Young women in the world are scrutinized and patronized because of their pop culture preferences in relation to misogyny in our modern culture today. As a pre-teen, I had little to be ashamed of, and even less to worry about as I began growing into myself and learning my likes, dislikes, and passions. The type of scrutiny that came with the innocence of still holding my mother’s hand in the grocery store was nonexistent, but the level of looks as I perused the teen magazines had me hiding between walls where no one could see.
The embarrassment hadn’t stemmed from anything significant—at least not yet. Interviews with Zac Efron were my safe haven against the laughing eyes of girls and boys my age. Peeking out from behind my mother’s back as the cashier swiped the magazine with dull eyes, it gave me a sigh of relief against the onslaught of panic that a judgmental look would come.
Getting older, the thought of a thirteen year old girl hiding behind a stack of magazines, looking at Cosmo and wondering whether something about sex, rather than about boy bands, would make the hot-cheeked embarrassment go away, makes my heart ache. That unhappy wavering as she, a smart, beautiful, and happy young girl tucks the magazine close to her chest away from prying eyes, is the reason that years later, I proudly announce my enthusiasm for pop culture.
Why I, as a human being, not just as a woman, is pursuing it as a career. Why does society disregard the opinions and ideas of young women who love pop culture? Who told young women that if they liked real music, they’d be better respected? How does the way a young woman dresses start to be a distinct feature that causes her to be categorized?
Misogyny in social culture is as prevalent as it could possibly be these days. In particular, this culture brushes away female opinions with the idea that they are pesky and not worth the time. Even more in particular, it is with young women who are immersed in pop culture. These particular opinionated people have little value to society at large, so says society. This changes a young woman’s perspective on herself and who she may become.
For example, when I was sixteen I was extremely depressed. I did not go outside, unless it was mandatory or my friends dragged me. I stayed cooped up in my room with the lights off, and slept an average of ten hours a night, with the occasional nap during the day. The way that teen magazines were my safe haven, my computer and social media became that same guide. I was constantly on the computer and looking through Tumblr, and posting pictures of my favorite celebrities. I was writing blog posts about how much I loved this boy band member, or this song by this artist. The joy I got from those hours spent in between after school and sleep on the computer was keeping me alive. No one knew how deep it ran until I started to pursue it as a career.
When I told people, they did not congratulate my future choices, or say that I would make a difference. I may not make a difference writing about celebrities, and I know this. I am aware that this particular career plan does not seem likely to change the world to the number of people who condemn me for liking it. I have no doubt that there is a part of my career that will not appeal to those who think I am a joke. Suddenly I say, “I want to write about pop culture,” and many think me ignorant or misinformed. My opinions on politics were disregarded as a whole, and suddenly my coworkers were asking me questions about a new song on the radio and not my views on Hilary Clinton.
As though I had no part in such an important conversation. I told my manager I wrote for an entertainment website and she never talked to me about anything else after that. For a while, this attitude towards my identified gender and passion caused me to question whether or not this part of myself was best kept hidden. That maybe I would be respected more by society at large if I pursued medicine, or if my journalism degree went towards “real hard hitting news.” Then I realized that ultimately, the culture-shaming that society was so violently doing was keeping me from being happy.
Culture shaming has become its own phenomenon in the way young women are categorized based upon their preferences towards pop culture. I am not meant to be categorized. I distinctly remember the day I walked into work, my first ever job, a few days after I went and saw the boy band One Direction in concert. I had worn my shirt I’d spent real, hardworking money on proudly, but covered it with a flannel in case. The confidence was wavering as I slid my key card in the slot and walked slowly over to my coworkers. I worked in an elementary school, an after-hours program, so the coworkers were close to my age.
Immediately I was found out. I very obviously didn’t hide the fact that I went, but I was time warped back into feeling like that thirteen year old girl flipping through J-14 and anxiously looking over her shoulder. That tightness in my chest at the impending laughter never quite went away. This time, it headed into a different direction. My coworker said: “You don’t look like you listen to One Direction. . .like, with the way you dress. You look like you listen to indie music or something.” I had blinked, petrified at being singled out, but furious at such an implication.
Do my black skinnies scream Mumford & Sons? Do my combat boots yell Of Monsters & Men? Is my wing eyeliner written in the words: “I like Bon Iver” and I just didn’t realize? I laughed it off and gave some nonchalant answer about One Direction being fun. I was proud, but I was also still ashamed. That was a punch to the throat and a kick to the gut. How has society gotten to this point? I asked my blue skinny jeans. How has my style, a distinct and intimate part of my daily life become something that is meant to define me? Is that what this all is about? I know the answer to this now: yes.
Although I am not meant to be categorized, here I am, a young woman with her own style, professionalism, and career, and I am categorized: fangirl.
My life in combat boots don’t equal to that of singing along to that new Ariana Grande song on the radio. It doesn’t work like that, so says society. Society seems to say a lot of things about young girls these days.
Taking the world by storm via pop culture has been my dream since as long as I can remember. There was never a time that I neglected to watch E! News, or check my social media. I wake up to Twitter, I do my homework, and I write an entertainment article a week.
Later, I go to a coffee shop and forget my card in the purse I had taken to the One Direction concert. I make a joke about it, and pay with cash. The barista pauses and her eyebrows furrow, and she says: “A One Direction concert?” I laugh it off, but her expression is so condescending I become defensive. She finishes: “Sorry, how old are you?”
I take my coffee, and I leave.