Last night, after being lauded as “the greatest rapper alive,” by Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne took to the stage to perform “How To Love” and “John (If I Die Today)” at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. Immediately, Facebook feeds, Twitter timelines and blogs erupted about his outfit, namely, a pair of leopard print jeggings.

I don’t think his leggings were particularly stylish, especially the fact that they were sagging and his bright blue Polo Ralph Lauren boxers (briefs?) were exposed. But what disturbed me was the callous and offensive reaction to a piece of clothing. A Twitter account was created almost immediately, @Waynes_Jeggings, and people spent most of the night questioning his sexuality—ironically, more so than when he was photographed kissing Baby (which he maintains is a nod to traditional mob greetings).

After celebrating the overdue, if gradual, dismantling of limited notions of black male style, it’s disheartening to be here again over Lil Wayne’s pants. They were tight and boasted a white and black leopard print. So…what’s the big deal?

This is a man who has notably pushed boundaries both sonically and visually with his latest song and video, “How To Love.” He’s openly embraced skateboarding, made a career out of calling himself an “alien.” He is different—and why are we so afraid of that when it comes to black men? Why should manhood and sexuality even come into question based on the fit and print on a pair of pants?

Lady Gaga spent the entire night dressed as her male alter ego Jo Calderone in a white shirt and Brooks Brothers slacks. She grabbed her crotch, drank what appeared to be hard liquor on the rocks and adopted a deeper voice. She even attempted to kiss Britney Spears. While people did note that her act was weird and more annoying than anything, the hostility and mocking Wayne’s pants incited was noticeably absent in relation to Gaga in drag.

When will black men have the freedom to dress without their masculinity being under attack?

-Jessica C. Andrews

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