Stuck Between Wi-Fi & A Hard Place: On The Importance of Teen Girls, Their Art, and The Men Who Hate Them

by Kiki Nicole

    The internet is a many splendored thing. It seems like many of us under the age of  25  have grown up with it faithfully by our sides. In a 2014 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, teens and millennials are considered to be the first generation to be “digitally native”. That is, we are the first generation to not have to adapt to learning these new technologies that are available. We grew up with them. Google just celebrated it’s 14th birthday in January and Facebook is only 11. Web technology is becoming a big staple in  making the transition to adulthood as a teen or young adult in today’s society. In an April 2015 study, 92% of teens aged 13-17 reported going online daily, and according to the Pew Research Center Study 81% of millennials aged 18-33 are active daily on Facebook.

      Isolation has always been a common teenage experience, but with the internet and widespread use of social media there are new opportunities for marginalized young people to make spaces for ourselves in a world that often tells us there is no room for our voices.  That our voices don’t matter, and therefore don’t exist.

      It is at this point between isolation and online interaction that we find the certain pocket of Teen Girl Culture that so many of our readers inhabit. According to the Pew Research studies, teen girls (ages 13-17) and young women (ages 18-29) are the most active users of social media sites that are visually oriented and sharing platforms..  This can be seen from the start of the selfie sensation, from online magazines and platforms that focus on the art and opinions of teen girls and young women such as Rookie Mag, Bitchtopia, The Ardorous, The Pulp Zine–online communities that not only wanted to appeal to young women, but were founded by them as well.

     For as many young women as there are using the internet to get by or to make art, there are as many (or more)  people who love to hate them. Everyone loves mocking Teen Girl Culture. The ‘getting Frappucinos at Starbucks instagramming your dinner feminism as daily living’ culture. The culture of making a Tumblr to document your existence and create voices where there were none.  The culture of creating/living loudly and without apology while young and female/femme-identified (and in some cases, while being not white or straight). These are the pitfalls of not being a cisgender male.

    The trouble with patriarchy is that it destroys everything. Literally. If a girl feels comfortable enough to make a selfie art series as an homage to Renaissance portraits or a zine of confessional poetry about her life or basically, if a girl decides to share any of herself with the Internet, the patriarchy will step in to ensure some kind of chastising and torment. Our society teaches us and reinforces the idea that women are prey. If they make art, if they self publish/distribute their creations, it’s bait. This is something the world can use against you. It looks like invalidation, like this art isn’t “real” art, like your voice is too whiny/too annoying/not important. It looks like trolling, like being called a “disgusting, fat feminist” on Twitter after your hit poetry video has gone viral. It looks like harassment, like men dismissing your experiences and combatting them with more violence. This is nothing new. Sylvia Plath being called too self-indulgent, Frida Kahlo too ugly to be considered art, Emily Dickinson, Francesca Woodman, The Brontë Sisters, Phyllis Wheatley, Murasaki Shikibu (who wrote what was considered to be the first novel). There is a history of devaluing and dismissing the work of young women that goes far past the social media age. It’s structural. It’s institutional. It’s expected.

     Let’s talk more about teenage girls. Let the conversation begin here. Let’s talk about how important they actually are, how young women are constantly pushing to create a space for themselves where there weren’t any to begin with, how much we should always be cultivating and supporting these voices instead of quieting them.

     Where Are You Press was founded in Portland, Oregon in 2013. Our founder, Clementine von Radics, writes: “As is often pointed out, when a white man writes of his own life, he is describing the human condition, when anyone else does it, it is “genre-work” or seen as indulgent. We are seeking to change that.” We focus on the voices of young women because it’s necessary; we have been silenced for far too long.

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