OPINION: The stigma of being a fangirl


Anthony Delanoix

Fans often show their love to artists in similar ways, yet fangirls are often the ones ostracized. Photo by Anthony Delanoix via Unsplash.

Hawa Osman

What is a ‘fangirl’? Fangirls have been around for decades. The term fangirl was used as early as 1943 by A.P. Herbert in his book, “Holy Deadlock” to describe young women obsessed with musicians. The term amassed popularity during the era of the Beatles; the press would say the girls had “Beatlemania” due to their passionate support for the band and their music. Today, the concept of a fangirl has expanded to other artists’ fan bases, such as Justin Bieber’s fans infected byBieber Fever.

As the years went on, terms like groupie—a young woman who is a fan of a group and follows them around—came along, and they became interchangeable with the word ‘fangirl.’ So, in people’s eyes, being a woman and a fan of someone meant they wanted to sleep with the artist. Thus, the term ‘fangirl’ becomes derogatory. 

When girls grow into their teenage years, they usually gain new interests and hobbies, ranging from film to music to sports. If they’re really interested, they join the fandoms. The word ‘fandom’ describes a community of fans. They’re a way for people to freely communicate based on a shared interest in a piece of media. 

Fandoms rose in popularity with the science fiction franchise “Star Trek,” whose fan base largely consists of men. It wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s when fandoms became particularly popular with women.

Typically, whether in male-dominated fandoms, such as “Star Wars,” or female-dominated fandoms, like “Twilight,” female fans are the ones who are scrutinized. Notably, media with female-dominated fandoms, including Twilight, are denounced as “stupid” and “too girly.” 

When it comes to sports, there are female and male teams, yet sports are stereotypically a hobby for men. Why is that? Because society maintains traditional gender roles that associate sports with masculinity, something only a big, strong man can naturally take interest in. On the other hand, girls are viewed as having no business partaking in sports because they’re not as good as capable boys. Young girls are expected to be gentle and polite; they must only have “ladylike” interests.

When looking up in the stands of a football stadium, you’ll usually see a majority-male crowd roaring. Now, imagine a majority-female crowd cheering in a Harry Styles concert. Both scenarios are simply people enjoying themselves, relishing in their hobbies. But, rampant ignorance rooted in gender stereotypes and sexism make many people only consider the fangirls as the hysterical ones. 

According to a May 2022 survey, males had the higher percentage 39% on considering themselves as avid sports fans, while females had 13%. As male-dominated spaces, sports give men more freedom to fully enjoy participating, subsequently pushing women from those spaces.

As more and more women join male-dominated spaces, male fans doubt the validity of women’s interests. For example, female sports fans are often questioned on their knowledge with condescending questions like “Do you even know what position he plays?” Women are put in a position to need to prove themselves, which can lead to self-doubt and internalized misogyny. They either become genuine “pick me girls” or are accused of being one because they don’t have a “girly” interest. It creates an environment for women to even question newer female fans joining the same male-dominated fandom. 

People have many interests. Anyone should be allowed to express passion for their interests, even if that interest doesn’t coincide with traditional gender roles or is deemed “too girly.” Fangirls deserve to have that sense of community a fandom can provide without having to endure sexism along the way. If fan culture is going to be criticized, one gender shouldn’t receive all the scrutiny.