At age 12, I was the biggest fan of One Direction and I was extremely proud of that fact. Going to their concert was everything I could have ever hoped for. It was almost therapeutic, listening to my favorite songs in a space where everyone else was equally as dedicated to the same thing as me. I ended up feeling a huge bond with strangers whom I knew nothing else about. Reflecting on that night, I can characterize my love for One Direction and my love for other musical artists as wholesome, comforting, and invigorating. But it wouldn’t be enough to classify myself as an avid music lover. I am a hysterical fan girl. Just ask almost any guy.
That same guy has their own interests and passions. He may be an avid listener of the Beatles, or a passionate fan of the Seahawks, and he would be validated in what he chooses as his favorites. And why is he validated? The reason these interests are taken more seriously over others is because another guy has validated the merit of those interests. And another guy. And another guy. The male fan base is thus formed.
According to their logic, those that differ from this fanbase — female-identifying fans — are not only “wrong” for displaying passion towards an interest, but also the manner in which they display that passion is wrong as well. The comfort I felt at the One Direction concert was an obsession, the liveliness I felt was madness.
Female-identifying individuals are shamed by both society and male-identifying individuals for the things that they love — ranging from artists such as One Direction and shows and films that have a predominantly female audience, such as Little Women and Twilight. On the other hand, if they happen to express interest in subjects that are male-dominated, subjects that are apparently thus reputable, more worthy of respect, they are fake fans. They are trying to impress a boy. They could not possibly be capable of understanding what is going on in an NFL game. A man might demand more from a woman who had mentioned in passing that that was her favorite artist. The follow-up question might be: what were the titles of this artist’s first 3 albums? Which, regardless of the answer, is bound to be met with skepticism.
It is almost impossible for women to enjoy what they want in peace. They are either type-casted as the “Crazy Fan Girl” or they are subjected to unnecessarily humiliating tests to validate their interests. In contrast, not only do men establish the standards for what merits respect in terms of interests, but they are allowed to enjoy what they enjoy. They are allowed to be sports fans but they are also seen as edgy, indie, or trail-blazing if, for example, they say they like Harry Styles or Phoebe Bridgers. They are allowed to just be.
Though I did have periods of my childhood where I unapologetically went to that One Direction concert wearing my DIY t-shirt, I went through other periods where I’d change the answer of who my favorite singer was, depending on who I was talking to. I’d have tailor-made car playlists for whomever I was driving. If music remotely came up in the conversation, my answers would immediately resort to something “respectable”, non-controversial, and the least likely to incite a conversation.
Music and the world of concerts and entertainment are yet another aspect of society that is subject to what a man deems as respectable. Men dictate the music and film industry — on a large scale, controlling official institutions such as award shows (that grant certain films and artists merit while completely disregarding others) — and on a smaller yet equally as potent scale, the everyday encounters where women have to make quick judgments whether they want to discuss what they enjoy in conversations with the goal of avoiding ridicule, criticism, etc. Change starts with letting young girls love what they love — sports, music, etc. And to the men who continue to use their music or movie tastes as the standard for worth, remind them that the Beatles got their fame from “crazy fangirls”.