Our society seems to enjoy mocking teen girls and young women for their interests. It’s so prevalent that many of us find ourselves doing it to girls who enjoy the same things we did when we were younger.
A couple of years ago, I went to the mall with my younger sister, and we both rolled our eyes at a group of teenage girls carrying Starbucks Frappuccinos and yellow Forever 21 shopping bags. We both worked in retail at the time and had dealt with enough annoying teenage customers to roll our eyes at them, but then we realized that annoying customers come in all ages.
We used to be those teenage girls who loved going to the mall with their friends on the weekends, so why were we rolling our eyes at innocent girls having fun? We did it because despite having been teenage girls ourselves only a few years earlier, we had been taught to mock the interests of teenage girls (mainly related to music, movies, fashion, and makeup) as frivolous. Many of us internalize it, but it’s also up to us to end the stigma.
We Don't Take "Girly Girls" Seriously
When I was in college, I feared that I wouldn’t be taken seriously in my male-dominated major. I usually walked into class dressed like the average college girl in leggings, a sweatshirt from my sorority or Victoria’s Secret PINK, a coffee from Einstein’s (we didn’t get a Starbucks on campus until my final semester), and my hair piled at the top of my head in a messy bun. I was usually one of three or four girls in a class of about 20 people.
I considered dressing up for classes, but then remembered that my friends in female-dominated majors like education and nursing dressed the same way I did and were taken seriously in their classes. The guys in my classes often dressed just as casually as I did, so why should I change my clothes? Sure, there were guys who dismissed most things female students said in class (ironically, most of them were self-proclaimed "male feminists"), but most of my classmates took me seriously because I took my schoolwork seriously.
I wondered why I went into my classes feeling this way and thought back to how my interests related to pop-culture and fashion were dismissed as frivolous by my peers as a teenager. I didn’t want to be seen as "that basic white girl" in my classes because I thought that meant everything about me was silly, but it’s not. I can know the lyrics to every Taylor Swift song and can also break down every reason why I believe it's important for Americans to learn Russian history. I can enjoy keeping up with fashion trends and also keep up with politics.
Pop Culture Fans vs. Sports Fans
Here's the thing. Girls tend to like fashion, pop culture, and makeup. Not surprisingly, these interests are often seen as vapid or not for "serious" girls. (See my concerns about going to class above.) Hello? This is exactly what happens to Elle Woods at Harvard – she's treated as if she isn't smart enough just because she gets a nice blowout and loves the color pink.
These interests are often seen as vapid or not for "serious" girls.
For guys, the equivalent of girls' pop culture obsession is definitely sports. Most guys will spend hours out of every week catching up on the latest games, keeping up with player stats, and bro-ing out with their friends while the game is on. And there's no shame in it. But honestly, as someone who loves both pop-culture and sports, I think I have enough experience to say there isn’t much difference between being a pop-culture fan and a sports fan.
Pop-culture fans and sports fans are both passionate, dedicated, and emotionally invested in their fandoms. Pop-culture fans stay up until midnight to listen to their favorite artist’s latest album, and sports fans often stay up late to watch the end of a game that’s gone into overtime (I once stayed up until 2am watching a hockey game that went into triple overtime). Pop-culture fans wait all year for their favorite award shows, and sports fans wait all year for the Super Bowl or the World Series.
I can tell you from personal experience that it’s just as heart-wrenching to watch someone leave your favorite band as one of your favorite players being traded (yeah, Zayn Malik leaving One Direction was just as emotional for me as the Chicago Blackhawks trading Duncan Keith and Artemi Panarin), and seeing your favorite artist perform in concert is just as fun as watching your favorite athletes in person.
We portray traditionally "feminine" interests as silly, vapid, or a waste of time while fanboying over your favorite football player is respected and normal. I think sports wouldn’t be as popular without pop-culture supporting it, so can we stop the hate and just let people like what they like?
Whatever Happened to Teen Media for Teens?
When I was a teenager in the late 2000s and early 2010s, there were plenty of teen movies to go around. There were fun and innocent movies like the High School Musical series, raunchy and realistic movies like Superbad, and everything in between from Easy A and Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging. These movies came out around the same time as the most iconic teen tv shows of all time like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries.
Though there are still fun teen movies like the To All The Boys I Loved Before series, today’s teen tv shows like the Gossip Girl reboot and Euphoria appear to be made for adults. I mean, they’re both on HBO and have graphic sex scenes much more suited to an 18+ audience than a 16-year-old girl's sleepover.
Deep down, our society seems to scorn anything that's wholesome or innocent. We're not allowed to portray teenagers as they are, because what teenagers want is considered silly and naïve by a bunch of nihilistic adults sitting in some Hollywood studio. They might think it's silly to want to be romanced on a date or to have your first kiss in the rain with the cute boy next door. But millions of normal teenage girls still want that, and we shouldn't treat them as naïve because of it.
It's time that we let girls be girls. Maybe some of the adults could stand to learn a thing or two about romance, hope, beauty, and love from the sleepover musings of a 16-year-old girl. Personally, I won't be feeling bad for what I like (or what I used to like).
Help make Evie even better! Take the official Evie reader survey.