Genevieve Koski at the AV Club:
Yet I know several highly educated, gainfully employed, socially adept women who are thrilled at the idea of attending a NKOTBSB concert, going to the latest Twilight movie, or, to incorporate another medium, picking up Sweet Valley Confidential, the recent “adult” sequel to the ’80s and ’90s YA publishing juggernaut Sweet Valley High. But we do so with an apologetic shrug or a shroud of protective irony that I rarely see in men going to see a new G.I. Joe or Transformers movie. And that has very little to do with the subject matter—sparkly vampires are no more or less silly than robot cars from outer space—but rather with the different ways girls and boys (and women and men) process and express their fandom.
It’s tempting—really tempting—to draw dividing lines among female-targeted entertainment, male-targeted entertainment, and gender-neutral entertainment, and the qualitative assumptions applied to each, but that’s a difficult, ranging topic that deserves a complete essay of its own. I will simply say that, as someone who tends to cover things for The A.V. Club that fall along the “girly” spectrum, I get a strong sense that entertainment targeted specifically at young girls—one of the most powerful consumer demographics, by the way—is generally a harder sell to the population at large.
Call me myopic, but as someone who traffics quite extensively in feminine-coded literature and culture—translation: I write romance novels—it seems to me that the shame described in paragraph one is REALLY DEEPLY related to the gender divide pointed out in paragraph two. There is also a distinctly misogynist vibe in the Bieber backlash or hatred for Twilight fans (and can we distinguish between criticism of Twilight and criticism of Twilight fans? because the former is often legit and the second is often creepy and problematic).
Women feel ashamed to go to a NKOTB concert as an adult because they know that to many people there is nothing more shameful than being unironically girly. It’s why people—lots of people! lots of feminists! lots of people interested in gender and intersectionality and social justice issues!—will make that face when they learn I write romance, that face that says, “And here I thought you were intelligent and progressive but clearly I am wrong because you write smutty things that arouse woman/will never win the Booker or the Nobel or the Pulitzer/glamorize and legitimize the patriarchy.”
And when you ask if they’ve ever read a romance, they tell you that no, of course they haven’t—but they still assume they know as much about your job, your career, and your passion as you do. Romance is the great feminine bastion of the book world, and people seem to find it both incredibly dismissable and incredibly threatening.
All of which is to say that, in terms of teenage enthusiasms, any time Wilson Phillips wants to get back together and go on tour, I will be first in line.
Ugh. Yes about the auto-hatred for Twilight fans. I have real problems with how vociferous the hate is towards those things that become popular based on “traditionally” feminine themes. It is disturbing how nasty the attitude can be towards fans of things like Twilight and Taylor Swift (and romance novels, yes!) That supposedly progressive women don’t seem to grasp that their intense nastiness to the women and girls who enjoy such things participates in misogynistic hatred of all things feminine is both astounding and irritating.
(Required caveat that not all women treat fans of “feminine” things this way. Some are quite good at deconstructing problematic elements without denigrating fans. For example, this post from Tiger Beatdown.)