No group is subject to more criticism and ridicule than teenage girls. We mimic them, gawk at them, sexualise them, use them to sell things, and hope that they buy them. We allow them to shape the direction of our culture and then mock them when they go against the grain. Teenage girls are an influential group who hold a lot of power and this terrifies society, thus instead of trying to understand them we settle on refusing to take them seriously.
Once adolescent girls find something they love, you can rightly guess that it will be dismissed in the public eye. We’ve seen this before through media and content predominately enjoyed by young women such as Twilight or One Direction; both big successes but largely invalidated due to their fan base. Perpetuating the idea that capturing the attention of a young girl is “easy” and therefore, anyone who makes something for them isn’t deserving of their popularity and praise. By shaming and belittling the interests of teenage girls, it reinforces a subconscious ideology from a young age, that their opinions aren’t valid. Portraying their interests as worthless can further perpetuate ideas that things created for – and by women – are unimportant.
This invalidation goes back to – and some argue is perfectly encapsulated by – The Beatles. They were labelled a joke at the beginning of their career simply because teenage girls liked them. When grown-men ‘discovered’ that they were musically talented and became fans themselves, then The Beatles became relevant and thus rightfully earned their acclaim. People have been making fun of teenage girls’ interests for years, whilst boys have not received anywhere near the same amount of criticism. Girls are made fun of for camping outside arenas or travelling to see their favourite band or artist, yet this outrage and public shaming is not held when it comes to boys travelling across countries to see their favourite football team or rowdily celebrating a win; which often has more violent outcomes.
Where boys are praised for engaging in traditionally masculine activities, girls are mocked for enjoying traditionally feminine ones. Yet, when girls have interests typically associated with or enjoyed by men, their authenticity as a fan is often questioned. They are met with challenges, “Oh, you like The Smiths? Name 5 of their songs”, or patronised, “Oh, you probably haven’t heard of – insert generic, mainstream interest –”, or dismissed “Well, I don’t think you understand what Tarantino was really trying to say”. A double standard emerges from the idea that girls are being disingenuous, because it is assumed everything women do is for male attention. However, women do not exist in order to impress or be seen by men; a woman’s existence isn’t the result of a man’s presence.
Taking the piss out of teenage girls has become so normalised and mainstream that even teenage girls themselves are seeking separation from their own gender in order to be taken seriously. Here comes the ‘I’m not like other girls’ trope, one of the guys, a ‘pick me’ one might say. Unbeknownst to them, these girls are actually perpetuating their own internalised hatred towards women and femininity; rejecting anything labelled “girly” and rejecting all those who claim it. If traditional teenage girls liked One Direction, makeup, and fashion, these “other girls” liked the opposite. The tomboy doesn’t wear makeup, listens to dad-rock and doesn’t hang out with girls because they’re “too much drama”. However, in their search for individuality, these girls ended up just like everyone else. And because teenage girls can never catch a break, you best believe that the media jumped at the opportunity to make fun of them too.
As a society, it is crucial that we challenge this attitude and change the ways we interact with teen girls to be more respectful, understanding, and empathetic. On the surface, these comments can be seen as light-hearted teasing, but jokes about teenage girl’s behaviour and interests are rooted in misogyny. Teenage girls are exactly that – teenagers. They are still children who are growing and developing; forgive them for not finding the humour in patronising tweets from 40-year-old men. Instead of continuing the culture that shames young girls, our generation should allow them to be themselves – experimental and free of constant judgement. Doing so will lead to a healthier, more confident generation of young women.
[Photo credits: cottonbro]