Young Girls and Culture Capital
Written By: Magda Arias @magdalenaav
Photo Credit: Fangirl Therapy fangirltherapy.com
I grew up listening to One Direction. At first glance, this might seem like a rather unsurprising fact about my childhood and early teen years, after all, a large amount of teen girls who are part of Generation Z were fans of One Direction, or similar artists, while growing up. Anyone who knew me back then, however, would be surprised by this fact. Although I was an avid listener of their music, I was not a big fan openly, but rather kept much of my interest to myself, in an effort to avoid the stigma that developed around being a One Direction fan, or “stan” as we call it now. Those around me at the time who were openly fans, were often surrounded by words like, “crazy,” “obsessed,” or “fangirl.” All which carried a negative connotation, which pushed a young girl like me, figuring out her own identity and vastly insecure in my own abilities, to hide a personal interest in an effort to avoid judgement from my peers. It was only until years later, when the band had gone on hiatus and I transitioned to listening to Harry Styles as an individual artist, that I finally became open about my own musical interests.
What twelve year old me was dealing with, was a form of internalized sexism intrinsic to our society. Young women and girls in a patriarchal society have less cultural capital, in simpler terms, when an item, music, movie, book, or person is tied to the feminine, it innately will acquire a lesser value in that society. When it comes to music, this manifests in a stigma around artists whose audience is predominantly female. Artists like One Direction, who produced music for this large female audience, are perceived as being of lesser quality than artists who don’t have predominantly female fanbases, and the fans that surround them are seen as irrational, with little musical taste and as only liking them for their looks.
One Direction fans are not the first or last to have experienced this phenomenon. In the 1960s, as The Beatles rose to quick fame, the media labelled the rapidly growing support from their female fans as “Beatlemania,” alluding to the idea that their fans were “crazy.” Despite the fact that fans of all musical groups and artists can be highly supportive and enthusiastic about their interests, regardless of their gender identity, ideas surrounding female fans and the artists they support have predominantly been negative.
This negative narrative around female fans and what they support is dangerous, as it sends the message to young girls that their passions and interests are of less validity, and as it did with me, can lead to feelings of shame. It’s important that we take the necessary steps in order to dismantle these negative stigmas in order to uplift and support young women, opening up the space in both music and other artistic fields for girls and their preferences, interests and ideas to be taken seriously.