Why do so many men assume young women don't 'get' culture?

"I've heard countless stories about men quizzing female fans, challenging them to 'prove it' with obscure questions ...

"I've heard countless stories about men quizzing female fans, challenging them to 'prove it' with obscure questions about discography or gear." Photo: Stocksy

Last weekend, I was wearing my favourite novelty tee – a Taylor Swift shirt parodying the cover of Sonic Youth's 1990 album, Goo, combining my love for both artists.

The shirt always sparks conversations, and I was discussing it with a passer-by wearing a similar shirt with a picture of Sonic the Hedgehog. "Mine's Taylor Swift," I said.

At this, a middle-aged man walking past stopped and said, "ACTUALLY, it's Sonic Youth."

The author in her tshirt.

The author in her tshirt. Photo: Supplied

I laughed before I realised he wasn't kidding.


"I know," I replied. "Oh, I'm sure you do," he drawled condescendingly.

Despite its laughable nature, this wasn't an isolated or completely innocuous incident. As a late-twenties woman who looks younger than I am and loves often male-centric music (having started my journalism career as a music writer), I've experienced similar scenarios enough times to understand the inference – how can a girl who likes Taylor Swift be a 'real' fan of 'real' bands like Sonic Youth?

As Brodie Lancaster wrote for Pitchfork last year, "The crux of teen-girl illegitimacy is the assumption that they are incapable of the critical thinking their older, male counterparts display when it comes to their favourite bands."

It happens constantly. My housemate was scoffed at by men at a New Order show, who asked her if she was even old enough to know the band.

I've heard countless stories about men quizzing female fans of artists, challenging them to "prove it" with obscure questions about discography or gear.

I also know women who've been asked if they're at shows because they want to f--k a band member – God forbid we're there for the music.

Last year, music writer Jessica Hopper asked women to share their experiences of industry sexism. The responses were staggering.

This condescension is not limited to music – women experience the same treatment in many fandoms, as well as, well, anything requiring specialised knowledge.

It's been well documented how female gamers are treated, from the ongoing #gamergate saga down to everyday microaggressions. Especially in male-dominated fields, women cop it in the workplace, whether they're passed over for promotions due to gender, assumed to be secretaries or regularly patronised.

Last week, Melbourne writer Amy Gray, who has over a decade of experience in IT, tweeted a condescending response from PauseFest founder George Hedon regarding a piece she penned critiquing the tech conference's gender diversity, in which he assumed that Gray "probably didn't attended one before" (sic) and insinuated that she was mentally ill.

What's more, thanks to the ingrained misogyny drilled into us all from day dot, it's not always men doing it, either – recently, second-wave feminist icon Gloria Steinem caused a stir when she said that women are backing US democratic candidate Bernie Sanders because "the boys are with Bernie".

The message is loud and clear: men are tastemakers, connoisseurs, experts. Women are vacuous, uninformed lemmings following the crowd to impress the boys – never mind the heteronormative and intellectually dismissive implications there.

A study conducted last year showed that men are threatened by intelligent women due to "feelings of diminished masculinity". Intentional or not, it's a patriarchal power play to automatically assume the intellectually dominant position. To some men, it's unfathomable that a woman might know as much as, or more than, they do. These territorial attitudes are off-putting at best and misogynistic at worst.

This mode of thinking is problematic on many levels, not least because of the reinforcement of archaic gender stereotypes. The idea of male consumers being serious, considered and intellectual versus the idea of female consumers being shallow and driven by sexual desire is one that discredits the validity of female experiences and capacity for critical thought, as well as perpetuating the sexist lie that women are less intelligent or engaged than men.

But here's the thing – whether or not men like it, women are killing it.

In music criticism, women like Hopper and Jenny Valentish are changing the game with their critical takes on new releases and trends. The LISTEN collective, founded by non-binary musician Evelyn Morris, provides a platform for marginalised people in Australian music to share their experiences from a feminist perspective. The rising national prominence of writers like Clementine Ford is bringing feminism to the mainstream in an unprecedented way.

All of these inspiring women are prying the reins from the hopefully soon to be cold, dead hands of the patriarchy and leading the conversation.

A boring white guy mansplaining Sonic Youth to me is hardly the end of the world, but it is emblematic of what many women face daily to much more severe degrees. I'm tired of being spoken down to simply because I'm a woman. Gender has no bearing on knowledge or experience – and in 2016, it's a travesty that this still needs to be said.