In an article about being a fangirl, a female fan and a male fan stand next to each other across a torn background.

What’s so Bad About Being a Fangirl?

From a young age, girls are made to feel much worse about their fandoms than boys are.
May 6, 2023
6 mins read

From a young age, girls are mocked for their interests. If they like to play with Barbies and dolls and dress up in princess outfits, they are too feminine. If they like to play sports and roughhouse, they aren’t feminine enough. It seems that no matter what girls do, they can’t satisfy the world around them.

As they grow older and their interests diversify, they may enter the world of fandom. Whether it be for a television show, movie, actor, band or musician, many girls find themselves fangirling over famous people. Frequently, the term fangirl elicits its own share of stereotypes. When people define the word “fangirl,” they typically use words like obsessive, hysterical, extreme, crazy, insane and psycho. However, almost no one uses those words to describe men’s fandoms, like sports. But why? Why do men get a free pass to be fanatics, and women don’t?

One overarching reason this occurs is sexism. When Beatlemania took over the world in the 1960s, many of the band’s young fangirls were described as hysterical, but where does that word come from? In the 19th century, hysteria was a diagnosable medical condition for women only and supposedly caused excessive emotion or difficult behavior. The term is derived from the Latin word meaning: “of the womb,” because doctors thought that these “symptoms” could be caused by the uterus. Since the 19th century, women have been told that their “over-emotional” state regarding just about anything could be caused by their wombs. Oftentimes, young women’s enthusiasm for fandom may cause others to look down upon them, dismissing them as “hysterical.” However, these fans live and breathe their fandoms just as many men do.

There lies the double standard. Zayn Malik’s exit from One Direction in 2015 left thousands upon thousands of fangirls in distress. From sobbing to denial, fans of the band were emotional about the news. As fans posted reaction videos, their detractors fired back with video compilations making fun of girls for their “psycho overreactions.” However, when Tom Brady retired, both in 2022 and again earlier this year, many men had similarly emotional reactions. Reactions to Brady’s retirement included crying and denial, but videos of them weren’t posted all over social media. For example, one man I encountered fell to his knees and left an event because he couldn’t handle the news. But no one judges these men for having emotional reactions to the retirement of their beloved football players; they are just dedicated and passionate about the sport they love. All genders should be allowed to be vulnerable and emotional after a person retires from a sport or quits a band, not just men.

The double standard continues when it comes to proof of fandom. When a woman expresses interest in a particular band, oftentimes the first response she gets from a man is something like, “Name three songs.” When women express interest in sports, they’ll be asked to, “Well, explain this rule,” or told, “You just think they are hot.” Men almost never face the same reactions. It’s an unspoken rule that because they are men, they know what they are talking about. Women, however, face repeated questions when it comes to their knowledge of things they enjoy.

Throughout most of a woman’s life, men will consistently talk down to her. Women have always been perceived as inferior and less knowledgeable, and as a result, they must continuously prove themselves. Being a fangirl is no different.

To top it off, internalized misogyny has led to the creation of labels like the “pick-me girl” or the “cool girl” who isn’t like other girls because she likes sports. Women place these labels on other women to assert themselves as top dogs in a way that makes them feel as if they are somehow superior to the other women because of their interests. This discourages women from expressing their fanaticism in open and honest ways. It makes it seem like they can’t like sports without being a member of the “boys’ club.” It also pits women against each other, maintaining the patriarchal systems already in place.

When a word like fangirl is continually thrown around in a derogatory fashion, young girls learn that their interests are less important than those of their male peers. As a result, girls will tone themselves down to appeal to the masses and seem less “hysterical.” Instead of demeaning these girls for their passions and excitement, the world should be fostering those things, because passion is a healthy trait that everyone should have in their lives.

Olivia Madrid, Florida State University

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Olivia Madrid

Florida State University
English: Editing, Writing and Media

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