Why Harry Styles's Comment About His Teenage Fangirls Is So Important

“Styles is aware that his largest audience so far has been young – often teenage – women. Asked if he spends pressure-filled evenings worried about proving credibility to an older crowd, Styles grows animated. "Who's to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That's not up to you to say. Music is something that's always changing. There's no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they're not serious? How can you say young girls don't get it? They're our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don't lie. If they like you, they're there. They don't act 'too cool.' They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick."

 - Harry Styles in Rolling Stone, as written by Cameron Crowe, April 18, 2017.

 

I will admit that I haven’t been too excited by the beginning of Harry Styles’s solo career. I’m a Keep-One-Direction-Whole fan through and through and, honestly, I found Sign of the Times a little boring, repetitive, and not my style. I’ve more or less tuned out of all One Direction’s solo endeavors save for Niall’s, because I love This Town and have such a soft spot for him.

Yesterday morning, though, I woke up to my Twitter timeline covered in snippets of Harry’s interview with Rolling Stone. I didn’t have time to read the whole thing—I had to be in class in, like, an hour—but as I scrolled through my timeline I realized that everyone was retweeting the same excerpt, above: a statement from Harry about his feelings toward his fanbase which is composed, mainly, of teenage girls.

Before reading the excerpt, I immediately felt anxious and defensive. Two years ago on Christmas 2015, 5 Seconds of Summer, my favorite band at the time, did a similar interview with Rolling Stone. The article, if you haven’t read it, is a complete disaster. It makes 5SOS look rude, careless, womanizing, and inconsiderate. They keep the journalist waiting at their house for what feels like hours, too hungover to bother with him. They spend almost half the article bragging about all the women they can seduce into bed with their newfound fame. Then, they complain that all their fans are young women.

I remember reading the article when it came out and feeling sick to my stomach. This was my favorite band; these kids were my idols. I saw them live three times in 12 months (two of those three were after the article was released). 5SOS are my age, they make music I relate to, and they always came across as funny, kind, humble, and well-intentioned. The Rolling Stone article smashed that vision I had of these guys and reminded of something I’d heard over and over again—sometimes, your idols are assholes.*

In regards to 5 Seconds of Summer’s female dominated fanbase, Ashton Irwin, 22 year old drummer (21 at the time), had this to say: "Seventy-five percent of our lives is proving we're a real band," says Irwin. "We're getting good at it now. We don't want to just be, like, for girls. We want to be for everyone. That's the great mission that we have. I'm already seeing a few male fans start to pop up, and that's cool. If the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and all those guys can do it, we can do it, too." 

Yeah. So. Being “just for girls,” then, is the same as not being “a real band.” The sexism inherent in a statement like that is why what Harry said stood out to me. This signing off of female fans as “fan girls” and “bandwagoners” and as the defining feature of a “boy band,” which carries such a negative connotation, is pervasive in the music world. Harry, in the same outlet as Ashton, threw that idea out the window.

In my eyes, Harry hit the nail on the head when he said that teenage girl fans are “there.” I’ve spent pretty much my entire life being "there" as a “fan girl.” In high school my life revolved around music and the musicians who made it, and I was shameless. I’ve seen the Jonas Brothers live like 5 times. I’ve literally lost count of how many times I’ve seen All Time Low live, and how many hours I’ve spent camping out before their shows with my best friend. I once woke up at 4am to stand on the sidewalk in front of Lincoln Center for twelve hours before a Harry Potter premiere (not music, I know, but similar). Warped Tour is my favorite day of the year. My birthday gifts were always band merch, my pocket money always went there too. I was, as Harry said, always there. When I liked things I showed up and let the musicians know. 

And not to sound self important, but fans like me are what make bands. Without us—without teenage girls waiting outside in the cold for a glimpse of their favorite singer, without our allowance going toward ugly t-shirts and overpriced crewnecks, without our constant dedication and boundless love—they would be nothing. Without their fans, musicians are just that annoying guy in the park with an acoustic guitar. Fans like me are the people who enable 5 Seconds of Summer to live the incredible lives they do. Fans like me pay for Harry Styles’s $7,000 Gucci boots—and his groceries. Fans like me enable 5SOS to sell out Madison Square Garden. A night like that will forever stand out as one of the best moments in the lives of Ashton Irwin, Michael Clifford, Luke Hemmings, and Calum Hood—and it happened because of teenage girls and their unashamed, unironic dedication to the things they love. Fans like that, like me, are priceless. Musicians across the board should be proud; without teenage girls, they wouldn’t live out their dreams. To disregard the teenage girl fanbase is to disrespect where you came from.

At 21, I’m not a teenage girl anymore; I’m a little bit less there than I used to be (in part because I moved out of the NYC area for college), but I still spend a decent portion of my limited income on concert tickets and band merch because I want to and it makes me happy. Music is still important to me—it wasn’t just some passing phase as a teenage girl. My music taste as a teenage fan girl has adapted and developed into the music that defines my life as a young adult. I regret almost nothing about my time spent at concerts and on Youtube as a teenage fan girl. In fact, I cherish those moments, love the people they introduced me to, and value the street smart young adult I became while waiting for Jack Barakat (of All Time Low) to walk out a back door. Being a teenage fan girl of music enriched me just like it enriched the musicians I supported. Harry gets that—and he’s made me really, really proud of all the time I’ve spent loving him.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Since the publication of their Rolling Stone article, Michael Clifford of 5 Seconds of Summer has insisted he did not actually say some of the quotes accredited to him within. Irwin, however, stated that he was "super happy with what [he] said." I'm not really sure if he actually read the article, becuase I can't imagine anyone who would be proud of saying that. The article, linked throughout, is really worth a read through. 

Alex Gaskarth, of All Time Low, also had some worthwhile thoughts on this topic that I could not fit into the article.

*Also, I don't think 5 Seconds of Summer are assholes. I think that article was messy and they sucked in it. But I've spent many an hour watching their interviews on Youtube and they really do usually come off as decent dudes. I find it hard to believe that they'd come across as decent and funny in every interview except for one. Maybe it was an off day? I imagine there was some journalistic bias invovled in the Rolling Stone article, combined with their disrespectful behavior. 

Cover photo of Harry from Wikimedia Commons, listed as free for reuse.