Read a humorous piece on teenage girls and their idols. Ilana Nash wrote about her youth and the how the media would ridicule female teen idols like Shaun Cassidy, The Osmonds or Leif Garrett, while always writing in neutral or positive terms about male teen idols, however stupid roles those female actors or singers might play: A pin-up idol for girls is reviled more than a pin-up idol for boys.
Researchers also have a denigrating opinion about male teen-idols: “for girls of this age real boys remain a threatening and unknown quantity. Sexual experience most girls of all social classes want to hold off for some future time. They know, however, that going out with boys invariably carries the possibility of being expected to kiss, or ‘pet’. The fantasy boys of pop make no such demands. They ‘love’ their fans without asking anything in return.”
Ilana is really pissed off about that opinion ("I DID want to have sex with Shaun!"), but reviewers in papers held the same view, as one angry fan wrote after a bad review of her idols: “When their fans are old enough to start looking for real boyfriends,” sneered a review of a 1975 Bay City Rollers concert, “the Rollers will soon be forgotten.” But it’s not that simple; some of us were lesbians, some of us did have boyfriends. In any case, girls mature earlier than boys, so it was more a question of waiting for them to grow up than the other way around!”
Ilana: “Boys rotten teen-behavior did not raise eyebrows; it was assumed that their natural ‘immaturity’ must be borne with patience. To be told that our love for Shaun Cassidy was ‘immature’, and that ‘real’ (i.e. aggressive) masculinity was something we should ‘grow into’ liking, was disturbing. Idol-fandom augmented my sex life, not replaced it, much as grown men will entertain fantasies about women celebrities while happily married to ‘real life’ women. We listened to Shaun and just waited for a viable opportunity!
How cruel, then, and how very stupid, to ridicule girls for liking ‘non-threatening’ or ‘feminine’ teen idols. When we consider how masculinity presents itself to girls and the power of the threats it poses, teenybopper fan-dom looks less like immaturity and more like sound common sense. Shaun Cassidy did not punch our breasts or try to unharness our bras in public, as our classmates did, nor did he shriek about ‘poontang’ (or ‘give it to me, bitch’), as did the performers whose rock was considered more cool. He sang of walking girls home or asking them to ‘come out tonight’ to look at the stars. Even when he celebrated sex, which he did, the veiled lyrics suggested mutual participating instead of subject/object tension (“this will be our night/and I know that we can do it/do it till we get it right”). Call me crazy, but that sounded more girl-friendly to me than the hunger for power demonstrated by the males around me and represented in hard rock. Teen idol fan-dom offered me the sole venue in which I could live the feminist promise to control my sexuality, free from the hostile aggression that made female initiative impossible or dangerous in the real world.
Must say I agree with Ilana. And some of those teenybopper singers where actually not bad at all, in retroperspective.. I sometimes still secretly enjoy David Cassidy, or the Osmonds. Ilana’s right: they at least could sing and the songs are innocent and happy. Good for a smile. Like Ilans’s piece of sensible writing.