For far too long fangirls have been subjected to constant derision and negative narratives that perpetuate the ideology that fangirls are “crazy” and “hysterical” while fanboys are devoted and loyal. This trope is ageist and often sexist because it belittles women’s interests as trivial or insincere while being questioned and ridiculed by fanboys who believe in the same generalization… That fangirls are driven by hormones and emotions or that we only care about band members’ looks. So this goes out to anyone who identifies as a fangirl, I’ve been where you are. I know how it feels to be dismissed because of your interests and to that I dedicate this new monthly feature, Love Letter, to you all.
Marginalizing as well as the constant denigration that we fangirls face isn’t anything new, teenage girls and young female adults are seen as the lowest common denominator of being a music fan. Even though fangirls are the ones who are at the epicenter of all things cool and up-and-coming. Fangirls are always there from the very start. Beatlemania wouldn’t have happened without fangirls but it still seems that female fans are viewed as less legitimate and our adoration is somehow an instant credibility-killer.
Fangirls are the “it” demographic for mainstream consumers, causing never-ending pandering and mindless selling because to them the “fangirls” is some mythical creature that derides as a manic, irrational, vacuous, and an overly excited person who doesn’t think clearly and will consume whatever the “boy band” du jour is as long as they have dreamy eyes and shaggy hair.
Reducing and dismissing fangirls makes it all too easy for people to dismiss women’s interests as false devotees with no authentic or critical perspective in the music itself, even though women are the #1 purchasers and consumers of music. We are the ones who buy countless concert tickets, we are the ones who make sure to preorder the albums, we also have perfected the organization and cultivating fan communities and (the cringe-inducing word) fandoms way before music journalists write about those same artists.
I spoke to my dear friend Emma about this very issue and she had this to say…
First off some common comments I’ve gotten at concerts with male bands playing are “Oh you must think the band is hot” or “Would you ever be a groupie?” which are upsetting when I’m trying to have a conversation about a piece of music or a band I think is interesting. Comments like these are often from men who don’t seem to think this should be offensive, ‘just an honest question.’
The reason these questions are upsetting to me is because they seem to be a manifestation of the outdated ideology that women are superficially driven creatures. It is assumed that I am not serious about music and that I’m probably only there because I think the singer is hot. I rarely see the same attitudes and questions being directed to men going to concerts. Sure there are female fans who go to far and are obsessive but I think more often than not the label is used casually to demean the validity of a female fan’s love for a band. The consensus seems to be that music is for everyone, except the crazy fangirl.
If you speak to a fangirl about this, more often than not she’s encountered the very same feeling from fanboys who not only think like this but have tried to mansplain a band or shame a fangirl for her pure unironic love for pop music AND any other genre (I myself have had that happen multiple times).
Of course, not every fanboy is like this. Recently Harry Styles, yes THE Harry Styles spoke to Cameron Crowe for Rolling Stone magazine and spoke very poignantly about this very subject and came to the defense of the fangirl representation…
Styles is aware that his largest audience so far has been young – often teenage – women. Asked if he spends pressure-filled evenings worried about proving credibility to an older crowd, Styles grows animated. “Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.“
Who says we can’t care about fashion or pop music with the same passion as healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights, or even politics? Fangirls can be into different things while still being a fan of music and its subcultures. Our passion knows no bounds, we can stay awake talking about bands until 6 am AND stay up until 1 am the next night speaking about politics (both have happened). While we may not learn anything new from either, the fact that we can have an impassioned discussion about multiple subjects says a lot about who we are. Fangirls are multifaceted and have more depth to them than what is perceived.
Being a “true fan” of “true music” doesn’t make you better than any other person, it only makes you an elitist. So instead of music snobbery and demeaning fangirls, let’s retire this stale narrative and generalization and instead let’s celebrate all the dynamic and passionate fangirls of the world. As queen B herself said in Run the World (Girls) our persuasion, can rule a nation.