Source: Insider (2016)
How I slowly grew out of shaming my hobbies, and why we shame girls for having hobbies.
“You’re such a girrrrrl”
“I am a girrrrrl”
“You’re such a GIRRRRRL”
“I am a GIRRRRRL”
Hello, and welcome to another installment of ‘Hannah using Dear Asian Youth Literature as free therapy before she accumulates enough savings to get a therapist’. This 60-minute session will be a personal account about how I was shamed for liking Boy Bands with further discussion about how society loves to shame girls for having hobbies that may or may not involve boys. Whoohoo! Fun!
Taking Things Personally
Now and then when I was younger, my Dad and I would play fight and anytime the presence of a uterus in my body was displayed in ‘girly’ mannerisms, we would have this dialogue in jest:
“You’re such a girrrrrl”
“I am a girrrrrl”
“You’re such a GIRRRRRL”
“I am a GIRRRRRL”
Although I see little harm from these small interactions I had with my Dad as a child, I think it portrays a small window into the quiet battle I have had with myself growing up. It was a product of the way young girls were stereotyped specifically during the 2000s — and how I tried my hardest to avoid them like a pre-covid virus without giving away that was what I was doing.
Pink is for GIRLS
We are in the fortunate position where the colour pink isn’t as strongly associated with one specific gender, nor carry this idea that pink is exclusively for cis women and blue is exclusively for cis men. However, the bombardment of cartoon and toy advertizing in the 2000s during my childhood certainly made it very clear that for companies marketing to young girls and teenagers, ‘pink’ carried the weight of specific tropes, toys, styles, characteristics that were to be exclusively associated with girls. I was no stranger to toys like Barbies, My Little Pony and Bratz dolls — and I loved them. Especially Bratz because only one of the four main girls was white (shout out to Jade, Yasmin and Sasha; Cloe too, I guess).
Although I adored these dolls, this separation between vehicles or ‘figures’ for boys and baking sets or ‘dolls’ for girls contributes to gender being stereotyped within a binary, which may lead to kids internalizing this binary antd making their development more challenging than necessary. Especially during my school years, you either ‘fitted within’ the binary and were a stereotype or you were ‘outside’ of the binary and were (most likely) thrown homophobic or transphobic remarks. No matter what, there was a way to use the binary gendering of words and interests as a tool for scrutinizing your choices, such as personal style.
Dungarees Vs Ball Gowns
A Stanford study in 2018 exemplified how the language parents use can contribute to the promotion of gender stereotypes, which can result in their children partaking or experiencing discomfort with the subjects they are stereotyped with. Contrary to what many girls might have experienced in their early childhood, my mum wanted me to dress as ‘boyish’ as possible. As a woman from a large farming family, it made sense that amongst my collection of toys and figurines were farming vehicles and animals. My all-time favourite types of shoes to wear were ‘welly’ boots in a variety of colours and styles from yellow & black bumblebee stripes, lilac glitter, and good ol’ fashioned forest green.
Some 2000s films may show you the young girl protagonist ‘not being like other girls’ (eye roll) and wearing clothes that weren’t pink or associated with femininity — an example being Cady from Mean Girls entering the “girl world” of the Plastics and her initial idea of wearing pink for Wednesday being a large pink polo in a men’s cut and fit. My mum envisioned me as the Cady, never the Plastics. If I ever dressed in the colours or style of a Plastic, or like Barbie in the Barbie movies, then something must have gone awry in the gene pool.
Instead of loving ska checkered socks, studded wristbands, band t-shirts, sports jerseys, baseball caps, or her beloved dungarees and Doc Martens, I rebelled against my mum’s version of femininity by embracing the femininity that was antagonised — everything must be pink and sparkly because I was a princess in the making!
The thing with having this idea of being ‘not like other girls’ is rooted in the way women and girls were portrayed in entertainment prior to the 2010s — most portrayals of women and girls in film, television and books were one dimensional or had one specific character trait with little nuance, development or depth into their ideas, opinions, interests, wants and motivations.
