Defending the Interests of Teenage Girls

“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music — short for popular, right? — have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy?” asked Harry Styles in a Rolling Stone interview whilst answering the question if he felt pressured in his new solo venture to prove his credibility to an older crowd.

Unless you have been living in a cupboard under the stairs for your entire life you will know that Harry Styles is from the boy band One Direction. This week when Harry defended teenage girls and they’re love for pop music I think the world learnt what really makes him beautiful.

“How can you say young girls don’t get it?" asked Styles. "They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going”.

When I read Styles’ comments my inner teenager started doing cartwheels. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of boy bands. I could try and explain it but, a picture paints a thousand words...

Yep, that girl in the bright fluro pink dress with her hands clasped together in excitement is me. It was during One Direction's 2013 Australian tour and I had specifically worn my brightest pink dress in the hope of catching their eye. I think we can all agree that the plan worked. 

I have loved boy bands since I was around 10 years old and first heard that MMMbop drop. It also means, I have been been defending my love of boy bands since I was about 10 years old and a random adult told me that Hanson’s music sounded like a fork going down a garbage compactor. As I grew older, I became the defence attorney for pop bands like 5ive, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, N*Sync and more. Twenty years later and I'm still on retainer because those who bag out pop music refuse to settle.    

However, it’s not just my love for pop music that makes society turn its nose at me. Unfortunately, society is not a fan of pop culture and would prefer I not keep up with the Kardashians. Whenever I mention my love for pop culture, I'm questioned, immediately taken less seriously and my interests are seen as trivial and stupid. In fact, during my graduation ceremony the boy sitting next to me couldn't believe I had received first class honours for my thesis on Who magazine - he told me I must have just been lucky. I was sitting there in my cap and gown and was made to feel embarrassed for my accomplishment because apparently, smarts and pop don't mix. That guy is obviously an ass but, his feelings towards pop culture were painfully familiar and have been playing in my ears for 20 years. Time and time again, the populist view is against popular .

And, who predominately swims in the mainstream? Teenage girls. 

I’ve recently started watching the first season of Designated Survivor - which is about this unlikely sitting member who becomes the President of the United States when an attack takes out the previous President and most of the cabinet. There’s this really great scene in episode 13 where I feel the scriptwriters ran commentary on the rise of Teen Vogue's political coverage chops during the real US Presidential election.

The scene in Designated Survivor starts in the White House media room where Press Secretary Seth Wright addresses the media pack before opening the floor to questions. “MR PRESS SECRETARY,” yells out character Abe Leonard, a disgraced Pulitzer Prize winner turned freelancer. “Mr Leonard, pleasure to have you back in the White House; can I ask who you’re with?” asks the surprised Press Secretary. When Leonard replies “Teen Mode”, the entire room breaks out into laughter. “Come on Abe,” says the Press Secretary “I need to who your credentials are with”. “TEEN MODE”, yells Abe defensively before adding “they actually do real stories on real issues unlike these lemons”.

The room bursts into laughter because the running societal joke is that teenage girls are politically apathetic and prefer op-eds on makeup hacks or how to figure out if your crush likes you or what crop top best shows off your personality. What they forget is that politics and pop culture are not mutually exclusive. Teen Vogue has gone from strength to strength since ladyboss Elaine Welteroth took over as editor in May 2016. A piece in December by pop culture AND political reporter Lauren Duca “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America” has been shared over a million times with surprised added commentary saying they didn’t expect Teen Vogue to be a source of such kick-ass political journalism. You just have to Google "Teen Vogue American Politics" and you are bombarded with articles surprised at their rise in the political space. 

It's funny, isn't it? Neuroscientists have never linked a love of pop culture with diminished intellectual brain capability and yet, for some reason society still believes that if you like pop culture or consumerism or pretty things then you're a few sandwiches short of a picnic. When it comes to intelligence and pop culture, why can't we be like the Old El Paso girl and just have both?

In an excellent article for Elle, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote about her journey back to the bright coloured fashion of her Nigerian upbringing after years living under the antiquated notion that smart women aren't interested in trivial things like fashion. Adichie noted, "women who wanted to be taken seriously were supposed to substantiate their seriousness with a studied indifference to appearance. If you spoke of fashion, it had to be either with apology or with the slightest of sneers. The further your choices were from the mainstream, the better."

I ask again, who predominately swims in the main stream? Teenage girls. 

In a 2015 Pitchfork article about teenage girls and pop music fandom Brodie Lancaster wrote “the crux of teen-girl illegitimacy is the assumption that they are incapable of the critical thinking their older, male counterparts display when it comes to their favourite bands.” I dare say, society regards teenage girls on the whole as if they are incapable of critical thought, period.  Honestly, when is the last time you heard the interests of young men being discredited en masse? There’s a reason why the dismissive term “fangirl” is more commonly used than “fanboy”.

Just because someone likes pop culture doesn’t mean they're an unintelligent mindless sheep; the discreditation of young women’s interests is not only sexist and ageist but, it's downright damaging. We need to stop telling young women what they care about is not important just because they’re the ones who care about it; and, we need to start giving young women the credit they deserve.

Why you ask? Because in the words of internationally renowned former boyband member Harry Styles: they’re our future.