I remember listening to the radio shortly after the One Direction ‘break’ was announced and the first thing I heard was a woman telling parents of fans how to approach the situation with their children. It completely and utterly moved me. This woman spoke compassionately, sincerely and with the upmost respect about the aftermath of news like this coming to light. There was no mockery in the broadcast but simply information and advice.
As a young woman, the first thing that sprung to my head when I heard this was that it was strange not to be under attack. Normally, these reports begin and end with ‘hysterical’, ‘crazy’ ‘obsessed’ etc and focus mainly on demonising and mocking things that young women relate to or like. I feel that I face the media’s perception of young women with a relatively thick coat of armour. I have witnessed every form of ridicule in relation to things that young women like. It’s easy to feel as though there is no way to win with stereotypes ranging from being One Direction obsessed to being glued to our front cameras. The odds are undoubtedly stacked against us.
I was only about fourteen when I realised that the media wanted me to believe that being a teenage girl was inherently a flaw. I sat surrounded by my posters, nail kits and CDs and wondered if I was simply a stereotype. I thought about whether it would matter if I was outgoing or smart if the first thing people saw when they met me was my boyband hoodie. The truth is, I did fit the stereotype perfectly and that’s why the media’s portrayal of the teenage girl is so damaging. It is so easy to fit into the stereotype if you are surrounded by the culture of being a 21st century teenager and therefore there is no escaping that sinking feeling that you are the punchline in every joke. This is still true today. It still aggravates me that the first thing I feel when I listen to someone speak of teenage girls compassionately is shock.
How long will teenage girls be the punchline of every joke? The truth is: I don’t know. I personally believe that a large proportion of the aggressiveness towards teenage girls stems from people feeling threatened. If they think something should inherently be beneath them, then viewing the teenage girl as anything more as a punchline is difficult. For some, the thought of the teenage girl being three diminutional is terrifying. The idea that someone can be smart, funny, successful and still love boybands is seen as a myth.
The teenage girl, as a force, is extraordinarily under-appreciated. There is a really wonderful quality that runs throughout all the things that young women are ‘crazy’ about and that’s love. An unabashed, pure and loyal love. This shouldn’t be made out to be a weakness. Instead, it is, and continues to be, a real strength in learning how to be compassionate and understanding about the world around you. Boybands give the chance for young girls to grow and prosper with the help of a love that won’t let them down.
And when it feels like it does? When they feel like they need somewhere to turn? They can switch on the radio and listen to someone validating their feelings with every ounce of respect they deserve.