For decades, young girls have faced immense opposition and criticism for their varying interests. Whether it be music, literature, social media trends, clothing, sports, or anything else on the planet, people always have something to say about the “fanatical” and “immature” fanbases largely composed of this particular demographic.
Do these criticisms have some basis? As with most stereotypes, there is some essence of the truth underlying its origin. There have been countless occasions upon which celebrities with large female fan bases have had their privacy completely and utterly violated. But the majority of the fanbase doesn’t actually engage in such behavior and instead condemns it. Many teenage fangirls have displayed immense respect and maturity in numerous circumstances; over social media, young female fan bases have often spoken up on serious issues, defended their idols against unfair criticism, and worked together to support and protect the people they look up to. So why do we as a society choose to hold the misguided masses as representative of the whole?
Before we answer that question, let’s clarify that fan-crazed behavior is not exclusive to young girls. Whether it be older men, teen boys, or even middle-aged moms (I didn’t forget y’all’s creepy “Twilight” obsession revolving around Taylor Lautner), all of these groups have displayed behavior like this at some point. But they received noticeably little to no criticism. So why do pre-teen and teen girls face such backlash?
We first have to acknowledge that it is normalized to badger women on their respective interests. When moments arise that undermine that interest, such as destructive and disrespectful fan behavior, people jump to accuse all girls of being immature and overbearing. They are easy targets to belittle, and any bad eggs are instantly exploited as a means of continuing that mockery.
As those girls grow older, it becomes ingrained in them to defend their interests and avoid sharing their activities with others. Passions become entirely private, and you often find that the inability to connect with others over them leads to a lot of possessiveness and “gatekeeping.” That, in turn, feeds the fanatical stereotype, and people refuse to see the root of that concept. In addition, the perpetuation of this constant shame around women simply enjoying things is a huge contributor to more serious problems like low self-esteem and self-doubt.
In reality, overly criticizing women for their interests and emotions is nothing new, and this is simply the form it takes on in the modern world. In the past, women were deemed too incapable, overly emotional, and childish to take on important roles in society. We have worked to overcome that mindset for decades and have made immense progress, but that prejudice unveils itself in other ways, such as ridiculing girls and their interests.
But how can we overcome such cemented preconceived notions? And how do we do so responsibly, reeling the chaotic masses when needed and supporting them at other times? I think it’s pretty simple: Just consider if you are telling the truth or exaggerating. When you paint a particular fanbase as a wild horde of female teens, the image of crowds of young, enraged faces decked out in warpaint and holding pitchforks tends to flood the mind. Is that really what the whole fanbase looks like, or are there a diverse set of demographics present? Have there been several occasions where a majority of the pre-teen girls have caused a ruckus, or has it been a few offhand incidents that involved a few of those individuals? Your statements are important, because they help reinforce or break down these stigmas, and they influence your own mindset.
As with all things, people regardless of their age, race, gender, etc. take things a little too far, and they deserve to be called out. However, they do not serve as an excuse to demonize entire groups of people, which has lasting effects that are burdensome and unnecessary. Just let people, especially young girls, live their lives and enjoy what they want to.