Iam the only daughter of a single mother and have lived my whole life completely saturated in femininity. I watched Say Yes to The Dress instead of cartoons, I watched rom-coms instead of Star-Wars, and I never once believed that the women in my life were anything less than super-humans. I lived in my beautiful, girly bubble for around 12 years, and then I got on the internet. At this point, I had years of boyband fanhood under my belt – from the Jonas Brothers, to Big Time Rush,
even to The Wanted, I knew my way around a boyband.
So of course, when I was in sixth grade and armed with my first laptop, I decided to join the ranks of the One Direction fandom. I had never really interacted with other people on the internet, so I was not at all prepared for what I would find.
Maybe you’re not familiar with what I experienced, so I’ll do my best to explain. I walked into a digital world bright-eyed and excited, with basically no expectations. I knew that I would find funny things, beautiful things, and people who were like me, and I did, but all of that was hidden under a layer of filth.
There were grown men who would find pre-teen girls like me on the internet just to antagonize them for things they cared about. They called us stupid and frivolous, and insinuated that if we were interested in things like One Direction, we had nothing else to offer.
My friends saw interactions like these too, and decided to jump in. I would go to class, church or parties, and be teased simply for liking a band. Of course it was nothing major, and to be honest it meant virtually nothing, but as a middle schooler I was already tired of having to defend my interests.
This pattern has followed me everywhere throughout my life. I have been treated like an airhead for caring about clothing, called hysterical when identifying sexism, and weak when for feeling deeply. Again, none of these insults have scarred me in any way, but there has always been a common thread to all of them – my womanhood.
Never once have I been made fun of for being interested in baseball or sneakers, because my male peers cared about those things too. It has always been the parts of me that categorize me as a woman that I have been teased for, and almost exclusively by men.
If this were an isolated incident maybe it would not be an issue. Maybe I was too girly and needed to have a dose of reality dished to me about the other things in the world. Except, it’s not. As a society, we do not value what women care about at all. When something is popular with the young, female demographic, we are quick to label it silly, or call the women who care about it “basic b*tches.” Not only do we demean the thing itself, we repeatedly put down the woman who cares about it.
Women and girls are socialized to believe their interests are stupid unless they are otherwise approved of by men. They walk around with the shame of knowing that what they care about is widely found immature by their peers. Minimizing women’s interests is one of the most pervasive, yet ignored, forms of sexism in our society today. Teaching women and girls that what they care or think about is unimportant is destructive to their self-confidence and silences them from voicing their thoughts on other things. It keeps young girls from speaking up in class and intimidates women from applying for ambitious jobs. The freedom to be openly passionate about your interests that is reserved for men continues to evade women even in 2019.
So, ladies. This is for you. You can like whatever band you want to, even if strangers on the internet think it’s frivolous. You can stand up for whatever you want to believe in, even if your friends think it’s pointless. You can wear whatever outfit you want to, even if the guy you like thinks it’s stupid. Stereotypically masculine interests are no more important than your stereotypically feminine ones. Being proud of what you care about despite the opinions of others is a scary, radical act, but it is a privilege you deserve.