Examples include women in dresses (with a convenient zip) that simply exist to be the playboy’s one-night-stand of the episode, the girl protagonist’s close group of school friends who spend 5-10 homework days figuring out if the guy will text back; or contrastingly, girls that are exclusively ‘tomboy/badass’, they are ‘one of the boys’ but haven’t got TIME for compassion or friendships with girls because they are a lone wolf that walks alone in the lonely forest and can handle it because she used to have neat scotch as mouthwash and a strict diet of tree bark and bullets as a child. I may be thinking of Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother, a character that deserved so much more from the writers (in my opinion…which is the right opinion). Arguably, this meant that any girls that were growing up with this content believed that having a personality and interests (that weren’t in proximity to men) made them vastly different and unique. Through a modern lens, having an identity outside of flat stereotypes is not that different or unique — it’s just being a person.
Unfortunately, many forms of entertainment and culture then decided to capitalize on this ‘not like other girls’ trope to be women protagonists in stories, but some may have been no more rich in dimension and character arc than their blonder, pinker counterparts. Arguably, Mean Girls managed to show a level of nuance in adolescence and girls that some teen Nextflix films fail to. They don’t understand that being the opposite of a common stereotype is no better if the writing hasn’t grown up either. When you flip or inverse a flat image in Photoshop, a 2D is not suddenly 3D; it looks different, but it’s still a flat image. Loving pizza is being a person, as is loving pink. I wish I knew this sooner.
Ball Gowns to Walking Boots
Developing into my teens, I started perceiving pink as the enemy of my style, and I can say with confidence that was due to how many media and entertainment outlets strongly correlated pink and frosty glittery things with the ‘dumb blonde’ — the idiotic girl with a pink Porsche, purse dog with a knitted jumper and more bedazzled Juicy Couture jumpsuits than sense.
This stereotype was not only used to admire in reality programmes but was also used as an opportunity for families at home to point at the TV and laugh in the face of these women who were simply taking interest (elitism and classism that came with that type of trope aside) — the Elle Woods of the program, but without the Harvard qualification that Elle got all thanks to a perm.
Young girls were expected to love pink in association with domesticity to train us to be good housewives, but if pink was in association with glamour then we would also be lending ourselves to scrutiny. We were desired to be raised feminine but antagonised if we were the wrong kind of feminine — the one that would rather go to the ball than stay in the kitchen. No matter what, being a girl came with being an insult. At a young age, I interpreted that pink = boy crazy = unintelligent = bad. That is stupid and doesn’t hold up, but the way media and entertainment saturated these stories with stereotypes as shortcuts to humour or plot devices was strong and is ongoing in many areas.
Because of these stereotypes, I gradually grew into a more ‘boyish style’ that I am more comfortable wearing these days too. January last year, I finally fulfilled my dream of owning a pair of Timberland boots. I just love walking boots and have for a very long time (‘welly’ boots are a close second!). But the difference between 14-year-old Hannah and 24-year-old Hannah is that I don’t fear pink. I gradually learnt that enjoying anything pink or shiny was not an insult to my character; it did not negate my achievements, nor did it equate to me being a disappointment to my family’s ideals and values. I am allowed to express any and many types of femininity at once without one type belittling another. Modern entertainment and culture are still trying to figure that one out.
I still have a lingering anxiousness that if I display any enjoyment for pink and sparkly things as well as my love for oversized T-shirts and walking boots, then my mum would target the ‘girly’ things to tease me and wax poetry for 50 minutes about how I was an adorable little girl who was a walking pink marshmallow and loved everything pink or princessy. Even though I’ve embraced a type of ‘girliness’ as one of the facets of my personality and style, the combination of fond nostalgia with implicit teasing I expect when my mum brings up my ‘pink princess years’ brings upon this weird muddling of emotions I can’t place. My epiphany about ‘girly’ femininity styles arrived in parallel to my epiphany about music tastes.
