Teenage girls aren’t shallow, you guys are just mean

In Defense of Screaming Fangirls Everywhere

My first real job was at a coffee shop where we employees got to pick the music playing, and it was – to put it mildly – awesome. You don’t realize how much the monotony of corporate-selected radio makes you want to smash your skull through a window until you have the option to play whatever you want, and my brief stint at a supermarket prior had played the same twenty or so songs on repeat.

We baristas would take turns choosing artists, and for the most part, everyone had similar tastes so there was little conflict, but I still remember vividly one day in particular. I’d put on the Killers, and the moment I did so one of my coworkers audibly scoffed. He was in his mid-thirties, definitely too old to be petty about music, so I kept my mouth shut and ignored him because I had no desire to get into an argument as stupid as that in the first hour of my shift.

Alas, however, my efforts were for nothing, because about ten minutes later he asked why I had chosen that artist. I told him it was because I liked their music, and he rolled his eyes. “I mean, I guess if you’re a high school girl, they would seem good,” was his response, followed by an assurance that when I grew up I would like better music. He didn’t care enough to change the music or anything, and had apparently approached me just to let me know that my taste wasn’t up to snuff – and it was because I was a teenage girl. 

Even if you never were a teenage girl, I’m sure you’re familiar with the phenomenon I’m talking about. The automatic assumption is that, because something is primarily enjoyed by teen girls, it has less value and less validity than anything else. I mean, how many record-breaking pop stars have been dismissed as unimportant just because their shows weren’t attended by middle-aged men? 

No matter what it is – whether it’s One Direction or Sherlock or romance novels – things that women enjoy being put on a lower tier than things men enjoy. Ten minutes of Googling brings up tens of thousands of tweets about how Harry Styles doesn’t make “real music,” or how rom-coms aren’t “cinema.”

 Unsurprisingly, these comments primarily come from – you guessed it – men, but it’s become so ubiquitous in our culture that even I can find myself making fun of teen girls for nothing more than the crime of enjoying what they love.

A lot of what it is to be a teenage girl is the painful act of growing up. Finding yourself and figuring out who you want to be. And a huge factor in the way we shape our identities is the media we consume. 

We identify ourselves as people who enjoy this thing as a shorthand to find like-minded people and also to show our support for the things we love. 

You see it in girls camping out on the sidewalk the night before a 1975 concert to get as close to the stage as they can, and the probably millions of women who now have tattoos based on the TV show Supernatural. We tend to throw ourselves very wholeheartedly into loving things – and society doesn’t like it. But why is that? What is it that makes girly things so bad?

My friends and I at a concert last fall. Photo by Piper Gimbel

Well, to put it simply, it’s just misogyny. The idea that women are inferior to men is so deeply ingrained in our culture that we still haven’t fully shaken it, and teen girls are especially easy targets because we tend to make mistakes. We’re just kids, still growing up, and even the slightest crack in our defenses brings old men on Reddit circling like sharks smelling blood.

 I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen grown men on the internet, with careers and a mortgage and a 401k, taking time out of their day to viciously mock a high school girl who doesn’t live up to their standards. 

The reason that society is so harsh on young women is that men want to maintain the societal idea that we are in some way inferior. It’s much easier to manipulate a girl into giving you what you want, or get away with sexism in the workplace if women are already dismissed as shallow and stupid. It benefits them to uphold the status quo, and ruthlessly putting down teenage girls is just a part of that. 

If we are raised to believe that our opinions and tastes are worthless, we will be very easily persuaded that we are worthless. It’s so fast you hardly notice when being afraid to say what you like turns into being afraid to stand up for yourself. When mentioning something as inconsequential as a movie I like earns me mockery and derision, why would I think I would be listened to if I said I didn’t like it when I was spoken to a certain way? So, in a never-ending circle, men put us down for the smallest of things in order to maintain our place in society as something “lesser.”

This is absurd on every level, not the least of which is the most basic of economics. For example, the Beatles were dismissed as a band “for girls” for decades, and now they’re regarded as music legends. Artists like Harry Styles draw tens of thousands of attendees, and if I were a man in the music industry I would be worrying about getting those droves of teenage girls to come to my shows instead of being pompous about their “lack of taste.” 

There’s nothing wrong with being a teenage girl, and there’s nothing wrong with loving the things you do and being loud about it. The people who brush us off because we’re girls are wrong, and I don’t care how high-profile of a critic they are. Art that’s “for women” is just as valid as any other art, and it’s time society started treating it that way.

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