Zayn Leaves One Direction; What’s Wrong With Our Reactions

So One Direction is starting to split up, and I’m not that bothered. I like a few of their songs, but at the end of the day, One Direction is not for me. Ten years ago, they were exactly the kind of boy band fodder I’d have loved. The only concert I’ve ever been to was a Westlife one, which I think speaks volumes about my music taste.

Aged 12, my wardrobe was plastered with posters of McFly and the Jonas Brothers. Now it’s just Nick Jonas, but I’m an adult woman now and I don’t enjoy him with the same fervour my child-self did. There’s a lot more lust and critical awareness now.

What I’m saying is that I understand the One Direction phenomenon. The biggest bands have always had this kind of following of young girls and teens. For how refined people want you to think they are because they enjoy The Beatles, their popularity was boosted by the throngs of young girls and women who loved them. Beatle Mania was looked down upon, and like all good things in media, was pushed by young girls.

I was devastated when my favourite bands broke up, or members went solo. But we live in a different culture now, and society has changed.

Some things have come to light with the announcement that Zayn Malik has left One Direction. I’m going to speak out in his defence, and address some of the problematic and downright hateful things that have come to light since.

You can say what you want about it, but when Justin left *NSYNC, no one accused him of being a terrorist. A popular joke I’ve seen is that Zayn has left the band to join ISIS. This wouldn’t have happened if Harry had been the one to leave. Zayn was raised Muslim, his father is Pakistani-British, and he feels a strong connection to his Asian roots. He has been unapologetic in this, and damn right he should be. But he’s not White British, and that opens him up to jokes stemming from Islamophobia. Apparently what makes you beautiful is snow white skin and a pure British heritage.

There’s a very strong and racist edge to some of these comments made towards him, some from fans, others from people who just like controversy. And what really gets me is that Zayn has always spoken out in defence of his bandmates, getting in many arguments on Twitter over it. There is a definite silence from the others now. There’s an argument that Zayn owes them, and I disagree. They don’t respect him enough to speak out for him. He doesn’t owe the band anything. True friends would support him.

Speaking of Twitter, something started on Twitter which we should never condone. #CutForZayn started trending. Something similar happened years ago with #CutForJustin. It’s in essence pictures of people, mostly teenage girls, showing themselves or the consequences of them self-harming.

It’s a kind of emotional manipulation, and one I often warn people to look for in controlling relationships. It’s a “You made me do this” ploy. The people doing this hope that Zayn will feel guilty enough to stay with the band.

There are plenty of things wrong with this, but on a more basic point, we have the romanticisation of self-harm. Encouraging young girls to cut for a boy band is not healthy, but they don’t know any better. All I can see when I hear about this is the stranger on the metro last week. She was young enough to be wearing a primary school uniform, and she sat with her mother, surrounded by all these shopping bags. And this girl was so happy to be sitting there, kicking her legs and staring with utter adoration at a heart shaped One Direction key-ring. She didn’t know what would happen this week. She was just happy to have a plastic key-ring, enough to kiss each band member. It’s a toxic culture that encourages young girls to hurt themselves.

But it’s not the answer. Hurting yourself over something like this is never the answer. And dear reader, if you do harm yourself in anyway, please seek help. There are resources for you, and you deserve to know that you are cared about.

I am not going to shame these young girls for being upset. They are entitled to be upset, and no one should mock them for that.

I am going to shame the people who use Zayn’s race for a reason to hate and abuse him.

I am going to shame the people who encourage young girls to hurt themselves and then belittle them for it rather than trying to help them.

And finally, I am going to shame the adults who do shame these young girls.

And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post. This one was rushed and I apologise. I’m just becoming agitated with it all.

Let me ask you this: have you seen anything malicious in the media lately about this story? What do you feel about it? And in something lighter, what was your first band to break up?

Let me know your thoughts.

About Stephanie Gallon

I'm 22 years old with first class honours in BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing. I'm currently studying MA English Studies. I'm an author, a blogger, and a zealot of all things written. I write on everything from comics, to feminism, to advice on university life.
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4 Responses to Zayn Leaves One Direction; What’s Wrong With Our Reactions

  1. Tasha Johari says:

    This is a really good piece! I’m so glad you addressed the issue of terrorism regarding his decision to leave the band. It’s so sick to say things like that.


    • Hi Tasha!

      Yeah, I’m seeing it a lot and it’s infuriating. This wouldn’t happen if one of the others left. He’s being victimised because of his religion, and I’m not a fan of social media’s obvious racism with this matter.


  2. Thank you so much for this post. You made some very important points, and I really appreciate the sensitive and thoughtful way in which you addressed the issue. As far as the young girls are concerned, it worries me that love for a boyband member could lead any girl to the point of self-harm. I understand these girls are young, but it seems to suggest that there is something missing in their lives which they are using the boyband to fill. Otherwise, a celebrity leaving or joining a band should not have such an extreme emotional effect on them. So I worry a lot for these girls. There must be a deeper issue at hand. 😞 I also feel sick when I think about how Zayn (or indeed, any other person who has been in a similar situation) must feel when he sees these self-harm pictures. Nobody deserves to be pressurised with other people’s blood just because they want to make their own life choices. 😞


    • I’m glad you liked it!

      I often have to remind myself that young girls have different priorities to me. Boy bands are a safe sexual awakening, or a safe way to find conformity in their individuality. It’s generally harmless until that mob mentality encourages self harm or something equally awful.

      I hope Zayn can rise from this and continue his career. It will be hard for him, especially with the malice from social media, but with any luck he’ll be the victor in all this. Really, it’s the adults I judge. The ones who should know better spreading racist and abusive hate because of a boy band.


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