Despite decades of activism, the patriarchy is certainly still dictating American ways of life. Gender roles are running the show, in that women still face oppression on the basis of femininity. The wage gap still exists, women hold fewer positions of power on average compared to men, household labor is assumed to be primarily the woman’s (unpaid) job, media depictions of women are low quality or entirely nonexistent and women are more likely to be survivors of abuse. Clearly, something gendered is happening here and we have a long way to go as a society if we want to stop it.
An additional manifestation of this is a phenomenon in society of ridiculing and mocking teenage girls for everything they enjoy. We don’t allow women to exist as they are without intense criticism. This can seem like an extreme statement, but it’s true; this is not just a phenomenon that I experienced myself as a teenage girl, but one that others have noticed and written about as well. For example, if you enjoy wearing makeup you are ‘fake’ but if you don’t wear makeup regularly, you ‘don’t put enough effort into your appearance.’ The issue with comments surrounding makeup go even further. For example, if a woman is not wearing makeup others will often tell her she looks sick or tired, but if she does wear it she is self-absorbed. There is an inherent dichotomy that will not allow women to win. Criticism of women is almost required, from a societal perspective.
However, it goes deeper than this; teenage girls are mocked even more frequently for their interests. If you wear leggings and drink Starbucks, you’re basic, but if your interests lie elsewhere, you’re trying too hard and are begging for attention.
This pattern of behavior may seem harmless. For instance, it’s not as explicitly misogynistic as making a ‘women belong in the kitchen’ joke or suggesting that a female classmate doing well in a STEM class is a fluke rather than the result of hard work. This infuriating internalized misogyny lies in every interaction surrounding a woman’s interests. It’s worse for teenage girls because they are simultaneously not taken seriously because they are female and also because they are young. But no matter what they do, there is no winning.
This constant criticism is especially apparent in the music industry and music taste as well. For example, boy bands are not taken seriously, because their target audience consists of teenage girls. It’s sexist, in that clearly it’s assumed the music enjoyed by young women cannot be good, nor can it have artistic value. Others assume that any young woman who listens to One Direction or the Jonas Brothers is “crazy” and “obsessive.” In essence, it’s a way to invalidate the experiences of women on the most basic level. And while not a boy band, Taylor Swift faces the same problem. However, the stereotypes and obstacles she faces are stronger, since she herself is a woman who started in the music industry at a very young age. Any criticisms of her work due to her fan base demographics ignore the long list of accomplishments she has to her name. Outside of the music industry, romantic comedies and other “feminine” media are commonly the butt of the joke simply because their primary fans are young women.
Even writing this article myself, I feel an urge to qualify my claims with the fact that I don’t listen to these musical artists myself. But that wouldn’t be the truth. The frustration of feeling the need to lie about my interests in order to be taken seriously in the world is immense. And this is because the entire issue boils down (once again) to the fear of being “like other girls.” Overall, society views it as a problem to be feminine.
The solution to this issue is simple: let women have fun! Let people enjoy things without assuming that they do because of their gender identity, and don’t assume that interests or hobbies have no value due to said stereotypes. I’m certainly not the first to make this argument considering the fact that dismissing the interests of teenage girls is not a new trend, but hopefully I’ll be one of the last.