Let girls like things

Kristen DeHaven | Photo Editor

For so long in this culture, we have ridiculed little girls and teenage girls for enjoying literally anything. It’s high time we cut it out.

What are some examples of this? Well, they crop up all over the place, and as new interests arise, so does new criticism.

For instance, girls who like artists and bands like Taylor Swift and One Direction are frequently told they don’t have “real” music taste, even though pop music is specifically marketed to them. On the other hand, girls who like older rock bands from The Beatles to AC/DC to Nirvana are required to have an encyclopedic knowledge of those bands to be considered “real” music lovers.

Girls who play softball are frequently told their athletic accomplishments don’t mean as much because their sport “isn’t as difficult” as baseball. Girls who order sugary drinks from Starbucks are told they aren’t “actually” coffee drinkers. Girls who use slang such as “like,” “I can’t even,” or, “OMG,” are told their language is juvenile and ridiculous, even though it’s widely held that young girls are one of the primary forces of language evolution over time. Girls who like video games are frequently harassed online and told that they can’t possibly be as good at the games as their male counterparts. Girls who enjoy things like hunting and working with their hands are called “tomboys,” as if those interests in any way detract from their womanhood or femininity.

Surely by now you get the point. Essentially, we teach girls from a very young age whatever they like, whether it is something specifically marketed toward young women or not, their interests and hobbies are somehow unacceptable.

When we do this, we are indoctrinating our daughters to believe their interests need not only be interesting to them, but they also be interesting enough to everyone else, especially to the men who might want to date them. And in doing so, we perpetuate the atmosphere of competition between young women for no reason.

If you walk a middle school hallway or sit in on conversations between teenagers, you’ll pick up on this desire these girls have to “not be like other girls.” But the thing is, most girls are pretty cool. From a young age, society, and especially young girls’ families and friends, tease and ridicule them for enjoying literally anything.

The thing is, though, young girls have so much to offer society. They are fierce friends and great at organizing community. They have a mastery of getting information out to people through their understanding of social channels and they are deeply passionate about their beliefs and interests. And, especially when they were raised in supportive households, have grown up to be integral pieces of much needed change in their cities and states, as well as the nation as a whole. Girls like Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and Mari Copeny are great examples of the positive change that can come from our daughters.

Instead of discouraging them from their interests, we should be encouraging these girls to reach their full potential in whatever area they may choose, exactly in the same way we have done for boys for centuries. So long as their interests aren’t harming themselves or anyone else, we should just let these girls exist as they are. The ways they find meaning, joy and satisfaction do not have to line up with the ways you find them.

Let’s decide as a community that we’re going to encourage our daughters instead of teasing them for innocent and harmless interests. When we do that, it’s going to create a better environment for these girls to grow up in, and we’ll raise generations of women empowered to make the world better.