'Shadow And Bone,' 'Twilight' And Taylor Swift — Why People 'Sneer At What Women And Teen Girls Love'

Photo: Summit Entertainment, Big Machine, Netflix
Twilight, Taylor Swift's Fearless, Shadow and Bone

"Our thoughts must surely go out to anybody unlucky enough to have given birth to a female child between seven and 14 years ago," journalist Stuart Heritage once wrote in the Guardian, "for their lives are a mess."

At the time, he was penning an ode to 2015's own Brexit, the moment Zayn Malick left One Direction.

The piece, in addition to sympathizing with, the writer presumes, miserable parents of girls also grants grace to Malick himself, saying that "being a pop star looks crap."

The fans themselves? A joke, of course, quickly brushed aside.

Brushed aside is a place girls and young women sadly become all too used to from a very early age.

This constant belittlement of girls' interests is now being called out by "Shadow and Bone" writer Leigh Bardugo.

In a new interview with the Guardian, Bardugo says, "Teenage girls have so much sway over culture, yet people sneer at the things that women and girls love, and are contemptuous of the creators of that content, particularly if they are women."

And we've seen this for ourselves time and time again.

In 2018, "Twilight" was named The Worst Movie of All Time. In a world where "The Room," every film ever lampooned on "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and the entire Michael Bay oeuvre exists, a wildly popular series beloved by — you guessed it — young women was declared the worst.

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"To me, that contempt speaks to a deep fear," Bardugo continued. "When you start dictating culture, money gets involved and people take notice. When I see someone deride things that women and girls find pleasure in, all I see is someone fearful that women will overtake the culture they’ve had dominion over for so long.”

No one might understand that quite like someone who's reached the top of teen girl fandom — poor Malick's former One Direction bandmate, Harry Styles.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Styles, now enjoying critical acclaim, opened up about his "boy band" past. The brand of music has been maligned since The Beatles, largely due to its enthusiastic fanbase.

If you've read this far, you know who I'm referring to. They don't call them "hysterical" fans for nothin'.

As Styles told the publication, "Who's to say that young girls who like pop music — short for popular, right? — have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That's not up to you to say. Music is something that's always changing. There's no goal posts. Young girls like The Beatles. You gonna tell me they're not serious?”

And yet, only once the Fab Four was embraced by male fans, they were determined to be worthy of being taken seriously.

And things haven't exactly improved since the '60s.

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For much of her career, Taylor Swift was a punchline, a joke about who she was dating rather than appreciated as a writer and an artist.

One could argue it took until the very recent "Folklore" for her work to be as embraced as her less teen-girl-friendly counterparts.

Things girls like are considered silly, vapid.

Somehow, these things are not art until they are more, shall we say, universally embraced (read: embraced by people who are not girls).

Imagine the impact of learning so very young that your interests do not matter unless they are embraced by boys, god forbid by uncool adults.

And the discomfort doesn't end with the knowledge that your interests are less-than.

I remember being embarrassed to say what music I liked as a kid, what movies and TV shows. Not only was I afraid that my more feminine interests would be mocked as girly, but that my "universal" interests were for boys.

Star Wars? For boys. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? For boys. There was no winning.

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So for many young girls, you learn to like nothing — to strip your personality of what you are told is acceptable by other people, people who are the arbiters of what is acceptable for you to enjoy.

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And it's dangerous to think of who allows us as children, and who allows our children, to feel a false sense of worth and coolness.

“How can you say young girls don't get it?” Styles told Rolling Stone. “They're our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going.”

It's a lovely thought, Harry. But sometimes I worry that something as seemingly insignificant as being told their tastes are insignificant can have impacts so staggering as to prevent girls from achieving the kind of futures they deserve.

The thing about fandom, that kind of passionate, joyous, glorious fandom that girls and young women experience when they love something, it's bigger than just liking a band or a book, movie, or TV show.

Fandom is community and identity, and the sense that you are understood and seen and not alone in the world.

Fandom is one of the most powerful things in the world.

When girls are allowed to feel every bit of their power, the power that comes with unbridled love and joy, they can move mountains.

As long as society keeps dampening their joy, we are losing bits of our future.

Stop crushing the joy of our girls by telling them they're not worthy.

Their passion is the most worthy thing in the world and the world is better for it.

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Courtney Enlow is Editor of Pop Culture and Good News at YourTango. Her work has appeared at Vanity Fair, Glamour, Pajiba, SYFY FANGRRLS, Bustle, Huffington Post, io9, and others. She is the former co-host of the podcasts Trends Like These and Strong Female Characters.