Ed Sheeran has come under fire today after revealing that he once thought he was gay because he has a ‘feminine side’. The singer appeared on Dutch podcast Man, Man, Man where he delved into a conversation about masculinity and femineity, falsely equating the gender norms with sexuality.
‘I have a definite feminine side, to the point that when I was a kid I thought I was gay for a bit,’ he said. ‘I definitely have a big feminine side. I love musical theatre, I love pop music, I love Britney Spears. My masculine side probably stops at drinking beer and watching football. I am not a hugely masculine person anyway. I am not a car guy. I like a nice car, but I'm not a car guy.’
Naturally, his comments have led to backlash as many have pointed out that the 30-year-old is perpetuating harmful stereotypes by implying that a man being feminine, or enjoying stereotypically feminine things, denotes his sexuality.
Of course, there’s a difference between being confused about your sexuality as a child based on harmful stereotypes drummed into young boys back then, and perpetuating false narratives now. One can perfectly imagine that a male child listening to female pop icons would have been called ‘gay’ in the 90s – and still now, sadly – so it’s not surprising Ed had that experience himself. What is surprising though, is that he still perceives liking Britney Spears to be unmasculine.
The same narrative cropped up on TikTok recently, with users asking people what their ‘guilty pleasure songs’ are. In one video with over 2.4million likes, a male hockey team was asked to partake and all, bar one, chose songs performed by women. Not just any songs, not just any women, but iconic top 10 hits from legendary female performers like Shania Twain, Miley Cyrus and Kelly Clarkson.
‘Notice how just about all of these were female artists,’ one user commented to near 200,000 likes. ‘Can we normalise men listening to these songs without feeling guilty?’
It’s an important question, particularly in the context of a video about stereotypically masculine men, because it’s exactly what Ed was alluding to with his own opinions about liking ‘feminine’ things.
Still now, despite all of our efforts not to value people based on how well they fit into so-called feminine or masculine boxes in accordance with their chosen gender, we consider liking objectively good music by female performers as ‘feminine’. More than that, by even raising the topic of sexuality in this conversation, influential people like Ed Sheeran perpetuate the idea that not only does liking women’s art make you less masculine, but it inherently denotes queerness.
All this does is further push the bounds of what people can enjoy into tiny little boxes that have no meaning whatsoever in terms of how valuable you are as a man, woman or nonbinary person. More than that, it shrinks female performers audiences, encourages dangerous stereotyping for queer people and engrains the deeply problematic idea that sexuality and gender expression are one in the same.
Ultimately, Ed Sheeran needs to learn that men can like Britney Spears without being gay or feminine. She’s Britney effing Spears for God’s sake, she should have transcended the fragile male ego by now.