“Boy Bands = Boy crazy fans”
Many children grew up as a product of who raised them, even their tastes in music. Growing up, the home was always brimming with sound, whether it was the TV or Dad’s speakers and headphones at a volume that most certainly damaged his hearing. A whole bookshelf with each shelf aching from the weight of Dad’s vinyl records from the 70s in one corner, an entertainment unit stuffed with stacks of blank Tesco CDs contained dad’s recordings of operas, films and concerts in the opposite corner. Shuffling through my mum’s selection of AC/DC, Deep Purple, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond and Elvis Presley CDs to pick one to play on-rotation during our car rides. A square blue Walls Vanilla ice cream tub with a neat pile of mixtape cassettes Mum and Dad made to also be played on-rotation in the car. Classical, Opera, Jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop, 70s rock, Heavy Metal, Blues, Guitar solos, Country, Rock ‘n Roll. In school, I made sure to keep my head down and stay quiet to avoid bullying, but when I came home my world was crammed with an overwhelming bounty of noise I could embrace.
Despite being raised in an environment that embraced multiple genres and wasn’t fussed about which language was sung, there was one specific type of music that I knew would accompany ridicule and teasing from my parents: boy bands. Blue, McFly, Busted, JLS, and other groups of attractive boys processed through a marketing filter to specifically target young girls and the wallets of their parents. My enjoyment of these groups may have given my parents a realization that not only was I their child, but I was also a girl that may like BOYS! Le Gasp!
Of course, being a studious mind that was either stuck to a sketchbook, notepad, TV screen, or book wasn’t enough to display my growth and development. I also had to be a young girl that was ‘above’ the stereotypes that came with just existing as a girl, a girl that liked pink and was boy crazy! Because girls that either liked pink or boys were walking stereotypes. In my twisted interpretation of femininity that was presented, I didn’t want another kind of stereotype to linger with me the same way stereotypes of being the fat Indian nerd did. I didn’t want another thing I had to justify myself for. I didn’t want to go through the fuss of rationalizing why taking an interest in attractive singing men wasn’t an insult to my other interests. So, to avoid the scrutiny that came with ‘girly boy crazy’ femininity, I avoided it at any point of conversation.
I enjoyed boy bands but never wanted merch, never wanted posters, never wanted anything that gave a whiff of boy band fangirling. To an extent, I still don’t care that much for fandom-related merch unless it is made by an indie artist or small business, but it’s rooted in the way I internalised and shamed myself for liking boy groups. When One Direction became inescapable to anyone’s ears or eyes, I would make sure I never actively listened to One Direction. Because if I ever gave the boyband a chance and started liking their music, then I would be a shame to myself and was no better than the ‘girly-girl boy-crazy’ stereotypes.
Due to these stereotypes, I internalised about a specific type of femininity, I quietly became selective about the quantity of boyband music I was listening to and NEVER brought it up with any of my parents or friends. Because, according to my rationale, that was giving in to stereotypes about girls. Then I went to University and discovered K-pop.
I was still withholding myself from fully enjoying music from Korean boy groups and admitting to myself that I found them attractive, but I was allowing myself to enjoy popular music in Korean because of how my Dad taught me to listen to music in other languages without prejudice. Even though I didn’t grow up learning Malay and Tamil alongside English, I was taught that English (although pretty universal) should not be treated as the default nor superior in culture and entertainment; this would be feeding into Imperialist ideas that Englishness was superior. Many genres in music have been whitewashed and colonised, but that doesn’t mean the individual listening experience should be too. This was my rationale when I allowed myself to ‘give in’ and enjoy K-pop.
