I’ve abandoned this blog for the better part of a year and a half. I’ve been saying for at least a couple of months now that I’d like to dive back into it, and right now– I’m angry, I’ve been angry for a long time, and I’m at the righteous stage of angry, which at least tends to lend itself more to coherency that hulk keysmashing, so. Why not?
When I was 16, I took a lot of pride in not being “like the other girls.” I didn’t listen to pop music, really–I traded my pre-adolescent self’s devotion to Britney Spears with a lot of really deep, angry journaling to Brand New and Dashboard Confessional, because I had feelings. I read Salinger and Hemingway and honestly thought I was Rory Gilmore. I developed a super quirky affinity for cult-favorite flopped musicals (does anyone still remember Glory Days? Because I still really want to talk about Glory Days). I literally have a journal entry from 10th grade that says “I’m probably the only girl in this school with 80s rock on her cd player instead of top 40 pop.” I wasn’t really a teenage girl, you know?
24-year-old me knows every word to Miley Cyrus’ new single, cries over especially poignant contemporary young adult romance novels, and owns One Direction toothpaste (no, it does NOT taste like bubblegum, and yes, I’m incredibly sad about the wasted self-referential opportunity). And 24-year-old me’s pretty embarrassed for her teenage self.
There is nothing wrong with what I loved when I was a teenager. I was passionate about it. I cared. It was genuine. And there was nothing wrong with it. I manic pixie dream girled through my adolescence, and the only thing I really regret is my attitude. My interests aren’t what embarrasses me, looking back. My superiority complex does. What I loved did not make me superior to my peers. It did not make me inferior. It was just what I was into. And that–that unabashed, unbridled enthusiasm– that should be cool all on it’s own.
“Like a teenage girl” has too long been used to describe a thing you don’t want to admit you like, or to write off enthusiasm as something shameful, or to insult someone for a behavior or interest you find negative–regardless of whether it objectively can be considered negative. And I want to know why. What is about teenage girls and their myriad of interests– yes, even their stereotypical ones that our society’s unrelenting marketing push sold to them–, and myriad of reactions and behaviors is so much more abhorrent and repulsive than any other group on the planet that it’s a defacto insult to be compared to them?
Yes, social media has made it scarily easy for young girls to hide behind their computers and relative anonymity and hurl incredibly vile insults at anyone who dares to make a snide remark about Justin Bieber. That’s mean. Being mean is not okay. But teenage girls did not invent being a reprehensible jerk on the internet, and they certainly don’t have a monopoly on it. It’s just what we choose to respond to, to call out and gawk at like they’re exotically hysterically half-woman creatures in a zoo. Teenage girls can certainly be gross. They definitely are, and I’m never ever ever going to condone that. But people are capable of being gross. It’s something that should be called out for what it is– mean. Not a characteristic of an entire demographic.
What else are we so pressed about when it comes to teenage girls? Screaming enthusiastically at concerts? Concerts are loud and it’s okay to be excited for an artist you really love. That’s a weak insult, get over it. Crying, over-the-top reactions if Harry Styles deigns to tweet them? Please give me an actual reason for why the way another person expresses their enthusiasm embarrasses them and concerns you. What’s actually wrong here? What are they actually doing that’s causing this knee jerk reaction against them?
Our society markets certain types of music, clothing, books, films, etc, to teenage girls. They’re bombarded with it. And it’s pretty insulting to say ‘hey, you’re fourteen, you’re female, you’re going to like x, y, and z.” But it’s also pretty insulting to sell these things to their demographic and turn around and collectively mock them for it. And I’m so mad.
Teenage girls behave a lot of ways, good and bad and subjective. Teenage girls like a myriad of things–popular and unpopular, with great elements and problematic ones. Teenage girls are just as varied as every other group of people on the planet. Because that’s what they are. People.
Stop putting a target on their backs. Stop dismissing legitimately mean and problematic behavior as rabid teenage insanity. Stop dismissing what someone loves just because it’s marketed to them– or isn’t marketed to them. Stop deciding a collective is wrong and think about why you think it’s wrong. Are they expressing themselves in a reprehensible way for a human as a part of society? Or do you just not think they’re very cool?