Being a teenager — or being young in general — is difficult. Your brain isn’t fully developed, you don’t know how to handle situations properly and no one seems to really understand you. But being a teen girl comes with a unique set of challenges. Teenage girls are constantly mocked and ridiculed for their interests and actions, particularly online with the popularity of social media. There’s an uncountable number of memes, YouTube videos and movies all making fun of girls for enjoying seemingly mundane things, whether it be bands, makeup, fashion or trends. While it is easy to write off this behavior as natural and to label those who speak out against it as “too sensitive,” this type of humor and scorn just perpetuates the constant cycle of mocking women for having interests.
It’s easy to write off these jokes as just that — jokes. But no other demographic is targeted as frequently and viciously as teenage girls, who are constantly mocked in popular culture and on social media. This really begs the question — what kinds of interests are teenage girls supposed to have? They can’t like makeup and fashion without seeming vain — however, without these things they’re lazy, and they don’t try hard enough. They can’t like comics and video games without being labelled as posers, but they also can’t like chick flicks and romance novels because those are silly and unrealistic. Where boys are praised for engaging in traditionally masculine activities — such as sports — girls are mocked for enjoying traditionally feminine interests like makeup and fashion. While that’s not to say there are not any toxic male stereotypes, teenage girls are much more viciously ridiculed for their interests.
The double standards stem from an underlying concept that many don’t realize they’re perpetuating when they make fun of girls for expressing their interests — the idea that girls are being disingenuous, because everything women do is for male attention. In so many forms of media, women are objects for men to view, and unmarrying women’s existence from male attention requires an entirely new perception of women. So many things women are mocked for are because people assume what they enjoy is a reaction from men. For example, it is often assumed that women only like Star Wars to impress a guy, they dress up so that they can flirt with a jock or they only like a particular band because its members are attractive. Women, however, don’t simply exist in order to impress or be seen by men. Sometimes teenage girls might do things to impress their crushes, yes, but certainly not everything that they enjoy stems from this. A woman’s existence isn’t the result of a man’s presence.
Many are quick to dismiss the scorn of teenage girls as simply jokes. By fighting against it, one is simply being “too sensitive.” But teenage girls are still teenages — they’re still children who are growing and developing, not fully developed adults who know how to handle piercing humor. Teen girls are twice as likely to develop mood disorders as their male peers. They’re particularly vulnerable to depression — depression rates amongst teenagers have been increasing in recent years, and this rise is more pronounced in young girls. There’s simply no reason to perpetuate a culture of belittlement on an already vulnerable demographic. Teenage girls — or any teenager, really — already experience bullying or pressure to conform from their peers. Why should adults also feed into this? Instead of feeding into the culture that shames teenage girls, our generation should allow them to be themselves, free of constant judgement. Doing so will lead to a healthier, more confident generation of young women. Coming into your own as a young adult is challenging enough without people from all sides scrutinizing your every move.
The cycle has already begun anew with the age of social media. Girls of various ages are mocked for following trends. You might remember the “basic white girls” in the early 2010s, and, more recently, “VSCO girls” and “e-girls”. These young women are placed easily into these subcategories for ridicule. Just about every group of women is relentlessly bullied for their chosen interests, especially if they are popular. They’re called “mindless followers”, and put into boxes that don’t actually suit a real, complex person. Making fun of trends is not new and applies to everyone but it seems to be particularly prominent to bully teenage girls.
It’s time to break the cycle. Trends are popular for a reason — they’re fun, they’re cool and it’s something girls like to do for themselves most of the time. Teenage girls — or women of all ages — don’t do everything for attention. They are people with their own interests and hobbies. Women don’t exist solely as a result of the male gaze. Jokes made at the expense of teenage girls are unwarranted and tired. Teenage girls are a vulnerable demographic, particularly in regard to mental health. There’s no reason to perpetuate a culture that leads largely to mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Let’s be the generation that stops bullying teenage girls for existing.
Allison Haszard is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.