With the help of navigating my enamel pin collecting hobby into the K-pop enamel pin community on Instagram, I was able to find a corner of the internet with a comfort equivalent to coming home from a long day of work and finding a sweet treat you forget that you saved for that exact moment. It was releasing a deep breath I didn’t realise I was holding for so many years alone. I was able to find like-minded people (and eventual friends) of a similar age group that not only enjoyed content featuring attractive men but were ambitious, creative, kind, funny, forthright, savvy, strong-minded, intelligent (in whatever form/subject that may be) and multifaceted in a way that many modern media outlets would rather ignore and stereotype fandoms as exclusively head empty only scream for cute boys.
Gendering hobbies in a binary
The binary stereotyping of masculinity and femininity in association with cis men and cis women has its own nuanced and complication history, even involving Adolf Hitler reconstructing the way we now perceive blue and pink in correlation to the binary. Mr. Moustache branded gay men with a pink triangle as part of a colour-coded system. Quite extraordinary to think that modern women have had such an uphill battle with the misogyny of enjoying pink because of binary stereotyping, yet it derives from something sinister and cruel.
Esquire explains that,
“The tradition of pink and blue as gender specific colours doesn’t actually go back that far – it wasn’t until the 1950s that the two colours became commonly associated with boys and girls. Until the end of the Victorian era, most babies and young children were dressed in white. […] However the gender association with pink and blue was the opposite of what it is today. In 1918, a Ladies’ Home Journal article stated: ‘There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl’” (2015).
It is really fascinating to observe how our language around specific colours changes as well as the language we use for certain genders — there was a time where blue was delicate and pink was strong, instead of the reverse with the dolls, toys and ads I grew up with.
Elizabeth Sweet’s article for The Atlantic about gender-coded toys illustrates that although contemporary discourse about gender embraces fluidity and freedom rather than ‘put in a box’ binaries, it is only this century where we saw the most blatant displays of hobby gendering from toy companies — resulting in a more harshly defined version of femininity associated with specific visual traits, such as the colour pink and flower/heart shapes. Sweet addresses how gender-coded toys and ads declined in the early 1970s because more women were in the labour force and,
“After the baby boom, marriage and fertility rates had dropped. In the wake of those demographic shifts and at the height of feminism’s second-wave, playing upon gender stereotypes to sell toys had become a risky strategy. In the Sears catalog ads from 1975, less than 2 percent of toys were explicitly marketed to either boys or girls. […] In 1984, the deregulation of children’s television programming suddenly freed toy companies to create program-length advertisements for their products, and gender became an increasingly important differentiator of these shows and the toys advertised alongside them. […] However, late-century marketing relied less on explicit sexism and more on implicit gender cues, such as color, and new fantasy-based gender roles like the beautiful princess or the muscle-bound action hero. These roles were still built upon regressive gender stereotypes—they portrayed a powerful, skill-oriented masculinity and a passive, relational femininity—that were obscured with bright new packaging. In essence, the “little homemaker” of the 1950s had become the “little princess” we see today” (2014).
Sweet emphasises that although strictly defined stereotypes about women and men existed prior to the 80s and 90s, the increasing production and distribution of commercialised toys contributed to the way gender has been split into a binary of ‘girl things’ and ‘boy things’ (as well as Adolf, can’t get rid of the *******). However, you can argue that the visuals of the gender binary are coded with the sexist mentalities of earlier decades, resulting in ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ to have binary connotations as well as ‘aesthetics’.
An insider article by Gus Lubin discusses a study conducted in 2016 to display how stereotyping happens, operates, and can be incorrect;
“Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and other institutions had subjects read sets of 20 Tweets and predict the writer’s gender, age, political orientation, and education level based on the words they used. […] Tweets about love, friendship, and family were stereotyped as female. Those about sports and politics were stereotyped as male. […] ‘Almost every woman who posted about technology was inaccurately believed to be a man,’ lead author Jordan Carpenter said” (2016).
As illustrated above, word clouds were created from the study; it highlights how coded and subconscious these stereotypes have become. Modern youth are more acutely aware that the gender binary is a performative construct that doesn’t hinge itself onto stereotypical ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ interests. Not only that, but it is ok to exist outside of the binary; being non-binary is as valid as any cis or trans person that comfortably expresses themselves within the binary. Both are valid and don’t need to negate each other.
