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Defending Fangirl Culture: Positives From Being in a Fandom

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Winthrop chapter.

Disclaimer: This article does not condone harming yourself or others in the name of an artist or group. The type of fangirl I am referring to is one who positively contributes to the overall fandom and supports their artist of choice.

The term fangirl, while associated with a negative connotation, is certainly not a new concept. There were definitely fangirls of Backstreet Boys and N-Sync in the 1990s. The Beatles had a massive female fandom as well, stretching across the entire world. I’m sure even Beethoven had a couple of groupies at his concerts in the 1700s. But in most recent years, fangirls have been stereotyped as boy-crazy and obsessive pre-teens who will go to extreme lengths to admire a music group. While yes, my middle and high school days were spent on anything and everything that had to do with One Direction, 5SOS, and multiple K-POP groups, I wasn’t just being boy-crazy. I was not an active member of those fandoms just because I was obsessed with boys who could dance and sing (although that was a plus). Being a part of multiple fandoms was an essential aspect of my childhood and mental and social development. ‘Fangirl’ was never a negative identity for me, despite everyone around me insisting that it was bad or embarrassing. Being a fangirl has made a positive impact on my life, and I think it is time to defend fangirl culture and everything it can do for someone.

Here is my list of the positive aspects of fangirl culture:

  1. Artistic Expression: Fanfictions, cover songs, fan art, concert posters- you name it. Fangirls are known for using their artistic abilities to connect with other fans and express their love for the music.They are also able to do so in a safe space. While other people may not support their artwork or external situations prohibit them from doing it, online forums, social media pages, and in-person meetups offer an accessible outlet. Fangirls are extremely supportive of others’ art because they enjoy engaging with it or getting inspiration for their own work. The highlight of my fangirl years was writing fanfiction with and for my friends. Wattpad and Instagram were my safe haven; I could post my imagines, short stories, and full length novels, knowing that no matter how cringey the content was, someone would enjoy it. My writing skills and creativity levels drastically improved due to all the writing I was doing. No matter what kind of art fangirls did, it was always appreciated, and knowing that made being a part of a fandom even better.
  2. Media Experience: Many fangirls use photoshop, video editors, and various social media platforms to create content for the fandom. Whether it’s creating book covers for their fanfiction, digital fan art, social media promotion posts, or video edits of interview and concert reels, fangirls are well-versed in multiple editing softwares. Prior media experience can be extremely useful in landing future internships and jobs, especially in the mass communications and digital design fields. Being a fangirl is so much more than posting about band members; it is about utilizing the internet to create new content centered around their passion and build foundational media skills, which can be built upon later in their careers.
  3. Memorization: This point is pretty simple- fangirls have to memorize A LOT. Song lyrics are easy to remember, but members’ information gets tricky. First you learn names, then band positions, then favorites, then personal information. In order to ‘truly be a fan’, you had to know all of these things about every band member, not just who you stan the most. While it could be considered a little creepy how much research fangirls do in order to learn about each member, the act itself is beneficial to mental development and memorization skills.
  4. Cultural Exposure: Listening to international music is a gateway to exploring new cultures and lifestyles. K-POP and the increased interest in Korean culture is a prime example of this. Many K-POP fans are first obsessed with the music, but then their interest broadens as they want to learn more about the members’ culture. Many fangirls take language courses so they can watch interviews without subtitles or listen to their songs and understand the lyrics. Watching K-dramas is a popular hobby that exposes fans to different forms of Korean media. I have personally read books or watched movies recommended by artists, ultimately contributing to my interest in that culture that was completely separate from my fangirl identity. Inspired to learn more about international cultures and ways of living, fangirls will even study abroad or take a vacation to that location so they can try authentic cuisine, practice their language skills, explore new cities and landscapes, and expose themselves to foreign customs and traditions. While the initial interest may stem from music, further cultural exposure expands individuals’ global perspectives and creates a universal appreciation for different cultures.
  5. Identity Exploration: Fangirls are also able to explore interests and have experiences that add to their sense of self. Their likes and dislikes go beyond what music group they are into, and they can gain new passions from other fandom members or the artists themselves. Personally, being a fangirl was another part of my identity that I could be confident in, along with being a good student, a writer, a singer, etc. I felt a sense of independence; I wasn’t just interested in something because of my family or my friends. I CHOSE to love these artists and invest my time and energy into supporting them, which was one of my first individualized decisions I made as a middle and high schooler. My identity became more complex as I experienced new emotions and sensibilities, and the fandom gave me a safe space to express and explore those new sensations. While my feelings towards a band may be fleeting, the core personality traits and interests that I gained as a fangirl are not, and they have evolved and matured with me throughout the years.
  6. Community: One misconception about fangirl culture is that the fans are only in it because of their attraction towards a band member. But I’d like to argue that being a fangirl is so much more than that. The most important aspect, and the reason why I stayed in fandoms for so long, is the wide range of relationships made in a fandom, whether it is friendships between fangirls or connections between band members and their fans. Even though I met other fans online and maintained our friendship on social media platforms, I was still able to have fulfilling experiences with them. At first, conversations would solely be about the band we were equally obsessed with. Eventually, we didn’t even bring them up because we bonded over other interests and hobbies. I even got to meet several online friends through video chat or in person, and I still keep in touch with them years later. As for my local friends, being a part of the same fandom added another dimension to our friendship. I collaborated with many of them on fanfictions, which gave us a new reason to hang out. Some of my best memories involve my friends and I going to fan meet ups at the mall, brainstorming fanfiction ideas, making posters for upcoming concerts, staying up until 12 am for a new album release, etc. It was never just about the band, because I knew that connecting with the members personally was a fantasy. But the connections and memories I made with the members of that fandom were real and rewarding. Besides individual connections, fandoms create a sense of community and belonging; if I felt like I wasn’t anything in this world (which most angsty pre-teens feel like), I always knew that I at least belonged to a group of people that all had a similar goal: to support an artist and support each other.

Looking back on my middle and high school years, I can’t imagine spending them any differently than ‘obsessing over some boyband’. I wouldn’t WANT to spend them any differently because the memories, skills, and passions that I gained from those fandoms are priceless. They make me who I am. It’s time to embrace our fangirl status because really, what is there to be ashamed of?

Caroline is a third-year student at Winthrop University with a major in Social Work and minor in International Studies. She plans to study abroad in Japan next semester and join the Peace Corps after graduation. Her hobbies include going to concerts, writing essays, watching anime, and working out.