Columnists, Opinion

CARIKER: Let’s Stop Making Teenage Girls The Butt of The Joke

Over the last year, I’ve seen a fair amount of posts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram making jokes about “basic” teenage girls. According to these posts, the average basic girl wears UGG boots, North Face jackets and leggings and drinks a lot of Starbucks.

Lately, the new joke trend targets LUSH bath bombs, stereotypically used by teenage girls. People mimic the way bath bombs are used in their posts by putting things such as dirt and garbage into their bathtubs with captions such as, “love my new bath bomb!” It seems like teenage girls as a collective are a reverse King Midas in the eyes of those making these jokes; everything that teenage girls like — or touch — turns into a joke.

Many people shrug off these jokes, along with terms that specifically target teenage girls such as the ever-popular “basic” and “biddie.” However, the negative underlying effects of these jokes on girls is nothing to be laughed about.

This subtle scornful treatment of teenage girls is seen nearly everywhere. Teenage girls who are passionate about music are thrown under the category of “fan girls.” If the band or group consists of boys, many assume that girls just like the group because they think the boys are attractive. God forbid she actually enjoys the music, right? Many girls who show interest in video games or science fiction movies, which are seen as stereotypically male interests, are seen as liking these things just because they want attention from boys. Teenage boys are not cast aside or scrutinized for their interests in the way teenage girls are. Sometimes, the backlash girls face is understated, but it is definitely present.

This constant dismissive perspective of teenage girls in society creates internalized misogyny. The “I’m not like other girls” effect is created, where girls try to set themselves apart from other girls by putting each other down or making fun of one another. This is caused by a girl’s need to feel like she’s different from those girls who everyone mocks (such as social media’s favorite punching bag, the “basic” girl). This view pits girls against one another, causing competition with a negative connotation over what type of girl is “best.” It makes them judge and dislike one another, trying their best to not be “that girl” who seemingly everyone ridicules.

It seems that people love to prey on teenage girls because they’re easy targets. From an unnecessarily young age, girls specifically are targeted by companies through advertisements and told they aren’t good enough if they don’t look a certain way. Many girls feel an absurd pressure to look like models or celebrities they see in advertisements or magazines.

Strides have been made toward eradicating this pressure from society, through movements such as Aerie’s unretouched ads, where they show models who haven’t been photoshopped wearing their products. However, regardless of these strides, companies still love to pick on young girls’ self esteem to make them feel like they need their product to feel better about themselves. Growing up can be really tough for young girls, and it doesn’t make anything better when they go on social media just to be knocked down yet again.

It’s easy to look at these jokes as something inoffensive, and I’m sure many people have laughed at them and moved on without a second glance. However, when you look deeper, there’s a clear tie between something as small as a viral tweet and issues as large as unattainable physical expectations for girls and internalized misogyny. The way we’re treating girls now, there’s no way to win. If girls like stereotypically girly things such as bath bombs and UGG boots, they’ll be made fun of, but if they like stereotypically masculine things such as sports, they won’t be taken seriously because they’re female.

So, ladies, like what you like, regardless of those who try to bring you down or joke about it. Drink as many pumpkin spice lattes as you please, flaunt those UGG boots and wear leggings as often as you want. If those things don’t appeal to you, then eat or wear whatever makes you comfortable. Proudly love the music you enjoy, cheer loudly for the team you support and embrace your interests. Teenage girls have been targeted to feel guilty about their pleasures for far too long.

Hopefully there will be a day where girls can do what they wish without feeling like they’re in a never-ending competition with other girls over what type of girl is superior. It’s time to stop treating girls, especially young girls, as if their existence is nothing but an elongated punch line.

6 Comments

  1. “Teenage boys are not cast aside or scrutinized for their interests in the way teenage girls are. ”

    Then explain why boys with high interests in video games and comics for example are often marginalized by society. Gross generalizations like this do no good to society. I’d suggest doing more thought on the topic, and separating your personal experiences from your work when writing about societal issues as a whole.

  2. Well written Mariel 🙂

  3. Intesting!

  4. What’s left out is the racial dynamic, however that it’s usually black girls who face misogynoire and that at times this type of humor is a way of reclaiming that space from white people.

  5. I agree with Marie Polar on this, the reporting doesn’t seem to take other factors in to account and appears to be too affected by the author’s emotions.

  6. Great post! I really hate the way “basic b*tch” is so accepted by many people, and I think you made a great argument about how this turns girls against each other. Also, I have Googled this before (awhile ago when this phrase was getting really popular) and never really seen anything written about it; thanks for sharing your thoughts!!