With this in mind, it is still important to recognise that the use of binary stereotyping largely deserviced women and young girls to be an insult.
‘14-year-old girls as an insult’
“You throw like a girl”
“You run like a girl”
“You hit like a girl”
“You act like a girl”
“You’re such a girrrrrl”
“I am a girrrrrl”
“You’re such a GIRRRRRL”
“I am a GIRRRRRL”
Being a girl meant being an insult. Being insulted meant being called a girl. Many cartoons, films and even TV films used ‘like a girl’ as a way to insult a boy’s physical, mental, or emotional strength as weak and fragile because girls were (and still are) seen with connotations of sensitivity and fragility. Although the qualities have their own merits and values, the context of an insult means that boys and men grew up with a type of misogyny that rationalised any femininity as a direct and damaging threat to masculinity. Which is stupid.
“The term ‘girly girl’ has been identified as used among schoolgirls themselves to describe girls performing certain (highly stereotypical) feminine behaviours, investments and aesthetics […] Application of these terms is somewhat inflected by age: while the concept of hyper-femininity is more commonly (although by no means exclusively) applied to secondary/high school-aged young people, references to ‘girly’ productions of femininity more often emerge and/or are applied in research on primary school-aged children” (2017).
This highlights that our initial conceptions of femininity develop at an early age and can inform the way we access the ‘behaviours, investments and aesthetics’ of other people as well as ourselves. Arguably, this means that not many years are needed for young kids to learn about and interpret hyperfemininity with a level of misogyny, external or internal. Similarly to my experiences as a child, an individual girl’s attempt to reject femininity from within incidentally results in the outward rejection of feminine women and girls, which can be internally misogynistic. This is supported by Becky Francis, Louise Archer, Julie Moote, Jen de Witt and Lucy Yeoman’s, who state that,
“In relation to feminist theory, succumbing to views of girls as ‘poisoned’ or ‘trapped’ by femininity seems to fall prey to misogyny. Is it possible to re-embrace ‘feminine’ traits such as care, emotionality and glamour? Or is a less problematic approach to continue to work for and celebrate heteroglossic [in short, the existence of multiple and diverse voices] gender diversity, to deconstruct the dichotomy? […] it remains imperative that constructs such as ‘femininity’ – and different productions of femininity and the discourses and performances that characterise them – are subject to scrutiny and precision. As Francis and Paechter (2015) argue, it is only by effectively identifying and mapping complexity and heteroglossia that we can supply the tools for gender deconstruction” (2017).
Something I have tried my best to live by is that I am a woman, not a girl. Adult girls are women. The difference is important, not because I don’t take girls seriously, but because patriarchal systems continue to not take girls and adult women seriously. ‘Girl’ downplays adults in a way that does not equivalently occur with boys and men. We hesitate to call grown men boys, but don’t bat a well-mascaraed eyelash over calling women girls. It’s part of the reason why being associated with ‘girl’ has had so much power to devalue and belittle. Apparently, young teenagers and girls aren’t worthy of respect, and getting older doesn’t help them.
A way of seeing how and why ‘girl’ is used as an insult is its application on girls that grew up. Carmen Rios suggests that,
“When we call women “girls,” we’re using the force of language to make them smaller. We resist and deny their maturity, their adulthood, and their true power. […] In that way, the term refers to children. And using it to talk about adult females – women – infers that women are, in some way, still immature or childish. In that way, calling women “girls” very actively) infantilizes them. […] Women are only seen as beautiful when they’re young – and a huge amount of pressure is put on women to look, act, and seem young for as long as possible. […] for the most part, our culture sees women the same way they see actual girls: weak, frivolous, dependent, foolish, irrational, impulsive, and impetuous. When we call women “girls,” we conflate them with their younger counterparts in the turn of a phrase. We’re indicating that they are more alike to children than to adults”.
