Why can’t we let girls be girls?

We need to stop shaming young girls and start lifting them up.

Ashley Masingale

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Graphic by Mai Nguyen

A girl blocks out hurtful online comments.

Teenage girls are constantly under fire for nearly everything they think or do. 

She thinks she’s pretty? She’s conceited. She thinks she’s ugly? She’s fishing for compliments. She follows trends? Basic. She wears makeup? Cares too much about her looks. Doesn’t? Cares too little. You can’t win.

Girls are boxed, labeled, and diminished into stereotypes; completely erasing their complexity. Although many of these criticisms are expressed through jokes on social media, they still cause harm to a young girl’s psyche. 

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new meme on the block: the VSCO girl. Characterized by her closed-minded metal straw activism, shell necklaces, scrunchies, and oversized tees, the VSCO girl has taken strides all across social media platforms, especially TikTok.

Just a few scrolls through the “For You” page on TikTok will undoubtedly yield a multitude of VSCO girl jokes. These girls are stereotyped in the same way as nerds, jocks, and preps. Videos are made about girls who follow VSCO trends, shaming them for their desire to fit in. The term is often utilized as an insult to girls who have hopped on the bandwagon.

When I see humor like this, oftentimes I’ll join in and make fun of those that follow the trends. Recently, however, after seeing how defensive my younger sister gets when I crack a VSCO girl joke, I have taken a step back to look at why.

The next time you find yourself making fun of someone or something, take a step back and ponder why.”

Making fun of girls is fun. They’re easy targets. A lot of girls even embrace the jokes and laugh at themselves. Maybe accepting it makes them feel more comfortable, and maybe teasing them bandages our own insecurities.

Bullies tend to make others feel small to make themselves feel larger. Bullying is all about gaining control, and bullies tend to be popular in social settings according to Psychology Today. Though these jokes aren’t necessarily considered bullying, the same premise applies. We make fun of VSCO girls because we think it makes us look cooler. 

We must let girls be girls, unapologetically. We shouldn’t need to discern ourselves from these trends through jokes; there’s nothing wrong with wanting to fit in. According to Psychology Today, “the need for acceptance is a basic human instinct”. It’s no wonder why so many influenceable girls partake in trends: it offers a sense of community. In our own way, making fun of these girls is our attempt to connect with our community. Therefore, making fun of them is hypocritical.

Girls find a sense of inclusion in these trends, and nobody likes being made fun of for something that makes him or her happy. Placing girls in boxes and refusing to see their complexity pits us against them. We must encourage young girls to grow and find themselves, and following trends is just a part of their journey.

We’re all living our own complicated lives with our own convoluted issues. We shouldn’t have to attack others to make ourselves feel whole. The next time you find yourself making fun of someone or something, take a step back and ponder why.