Although Taylor Swift says it’s exhausting to root for the antihero, her loyal fanbase has never been so energised. At the height of her career, she’s beating world records with her 10th studio album Midnights

However, Swift’s public image has been through the great war. Her character has been assassinated and the young girls who make up most of her fanbase are met with ridicule and judgement for having the audacity to enjoy her music. But perhaps Taylor Swift is not the problem, contrary to the lyrics of her latest single. While Swift judges her own character in the number one hit ‘Anti-Hero,’ her fan’s reputation has been dragged down the same road of criticism from an outward perspective. 

Young & Foolish?

From Taylor Swift to One Direction to Twilight, the hobbies of teenage girls have been ridiculed by society throughout pop culture’s history. Girls who adore Harry Styles are labelled as crazy hysterical fangirls, while those who reject the interests of the majority are apparently trying too hard to be different. Either way, anything enjoyed by a teenage girl miraculously loses its value and is branded as superficial. Despite the fact that teenage interests boost not only the fame of individual artists but also the economy by influencing celebrity sponsorships and retail trends, girls are constantly overlooked, dismissed and shamed for their interests.   

As gender stereotypes evolve, certain hobbies are less likely to be seen as strictly female-oriented. This makes the idea of a ‘feminine hobby’ difficult to define other than the ridicule it tends to provoke. When the overgeneralised ‘VSCO Girl’ trend took off in 2019 on Tik Tok (echoing the eras of the ‘gossip girl’ or the ‘twilight girl’ that came before), girls were made fun of for the great crime of owning a certain water bottle brand — the ‘hydro flask.’

So, why are teenage girls everything we love to hate?

This attitude is nothing new. Today, The Beatles are seen as one of the greatest bands in music history. However, their meteoric rise to fame began with having a strong teenage fanbase. A term was even created for the so-called insanity of young girls screaming and fainting at the sight of the band: ‘Beatlemania.’ Interestingly, The Beatles were not taken seriously by critics in the ’60s owing to having a largely teenage fanbase that consisted mostly of girls. It was only when men and self-proclaimed real music enthusiasts discovered their potential that attitudes began to shift.

Of course, the practice of referring to girls ashysterical’ is one dipped in casual misogyny. Womanhood and hysteria go hand in hand. The ‘condition’ is defined by vague, non-gender-specific symptoms attached to women by men who need to diagnose in order to try and fathom the complex female brain. For comparison, consider male sports fans who are rarely given the ‘hysteria’ label despite showing a tendency towards more violent behaviour than their female counterparts. A 2014 report carried out by Lancaster University revealed that incidents of domestic violence rose to 79.3 when the England football team played, compared with 58.2 during days when it didn’t.

The simple innocence of teenage girls enjoying pop culture doesn’t contain many of the above negatives, yet we’re the ones being labelled as ‘hysterical.’

A brutal world for the teenage girl

One Direction fans have been ruthlessly criticised in the media. The attitude is summed up in the quote by Jonathan Heaf from GQ:

 ‘ … we all know the immense transformative power of a boy band to turn a butter-wouldn’t-melt teenage girl into a rabid, knicker-wetting banshee.’

He then goes on to criticise teenage girls’ intelligence as a whole, saying:

‘They don’t care about history. All these female fans care about is their immediate vociferous reverence.’

Fortunately, Styles has defended his teenage fans by describing them as ‘our future,’ and explaining that they: ‘Don’t act “too cool.” They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.’

The ‘I’m not like them …’ girl

The ‘Pick-Me’ Girl trend raises an interesting dilemma. This refers to girls who reject their peers’ ‘inferior’ tastes — supposedly in order to gain male approval.

According to the formula, if you are a teenage girl you shouldn’t flock to a Taylor Swift concert if you wish to be taken seriously.

Has it worked?

Apparently not.

Girls who purposefully dismiss certain shared teenage interests are still made fun of. As are those who participate in more masculine activities without judging others. In both cases, young girls continue to receive ridicule no matter what they do. If we enjoy activities associated with girlhood, we are shamed. If we distance ourselves from such activities, we are still shamed. And if we simply happen to enjoy male-dominated interests, the shame gloop is poured thick and fast. The one thing all three categories have in common is the gender of the participant. 

New girls on the block

Thankfully, teenage girls in 2022 are a different breed. We are more supportive of each other and can recognise the dangers of internalised misogyny. Fans of Taylor Swift are far more united among each other than sports fans, and most girls are eager to root for other women. The reputation that girls are catty, bitter and jealous towards each other could not be further from the truth.

Certain men may think that listening to Swift’s Midnights album is senseless and tragic. But what they don’t realise is that Swift’s simple lyrics resonate with many teenage girls who appreciate her down-to-earth poetry.

The label of ‘fangirl’ is not a curse or a sign of modern-age hysteria. In many ways, it is a blessing to know that there is a community who shares in your interests. This support is enough to arm one against society’s short-sightedness.

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