Popping the pop culture bubble 

What Girls Like

What Girls Like

I love pop culture. All of it. Television, both HBO-fancy and TLC-trashy. Hit songs of the pop, hip-hop and dance persuasions. Blockbuster summer movies. Celebrity gossip. Fashion news. Awards shows.

All of the above makes me so happy. I could read, listen, watch and talk about any of it for hours on end, and I have. But for all the joy pop culture has given me, I'm constantly running across a couple of problems associated with it: First, it's assumed that someone who loves pop culture is a frivolous person; and second, pop culture doesn't necessarily love me — or women in general — back.

The frivolity argument is true, to an extent, in that any time spent not bettering the world is a frivolous pursuit. That applies to reading a fashion magazine, watching a football game and attending the opera in equal measure — but only one of those pastimes gets a value judgment thrown at it. Here's a hint: It's the one that primarily women participate in. You'd think that's a coincidence, except that it keeps happening.

For extra insidiousness, it starts in childhood. For example: Do you hate One Direction? If you're a parent and are forced to hear the same songs over and over, fair enough, I'm not talking to you. But if you're not a parent? Why, exactly, do you have a problem? It's just pop music that boys don't like. And why don't the boys like it? Because it's for girls. Then those boys grow up, become music journalists and write trend pieces about how the music young girls like is shitty and dumb, because anything young girls like is shitty and dumb. The taste and style preferences of all children are questionable, but only girls are perceived to suffer an actual moral failing for liking shitty, dumb things.

Of course, pop music is just a trick from big corporations to wrest money from the tiny hands of children — and their parents — for things like concert tickets, posters, CD singles (or whatever format the kids listening to nowadays) and dolls. It's not a real art form, something that boys love, like, say, superhero comics — no X-Men cartoons, no Superman bedsheets or Green Lantern dolls action figures. Besides, superheroes aren't pop culture for kids! Thanks to Gritty Realism™, it's pop culture for everyone in the world, both child and grown human. Even girls and women are allowed to like it.

Unless you like it too much, in which case you're probably faking it.

Oh, did you not know? According to the Internet, there's apparently a giant problem in nerd culture (aka "pop culture") called the "Fake Geek Girl," wherein teen girls and women ... like ... things ... fake-ly. Or something. See, girls only like Doctor Who because sometimes the actors are handsome. That's a bad reason. Boys like Doctor Who because they are rogue loners who feel alienated from society. Women, of course, never feel alienated from anything (especially society). If a geeky girl does happen to know a lot about whatever geeky thing she's drawn to, well, she's only done that to impress the people who hate her. Obviously.

Other than the lifelong threat of sexual assault, that's one of the few things nerdy women and female fans of a lot of music have in common: loving something that kind of hates you. I'm sure I could find a back issue of The Source from 1992 decrying the particular problem of misogyny in rap; it's been an evergreen topic for decades. But maybe hip-hop is too déclassé for your attention. Or maybe it's too hard to grasp the idea that something can have artistic merit and also be, y'know, kind of problematic. Well then, Captain Art House, what are women in cinema? They're dead, dying, rewards, whores, obstacles or just plain absent. Don't worry though, you can still see plenty of boobs.

All that said, I still find pop culture to be fun and ultimately satisfying to participate in. It's a frustrating experience, but that's true of pretty much anything women do. Love your job? Well, depending on the job, you're either an ambitious bitch or going-with-the-flow-while-ruining-it-for-other-women. Mother and homemaker? Failed feminist. Athlete? Butch freak, or using your sex appeal to get ahead. It's unwinnable! To live as a woman is to live in a constant state of cognitive dissonance mixed with a little Stockholm Syndrome Lite. Being a woman isn't thinking about how you are a woman; it's being a person who is constantly reminded that you are a woman, and dealing with the problems that society has decided should go along with that.

So what to do? I dunno! Like the things you like, I suppose, without apology. Raise your girls to explain— rather than justify — whatever interest they have, and raise your boys to respect the interests of girls, whether it's Barbies or baseball. Try to make your own contributions to culture and pop culture, because women's voices are always needed. Drink? Yes. Drink and live-tweet awards shows. You know it's kind of terrible. But you also know it's really, really fun.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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