Boy Bands and Teenage Girls: A Spectacle Of The Natural World

Last September, GQ published an article featuring an interview with One Direction. Ostensibly, the article was meant to act as promo for the group’s then-upcoming movie and cover a bit of ground with the members themselves. At least that is what you would expect of GQ, whose UK magazine had a circulation of 117,778 in the first half of 2013.

Instead, the article was a disgusting cesspool for misogyny and blatant condescension toward the group’s fanbase.

In the second paragraph alone, the author wrote:

“After all, by now we all know the immense transformative power of a boy band to turn a butter-wouldn’t-melt teenage girl into a rabid, knicker-wetting banshee who will tear off her own ears in hysterical fervour when presented with the objects of her fascinations. Hasn’t this spectacle of the natural world – like the aurora borealis or the migration of wild bison across America’s Great Plains – been acknowledged?”

Disregarding the comparison to a natural spectacle of the world, this sort of description of boy bands in relation to teenage girls is insulting, problematic, and unfortunately very commonplace. Teenage girls who are fans of boy bands like One Direction are constantly ridiculed for their fervent love of the band and, most importantly, their reaction to them. From the GQ article:

“Inside the venue a hormone bomb has gone off: 20,000 females all turning themselves inside out, some almost literally, to the sight of Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne. GQ’s overriding feeling (as a 34-year-old man in a Burberry biker jacket with a notepad and pen) is one of hapless isolation, marooned between a 20-year-old mother of three girls to my left and five screaming teenagers all aged between 15 and 17 to my right. I am an interloper trapped within Harry Styles’ very own Lynx advert – I’m scared, bewildered and ever so slightly deaf.”

I wonder if the author of the article has ever been to a rivalry game. The fact of the matter is, the very same thing happens at sports games – and yet teenage boys and grown men are not condemned for their reactions. It doesn’t matter that boys get into actual physical altercations with each other over sports teams; it doesn’t matter that in Brazil, a referee was beheaded by angry fans after stabbing another player. Being dedicated to a sport is still fine.

But if a girl is half as dedicated to a group of attractive boys who sing, she’s labeled shallow, hysterical, violently sexual – to the point where the author, the grown man who perceives himself as the lone island of sanity in the middle of a sea of hormones, feels so wildly uncomfortable he can’t even sit through the rest of the concert.

It’s ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with girls being in the driver’s seat of their own sexuality. What’s wrong is that the author continually and solely refers to the girls he mentions in his article as objects:

“an ocean of 20,000 wide-open mouths, hundreds of pleading white eyes, 40,000 palms raised skywards, a dark-pink oil slick that howls and moans and undulates with every impish crotch-thrust from their idols’ plinths.”

What’s wrong is the idea that if a trend in society is popular among teenage girls, it’s automatically discredited (boy bands chief among them but not the only one). What’s wrong is that teenage girls hold the most influence in today’s society, but the least recognition for doing so.

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