A group of us Pulp Babes got together (virtually) to discuss “girl culture” in an informal, conversational forum. We were particularly interested in the negative stigmatism around girl culture despite its important role in popular culture. By examining these ideas in such a casual way, we hope to start a dialogue that you can continue with your friends, family, or anyone else.
Hannah: So my first question revolves around the pretty basic idea of defining “girl culture”. I know that this is a pretty fluid term and has different meanings for different people, but I would love to hear what girl culture means to you.
Amanda: Girl culture is such a loaded term, as it implies so much. The first things that comes to mind are pretty standard things that society deems “girly”; specifically chick flicks, boy bands, fashion, makeup and beauty products, romance books (fiction writers John Green, Nicholas Sparks, come to mind).
Candy: For me personally, if someone who is not in the demographic relates to all these things, it’s considered weird aka “oh, thats so girly!” which, I feel, is used as a demeaning remark.
Hannah: Totally Candy. I was wondering if any of you have anything to comment on the consumption of media by young people (particularly that is oriented towards females) and how it compares to the consumption of other forms of media (like your dad doing a crossword while listening to NPR)?
Montgomery: It’s really interesting because I am absolutely one of the people that will pick up a People Magazine rather than a New York Times and while there is nothing wrong with that, it’s interesting to step back and think…I’m not even the New York Times’ demographic.
Candy: It’s crazy how picking up a magazine is such a seemingly insignificant part of our lives, yet when you sit down and think about it, you realize how well they (the entertainment industry) are able to coax you into doing so. I’m a cashier and I’ve caught myself just reading all the magazine covers when it’s slow because I gotta know how Amanda Bynes is doing or if Khloe filed for divorce yet! They glamorize the lifestyle that is deemed “Hollywood”, thinking that many young people are envious they can’t be a part of it.
Amanda: Yes! I’m the same way! I know just as much about the lives and careers of celebrities as I do about American politics, but some people wouldn’t really expect that. CNBC, Wall Street Journal, NPR, those media outlets would never fall under the umbrella of “girly culture”.
Montgomery: I’m gonna ask a question now: One Direction, Taylor Swift, “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games”; some of the highest grossing franchises and artists around and all chalked up to nothing but a schoolgirl’s pastime. Do you feel the need to defend your interests to other people?
Amanda: Hannah, I felt that same pressure from my guy friends too! Time and time again I find myself defending a band I like, a book I’ve read, or the clothing I wear. Even as recently as two days ago I mentioned my love for Fall Out Boy and my date replied, “Oh that must be embarrassing for you.” Honestly I was more embarrassed for him because he has to go through life being judgmental and sad.
Candy: YES, YES AND YES! ALL THE TIME. I love One Direction. They will always have a special place in my heart. For the longest time I kept it a secret between my younger sisters and me because I could already hear all the disheartening and annoying comments from people: “Oh, One Direction? YOU like a BOYBAND?”, “They’re for little girls!”, or “They haven’t even hit puberty yet” etc. Then I thought, “screw this! I LOVE 1D and I don’t care who knows!”, and just as predicted, a lot of friends and acquaintances questioned me.
Montgomery: I don’t know if you all identify as feminists, but I do. Do you feel the need to defend your choices to other people in this capacity as well? In other words do people almost hold you to a different standard? How do you respond?
Hannah: I have just stopped defending myself, you know? I mean in the end people are free to like what they like and if they diss something it’s their own feelings.
Montgomery: I always say something along the lines of “Yes I’m aware that what so and so has done and said is problematic. I acknowledge that, BUT I am entitled to enjoy what I enjoy”, and not be all “you can’t stop me”. I like rap music and some of it disgusts me but it’s also a cultural thing I grew up around. I think being hyperaware certainly helps. I can call some of my favorite artists out in a heartbeat, but I still enjoy their music.
