Why is society so determined to undermine and disparage the demographic of teenage women and the media that is catered to this group? To a point where the qualification is used as an insult to any sort of media and meant to denounce its value to any other group?
At so many occasions I have seen music, films or individual artists or actors being slagged off and disdainfully put aside with “only thirteen year old girls like that” – It’s meant as an insult, often seen in online comment sections, for subjects that are deemed shallow, sweetly or catering to emotions and romance. This dogma is integrated in society and in pop culture and is used as a tool by older and cynical people, often men, to defend their own choices. It’s related to the “guilty pleasure” phenomenon and a culture of gate-keeping and pedantic elitism in which certain things are cool and other things are not.
Residual Punk Rock Guilt
A fantastic comment about this, was made by Foo Fighters frontman and legit badass Dave Grohl: “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it. That’s what’s wrong with our generation: that residual punk rock guilt, like, “You’re not supposed to like that. That’s not fucking cool.” Don’t fucking think it’s not cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” It is cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic”! Why the fuck not? Fuck you! That’s who I am, goddamn it! That whole guilty pleasure thing is full of fucking shit.”
Now, I will come clean here and say that I was, and sometimes still am, guilty of this too. Not only with music, but also with other things that are considered to be “for girls” – I have been avoiding talking about it, come up with bullshit excuses and deny or question my own motivations. It’s part of a cultural hegemony of masculinity and gender based marketing that we are still trying to shake off. Some of it is so deeply ingrown, so nestled into our wiring that we can’t get rid of it so easily.
When I was six, I collected Little Mermaid stickers with the girl next door. Of course I said that was just her that made me do it, but of course I genuinely liked it. It’s The Little Mermaid, it’s magical. I loved those stickers. Or what about my David Beckham shirt and the blond mowhawk I got myself when I was fifteen. “He’s just such a great football player, I like him for his qualities.” I said. Ha! No, c’mon, really. David Beckham is hot as fuck and looks fabulous and I wanted to be just like him. I was obsessed with Green Day in my early twenties; couldn’t stop listening to American Idiot. “Oh but I’m not like those teenage girls. I liked them before it was cool, I dig their old stuff. The newer songs are okay, but I’m not into them that much.” Again, bullshit. American Idiot is a legendary album and its popularity back then with a newer audience of young kids is not an argument against it. And I loved the new material too. There was no need to distance myself from it.
Same goes with The Sims, a video game series I love. “Yeah it’s just fun, you know? It’s experimenting with the AI, I like to just mess around with it.” So many ways to downplay the fact that I just fucking like The Sims. I like creating characters and running their household and make them interact and get them outfits and stuff. But it’s called “a girl’s game” – so I felt selfconscious about it. Same for shipping Lara Croft and Kurtis Trent in Tomb Raider The Angel of Darkness.
Because also in the world of videogames, the thirteen year old girl trope is strong. There is an excellent article about this on Vox. What it comes down to: the established community looks down on the fandoms where skill and competition is not a priority in games. A newer kind of game fans is establishing itself; those with passion towards story and characters, romanticism and aesthetics. A group that loves fanfiction, shipping and exploring the narrative of a game franchise rather than doing speedruns.
The cowardice, narrow minded reaction to that development is to blame those “thirteen year old girls” again. Not only is this not true, it’s tarring everyone with the same brush and again pretending that something that is enjoyed and loved by teenage women is somehow bad. The world of fanfiction, shipping and Tumblr fandoms shows a noticeable peak in the group of young women; mostly twenty-somethings despite that vile stereotype. A perfectly legitimate demographic that deserves to be taken seriously.
This is also where there exists a complicated difference in both attacking and defending a stereotype. Women in fandoms are not exclusively in it for the sugar and spice. Not every female gamer plays The Sims or loves Dragon Age only for the romantic pairings. Not every young woman listens to Green Day because they find their lead singer hot, or because they feel an emotional connection with the lyrics. Women too can be competitive or uninterested in fluff and romance, unmoved by attractive male characters or disgusted by syrupy love songs. The point is, even if the stereotype exists, IT IS STILL OKAY. Accepting women in a fandom is one thing, accepting them into a fandom in however the fuck they please, is another.
Listen to Women
We need to start listening to women and stop using them as some sort of threat to the fandom; they’re not challenging to establishment, they are part of it. They are your audience, cater to them. Men, just like myself, need to come clean with their desires and interests, and shaming each other and themselves for liking things that aren’t supposed to be ‘cool’. But most of all, we need to stop demonising those thirteen year old girls and not use them anymore to put things in a bad light. Not only do we harm the people that feel excluded and self conscious about liking things supposingly outside their accepted set of interests, we harm these girls. They should not have to feel bad about being thirteen and about being used as scapegoat in every YouTube comment section. Being thirteen is hard enough as it is, they need encouragement, not to be dragged through the mud.