Harry Styles: Feminist?

So as we all sluggishly dragged ourselves to work after a no-doubt indulgent long bank-holiday weekend, we were treated to a rude awakening call; a general election.

However, rather than wallow in this impending doom I call Great Britain’s future I kept scrolling through Twitter for the meme’s and the will to live.

When I came across this little snippet of an interview by everyone’s fave babe, Harry Styles.

harry styles comments

Now, I am well versed in white boys getting more credit than they’re due just for saying basic things like ‘women deserve human rights’ and shit. But I was actually genuinely a little impressed by Harry’s comments.

It is true that teen heart-throb boyband types grow up and suddenly want to be perceived as a srs tortured soul who has more srs things to be interested in than screaming girl fans.

However, Harry brings up an increasingly interesting comparison that I’ve seen used before. The Beatles were (are?) considered the greatest and most successful band of all time. They are considered the epitome of musical talent. Yet who were their core fanbase? You guessed it; teenage girls.

beatles fans

You’ll get many a male hipster these days though shouting at teenage girls wearing Beatles t-shirts that they’ve no right to be wearing it and to name Ringo Starr’s neighbours cat in order to prove herself worthy.

Is it probable that Harry Styles’ manager or agent may wish to tap into a new fan demographic? Is it really understandable that their marketing/PR team want to appeal to a new audience?

There is so much money in teenage girls. They have so much disposable income. Why would anyone want to move away and leave that? Unless they thought that teenage girls and their opinions weren’t credible. Unless they considered teenage girls and their opinions dismissive.

Which largely as a society, sadly, we do.

Beatlemania allowed women of that time to break free from society’s expected gender norms. However ‘mania’ and teen fanatics has now, after 50 years, become the norm that society expects from teenage girls and now ridicules it.

We need to demand respect of teenage girls and their interests. Demand respect from our parents, brothers, grandparents and most of all journalists and the media. Continually speaking of teenage girls interests as if they are ‘stupid’ or ‘silly’ and ultimately aren’t credible is terribly dismissive of teenage girls themselves. And this should not be acceptable.

What 50 Shades of Grey and One Direction have in common.

That might be a little bit of a misleading title… but I think you’ll see my point eventually.

Let’s quickly run through my evolution with ’50 Shades of Grey’. As far as I can remember, it started with lots of hate, basically. I heard about it, and the way it deals with issues concerning rape, consent, domestic violence and laaaaarge amounts of stalking. I didn’t like it one bit.

Then I started getting into arguments and discussions with friends and realised that basically, I had no leg to stand on as I hadn’t actually read it. Cue me reading the 1st book about 3 or 4 years ago. I then, after witnessing first hand the terrible writing and all the above issues, became even more enamored with shouting ‘this book is awful, stop reading it! Educate yourselves!’ etc etc. And then I basically was over it, and bored and not bothered for the next 4 years.

Now however, the film is released, and everyone’s hype is back up into overdrive and I again, have things that I wanna say. However, they’re a little different to my previous views. I like to think I’ve taken my previous issues and instead moved on from them and sort of asked ‘why did I hate this book so much? Why does almost everyone hate this book so much?!’

This blog post won’t really be discussing the story or the issues involved within the book, I am more interested in the hype, the ideology and the culture surrounding it. So specifically I’m interested in how this piece of media is generally made by women, for women- and so society hates it. It really is as simple as that. That is what I am interested in.

One Direction's fans.

One Direction’s fans.

This ‘girl culture’ and society hating it, is not new. Take Miley Cyrus, One Direction, Twilight and the Kardashians; their main audience is young girls and women and so they’re generally ridiculed by society. It is no coincidence. Generally people see ’50 Shades’ as stupid and silly, and so in reflection of that girl culture is seen as stupid and silly. Most people think that they hate ’50 Shades’ because the writing is bad, or the representation of BDSM is bad etc, but really, the majority of people don’t really know why they hate it. They hate it because their friends do, or because the cool guy on their Facebook shared a LAD Bible post ridiculing it- people hate ’50 Shades’ because society hates it, because society hates things women like.

My opinion on these matters has reached such a level that I almost want ’50 Shades of Grey’ to do well. We need to encourage women and their interests to become unapologetically mainstream. Because literally everything else in mainstream media is catered to men, it is made by men for men and it always keeps in mind the male gaze. For example, the film ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ was released in 2013 and explores the relationship between two women. It should have celebrated LGBT and its success should have pioneered more media created for that group. However is still had the male gaze front and center, probably because of its straight male director; and most LGBT viewers were disappointed.

The backlash to ’50 Shades’ is unbelievable. Domestic Violence campaigners have called for a boycott of the film, in which they want people to donate the cost of a ticket to the film to a Women’s Shelter. Although this seems noble in light of the questionable treatment of Ana by Christian in the books, how can this be happening when people like Mark Wahlberg, Sean Penn, Bill Cosby and Chris Brown are all still relatively successful and there is nowhere near the same backlash and push towards boycotting their careers?!

I think it’s funny to consider The Bible’s treatment of women. There’s one particular passage from 1 Timothy which states:

I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man: she is to keep silent – 1 Timothy 2:12

And yet people literally worship this book and it is the reason that women have had to fight for so many rights in this world; and people are boycotting ’50 Shades’? Get your shit together, people.

Society is too obsessed with looking towards all the bad things that could come of ’50 Shades’ instead of looking at what good can come of it. It has started a discussion surrounding domestic violence and consent. I’m hoping that these discussions can encourage readers/viewers to be aware of these issues and still enjoy the film. Issues surrounding ‘what is ok for women to do’ in society is also a discussion which I think ’50 Shades’ has started. Men watching porn, masturbating, being sexual are things that still hold stigma for women; hopefully ’50 Shades’ will begin to change that.

I think ’50 Shades’, although extremely problematic, can hopefully be more of an interestingly positive influence on society than a bad one. I’m hoping that it begins conversations and movements towards people becoming more educated about the aspects this book gets wrong. Mostly, I want women to accept other women regardless of whether they went to the cinema to see this film last weekend or not. Seeing ’50 Shades’ has become a lot like slut-shaming; shaming people for seeing this film is not cool. This is something which was made by women for women, and that should be celebrated.

If you’re going to see 50 Shades of Grey; educate yourself and have fun.