Carmen’s argument illustrates a type of paradox for women and girls. Women are expected to be in proximity to youth for as long as possible, but girls must have ‘grown up’ enough to not be seen as a child at the peak of their weakness, frivolousness, dependence, foolishness, irrationality, and impulses. What is the middle ground? How would you even venn diagram this? There are so many contradictions when it comes to scrutinizing women and their youth. Society wants women to be ‘either/or’ with how they present themselves visually, but must be both/and at any time or any age. How some expect this to be feasible, I have no idea.
It is interesting to see how a lot of the judgments towards women have some sort of proximity to men, whether it be the gender binary or being desirable to their affections. An additional issue with ‘girl’ as an insult is the insinuation that the interests or behaviours of young women and girls are automatically in proximity to men at all.
‘14-year-old girl’ as a heteronormative insult
A specific issue with treating ‘14-year-old girl’ as an insult when it comes to boy groups is the insinuation that teenage girls are attracted to boy group music because they are exclusively attracted to boys. A part of promoting boy groups involve marketing them to a target audience of heterosexual teenage girls, implicitly suggesting that the members are emotionally available for the fans and that the groups make music for them because they love them (which is a whole other topic that can be covered separately).
However, this excludes a very real demographic of people that 1) are not girls 2) are not straight 3) are not straight girls. A Teen Vogue article, LGBTQ+ Fans: We’re Here, Queer, and Remaking Fandom in Our Own Image, states that,
“Fandom is incredibly queer. Its origins as a space for LGBTQ+ people are well-documented, and we see that today, too. Fandom is often an online-offline queer community, supporting fans who may or may not see themselves in actual source material, but who can gather together and feel seen by each other” (2021).
This highlights that LGBTQIA+ spaces exist both out of desire and necessity, to survive and thrive in a community of people that are underrepresented by the media they consume. Internet spaces that are cultivated for fandom content and interactions (such as Stan Twitter) have a HUGE proportion of people that are not heterosexual or cis, this includes women and girls that are not necessarily cis or exclusively attracted to men.
Asexual and demisexual people exist in these fandoms too, so the consistent insinuations that fans only like music groups because they are sexually or romantically attracted to them is assuming heterosexuality as the default — which is dated. Even from my observations interacting with KPOP fans online, these digital spaces can provide members of the LGBTQIA+ community a safe and secure place to speak and interact authentically with other people of the same community that may not have safety or security in real-life circumstances outside of the internet.
Although the internet spaces for music group fandoms are not exclusively cis heterosexual white women, media outlets choose to select footage of fans that mostly display this demographic. Ignoring the LGBTQIA+ community in these fandoms is another way of continuing the misogyny and prejudice towards boy group fans. If the LGBTQIA+ community is ignored as a large component of a fandom’s culture, then media outlets won’t have the opportunity to use ‘14-year-old girls’ as an insult with its heteronormative context. Their default demographic will always lean towards heterosexual girls who are attracted to cute boys. The reality is that once you’re in a music fandom, the default demographic is a diverse culture of people that have a shared interest — it’s not that straight.
Western media delegitimizing BTS with ‘14-year-old girls’
One of the online topics that buzzed through ARMY Twitter, and gave me the push to pitch a piece and write about shaming young girls’ hobbies (Hi, fourth wall!), was when a clip from The Late Late Show with James Corden about BTS at the United National General Assembly was released then quickly deleted (but not really deleted because this is the internet and nothing is temporary). The clip featured Corden stating that,
“The United Nations General Assembly kicked off this morning in New York City and it started with some pretty unusual visitors, BTS were there. […] Although there were lots of people saying why were BTS there, the world leaders have no choice but to take BTS seriously; at the end of the day BTS has one of the largest ARMYs [assuming he’s using that for wordplay of armies] on planet earth. [A] historic moment, it actually marks the first time 15-year-old girls everywhere wishing that they were secretary-general, Antonio Guterres” (2021).
