Real Talk 5th November 2020 by Adele Miner
Why Dismissing Pop Culture Can Be A Form Of Micro Sexism
Writer Adele Miner is fed up with culture consumed and loved by mostly women and gay men being dismissed as nonsense by a patriarchal society
Back in July, when UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, sniggered in the House Of Commons at the subject of beauty salons reopening being proposed, it set a fire alight in me. Many argued that the government’s decision to keep beauty salons closed was shrouded in deep-rooted misogyny. While pubs, barbers, and restaurants had reopened at the time, Boris encouraged the public to go out and get a pint as their patriotic duty (weheey), but it seemed that the concern of getting beauticians back to work was low on Boris’ to-do list.
Although that’s little to do with me over here in the Republic of Ireland, seeing a man in a position of power dismiss and mock an industry, a multi-billion pound one at that, simply because it’s most commonly associated with women, just doesn’t sit quite right with me.
Historically, anything that’s aimed squarely at women is regarded with distaste. Just ask any pop-culture enthusiast to recall a time when their favourite TV show or song was made fun of to their face. Speaking about the details of a celebrity’s life or offering up your opinion on a reality TV bust-up runs the risk of being met with at least one naysayer’s disapproval. Books aimed at women, either the derivatively termed ‘chick-lit’ or ‘bonkbusters’? Candy floss for the brain. With said naysayers often male, they’ll respond to your statement with not only sarcasm but bewilderment too. They play a very clever game. By implying that they have NO IDEA who the hell Megan Thee Stallion is, when there she sits at the top of the charts, places them in a position of power, leaving you looking and feeling like the stupid one for even thinking about her.
This person’s tastes are just so refined that major celebrities, highly popular TV shows, and number one songs have somehow eluded them. Engaging with anything outside the realm of the high-brow is below them, and while silly people waste their time scrolling through The Kardashian’s Instagram feeds, they’re off doing much worthier things (which is usually internet trolling women on Twitter, but I digress).
This is nothing new – in 1930s Hollywood there was a whole genre that was referred to as “women’s films” which transitioned to chick flicks in the 90s. Entertainment that’s seen as “female” has always been scoffed at. Back then, films or shows about housewives or families weren’t taken seriously. Nowadays, TV ‘housewives’ are multimillionaires hose real lives are stranger than fiction but are still often dismissed by some as completely ridiculous.
But it’s not just the snobs who are guilty of this, many men who also engage in their own versions of the ‘low-brow’ do it too. As a writer in women’s media, I’ve found myself in the back of a many a taxi, feeding into the opinions of a sexist male driver, downplaying my career when he quizzes me about it, so as not to cause a fuss. After making a comment about how gas it is that I make a living writing about lipstick, he’ll swiftly move the subject off me and onto the much more interesting territory of Liverpool’s latest win with my boyfriend. It’s misogyny disguised as craic, and it seems that engaging in and enjoying pop culture gives critics the perfect excuse to dock our full quota of rights and respect.
This prejudiced perspective has seeped into so many aspects of our lives that often, they go unnoticed. The interests of men and women have such a clear divide that the men’s gets its own spot on prime time news programmes, while women have to search far and wide to get the latest updates on theirs. Sports news makes up 1/4 of most news shows, while major events in the pop culture world, such as fashion week, goes uncovered – why? Well because in a patriarchal world, they simply, ‘don’t matter’.
I don’t mean to box anyone off. I’m a modern woman, I know that girls can (and should) enjoy sport, and men can (and should) enjoy pop culture, my own boyfriend would opt to watch Love Island with me over anything else, and that’s one of the many reasons I love him. But, for the most part pop culture is tied up in all things female, or rather feminine, because the gay community are included in the belittling too. As a demographic, young women and gays tend not to be taken seriously without ‘earning it’, and unfortunately being able to recite every LC quote from The Hills doesn’t do much to earn any street cred.
Delving deeper into pop culture prejudice, startup investor and diversity advocate Sacha Judd shares the damage this could be causing on wider society. Her talk “How the tech sector could move in One Direction” looks at the One Direction fandom, and poses the important question, why must we hate the things teenage girls love? In her piece, Sacha explains how the hysteria associated with teenage girls and their passions obscures just how bright they are as individuals, “I was spending all this time trying to think about how to engage women with technology, and I was ignoring the fact they already were,” she said.
Explaining how the One Direction fandom uses their creative resources to create incredible pieces of art, literature, and film all based on their obsession, Sacha says that had they been spending their time creating something less associated with their demographic, they probably would have been lauded, rather than laughed at. “They were essentially already video editors, graphic designers, community managers…front-end developers, social media managers. They were absolutely immersed in technology, every day, and we weren’t paying attention, because they were doing it in service of something we don’t care about.”
Mocking teenage girls and portraying their interests as worthless has a knock-on effect on these girls as they become women, reinforcing the idea to both them and the world that anything created for or by women holds little importance. We’re all familiar with the term ’junk media’ and ‘trash TV’, implying a level of shame around certain interests. We play along to the tongue-in-cheek begrudging of those around us and call our favourite things ‘guilty pleasures’, or feel the need to justify what we like with a deeper intellectual value. Correct me if i’m wrong, but not once have I ever seen a man trip over himself justifying his love for the Premier League before a crowd of irate women.
So, let’s drop the guilt. Let’s reclaim the ‘trash’ and relish in the hysteria. Without pop culture ‘for women’ we wouldn’t have so many of the great things we regard as iconic today. Just look at The Beatles, a band that was once associated with frantic teenage girls, now considered one of the greatest bands of all time. Or take The Kardashians for example, arguably the 21st centuries most widely-known family, who have their roots firmly tied to reality TV aimed at girls. If this doesn’t prove that young women and gay men’s interests hold power, I’m not sure what does. Enjoying something for the sake of enjoying it can and should be enough, so the next time you have someone proclaim ‘WHO?’ when you’re discussing something or someone you enjoy, gently inform them of why they think that way and let them know that the things you love shape the world we live in.
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