Cultural capital in young womenThe interests of young women are often belittled and seen as insignificant, impacting their outlook.
With exposure to the internet from a young age, adolescent girls often seem to feel the need to be different from their peers nowadays. The term “not like other girls” has of late been celebrated as well as berated on the internet. Trends like the “not like other girls” trope, where adolescents try proving themselves different from the conventional portrayal of women in media, are gaining more traction, especially among those in high school. This trope can be seen in trends since the 60s with the greaser girl trend and in the 90s with the cool girl trope where girls try to glamorise traditionally perceived masculine traits by rejecting feminine standards. While some celebrate the challenge it pushes against patriarchy's normative standards, others berate it.
However, the main question that begs an answer is: Why do girls feel the necessity to do this at all? The general reservation modern feminists have with these tropes is that they arise from internalised misogyny. By calling someone “not like others”, you’re automatically implying that the comparison is with someone inferior, but internalised misogyny might not be the case for most stances.
These girls have developed such habits and traits for a core reason; they became hyper-aware of the patriarchy at a young age, and these “pick me girls” are not only trying to appease men, but they are trying to be treated as one. Not only are they different from other girls, but they also do not want to be treated like other girls. They are trying to escape society’s treatment of women by identifying with male gender norms and stereotypes.
The question that arises from this typical phase young people go through is: Why do young women not want to be associated with the mainstream feminine ideals and characteristics? That is because, to put it simply, it is seen as meaningless.
Teenage girls and women in general, in our society, seem to hold very little to almost no cultural capital when compared to men. Cultural capital is a concept used in sociology to describe an individual or certain group’s social assets, such as education, style of speech and dress, intellect, etc., which dictate their mobility in society. It is an idea that explains why women are conventionally expected to act and perform in specific ways as compared to men.
Even though young girls have a massive influence on the varying trends of the world, language, fashion and cinema, they hold little cultural capital in broader contexts. The interests of young girls are often belittled and seen as invaluable and insignificant. This has taken a toll on generations of women and what they are socially allowed to like or not like.
Young women initially popularised artists such as The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. It is as if their significance diminishes when seen to be supported by a girl fan base and when these artists are associated with older white men; their talents stop being trivialised. This can clearly be seen in the context of BTS as their fan base consists of a vast majority of young girls; everything from their music to their fashion choices has led to their unfair treatment in the industry. The entire basis of this treatment is that they are seen as ‘girly’. But what is wrong with having conventionally feminine traits?
This goes hand in hand with what men are socially allowed to do; being interested in feminine hobbies and ideals reduces their value as men. In contrast, men portray a macho image, while women portray a childlike, innocent and naive front. World experts at Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict found that most of these men end up in a pattern of abusive behaviour; and women, victims of abuse. These harmful traits in men such as; smoking, drinking and violence are glorified within such tropes instead of the criticism and analysis they deserve. Similarly, women get patronised for the same.
This phenomenon harms young men and young women and conditions them into a pre-packaged list of qualities. Still, it also encourages unhealthy competition between young girls to be different and constantly fight about who is worth better in our society. From an economic standpoint, most brands fully realise how important teenage women are towards their success, and they constantly profit off of them and their insecurities.
Young women dictate which brands are thriving; they influence what becomes popular and what does not. Young women are forced into feminine ideals as a way of fitting in rather than rejecting them by their own choices; this gives them a fighting chance to defend themselves against the clutches of patriarchy. Similarly, women are against such ideals as an act of rebellion against the same patriarchy.
We collectively need to realise why women confine themselves to these tropes and, instead of patronising them, empathise with these women as they constantly get beaten up at the intersection of capitalism and misogyny and realise where the core problem lies.