• Kate

"Cause somewhere in the crowd there's you" - Sexism and Fangirls

Fangirl (noun)

A girl or woman who is an extremely or overly enthusiastic fan of someone or something.

The images of teenage girls screaming and crying over music artists is something that has been commonplace for decades. From the Beatles, One Direction to BTS, female pop fans have long been seen as ‘fangirls’. Actions of a ‘fangirl’ include queueing for hours for tickets or for a chance to meet their favourite artist, researching and having extensive knowledge and having a heavy social media presence tweeting and interacting with the artist and their content. All these actions in themselves are perfectly reasonable when you are a fan of something, however when these actions are done by young women and accompanied by a few tears or emotions suddenly they are seen as something different. Often labelled as ‘sad, hysterical, sexually predatory and mentally ill’ (Sturges) these ‘fangirls’ have faced years of scrutiny and derision that has its roots in sexism. Male music appreciation is seen as being because of a 'deep understanding of artistry' (Sturges), whilst girls are driven by more shallow reasons. It's interesting when you look beyond music and compare fangirls to male sports fans. Male fans can be just as obsessive. Following certain players, buying merchandise (club shirts), religiously going to games and following scores. The sight of men crying and shouting during a losing game is not criticised or seen as obsessive but seen as ‘the love of the game’ (Blake). Whereas girls screaming for Justin Beiber are looked down upon. These devoted fans are often the ones who make up a bands core fan base. They are buying concert tickets, streaming albums and getting these artists into the charts. Because of social media, these fans are able to connect to fans all over the world and there is 'joy, camaraderie and community" (Sturges) between these women who bond over their musical loves. Some fans even say they have found their best friends through these 'fandoms', meeting online or at concerts (Juengling). These become spaces where these young women have a space to feel free to express themselves and share their passion. This passion spills over, and many fans use their love to inspire their own creative projects including creating fan art and fan fiction (What is Fan Art?).

The negative treatment of fangirls also impacts the respectability of the bands these women follow. In a culture where ‘teenage girls are seen as the lowest common denominator of music fan’ (Pollard) these bands are disregarded by ‘serious music fans’ until their fanbase becomes a little more male. It's assumed that fangirls music taste is based more of the attraction to the musician (especially in the case of boybands) and that they don't know about 'real' music compared to their male counterparts (UnitedByPop). This ‘Mentrification’ (a new term coined by @thelilithnoir on Twitter) sees cultural products whos original association was with women, “redrawn for audiences of men” (Badham). This is seen in many fields, including TV and science but also in music with the Beatles and Elvis Presley. The Beatles transformed from a boy band whos main fan base with teenage girls to rock and music legends when their fanbase turned more male (Badham). It’s not to say that ‘fangirl’ culture doesn’t have its negatives. In the Channel 4 documentary Crazy About One Direction fans are seen to go to extreme lengths to meet their idols but sometimes this community can turn toxic. With the lack of repercussions, Twitter and social has become a place where these young fans post death threats and hate toward other fans or to girlfriend or rivals of the band. But these actions on social media aren't confined to fangirls or music, you don't have to look too far on Twitter to see hate directed and people in the public eye. Fangirls are some of the most dedicated and enthusiastic supports of musicians. Their passion and knowledge is outstanding and should be applauded rather than criticised. What are we telling these young girls if they grow up being told that their love and emotion are 'crazy' and 'hysterical' and dismissing their passions? As music critic Jessica Hopper once tweeter: "Replace the word 'fangirl' with 'expert' and see what happens.'

Title Song Lyric - Abba, Super Trouper