Lady business: In defense of teenage girls and Taylor Swift

Apparently, something’s really wrong with our generation. That’s all we hear, anyway, while we pile up our college debt attempting to live the dream that past generations instilled in us. Look to any kitschy online article about the latest trend that is ruining our futures and you’ll often find the finger pointing firmly in the direction of your average 16-year-old girl, a character who is dismissed for being vapid and self-absorbed. Out of everything that’s wrong with our culture as it stands today, apparently the real downfall of civilization as we know it is going to be at the hands of selfies, texting and Taylor Swift.

My God, that Taylor Swift. All of her songs are about her own emotions and relevant things that she and other girls have experienced. How narcissistic. It’s not as if male artists haven’t been waxing rhapsodic about their love lives for basically ever; no, they’ve been too busy writing about serious, grave matters. Taylor Swift fans should probably repent and devote their time to listening to experimental jazz and reading Jonathan Franzen if they want to get taken seriously.

OK, I’m going to be real here: I kind of love Taylor Swift. It was a journey to get here, but I have accepted Taylor Swift into my heart, an act which you must do if you want to be truly at one with the universe, because she’s obviously sold her soul to the shadowy underworld in exchange for catchy pop hooks. Taylor Swift’s music is going to outlive us all, echoing in and out of the decades to come, an endless chorus of we are never, ever, ever (ever, ever, ever) getting back together.

People hate Taylor Swift, though. They hate her with the same kind of hate people reserve for Justin Bieber and “Twilight” and Instagrammed pictures of Starbucks drinks. There are occasionally some decent reasons behind it. Swift has written problematic lyrics, especially in her earlier work, and her music isn’t for everyone. It goes beyond aesthetic tastes, though. In the end, a lot of people hate Taylor Swift because teenage girls don’t. Teenage girls make up a large portion of Swift’s fan-base, and she’s a young woman writing songs that are pretty exclusively to appeal to young women, and people despise her for it and shame her fans for liking her.

That’s how it works, basically. Teenage girls are literally shamed for enjoying things.

The number one way to guess if a type of entertainment is considered bad is if it’s primarily associated with teenage girls.

This might not seem that messed up, but it is, because I have news for you: you’re not better than them.

You’re not better than a 16-year-old girl who seriously identifies with lyrics about dating and growing up and coming into your own.

Just because she’s crying at a One Direction concert and you’re crying to some obscure EP that Pitchfork told you to listen to doesn’t mean her experience is any less significant or important.

That’s how our culture treats teenage girls, though: insignificant and unimportant.

Teenage girls are an under appreciated source of creativity, of insight, of life.

They are spectacularly capable of coping with things that full-grown adults couldn’t handle, and they do it while experiencing the most confusing, awful mix of hormonal changes that they’ll probably know until menopause.

Being a teenager in general is terrible but being a teenage girl, to an extent, is a prison sentence: several years of being the brunt of everyone’s jokes and the target of a lot of unwanted attention.

They’re trapped in a divide where they’re treated like women because they look like women while simultaneously being treated like children because nobody will give them the respect they deserve for the issues they have to deal with.

Take, for instance, a recent case in Montana in which a male teacher was given 30 days in prison after raping a 14-year-old student (after which she eventually took her own life).

After all, the judge said that the girl was “older than her chronological age,” implying that she was partially at fault for her own assault.

So, teenage girls are mocked for taking pictures of themselves and listening to music they enjoy and trying to make the best out of a time in their life that could be horrific.

Even when they’re not enjoying themselves, though, they still aren’t taken seriously, which is why underlying misogyny in high school culture has turned things like self-harm and sexual harassment and suicide attempts into a joke and teen girls into the punch-line, into victims and into statistics.

Teenage girls aren’t the problem, though. I want you to repeat this to yourself until it’s ingrained in your mind. Write it on your hand. Tell your mom. Cross-stitch it and hang it over your bed. Teenage girls are not the problem. Their choices are not the problem.

How we treat them is the problem.

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