It’s 2016. Are we really doing this? Are we really writing damning, personal attacks against successful young entrepreneurs for no valid reason, really, other than that we feel this twisted sense of power when we bring down those who are building up young people around us? I can’t fathom this world. Is it jealousy? Is it just plain sexism? Are we so out of touch with the new wave of mass media that YouTube is creating that, instead of embracing it, we react with fear and vengeance?
Zoe Sugg – Zoella – a 26 year old, likely millionaire, with 10 million YouTube subscribers, and all round successful young woman. Now, I have my own issues with Zoella and a number of things she does/has done, but no matter what they are, a title like this, in a goddamn national online newspaper, is not okay on so many levels:
To summarise the article (read it in whole if you can), it is a rather vindictive attack against Zoella and her WHSmith’s book club choices. In it, the writer calls the titles “sugary reads” and goes on to pull out random, misplaced, out-of-context lines from several of the titles and twist them to her own meaning. Rather than focus on how – oh I don’t know – the books discuss serious topics like abuse, suicide, mental health issues, betrayal, anxiety, and trauma (to name but a few), Rebecca Reid and the team at The Telegraph would rather look at vague, unimportant lines about virginity that are included in these books and then determine from that that Zoe is not a good role model. Yeah, I’m not joking.
A lot of YA lovers have probably already read the eight books selected for the book club – I’ve read 5 and have every intention of reading 2 others as soon as possible. After all, most of them were widely popular even before they were chosen. So for those of us who have read the books, you’re probably wondering where virginity even comes into them too. Right?! It barely does. Taking All the Bright Places, one of the titles explicitly called out in the article, the writer doesn’t actually mention that said novel deals heavily with suicide, bipolar disorder, depression, loss, and grief, instead feeling the need to pick out this one quote:
“I walk through the halls and stand at my locker and sit in class and wait for my teachers and classmates to look or say ‘Someone’s not a virgin any more’… …Even though the Day Of wasn’t slutty, I do feel a little slutty, but also kind of grown up.”
What? I didn’t even remember this part until I read it in this article. It’s not a ‘message’ that resounds with the audience, or that an audience frankly cares about, because you know what? Some girls do “feel a little slutty” when they have sex. And some girls feel empowered. And some girls don’t care at all. You know what the great thing about girls and sex is? It’s different for everyone. No one experience is universal, and books reflect that. In fact, I found it rather humorous that the article directly contradicts itself: “In reality, for most young women having sex for the first time is no bigger or smaller a deal than you want it to be”. True, Rebecca Reed, absolutely true. I agree with this sentiment so hard: virginity is a social construct, but you can put as much or as little stock in it as you please. It can mean nothing or everything to you and that is absolutely okay. So then why does the article go on to ask “so why are these books still telling young women that they are born with some kind of ‘gift’ for them to ‘lose’?” Right. Okay. Is virginity not allowed to be a gift for us to present to someone we love, if we so choose? What do they think the relationship between young girls and virginity is supposed to look like, exactly, because it’s sounding a little unclear here.
And can we just stop and pause for a second here and remember that teenage girls are not robots, are not stupid, and are fully capable of autonomous, intelligent thought. There are young girls around the world doing phenomenal things and I think the least we can do is give them credit where it’s due, instead of belittling them at every turn. Zoe says it best herself:
I’m just so tired of journalists talking about what this book club is lacking and not what it’s doing for young girls and reading popularity across the country – across the world, even. And why do they lay all the blame on Zoella? The books that have been picked apart in the article – why, not once, were the authors of them brought into question? No, this is all devilish Zoella’s fault, right? Yawn. Can we move on already, and accept that teens reading is a great thing, full stop? Can The Telegraph and Daily Mail and the rest of traditional media stop going into meltdown every time Zoe does anything? Like I said at the beginning of this blog post, I have personal issues with Zoella’s ethics, but all in all she is definitely not a bad role model to have, and I really think newspapers like The Telegraph need to stop whining for attention and move onto reporting actual news. Much appreciated.