Candy: I do identify as a feminist! I’ve only ever been questioned in that regard twice and I responded with the great catchphrase: “FEMININE DOES NOT MEAN ANTI-FEMINIST”. I feel like feminism is about accepting and loving our multifaceted selves! Contradictions and all! It is NOT putting each other down.
Hannah: Yeah there is this really weird stigmatism that media and media figures have to be perfect, which makes no sense.
Montgomery: Great way to put it. I agree. We like problematic music, fashion, books, and TV, but that does not mean we wholeheartedly agree with everything they say and mean in real life.
Amanda: YES! I always get that “well you’re all contradicting yourselves” argument from people! It’s really rather ignorant if you ask me. Enjoying something is not endorsing it, you know?
Montgomery: Yes! They want to weirdly trip you up.
Candy: Exactly! So true. Personally, I don’t feel that someone’s interest defines them as a person or what they stand for, which is usually what people do
Lucy: Okay so here’s one of the interesting things I’ve found as a writer and a feminist. I am a feminist, but I love thinking about and writing about boys and men and how they affect women. Sometimes I’m afraid that people will criticize me for writing about weaker-esteemed girls who feel that their worth is reliant on a man, even if I’m portraying it (as I usually am) in a sad light. I think that sometimes both honesty and passion can conflict with the textbook definition of a “feminist”, which is why no one should go around pointing fingers at “bad feminists”. Not that I don’t have strong women characters too! It’s just that they are often affected by a romantic or sexual relationship in a strong way.
Montgomery: I know I too have thought like “ughhh so and so is anti-feminist grrr” but it’s like what does that even mean? Why do I think one person is single-handedly going to ruin my beliefs?
Lucy: Right! I’m sort of fascinated with the Miley Cyrus phenomenon. She’s not being forced by a man to sexualize herself. She’s creating this image herself. And by assuming she goes against feminism, are we then stating that a woman asserting her right to be sexual on her own is contradictory to feminism? Isn’t it actually the opposite?
Montgomery: YES! IT’S THIS HORRIBLE DOUBLE EDGED SWORD!
Lucy: Like THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS RIGGED AGAINST US! At this point I’m just like “fuck it, I’m doing what I want, and THAT IS FEMINISM”
Hannah: I also wonder too if Miley could ever come back as a “serious” musician like I feel the Jonas Brothers and arguably Justin Bieber did because she is female.
Montgomery: Yes Hannah! It’s interesting because Wendy Williams basically called Miley out and said she is using black culture and will be done with this phase in 10 years and then will want to be taken seriously. She basically said, “you can’t pick black up and put it down”. I LOVE Miley, but yeah she is so problematic, man!
Hannah: Thank you guys so much for participating! I think it would be great to end this discussion on a positive note with the question of “What’s one of your favorite aspects of girl culture, be it a band, book, magazine, etc?”
Amanda: My favorite aspect of “girl culture” isn’t necessarily any one book or movie or band. Despite the occasional backlash, “girl culture” has countless positive attributes that make it worthy of praise. The word culture is defined literally as, “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively,” and I think that says a lot about those who participate in “girly” things. This shared entity brings people of different races, ethnicities, and class standings together and allow them all to celebrate a shared interest. That’s a remarkable thing. And while that can be said about all cultures, I think it’s even more paramount within the “girly” community. We’re pitted against each other from the moment we’re brought into society, but “girl culture” counteracts that and that’s a beautiful thing. I will always fight for girls, and I hope our shared interests will spread continued solidarity amongst us all.
Montgomery: My favorite thing about girl culture is that I have these “fandoms” and groups that embrace my obsession/love and interest wholeheartedly and I don’t have to feel embarrassed for just LOVING something. So with “The Hunger Games” and “Vampire Academy”, I have people that will throw different theories out there and we can converse about meanings and talk about how dreamy the people are and say who we want the main character to end up with and so on and so fourth. I think it works that way with all of these groups for the most part and it’s pretty magical to be unequivocally ecstatic with no qualms whatsoever.