The September issue of British GQ features the members of One Direction on five individual covers. When previews of the magazine were tweeted by the band last week, Harry Styles' cover stood out for the headline "He's up all night to get lucky," which runs directly under his photo. Fans were outraged, and the @BritishGQ Twitter was bombarded with furious tweets. One fan complained, "You're making him sound like a whore!"
Instead of responding respectfully to the One Direction fans, GQ decided to make fun of them, as did many other popular media outlets. But while everyone's busy laughing at the One Direction fans' use of caps lock, two important questions are being ignored: Why are the One Direction fans so angry? And why is this anger being used as a source of amusement, instead of being taken seriously?
The fans' fury seems to stem from the gap between the "good boy" image of Harry and the other One Direction band members, and the suggestive nature of the headline. However, the cover's sexual undertone is just that: an undertone. Given the multitude of female starlets who strip down for magazine covers as a rite of passage to adulthood, it seems absurd that one suggestive headline could create this much uproar.
Fans were also displeased when Harry said GQ was "cornering" him into saying how many women he had slept with, a question to which he responded, "It's definitely less than 100." While interviews with female stars often focus on romance, men are more often asked questions that actually relate to their work. This one question that pressured Harry to talk about his sex life would likely have become 10 questions in an interview with a with a female star. It seems that, in our society, when a man is treated as women generally are it creates an uproar.
As Julianne Ross wrote for PolicyMic a week ago, "revelations of maturity are — for the most part — a woman's game. Male child stars don't usually pose for provocative spreads in women's magazines as soon as they come of age .... Is this because we assume that little boys turn into men, but for some reason, it still surprises us when little girls turn into women?"
This divide, and not caps lock, is the reason no one is taking the One Direction fans' complaints seriously. The One Direction fans are (presumably) "little girls" who GQ and the media refuse to treat as women.
In GQ's article on One Direction, a scan of which was leaked online earlier this week, writer Jonathan Heaf states, "By now we all know the immense transformative power of a boy band to turn a butter-wouldn't-melt teenage girl into a rabid, knicker-wetting banshee who will tear off her own ears in hysterical fervour when presented with the objects of her fascinations." He then goes on to compare these "teenage girls" to "wild bison" and "a dark pink oil slick that howls and moans and undulates with every impish crotch-thrust from their idols' plinths. Thousands of female fans caught on the cusp of their own sexual awakening."
The treatment of One Direction fans in the article itself goes a long way to explaining the way GQ has mocked the fans online. The magazine used textbook sexist comparisons of girls to wild animals, jeering at the fans' sexuality and portraying it as disgusting. The teenage girls' sexuality is not their own, but something that male band members awaken, and something the girls cannot control.
As the writer who goes by Hermionepond on Jezebel said, "There's nothing wrong with teenage girls being enthusiastic about boy bands or (heaven forbid) having sexual feelings about the boys in boy bands. There is something wrong with the way that other people react to teenage girls and their interests."
The One Direction fans are angry with GQ over their treatment of Harry's sexuality. What these fans — and the rest of society — should really be angry with GQ about is the magazine's derision of female sexuality.
After all, as Aja Romano wrote on The Daily Dot, "This is what no one is saying about fangirls' response to GQ: Sending profanity-laced messages that assert strength and power against the writers who treated them like oozing sexual garbage is an absolutely valid response .... That irony — that the media can describe fans wholly in terms of their vaginas, reduce the fan's interest in their idol to being purely sexual, and then berate them for their anger in response — speaks to a core part of rape culture."
One Direction fans called out GQ's sexualization of Harry, and in reaction, GQ decided to demean and sexualize the fans. While GQ's sexualization of Harry is tame in comparison to the magazine's portrayal of female stars, the brutal criticism and sexualization of the fans (once again, they're compared to a "pink oil slick") cannot be overlooked. While GQ may be "getting lucky" with the publicity coming from this cover, they should be ashamed to profit from insulting the intelligence and demeaning the sexuality of girls.