When we think of pop music, who do we think of? Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, BTS, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Beyonce, and Katy Perry.
Not a very diverse crowd, to be sure, but an extremely successful and wealthy group of performers who have helped shape popular music into what it is known for today—catchy melodies, huge crowds, broken records, and last but not least, fangirls.
Despite these artists’ huge successes in the music world, when people think of pop music, they tend to think of masses of hysterical, crying, teeny-boppers, wasting their time and money participating in artists’ careers with frantic, cult-like devotion. To be a fan of pop music is to invite criticism from your peers, and to never feel entirely comfortable sharing all of yourself and your passions with people you’ve just met.
And what demographic is asked to make this sacrifice over and over again? Teenage girls.
Granted, admitting to liking pop music won’t prevent you from truly living your life to the fullest, reduce job opportunities or force you to face social exclusion. In the grand scheme of things, shame over enjoying pop music may not seem like that big of a deal—aren’t there bigger things to worry about?
However, the art we love and relate to can form a massive part of our identity, and anyone who feels as though a portion of their identity is unworthy of love is someone at risk of dimming their own light to better conform to what society demands of them.
Anything beloved by teenage girls is immediately the object of eye-rolling and ridicule. Ugg boots, pumpkin spice lattes, selfies, and so on, all paint the picture of a girl who can synonymously be described as ‘basic’ and not to be taken seriously. But why?
Well, the short answer is misogyny: the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. If women and girls like something, it must be contemptible.
The long answer involves thousands of years of social, political, and economic oppression due to patriarchy, and the long-lasting belief that the interests of women and young people are automatically less important and worthy of attention compared to the Very Serious and Important things only adult men are interested in: politics, economics, beards, agriculture, and the like.
What society doesn’t want to accept is that the love of teenage girls is a very powerful thing.
Taylor Swift accepting her VMA at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards for Video of the Year. She won for her song ‘You Need to Calm Down,’ and used her acceptance speech to call out then U.S. President, Donald Trump, for not responding to her petition.
Pumpkin spice lattes earned Starbucks well over two billion USD since its 2003 release. Deckers—the company responsible for trademarking UGG boots—reported US$689 million in sales in 2008. Vote.org recorded that 102,000 people under the age of 30 registered to vote in the 48 hours after Taylor Swift provided the link on her Instagram story to her millions of followers, and her ‘Equality Act Petition’ which “protect[s] LGBTQ people from discrimination in their places of work, homes, schools, and other public accommodations” gained over 800,000 signatures. K-Pop fans on TikTok claimed around 17,000 tickets to a Trump rally in Tulsa, then performed a mass no-show in an organised effort to troll the then-US President, thwarting the campaigners’ intentions. Billie Eilish is the youngest ever winner of Album of the Year at the Grammys at eighteen years old (beating Taylor Swift, who previously held the record in 2010 at age 20), while simultaneously winning ‘Song of the Year’, ‘Record of the Year’, ‘New Artist of the Year’ and ‘Pop Vocal Album.’
These records, earnings, and awards don’t happen in a vacuum. Fans make them happen—predominantly young female fans who rally behind artists by streaming music, buying albums, sharing content, voting in award shows, sharing hashtags, and playing music for their friends and families. There’s a reason groups of fans are called armies. Alone, any singer remains relatively unknown, but working together in massive groups, fans ensure artists conquer the radio, Billboard charts, and best-selling lists.
Sure, this can be said for any singer in any genre, but pop stars tend to dominate playlists, iTunes charts, and the radio while receiving greater antagonism.
To openly like pop music is to admit to a lack of taste or credibility. To out yourself as an airhead, interested in nothing more complicated than the four chords, and one line repeated over and over again for the chorus. To concede that you shouldn’t really be taken seriously as a person.
And ultimately, liking pop music permits others to view you as girly, with the implication that you are inherently lesser.
But girliness is a superpower. Fan armies move mountains, fund creativity, influence politics, create movements, and inspire art. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it is that no one’s taste in music is going to be enjoyed by everyone else, so why waste time hating on each other, and instead acknowledge that humans are incredibly complex individuals with the right to love the music that they love.
Fans screaming at the TD Garden as the start of Justin Bieber’s concert approached. (Photo by John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Lily Massey is a passionate feminist, who lives by the quote “I wanna love glitter and also stand up for the double standards that exist in our society. I wanna wear pink, and tell you how I feel about politics. I don’t think those things have to cancel each other out.” – Taylor Swift.
Lily has been accepted to study politics, philosophy and economics at Australian National University in 2022, (and is currently taking a gap year in Melbourne, working part-time, and volunteering at the Victorian Women’s Trust).