Teenage girls declaring war in the only way they know how – against themselves. For many young girls, Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction has marked the end of the world as they know it. Predictably, twitter has become a cesspool of the same kind of tortured heart break that poured from 90s fangirls when Robbie left Take That. Less predictable was the highly triggering and disturbing trend #cut4zayn, which saw countless young girls slashing their wrists then uploading the picture online in order to prove their misery.
There is no doubt that these teenage girls are trivialising a serious symptom/resulting behaviour of mental illness. My initial reaction was of disgust yet it has mellowed out into pity.
There has long been an indie-inspired disapproval of bands like One Direction rooted in musical snobbery. A key element of this snobbery is the fact that in popular culture, a self-identified female following equates to a loss of credibility. Why is it that when young girls like something, that thing becomes uncool? Okay, so 1D’s existence is credited to a commercial cumstain of class exploitation known as The X Factor. They’re achingly aware of their good looks and their songs are upbeat cliches lain over old hits from the Grease soundtrack. However, I still would argue it is the fangirl’s incessant and, let’s face it, blind adoration of bands such as One Direction that incites the most disgust from hipster hunnies such as myself.
Fangirls are the epitome of female weakness. They are shrill, emotional, mentally unstable, obsessive, infatuated, frenzied bags of nerves. It is this stereotype that perpetrates snide remarks about Taylor Swift and her ability to drive men away with her emotions, that causes us to laugh at ‘crazy eyes’ jokes on How I Met Your Mother, that instills into the masses the belief that women cannot be leaders because they are TOO EMOTIONAL FFS.
Rather than rushing to condemn these girls we should be asking the question: ’Why is it that the only weapon these young women have is their mental wellbeing?’
Indeed when I was trying to cope with a miserable mood disorder I coped through the infliction of harm upon myself. When I was trying to understand why I kept getting abused by men I navigated my understanding though the application of a razor to my skin. I believed I had no other channel to express myself. I have since realised that there are other options. What are the options for angry girls on the internet?
When men get threatened/angry online they offer rape threats, promises of violence, scorn, hatred to others. When young women get angry online, they cut their own skin and take a picture. Look at how much pain I’m in! Please stop me hurting myself! Neither is acceptable, yet both contribute to a larger tragedy surrounding gendered expressions of anger online.
Self harm is the behaviour of those with nothing left, no other strings to pull. As Susanna Kaysen points out in Girl, Interrupted, ‘You hurt yourself on the outside to try and kill the thing on the inside’. It becomes a way of control when everything else is turning to shit. Whether you have a mood disorder that makes you feel like a stranger in your own head or there are environmental factors around you that make you feel like a stranger in your own life: self harm is about control and coping. And it is the behaviour of the desperate. As Mark points out in an early episode of Peep Show: ‘I’m not actually cutting myself, I just need to convince Sophie I’m desperate and obviously I need some evidence’. This is clearly the mentality of the fan girls participating in #cut4zayn; they’re not actually depressed or anything, they just need some evidence to show him they’re upset.
When you ridicule someone’s voice to the point where she and everything she stands for becomes a universal pillar of mockery (as we have done to fangirls), it is only a matter of time before she stops using her voice and resorts to more shocking, physical means. The wailings of fangirls have lost the ability to shock us, the herd of voices screaming about how they’re going to ‘marry Harry’ have long been drowned out by the sound of NME reader’s derisive laughter.
Oh and while we’re at it, let’s not tarnish all fangirls with the same #cut4zayn brush. I’m sure the majority are just as disgusted as the rest of us – more ammunition is being fed into the cannon that blasts all fangirls as frenzied psychos when in reality they’re just teenage girls who love a band?
The solution is clear – we need to let fangirls have a voice. In the grand scheme of things there are far worse things your younger sister could be than a One Direction fan. I would argue it’s actually healthy for young women to experience emotions relating to romance and rejection vicariously through bands like 1D and may give them valuable life experience for future relationships.