In Defense of the Fangirl

One snowy afternoon, I was walking past the Ritz Carlton hotel. I typically enjoy passing it because there’s a heater in the awning and it’s always a welcome reprieve from the bitter cold. Usually when I pass by, especially when it’s cold out, I only see the doormen and a few passing guests running to and from their cars. This day, however, there was a roped off area with about ten guys all huddled within. It dawned on me that these people were waiting for a basketball player (at least that’s what I gathered from the pictures they were holding) who was supposed to be staying at the hotel. When I left my room hours later, there were still people there waiting diligently in the cold and snow for this person to arrive.

What surprised me about this event, was not that the people were gathered outside the hotel, but that people seemed so completely unfazed by it. I started to think that if this was a group of young girls waiting for a pop band like One Direction rather than a group of men waiting for a basketball player, that the girls would not have experience a similarly welcoming reception. Instead, people would most likely belittle them for missing their jobs and school in order to wait outside in the cold. And I can almost guarantee that there wouldn’t have been a roped off area for them to stand in.

There’s a definite double standard when it comes to how society perceives the interests of young girls and those of the rest of the population. I’ve often seen girls as the punchlines for jokes because of what they like. The word “fangirl” has been connected with girls who “obsess” over certain interests and it has gained a negative connotation. Fangirl, though it contains the word “girl” in it, is not specific to girls, yet has been often connected to obsessive hormone-crazed teenagers who wait outside hotels for celebrities and cry over albums.

When Zayn Malik left One Direction, I remember seeing Facebook posts and even news stories picking on girls who posted videos of them crying over the loss of a member. These girls were picked on for having emotional responses to one of their favorite band members leaving and they got judged and teased for it. However, when someone like Kevin Hart, had a reaction to the same event, it was regarded as funny. Kevin Hart was asked for his opinion on Zayn leaving One Direction at the premiere of his movie Get Hard. No one shamed his reaction, but rather asked him it as a legitimate question on a red carpet premiere.

The reactions of the One Direction fans were the punchline of many jokes even weeks after Zayn’s departure, but when Derek Jeter left the Yankees, I never once saw someone shame fans for their reactions. I saw grown men crying on television during his last time at bat, but no one picked on them because sports and mens’ interests are validated more in our society than those of young women.

I have seen people though who embrace the term “fangirl” and who try to reclaim it as a more positive term. Tyler Oakley, a YouTuber, sold shirts on his online merchandise shop that read “Professional Fangirl.” Rainbow Rowell wrote a book called Fangirl which tells the story of a college student named Cather, who writes fan fiction and has become quite popular online because of it. 

While double standards will probably always exist, I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to look at a group of people and proudly announce that I like a boyband or a certain TV show without having to be ashamed of being coined as “obsessed” or “crazy.” After all, they’re just interests and everyone should have a right to like what they please.

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