Sigh. Corden. I was there during the Gavin and Stacy days. I was there during the A League of Their Own days. I was there when you finally got the chance to sing with Gary Barlow (of Take That fame). And yet, you make it increasingly more difficult to defend your character whenever I see people online criticizing you. It’s hard to defend you when you say things that are obviously going to be critiqued for being xenophobic, such as Spill Your Guts. Don’t be xenophobic with a touch of misogyny. Don’t be stupid, stupid.
Now, let’s break down why this clip was such an issue:
- James Corden has had the opportunity of having BTS appear on his show several times, including an episode of Carpool Karaoke. Both BTS and Corden mutually benefited, yet Corden still feels the need to implicitly delegitimize the group and their fans for a quick joke. You can argue that it is disrespectful; it is like having your Auntie from across the world invest time and money travelling all the way to do activities with you and answer all your questions, but when they go home you ridicule them and their family online even though the family and their friends can easily see your online remarks.
- 2021 was the third year that BTS spoke at the United Nations General Assembly. Call me crazy, but I believe that three times is enough to not label BTS’s appearance as ‘unusual’. It’s happened before and the use of ‘unusual’ implies a level of ignorance in research about BTS’s involvement with the UNGA.
- They showed a clip of BTS performing ‘Permission to Dance’ rather than their speech, although I don’t know whether or not their team would have been able to access footage of the live speech. With that being said, using the clip without disclaiming that BTS made a speech that discussed how youth today are coping through a pandemic means that a lot of his audience may assume that BTS came to the UNGA to only perform — which may not be taken as seriously as their speech.
- “15-year-old girls” (sigh). After all the late-night talk shows that BTS book, after all the interviews that BTS conduct in the US, after all the articles and professionals in the industry expressing respect for the group and their artistry. There are always going to be people that will take the opportunity to use them for work but won’t hesitate to continue labelling fandoms as teenage girls to delegitimize the group and its diverse audience of genders, sexualities, races, religions, and ages.
Conclusion: You are more than a ‘14-year-old girl’
It’s natural for anyone to have a phase in their life when it comes to style. Dungaree phases, pink phases, beige phases, baggy combat trousers with too many pockets phases. I grew up understanding that stereotypes did not equate to fact. I understood that gendering hobbies was stupid. It is stupid. However, it’s only upon reflection as a young adult (ew) that I now recognise how I didn’t apply the same logic and courtesy to myself. I didn’t realise how much this ‘binary’ subconsciously affected my interests in small ways, and I shamed myself for something I didn’t need to do.
There’s no point regretting those choices, not because of ‘who I was then and the decisions I made or didn’t make turned me into the person I am now’ be-yourself-pinterest-typography-BS, but because it’s not fair on me as an adult to criticise the way I internalised media and entertainment stereotypes as a child and teenager. I can’t be critical about something I had no knowledge I was doing at the time when it comes to internalised misogyny — especially when ‘14-year-old girls’ are still used to poke fun, mock or ridicule a group of people with certain interests and hobbies, such as K-pop. General opinions about young women and girls still carry a level of snark.
K-pop is a diverse and colourful variety of identities, minds, voices and opinions, yet these fans are still treated as a monolith with little thought aside from buying pictures of attractive men. It is rooted in a misogyny that doesn’t allow girls to be strong and gentle, to be athletic and glamorous. It’s ‘either/or’ but rarely ‘both/and’ and that’s a problem.
Femininity is not a threat to masculinity, and the absense of femininity from a person does not make them any better or less than someone who expresses femininity in a ‘dumb blonde’ way. Both femininity and masculinity are allowed to exist without criticizing or shaming each other. It may be very common for lots of people that identify as a woman now realizing the subconscious ways they used to judge others in comparison to themselves with a level of shame and avoidance. But we know better now, at least we should or will eventually.
I am a GIRLLLLL — and frankly, I don’t give a damn.
– Hannah G
Editors: Sicam, B. Lee, L. L.C, Manning-Bi, M. 백시연
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