A large chunk of my life has been spent learning about and listening to the music of my favorite band at the time, and those bands have always been boy bands. Even though my music taste is wide-ranged and I enjoy discovering new artists from different genres, I have never been able to connect with a band as much as I have been able to with a boy band.

In Elementary school, I was a fan of the Jonas Brothers and Big Time Rush, but I did not reach a deep level of love for a band until I found One Direction. They completely changed my life. I felt at home when I watched their interviews and listened to their songs, but there was a bitter truth that I had to face as a fan. Throughout the years of me supporting them, I had to listen to countless people make fun of me for it.

I was told to “get a life” because One Direction would never know I exist. I had my taste in music bashed because their music “had no substance.” And when One Direction decided to go on a hiatus, I was laughed at for being heartbroken.

My experiences are not unique because this happens to every single woman that is or was a fan of a boy band. We have our intelligence questioned and are ridiculed for forming an emotional bond with the members. We are seen as pathetic in finding comfort in a celebrity, so why are men allowed to find comfort in a celebrity athlete?

I have seen men scream and cry over the athletes and sports teams they look up to, and I have seen the exact same reaction from women, except it was towards a boy band. Both situations involve celebrities that will likely never meet you, but it is only seen as acceptable for men to spend their free time loving a group of celebrities.

Sports are seen as inherently masculine and boy bands are seen as inherently feminine, which is why men are praised for having an interest in sports. Anything related to femininity in our society is looked down upon. If you partake in an activity that is labeled as extremely feminine, like being a fan of a boy band, you are belittled.

The difference between how society treats men that are fans of sports and women that are fans of boy bands was one of the first instances of sexism that I recognized in my own life. I always noticed how some people’s perceptions of me would change when they found out that I was a fan of One Direction. It was as if I was no longer as intelligent or powerful because I was embracing an interest of mine that was supposedly only for weak women. I could not understand why something loved by mostly women was trivialized when the things loved by mostly men were highly respected.

Now as an adult, I realize that is it because we have been taught that anything associated with women must be avoided. Women are seen as being unable to comprehend complex hobbies, which is why most people assume that boy bands cannot create songs with deep lyrics or teach their audience important life lessons. I also think that this is why so many girls that grew up liking boy bands force themselves to grow out of it and look back at that time of their lives as foolish.

Even the women that enjoy watching sports or participating in them are still subject to being mocked because once again, sports are seen as “too complex” for women. Men cannot imagine a woman being as talented of an athlete as one of her male counterparts, nor can a woman understand the sport as much as a man can.

The same idea works against men that are fans of boy bands. They are teased for enjoying music that has been deemed simple and worthless. They are also told that they are gay for being a fan because the band is made up of men. Clearly, this logic does not hold because most men that like sports root for teams made up of men, but they are never called gay for it. The men that support a boy band are only called gay because society assumes that women only support boy bands because we find them attractive, so the men must feel the same way as well.

I will never be ashamed of the time I have spent as a fan of One Direction because their music touched my heart in a way that few bands can, and I think that is beautiful.