Brankin: Teenage girls, boy bands and ill placed shame

Why are the musical interests of teenage girls looked down upon?


by Tara Brankin

I was in the sixth grade when the iconic boy band One Direction released their first single, “What Makes You Beautiful.” The pure pop track, which is overwhelmingly catchy, skyrocketed One Direction into worldwide popularity, especially amongst preteen and teenage girls like myself. As a young girl in the throes of puberty, I liked One Direction not only because of their music, but also because I found the band members, especially Harry Styles, to be very attractive. I am not ashamed to admit that. But just as quickly as “What Makes You Beautiful” got stuck in my head, I learned that my interest in One Direction, and boy bands in general, was something to be ashamed of.

According to Rolling Stone, boy bands, no matter what era they are from, are connected by one thing: their proclivity for playing to venues full of screaming teenage girls. These girls, which make up the majority of their fanbase, are what make these bands so popular and successful. When I was 13, I experienced this phenomenon firsthand when I attended One Direction’s Take Me Home tour with opener 5 Seconds of Summer. I had never experienced anything so loud and exhilarating and had an absolute blast. It was also amazing to be surrounded by thousands of other young girls with the same, seemingly silly interest. Looking back, I consider myself very lucky that I was able to see One Direction live before their infamous breakup in 2015.

But when I returned to school for seventh grade, I was promptly told by my male classmates that liking One Direction, or any boy band for that matter, was unacceptable. “One Direction sucks,” they would say. “Girls only think they’re good because they have a crush on Harry Styles.” They did not consider these bands as making “real” music. I also observed that adult men made snide comments regarding my interest in boy bands.

I find the fact that some claim boy bands don’t make “real music” to be ludacris. In doing research for this column, I found that not only are the Beatles deemed the greatest rock band of all time, but they are also considered to be the most popular boy band of all time. Personally, I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who believed that the Beatles didn’t make “real music.”

Additionally, in 1965, the Beatles played their most iconic gig of all time: Shea Stadium in New York City. This performance has been regarded as one of the most famous performances in rock ’n’ roll history, right alongside festivals like Woodstock and Monterey. But the Beatles didn’t play to tens of thousands of adult men and women that night. The 56,000 people at Shea Stadium were mainly teenagers. Therefore, one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll moments of all time was put in place by a boy band and screaming teenage girls.

I am not saying that One Direction’s, or any boy band’s, music is particularly earth-shattering or profound. But I want to point out that teenage girls are scrutinized for their taste in music and that boy bands are scoffed at in part because their fan base is primarily made up of teenage girls. Just because teenage girls are interested in something does not mean that it is necessarily unworthy of praise.