Not So “Basic”: Teen Girls Run The World

The Positive Cultural Impact of Teenage Girls Has Been Underestimate For Too Long


“Those who flock round the Beatles, who scream themselves into hysteria, whose vacant faces flicker over the TV screen, are the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures,” said a New Statesman article in 1964. 


Many people would be confused when reading the above quote because The Beatles are not only one of the most famous musical groups of all time but their fan base is also equally famous. Who made up most of the dull and idle? Teen girls. 


Teen girls have been one of the most mocked and degraded groups throughout modern history even though they are the ones that control pop culture, lead our activist movements, and are actively the most marketed towards groups. 


When somebody says something is meant for teen girls they usually mean it’s too girly or not serious enough. Things teen girls like are generally seen as “basic” or “stupid”. Why should things that a large body of people enjoy be considered this way? Why should something that is mainstream be seen as bad?


When writing for Slate, Forrest Wickman wrote, “One of the great fallacies in rock criticism and especially indie-rock criticism is to assume that the underground is always where greatness is happening, while pop stars (especially those that have female fans) rarely move the ball forward or make anything that lasts.”


Billie Eilish’s fan base is mostly teen girls and she is the second person and the only woman in history to win all four major Grammys (best new artist, song of the year, record of the year, and album of the year) in the same year. Though Eilish is proven to be very successful and is critically acclaimed, Eilish fans are often made fun of for having “fake depression”. Olivia Rodrigo’s fan base is mostly teen girls and she has the biggest opening week of a female artist on Spotify ever. Yet, her fans are often made fun of for listening to music that isn’t “meaningful” or “serious” enough. 


Pitchfork, a popular music magazine refused to review any Taylor Swift albums because they didn’t consider it serious enough. Male artist Ryan Adams recorded the entirety of the Taylor Swift 1989 album and Pitchfork reviewed it. Why is it that a man could cover an entire album and be taken seriously but a female artist isn’t? Pitchfork revised this decision in 2019 and reviewed all of Swift’s albums. 


“Pitchfork, like any student of pop music history, should know by now that this could hardly be farther from the truth. After all, the last artist before Swift to release four consecutive studio albums that each spent six or more weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, an artist whose fans were also mostly young women, was the Beatles,” said Wickman on the Taylor Swift Pitchfork Drama.


The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley are some of the most timeless artists that have not only shaped the culture of music but also the world. Their main fan base was girls and they were made fun of during their day for that fact. 


Artist Harry Styles said when talking to Rolling Stone magazine about his teen girl fan base “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 are no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious?”


This idea has served Harry Styles well considering he has the longest-running single by a British artist on the US Hot 100 and has been on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine twice. 


Books that are written for girls are often seen as silly or unintellectual. The Twilight series, for example, has sold over 160 million books and the franchise has made $712.2 million. Twilight; whether you like it or not, has changed the culture of contemporary media, changed the direction of pop culture, and created one of the first cult fan bases of the 21st century. If not for these teen girls, none of this would have happened.  


Teen girls aren’t only affected when talking about pop culture but also when talking about world issues.


Greta Thunberg is a climate activist from Sweden who has spoken at the United Nations about climate change twice. She has gotten national coverage for founding Fridays for Future in which students skip schools on Fridays to protest climate change. Both of these events have sparked international coverage.


Not all of this coverage was productive. Some critics have called Thunberg things like a petulant child or as the former president, Donald Trump said in a tweet “…ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” Her critics are not focused on what she is saying but more on her age or how she is saying it. Critics would not be telling an adult male to “go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend.” 


Thunberg’s age also affects her praise. When people talk about Greta Thunberg they talk about her age, not her actual message. By focusing on her age, we stop talking about climate action and instead talk about how she is such an idol to young girls. She should be an idol to all people because climate change is an issue that affects everyone. 


Teen girls also affect what products are marketed towards people. Teen girls are a huge part of marketing in many industries including makeup, hair, clothes, etc. 


Susan Linn, a psychologist who studies how marketing impacts children said, “For girls, the marketing is often around peer pressure and body image, especially body image stuff. The message is that you’re not pretty enough. You’re not popular enough. You’re not sexy enough. And products are sold by creating a sense of inferiority, and also the belief that this product will make all the difference to you. This product will make you prettier, will make you sexier. You’ll be able to have a girlfriend or a boyfriend.”


One example of this is the VSCO girl. The VSCO girl was a popular aesthetic among teen girls in 2019. Its origins come from the phone editing app VSCO which was popular among teenage girls. They were beachy, generally white, middle-class, teen girls who wore Birkenstocks or Crocs, oversize t-shirts, messy buns tied with scrunchies, puka shell necklaces, and carried Hydro Flasks. These brands associated with VSCO girls like Crocs or Hydro Flask all saw major sales increases in 2019. 


Even though this aesthetic was so popular, VSCO girls were extremely hated which spurred countless memes. Many targeted the ugliness or stupidity of the VSCO girl which may have caused its very sharp decline. 


The VSCO aesthetic and other aesthetics like it (e-girl, clean girl, etc.) are often unattainable for many people. The aesthetics are for generally skinny, middle-class, white girls and the people who do not fit into the parameters can often be insecure about this. Products are then marketed towards these girls so they can achieve this aesthetic. For instance, the emerging clean girl aesthetic is all about girls with extremely dewy and natural skin and slick buns. Companies are now making and therefore marketing skincare and makeup products that are known for their dewy and skin-like finish through models with perfect and unrealistic skin who are mostly white. 


Many brands have made a killing off of selling an aesthetic or a solution to insecurity including Kylie Cosmetics. Kylie Cosmetics is a makeup brand known for its lip kits that are advertised to make you have full lips like the founder of the company Kylie Jenner. Since Kylie Jenner was only eighteen when she started the makeup brand and she was already more popular with a younger audience, the brand was marketed towards younger people. This tactic worked because the brand is widely popular with an estimated worth of $600 million and has been selling out consistently since 2015. Kylie Cosmetics and other ventures have made Kylie Jenner the (debatably) youngest self-made billionaire.  


When you’re a teen, it’s the first time you know you are being watched and put under an inaccessible standard. Being a teen girl often means being made fun of for what you like, belittled for your contributions, and exploited for the almighty dollar. Belittling teenage girls makes them feel that they have no place or are not wanted in our society but yet teen girls are the ones that control our culture. If women are belittled and exploited for their passions while they’re young, what happens to them when they’re old and they “grow out” of their old ways? Are they happy because they learned to mold themselves to other people or are they miserable that they never let themselves be? 


We should let teen girls be themselves and encourage them to pursue their interests instead of shaming them for things they like or want to do. By letting teen girls be, we will let ourselves be.