I always think teenage girls have a bad reputation. To hear some people talk, you’d think that every female teenager was either a masterful psychological game-player or a hapless victim, tormented by the nastiness of her mean girl schoolmates.
In my experience, both as a former teenage girl who went to an all-girls school and an adult who writes books for teenage girls and meets quite a lot of them, most of them are funny, interesting and, most importantly, they like each other. They support each other. They make each other laugh. And while they might have the odd bitchy moment, they don’t spend all their time ripping each other to shreds.
But of course, bitchiness and girl-on-girl hate is very real. And perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, when girls are fed with crap like this Voodoo Doll piece, from an unoffical One Direction fan magazine aimed at young girls:
Oh my God, where to start? The multiple digs at her supposed crow’s feet and grey locks (because getting old is a crime, girls!)? The general sneering at her looks? I actually think it could be the “Zero engagement rings – because no one wants to be with her”, but, you know, it’s all horrendous.
It says that not only is having someone “who wants to be with” you important, but they’d better show their love by presenting you with an engagement ring (or two – what’s with the plural? I’m married but didn’t acquire one engagement ring, let alone a whole bunch of them). And what makes this particularly disgusting is that this page was put together not by ignorant little girls but by adults who should have known better. Who should have known what horrible little insidious messages they were giving to pre-teen and teenage girls.
Because girls deserve better. In the current issue of the excellent feminist glossy magazine Bust, editor Debbie Stoller (who may be familiar to fans of her Stitch and Bitch knitting books) makes a really good point about teenage mean girls. She points out that when girls hit adolescence, their life suddenly gets tougher partly because “they realise, for the first time, that in our society, how they look is often more valued than who they are. It’s not that the Heathers are angry at other girls; it’s just that they are the nearest and easiest targets of their fury. What teen girls really wish they could strike back at, whether they realise it or not, is the world.”
But there is hope for all of them. The cover of the same issue of Bust features awe-inspiring teen blogger Tavi Gevinson, a girl who could, after she was adopted by the fashion world as a 12 year old wunderkind, have turned into a vain little monster. Instead, Tavi has grown into a smart, feminist (and, yes, incredibly cool) 16 year old whose excellent online magazine Rookie celebrates and inspires teen girls in a funny, creative, inclusive and subversive way.
And in the future, I hope young readers look there for entertainment instead of crappy little One Direction magazines.
images via twitter, examiner.com