Stop putting down media for young women

Women-oriented media isn’t inherently bad

Evaluating the quality of media based on its target audience is meaningless.
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In the world of media for young adults, there are quite a few cheesy, absurd, and sometimes even brain-numbing options out there to choose from. Most of us probably have ‘guilty pleasure’ shows we binge in secret or movies we feel a little ashamed of enjoying, and we understand that while we like them, they’re objectively pretty bad. But there’s a difference between recognizing that a show isn’t very good or a book series is full of tropes and shaming young women for consuming them.

Let me start off by saying that categorizing media within the gender binary is an extremely outdated practice. Labelling media as ‘for men’ or ‘for women’ is not only reductive and contributes to age-old, harmful expectations for what men and women ought to be, but it’s also exclusionary to people who don’t identify within that binary. Anyone is entitled to enjoy whatever television show or movie they want—we don’t need to gatekeep media from certain groups of people based on something as irrelevant as their gender identity.

However, it’s important to acknowledge this gendered labelling and marketing of media remains prevalent. We still view popular teen television shows as being for ‘basic bitches’ or blockbuster romantic comedies as ‘chick flicks,’ and it’s illustrative of one of many double standards that devalue women’s interests.

Men are discouraged from consuming media targeted toward young women because it’s supposed to be overly-emotional, dramatic, and all-around bad. Women feel unwelcome in fan bases that are predominantly men because they’re told the media is too complex, violent, or ‘manly’ for them to appreciate.

There’s some terrible media aimed at young women out there, spanning from trashy to actively problematic—but the same can be said about media aimed at men.

Why is it that Twilight and Fifty Shades are some of the most ridiculed franchises of the last decade and a half, yet Fast & Furious—which is arguably equally ridiculous and over-the-top—skates by without the same tainted reputation?

Evaluating the quality of a show or book based on who it’s targeted at is nonsensical. A franchise that’s popular among men isn’t inherently better than one touted as being for women, yet we continue to put down apparent women-oriented media in a way we rarely see applied to men’s interests.

In middle school and high school, I watched just about every young adult television show popular among women that you could name: The Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf, Pretty Little Liars, and Supernatural. Most of the shows I watched during that time in my life weren’t very good, and I look back on them now as not only bad, but too often problematic.

To this day I still hesitate to talk about books I like or television shows I watch. I catch myself buying into a ‘not like the other girls’ mentality because I’m worried my interests are going to be made fun of because they’re enjoyed by other women too.

There’s nothing wrong with calling out media with actual criticisms, but being ‘for women’ isn’t a valid one. If you don’t like Fifty Shades because it glorifies an abusive relationship, all the power to you. But if you’re writing it off because it’s ‘for chicks,’ I’d encourage you to dig a little deeper.

None of this is to say that a person can’t have their media preferences—personally, I’m not a fan of rom-coms. But we need to move away from letting gendered expectations inform our preferences, and a first step in that direction is to stop shaming media for young women.

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