“Oh, you like this? How surprising…” “Ugh, that is typically something that women like” are most likely phrases that young women have heard before. Teenage girls are shamed for enjoying girly things. Take for example Taylor Swift, the Beatles, Twilight, K-pop BTS, but also hobbies such as dancing and tinkering. Even make-up was for a long time not taken seriously as an interest. It was only when many creators started to earn money on Youtube that it was taken seriously. It seems that no matter what young women like they will be ridiculed for it. Furthermore, taking up activities associated with men, such as playing football and climbing trees seem to lead to respect for girls as it makes them extraordinary. Note that this was not always the case, because in the pink is for girls and blue for boys era, people felt like girls should stick to girly things and boys to boy things. So, why is it that teenage girls are belittled for enjoying girly things?
When numbers do not represent quality
The Twilight Saga is ranked 20th among the bestselling novel series of all time. Over 120 million copies were sold. The books were on the New York Times bestseller list for 235 weeks and they turned into five highly successful movies.
Similarly, Taylor Swift has many records, including most acclaimed country album for Fearless and most acclaimed pop album for 1989. For both albums, she received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, one of the highest accolades in the music industry. She also has four albums that sold more than 1 million copies in America in its first week, making her the only artist ever to do so.
Across popular culture, you will find that the Jonas Brothers, One Direction, The Hunger Games, Justin Bieber, just like Taylor Swift and Twilight, are not valued because their primary fans are young women. The music, movies, and TV shows are criticized for being of bad quality. And yes, even the Beatles were judged for being liked by young women. In all of it, the term ‘fangirling’ is inherent to popular culture. The term ‘fangirling’ refers to hysterical women who cry, scream, faint and who have an obsession. Yet, the term ‘fanboying’ is not used for men who behave exactly the same when they watch their football team winning or losing. This often results in football fans taking to streets to celebrate victory or mourn defeat by destroying things. In my opinion, both fanboying and fangirling are terms that we have to stop using, because how men and women behave i.e. crying and screaming are expressions of joy or sadness – human emotions that we all have.
The trend that we cannot deny
Once teenage girls find something they love, we can predict that they will get ridiculed for it. The stereotypical image of young girls is that they are buying into marketing and products or celebrities targeted at them. As if other groups don’t. Due to this stereotype, they are also considered not smart. The popular conception is that they are empty-headed and follow the crowd. However, this phenomenon is not generally observed in products or experiences made for men or boys.
Janckila (2019) postulates that “Products for women or liked by women are assigned less cultural capital than things perceived to be for or liked by men, which is why going to the Super Bowl, playing Call of Duty, and waiting in line to buy a new Xbox is cool, but going to a Taylor Swift concert, taking a picture of a drink, and wanting to try the Mermaid Frappuccino at Starbucks is generally not” (Janckila, 2019: 7).
The trend seems to be that everything that men enjoy is worth more in terms of quality and $. That is why teenage girls who are interested in typically masculine activities are seen as “cool”. However, they cannot escape the quizzes about a certain topic if they openly say that they like boy things. So, often we see that girls who like boy things remain silent about it. The trend of valuing men’s hobbies more than the hobbies of women, sends a wrong signal: the hobbies of women don’t matter.
How do we go about this?
We have to stop judging girls and women for their interests. If they want to play football, let them. If they are fan of a boyband and want to visit a concert, let them. If they want to watch a Marvel movie, let them. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean you should make fun of it. We have to teach girls and women that their opinions are valid and their interests worthwhile. What they care about matters and is just as worthy as “boy” things.