If you want to know what the next big thing is, ask a teenage girl.
Whether it’s movies, books, social media, fashion, music or technology, teenage girls have proven themselves to be excellent tastemakers. When they love something, they love it, and they spread the word.
Teenage girls have been at the forefront of countless ventures that have gone on to a) make billions and/or b) become the industry standard against which others are measured.
Instagram, Snapchat and, the mother of all social media, Facebook, all owe their success in large part to being adored and used by teenage girls. How many times have you heard a business headline about some obscure app that was just purchased for millions by a giant corporation and wondered what the app is?
Ask a teenage girl. I promise you she’ll know.
And when it comes to music, let us all remember that Frank Sinatra and the Beatles were discovered and lifted to legendary status on the backs of adoring teenage girl fans.
As a lover of fashion, I can see how they influence what designers respond to. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve noticed something cute my niece is wearing and then, 6 months later, it’s in all the magazines.
Teenage girls were also a driving force behind the Twilight series of books and movies, the Harry Potter universe of books, movies, merchandise and theme parks, and, I assume, the avocado toast craze (which I confess I learned about from, you guessed it, a teenage girl).
Unfortunately, for young girls and the women they become, the mere fact that teenage girls love something seems to deprive it of its legitimacy to the rest of the world. People tend to write teen girls off as overly emotional and fickle, which they may be (they are, after all, adolescents). But their tastes and, from a business standpoint, their dollars are every bit as legitimate as those of older and maler consumers.
Harry Styles, of One Direction fame, has been the beneficiary of teen girl adoration, and in an interview with Rolling Stone, he scoffed at the notion that being loved by young girls is somehow less legitimate than being appreciated by music critics (mostly adult males). He made more than a few fans with his answer:
“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?” he said. “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?”
So if his understated performance in Dunkirk didn’t make you a Harry Styles fan, his (admittedly self-serving) feminism should.
Teenage girls have always gotten a bad rap. But, in my experience, both as a former teenage girl and as the mother of a son who had teenage girls as friends, there are few vessels in this universe more filled with optimism, energy and drive than a teenage girl.
And they seem to flourish in the most unlikely places.
First, there’s Malala Yousafzai, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work to support girls’ education in Pakistan – an effort that nearly killed her when Taliban members shot her in the face.
And then there are the five teenage girls from Kenya who developed an app to provide legal and medical help for girls who are at risk of undergoing or have undergone female genital mutilation.
Here at home, I’m always impressed at the drive and organization of the young women I meet. I don’t know if I was that together when I was their age, but I doubt it.
It’s time we show teenage girls the respect they deserve. They’re probably going to be our bosses soon.