When I say the word fangirl, there is a typical image that comes to your mind. It is probably a screaming teen girl at a Justin Bieber or One Direction concert. In fact, it is such a common word it has a dictionary definition. Fangirl is described in the dictionary as: “a female fan, especially one who is obsessive about comics, movies, music, or science fiction.” The key word here is obsessive, which has inherently negative connotations. It implies that these fangirls are crazy just because they are fans of something. Over the years, I have started to realize the blatant sexism behind the shaming of fangirls, and this is mainly due to a TED Talk by Yve Blake.
This TED Talk is titled “For the Love of Fangirls.” It mainly revolves around the idea of the fangirl and boy band, specifically one of the biggest boy bands of all-time, One Direction. The point Blake makes that stuck out the most to me was the fact that young girls can scream and yell for their favorite pop star and be labeled psycho, but when young boys scream for their favorite football player it’s simply for the love of the game.
She points out a blatant double standard as girls are ridiculed for displays of excessive emotion, but men are praised for being loyal fans. Blake even mentions how the word hysterical, which is often used to describe fangirls, comes from the 1900s when women would be diagnosed with hysteria for showing excessive amounts of emotions. Doctors believed this hysteria was rooted from the female’s womb, so the treatment for hysteria was a hysterectomy, the removal of the uterus. The sexism of women being overly emotional goes back that far and is that deep-rooted into our society. After hearing Blake’s words, I decided to reclaim my inner fangirl, which has been hidden for so long.
I can remember being in grade school, specifically when One Direction had just gotten big. There were some girls in my class who were open about how much they loved the One Direction boys. I was and still am an incredibly shy person, and as a 13-year-old girl, I was so scared of being judged. I watched as those One Direction girls were made fun of by the boys in my class for being “crazy,” “psycho,” and “just too much.” And just like that, I was terrified to admit that I, too, loved One Direction.
From that point on, loving this British boy band became like a dirty secret. I watched their funniest moments on YouTube, listened to their songs, and yes, read the fanfiction, but would not dare tell a single soul. I became ashamed of being a fangirl because of what other people would say. I grew up and watched the boys around me wear jerseys, talk endlessly about the game last night, and scream at sporting events passionately for what they loved with no negative connotations paired to their behavior. Meanwhile, I – along with the other girls I knew – hid what we were fans of in fear of being ridiculed. Why is one group’s behavior completely reasonable, while another is deemed insufferable?
It wasn’t until recently that I let my inner fangirl flag fly. This was only because I became more confident in who I was, and realized there were girls I was friends with who were also fangirls. We could actually talk about the artists we loved without feeling like we were crazy or losers. It might sound over-dramatic, but it was completely liberating.
If you have stifled your love for something long enough, you become weighed down in shame. These fangirls are growing up feeling that way – only for it to make them feel like any time they show a lot of emotion over something, they are acting crazy. I hope moving forward, we embrace the fangirls and their passion. Young women who are showing pure joy for something should not be labeled hysterical. We must rethink the way we are conditioned to undermine these young women.