with satire, Bing aims to explore fashion as a tool for self-expression rather than an industry.