First off, a word from our new sponsor.
This blog is brought to you by conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis, please make sure you wash your hands really sodding well before having anything to do with your eyes.
Also, fuck this. Gaah.
My eye troubles aside, there’s something in particular I wanted to talk about today.
Did you guys know there was a new Justin Bieber album? I had no idea until a few days ago when I was talking with a friend and she mentioned it. She told me it was good, and after listening to a couple of songs I have to agree. I’ve been listening to it maybe once or twice, and by once or twice I mean a couple hundred times. (Sorry, I had to make the joke…)
The album came up in conversation because she mentioned a girl at college was all excited about listening to it in her car, and my friend and a few other girls there were a bit cautious in saying how they’re also Bieber fans. My friend commented on how glad she is Bieber’s new album has been so well-liked, as it’s made being a #Belieber something she can state with less apprehension.
Which is great for her, but also reminded me of how annoying it is that people hate on others for liking some artist. Before I continue, I should state that back when I was a young teenager I was exactly the kind of person who did that, so if I sound aggressive or angry, rest assured that frustration is aimed at the younger me.
When I was maybe 13 or 14 I heard a Demi Lovato song at a movie theatre and really liked it. I remember not telling a single soul about it, and hiding it on my iPod by changing the album art and renaming it Revolution 9 (because who in their right mind would open that track?)
At the time my actions seemed completely reasonable. Demi Lovato?? She was that girl from the Jonas Brothers movie! What would my friends think if they found out? It never even crossed my mind that my friends might also have ‘guilty pleasure’ music (they did, of course.)
I was young though, barely a teenager, just starting out sophomore year in high school. It was understandable peer pressure would get to me. I’m sure we can all think of questionable choices we made just to fit in, in high school.
It didn’t get better though. Senior year, then college came around, and I got into ridiculing Twilight and trying to make anyone who liked it feel terrible about themselves. I really, really hope I didn’t actually succeed in shaming anybody. The possibility I may have done that is something I often feel guilty about.
Things didn’t get better until I turned 19 or 20. Finishing college and starting to become an adult meant I finally matured enough to recognise I was being a shitty person and stop it.
If I know the internet, some of you are thinking “Are you trying to defend Twilight? It’s so rapey and badly written!” or “x artist is objectively bad!”
I have a couple of answers to that. Yes, Twilight is very badly written, and yeah, it is very very worrying that some people apparently see it as a model for healthy relationships. That’s fine, and criticism of that is valid.
The problem I have is that it goes beyond that. If you’ve been alive the last few years, you’ll surely have seen the kind of criticism Twilight fans get. Sometimes it is rational criticism of it from feminists or people who appreciate good writing. In my experience though, most of the time it’s not about that, but about making fun of something because it’s popular, and trying to make others feel bad about it. As John Green eloquently put it, it’s “demeaning and dismissive this-sucks-because-teen-girls-like-it-and-everyone-knows-that-teen-girls-are-not-fully-human criticism we see in popular culture.”
Think about it. Nicholas Sparks, One Direction, Twilight, etc. All the things people are ridiculed for tend to be things teenage girls like, or things marketed at teenage girls. Liking anything young women like is seen as inferior or shameful.
Before I lose any readers for fear of this turning into a feminist rant, let me get to my next point: it’s nice to be a decent human being.
I used to work at a school, and I’ve seen kids made fun of just for saying they liked a song or a book not approved by the popularity hivemind. Think about what that does to a kid trying to figure out who they are. It teaches them they should feel ashamed of liking something if their friends don’t say it’s okay.
Additionally, I generally believe in the concept of building people up and not knocking them down. If you think someone has ‘bad taste’ (whatever that means) instead of hurting their self-esteem, try to introduce them to things you like instead.
Enough abstract, let’s get back to me.
Like I said, I stopped making fun of people for liking what they liked a couple of years ago, but I didn’t start openly enjoying Taylor Swift (another long-standing ‘guilty pleasure’) until a few months ago.
This change has coincided with me coming out. I’m still not sure whether it’s down to it being more ‘acceptable’ for women to like those things, or because compared to the criticism and judgement that comes with being transgender, it’s easy to not be ashamed of what books or music I like.
Either way, here’s something I’ve realised: It’s so much more fun to admit what you like and own it, instead of hiding it and making fun of others to fit in. When you’re enthusiastic about what the things you enjoy, and spend your time sharing that, people are more attracted to you. Partly because it’s so nice and confident, and partly because being negative and critical doesn’t just bring you down, it’s awful and exhausting to be around.
So, whether it’s the fact you’re a #Belieber, you enjoy the Star Wars prequels, or have every One Direction song memorised… don’t be afraid to stand out in your affection for it, and leave behind the days of making fun of others.
What’s something you’re afraid to tell others you like? What do you secretly enjoy? What’s keeping you from sharing it?
I’m going to go now. My eye hurts and I’m tired. Have a great Tuesday, all! 🙂