Saturday, 24 June 2017

The power of the teenage girl

The devastating events in Manchester in June are incomprehensible and heartbreaking. It was an attack, as well as on young children, mothers, families, friendship, free spirits and fun lovers, on teenage girls. So this is about teenage girls. I believe in the power of the teenage girl.

Show me another part of society where friendship circles and best friends make each other feel invincible, like they can do anything when they’re together, like each other’s support can lift them above everything they’ve got to face in day to day life.

Look closely and you can find so much pure, complete joy in them. They share each others drinks without even asking, they nick each other’s chips and don’t question it, they wear each other’s clothes even if it’s brand new and unworn, they dish out compliments to one another and shout about each other’s achievements like they’re their own, they dish out tampons and bobbles to strangers, they spend their free periods giving each other back massages and new hairstyles and helping with important work.

Speaking from memories from my best friends, they literally give each other really time-consuming answers to maths questions when they’re shit at it because they don’t want to see their friends fail. It goes without saying that they’re there to talk even when they’re exhausted, it goes without saying that they’ll keep finding solutions to problems even when they can’t keep their eyes open anymore. It goes without saying that teenage girl friendships are for life, even if they end up being for a short time.



Let’s be honest, teenage girls are often labelled as bitchy too, and although not so positive, it is equally as powerful a talent. Show me another part of society that have the power and the intelligence and the awareness to hit so specifically on one another’s weakest points with absolute pure venom. While that side of things isn’t so sweet, it’s just as important in proving the power of the teenage girl, because that pure tenaciousness and toughness is also an incredible defence mechanism when standing up for one another. But show me another part of society that could have this power and mindset at their fingertips and NOT use that intelligence and awareness in a wider, negative way - they keep it to themselves, amongst themselves, then they better themselves every single time.

Teenage girls also dominate the world of social media, and manage to hold a huge power within it while still battling the crushing pressures that it places on them every single day. Entire industries revolve around them because their passions are so profitable. They’re entirely responsible for keeping hundreds of thousands of money making machines in business - particularly, can I just add, YouTubers. If it wasn’t for the power of the teenage girl, none of this would exist in the vast capacity that it does now. It’s their dedication and devotion and unbridled excitement that’s responsible for the YouTube phenomenon, the boyband phenomenon literally since like the 1950s, the high street beauty and fashion industry. You name it if it’s profitable, and the teenage girl probably has the key to it sitting in her hands. Like, they literally control popular music, and largely control popular culture.

Despite this power through profitability, teenage girls also somehow remain completely unaffected, unwavering and undefeated by the fact that society still also insists on treating them as a joke at the same time. Their interests and behaviour is so often condemned as vapid and stupid and a waste of time. Older people, and men in particular let’s be real, are waiting in the wings to tear them down, crush their passions by calling it pointless and immature. For some reason, acknowledgement and approval of older men seems to equate to something becoming valid and worthy. I have no idea why ‘cos most older men I know have terrible taste in everything. But anyway, as a result, the teenage girl is endlessly patronised. She’s expected to cope with the pressures of adult life (and more than her parents ever had to face thanks to the internet), without actually being respected as an adult.

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Despite that, whatever their fandom or their love - whether it’s feminism on a level of Malala Yusef, writing a new genre of literature on a level of Mary Shelley, or living and breathing for Harry Styles and elevating him to a worldwide godlike status, they voice that love unashamedly and completely. It always results in something amazing, their achievements are endless. When I was writing for Sugarscape, a huge teen website, there’d be examples every day of amazing, and I mean really amazing, demonstrations of support that fandoms were pulling off together in aid of amazing causes, all by themselves, all of their own back and it was always awe-inspiring.

Speaking of Harry Styles, he actually get it. He told Rolling Stone: “How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans — they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”

Adults might brand it as hysterical when they see the screaming and the tears, but I don’t think any adults love anything (maybe aside from their own children) as much as teenage girls love these things. How amazing and powerful that the teenage girl can experience this much emotion and keep it harnessed to themselves without bursting.


Oh, and by the way, they also handle all this shit judgement and dismissal while going through years of changing, confused self identity, body image, moods, sexuality, heartbreak, creepy ass misogynists, problem skin, exam pressure and everything else. Show me another part of society that could handle it, accept it and get on with it.

If you’ve never been to a concert full of teenage girls, you just can’t understand the feeling. As someone who grew up attending the Manchester Arena for regular concerts, some of my happiest ever memories took place there, it’s impossible for me to convey the shared, electric atmosphere that manifests in that moment. It’s fucking magical, I can’t explain it. These girls know that they’re one of tens of thousands in a crowd, and they still do their makeup flawlessly, take ages on their hair, spend days planning an outfit that they’ll be wearing in the dark anyway. The pure happiness is a shared, formative experience; it’s a milestone and it’s palpable, and even better is the fact that each teenage girl in the crowd feels like the most important and powerful person in the whole place because they’re being themselves to the fullest with no holds barred. Since when are adults brave enough to do that? And while concerts are a good representative of teenage girls, it’s not just concerts - it’s any part of life. Look at the teenage girls and they’ll be the ones loving the most generously, laughing the longest, crying the loudest and living the largest.

They’re not weary of the world yet, endlessly enthusiastic, amazingly determined and live with open mindedness that adults can only dream of.

As for those responsible for the Manchester attacks, it’s utterly impossible to vocalise anything to do with them. What I will say, is that everything that teenage girls are is everything that they hate. They’re intimidated by powerful, unbeatable, fervent forces who love their life to the fullest and appreciate the endless, unwavering joy that their most heartfelt, unashamed passions bring them.


God help the world if teenage girls ever realise what they could truly do. Trust me, this won’t stop the power of the teenage girl.

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