Sunday, January 26, 2014

this is what makes us girls

On One Direction, the Misogyny of Music Snobbery, & the Importance of Teenage Girls

I thought I’d start off this attempt of mine to be a Serious Member of Society by telling you that my past three lock-screens have been Harry Styles. I have three One Direction posters on my walls; one of them is there because I did in fact receive for Christmas, from my mother, a magazine with them on the cover. I have all three of their albums on my iPod, and I also have several of their X-Factor performances and some songs that were never actually released.

Listen to me: I never wanted this to happen. If you had told me three years ago that I would be in this deep, I would have been a little short of horrified.

But the thing is, now, I’m not ashamed. I mean, okay, I’m a little ashamed of the sheer amount of time I’ve devoted to rewatching the tour diaries and the number of Google searches on my computer that feature the words “Harry” and “tattoo” and maybe I would like no one else ever to read some of the emails between my friends and I on the subject, but I’m not ashamed for liking One Direction. Why should I be?

Music snobbery, in general, I find to be tiresome and a complete waste of one’s energy. Maybe once upon a time I cared about what I listened to, but then I grew up and realized that it literally doesn’t matter at all if what you like is played on the radio or not. The fact that some people continue to think that listening to Ke$ha means you’re vapid just boggles my mind. Like, whoa, homie, back up. Your music taste (and movie taste, book taste, etc. etc.) is absolutely no indication of your intelligence, and neither has anything to do with your worth as a person. Enjoying a good song is not a crime. In fact, it’s one of the best parts of life, and if you can’t let yourself take pleasure in that, then I feel sorry for you.

I don’t even know how people think they can judge someone at all based what they listen to. I mean, my starred songs on Spotify include B.o.B ft. Lil Wayne, Fleetwood Mac, Britney Spears, Seabear, Imagine Dragons, the Weeknd, and the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. Is that supposed to be able to define me? Ha. Good luck with that.

Music elitism is annoying to be sure, but sometimes, it can be downright offensive as well. When people deride rap music for its problematic treatment of women, their critiques may be valid, but their argument is weakened by the racist motives in their singling out that genre. Why is it always rap music and never indie rock? Think about it.

I’m so guilty of doing that sort of thing myself because it’s easy to go along with a common line of thinking without pausing to consider its implications. It’s what we’re socialized to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. To return to my original topic, before I went on one of my typical winded tangents, I had also let this sort of prejudice against music like One Direction prevail.

Like so many other people, I used to dismiss fans of boy bands like I thought I was supposed to, complying with the subtly misogynistic idea that music catering primarily to teenage girls was not worthy of my respect because--why else?--teenage girls were not worthy of my respect. And this was something I thought, however subconsciously, as a teenage girl myself. Which is pretty freaking messed up.

Why do people love to hate on artists like One Direction and Justin Bieber*? I’ll tell you one thing: it's not because they lack talent. And while it is perfectly reasonable to simply not find their music to your taste, the majority of the criticism they take is not based upon that. In fact, funnily enough, most of the criticisms are, you guessed it, a brand of thinly veiled elitism whose misogynistic undertones often go over even the critics’ heads. I’ve seen this countless times. Just yesterday, I asked my friend what he had against One Direction after I mentioned them and he said “ew.” His reply was “everything,” but he was unable to actually pinpoint anything specific that bothered him. I don’t want to make any assumptions, but yeah, if you say something like that, I’m going to assume it’s the fact that they’re a band geared toward teenage girls that bothers you.

Because teenage girls are the root of all evil, right? They’re narcissistic, always taking selfies and tweeting about their lives. They’re vapid, they’re shallow, they only care about clothes and makeup and boys. They’re overly emotional about everything. They never stop squealing. And they’re all so mean to each other, too! Teenage girls are the worst.

People don’t always say it in so many words, but the idea gets across. No one wants to be caught listening to One Direction, or the Jonas Brothers, or Justin Bieber, or whoever else, because no one wants to be compared to a teenage girl, not even other teenage girls.

I think this is a little sad. No, actually, I think it’s deplorable. It’s disgusting. The whole system is based off society, industry, telling us one thing -- that we need to buy and wear makeup, that we need to lose weight, wear certain clothes -- and then punishing us when we actually fall for it. Of course, this is a problem for all women, but it’s a different case for teenage girls. We’re not just emotional; we’re hormonal. We’re a special type of crazy. While a self-possessed, successful woman out in the world may demand respect, fifteen-year-olds certainly don’t.

They’re mocked, ridiculed, for loving what they love. No one takes them seriously. If you like something, it’s either a stupid thing to like (fashion, “chick” lit, boy bands) or something you don’t understand and have no place being interested in (video games, politics, older music -- “What do you kids know about bands that had their prime before you were born??”). You just can’t win.

Because being a teenage girl is hard in a way that’s acute and separate from all the normal pains of being alive. I didn’t write this with the intention of complaining or unloading all my personal problems, but yeah, sometimes it really sucks. Sometimes it’s razors slicing open your knees and that extra inch of fat above your waistline and boys who just won’t love you back. Sometimes it’s shoving your hands deeper into your pockets when men whistle at you through car windows and blow-drying your hair late at night for half an hour when you’re already tired out of your mind. Sometimes it’s tugging down your shorts so they’re in the dress code and wondering where all the books written by women, about women, are in the curriculum. Sometimes it’s “please talk to me like an adult,” and ten minutes later it’s, “As long as you live here you will do as I say.” Sometimes it feels like everyone is telling you you’re worthless from every side and you’re just can’t do anything about it.

But I love teenage girls because despite everything they have to put up with, they’re still capable of incredible power. They do so much good for the world: they create amazing things, they ignite revolutions, and more than that, they have such a capacity to love. Teenage girls can be so passionate about the things they’re interested in and this should be celebrated, not dismissed. Instead of making fun of someone for something they like or something they do (something which does not affect anyone else, I might add), we should recognize the legitimacy of their emotions and support them.

So yes, I am a teenage girl and I love One Direction. Wholeheartedly, unabashedly, as things are meant to be loved; none of that “guilty pleasure” crap. I don’t care if you don’t love them, but if you want to think less of me for my own tastes, I’m going to have to ask you to sit down, shut up, and think about your own gross internalized misogyny for a while I have fun listening to “Midnight Memories” for the forty-seventh time in a row. Good day.

*I’m talking about before he went and got arrested and did things that warranted a loss of respect, SMH Justin, I was rooting for you


  1. Oh. My. Gosh.

    You have NO idea how much I needed to hear this right now. Girl-FRAND. I'm just... *wow.* Thank you for being so stripped-down open. This is why I love your writing: you catapult the mind from singing-favorite-songs-in-the-sunlight to crying-in-the-shower-nights within moments and it is just breathtaking and raw and wonderful.

    I can't thank you enough, Kendall. Good lord, I just can't.

  2. OH GIRL.

    You just said it all.

    Also, Midnight Memories music video this friday. *fistpump*

  3. First of all, this is the most beautiful piece I've read in too long. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. This deserves to get published everywhere and every teenage girl deserves the opportunity to read it.

    Also: I'm sorry if this takes the wind out of your piece but I've read a lot of things that argue for pop music, on Rookie and the likes. I think a lot of is due to a hipster counter-culture, which, by the way, I love. I've never had music snobbery but I have had it done unto me, and I'm just saying, with more people like you around, maybe sooner or later people will just let me listen to Macklemore in peace.


Hey, you. Be nice.