Alright. I’m going to lay it bare and say it out loud: I
used to still am a fan of One Direction. And by that I mean that I have a special playlist for all of their songs which I often listen to repeatedly (there are quite a lot of bangers in there (steal my girl, one thing, change your ticket, just to name a few) and sometimes when I need to cry I play love you goodbye on repeat) and that I can still recite each and every one of their birthdays and the names of their siblings. However, the point of this article is not to ramble on about One Direction (alright, maybe it is).
See, there’s been a stigma around liking their music since the moment they brought out their first album. This stigma also surrounds other artists like Justin Bieber, The Wanted, Big Time Rush, you name it. Yet, what do these artists have in common? The majority of their audience consists of teenage girls and for the longest time now, the opinions of teenage girls have been seen as inferior to that of other age groups/genders in society. The question is: why?
The answer to that question is deeply rooted in misogyny. Every woman knows how it felt growing up when one said that they “liked the colour pink”. It was such a standard answer to the question “What’s your favourite colour?” that many girls “wanted to not be like other girls” and chose colours such as blue, orange or green (to name a few). Now that those girls are all grown up, especially now with social media apps like TikTok giving a platform to these kinds of ideas, many of them now realise that they did this only to be ‘different from other girls’. Why? Because if they did that, they would at least be taken seriously.
Now, in this situation this may all seem quite trivial and as if one is blowing little things out of proportion. Who cares what your favourite colour is, right? Well, the exact problem portrayed with the colour pink, is what happened when One Direction came to rise, as well as Justin Bieber, Big Time Rush, Little Mix, etc.
For those that may have been living under a rock for the past eleven years, One Direction is (was? Ouch, sensitive topic) a band that was formed in 2010 by Simon Cowell on the British version of the X-Factor. Liam, Niall, Louis, Harry and Zayn were five normal guys who had never before performed together until the very moment on July 23rd when the infamous Simon Cowell made that very great decision, to put them together and have them continue on the X-Factor as a group. Up until that moment, the only thing these guys knew about each other was that they all had a passion for singing and that they all couldn’t dance (it was honestly dreadful, but hey, everyone learns).
They were a great success, and toured the world and produced albums for six years straight, in the meantime Zayn left the band in 2015 and then they announced their hiatus in 2016 after having released their fifth and thus far last album, Made in the A.M..
Now that we’ve got all of this history aside, we can get into why exactly the criticism of One Direction, as well as on their fanbase, is deeply rooted in misogyny. Their world tours, as one may know, were insanely popular and sold out within minutes. What makes you beautiful, their first and probably most popular song, was a worldwide hit. Yet they were constantly criticised, not only by critics but also by the general public: especially men.
Those belonging to the male sex were seen as ‘sissies’ if they listened to One Direction, if I remember correctly, which was mostly said by other men, and girls were seen as unoriginal, or simply infatuated with the band for their looks, and that opinion is still alive today. I live with the perpetual anxiety of sharing my Spotify Wrapped because every year so far One Direction has been my number one on the top five of artists. This is simply because people are, generally, very demeaning when it comes to the interests of many girls. Once One Direction became so popular, they were seen as less than, for example, The Beatles, even though the former has most definitely reached the same amount of fame as the latter has. The difference, however, is their audience.
Now, why is this a product of misogyny? Because this stigma does not exist in the same way when in relation to anything that teenage boys may like. Otherwise, one could have made the argument that the criticism of One Direction is simply due to their audience being mostly teenagers instead of adults.
But there are no eye-rolls or clicks of the tongue when a teenage boy says that his favourite football team is FC Barcelona, and then goes on to name every single one of the players’ full names and positions on the team. When a teenage girl (when I used to do this as a 14 year old) does this, however, I would be met with the exact opposite of enthusiasm. Actually, the response would usually be: “Really? You listen to them?”.
And with this I am not saying that boys are not allowed to be obsessed with football, I am merely saying that having obsessions or fixations as a teenager or young adult or human is simply inevitable and they should be accepted. To not like what another likes is one thing but to bash it to the point that they feel ashamed for it, is simply mean. But because of the misogynistic culture that we live in, us girls have to suffer through heavy sighs and groans when we go into detail about our favourite band member (I used to be a Louis and Harry girl, myself, to be entirely truthful, but my favourite solo artist is probably Niall).
At the end of the day, I simply think it is time to put that into the spotlight and try to combat that misogyny inside of each of us, and every other person in the world, by simply admitting that we like what we like and not to apologise for that. And although One Direction may never release another album, their fame and popularity should not be belittled simply because of their audience. Let’s not make the same mistakes all over again, and instead learn from them and grow out of these misogynistic ideas.
Written by Vivian van Klaarbergen