International Women's Day 2016:
Being a fangirl and owning it
We celebrate International Women's Day 2016 with two huge music fans who believe fangirls are as devoted as any music fan can be – and we agree wholeheartedly.
– 08/03/2016 –
International Women's Day 2016's theme is parity, which is about equality of status or pay. And you'd think in 2016 that this wouldn't be an issue, at all. I'm sure suffragettes thought their struggle would've been over by now. I'm sure feminists of the 60s and 70s saw a brighter future than this. Of course, there will be plenty of people who say it parity is here and that all action and speech and "whining" on the topic of female equality isn't necessary, or even detrimental to the cause.
Don't believe a word of it. Just get on the internet and you can see how dramatically unbalanced things are in terms of respect, safety and equality.
In this vein, Samlin and Valerie have some strong opinions on how 'fangirl' is a term born from disrespect and used to dismiss enthusiastic female fans, especially when it comes to that typically male domain, rock music.
And as you read and nod your head, or sit and sneer depending on your demeanor (sneerers, you are not friendly and that makes us sad), please remember that our stats reliably tell us that females spend far more per head on XMR records and merch than men across all ages.
Perhaps it's time you took fangirls a bit more seriously. Or bought some more records.
Samlin Miller, stellar XMR Street Team member
There are these ideas about fangirls. We’re supposed to be the teenagers screaming about Elvis Presley or the Beatles. We’re supposed to be the nerds with braces writing fan fiction about One Direction alone in our bedrooms. We’re supposed to wear t-shirts from bands whose back catalogues we’ve failed to explore, preferring to stick with the one or two singles we’ve heard on the radio. Sometimes we are those things. But we are So. Much. More.
Fangirls are the ones who get things done. Fangirls are the ones who start street teams, and promote artists, and get people signed. Fangirls are the ones who buy EVERYTHING, from t-shirts, to concert tickets, to multiple copies of the same album because we need wristbands for all the in-store performances, and if we have too many copies we’ll gift one to a friend so that they can enjoy our favorite artist too. Fangirls are the ones who get tattoos of their favorite lyrics, who travel across the country because it’s worth the financial setback to be a part of the experience with friends you never would have met otherwise. That isn’t to say that other fans don’t do these things, but for your average committed fangirl, these things are second nature and are done without question.
But for some reason, rock music is still constantly associated with men. Rock 'n' roll is seen as 'authentic' music, a boys’ club filled with guys baring their souls and playing guitar, while women are supposed to stick to pop and top 40. If they claim they’re listening to rock 'n' roll, they’re probably lying and we better quiz them to make sure they can actually name three Frank Turner songs from before 2011. Even though our boundless enthusiasm pushes us to know everything about the artists we love, to listen to as much music as we can get our hands on, it’s still assumed that we are faking our fandom to get attention from boys. This phenomenon has been documented for decades and, quite frankly, I’m not buying it.
We combat this by showing the haters what we’re made of. Let’s sing along to every song from the front row at the barrier. Let’s post song lyrics on our Facebook statuses and then get them inked onto our bodies. Be a nerd for your faves, wear the t-shirts proudly, and don’t feel bad for being excited. As long as you’re being respectful to others, there is literally nothing wrong with the way that you fangirl. Your enthusiasm is what keeps artists performing, and what makes things like the XMRmy and the FTHC tour flag happen. Life is too short to worry about what a bunch of too-cool-for-school guys think about you.
Valerie Gritsch, social media and all-round XMR marketing Olympian
I have been a fangirl since before I knew what a fangirl was. I grew up seeing media depictions of how female mega fans acted, daily, on things like MTV’s 'TRL'. We were meant to have the t-shirts, the signs, scream with excitement, cry on occasion, and sing along with all our hearts. And I did. I grew up with the rise of the Backstreet Boys and man did I scream and cry for them while collecting tons and tons of merchandise (that I still have to this day). Then I grew up, and I took those learned behaviors with me as I dug into rock world. I collected all the merch, I wore all the tees and hoodies, I learned all the words to songs, and poured over interviews and carefully crafted content. Even when my boyband-swooning took a backseat to rock band finger-pointing, I kept those behaviors with me. This was how huge fans acted, this was how you showed you were a fan. And then, very quickly, people turned around and said “no it’s not” – at least, not for rock music.
I found myself constantly having to defend my actions, my knowledge, and my existence within a fanbase as I got older. I found out, very quickly, there were tons of imaginary rules for being a fan of a rock band, and that it didn’t matter that I had literally invested hundreds of dollars in concert tickets and merchandise. I was still, somehow, doing it all wrong. No matter how much I learned about the music, the bands themselves, their record labels, the genres overall… there would always be someone acting as a gatekeeper, when there was never a gate to begin with.
Jessica Hopper, an author, editor for MTV, journalist, and all around kickass human, is someone I love following on Twitter. On October 25, 2015 she tweeted: “Suggestion: replace the word 'fangirl' with 'expert' and see what happens.” I loved this, because I always felt this way and it is why I never saw the term 'fangirl' as a dirty word. I was spending hours learning about something I was passionate about, traveling to see those bands live, and doing my best to support them. I kind of was an expert on them but for some reason someone along the way deemed these behaviors unfavorable and slapped the name 'fangirl' on me, and everyone like me. Being a huge baseball fan, it’s also very interesting to me that men don’t get hit with terms like that over their love of sports. They aren’t seen as 'creepy' for knowing minute details on their favorite players, getting decked out in team colors, screaming / crying / rioting over games, or for attending numerous outings, either.
Last year Jessica Hopper was a keynote speaker at BigSound in Australia. Her speech on women in music was incredible and important, and I encourage everyone to take an hour of their time to listen to it. You can do so here. I’ll leave you with a quote from it, which says what I have always known in my soul: "Fangirls. Matter."
“Sometime in the gulf between Beatlemania and Beibermania we’ve lost sight of the enduring capacity that young women have to anticipate, sustain, and add cultural value to the experience of music. The term ‘fangirl’ tends to be a pejorative form; it’s associated with a somehow lesser experience of music. As if teen girls in all their riotous enthusiasm are simply undermining the point or as if artists are made less important by that fangirl excitement, which is reduced and delegitimized as hysterical or silly or – worst of all – stupid. Their interest is assumed to be based on the glimmering surfaces, or their attraction to the artist, rather than what they actually get from the music, or the concerts, or the fan communities that they are part of. Their interest is seen as an adoration that spoils the credibility of the artist that they love. Yet, teen girls make the biggest market of music consumers in the world today. According to a study by the Parks Associates, women are not only one half of the world’s population but they also consume more music than men. So the question then remains: why doesn’t music culture at large – from the labels to the publications to the tech industry, production studios, live concert venues (the list goes on) – why aren’t these places taking fangirls seriously? Why do women in music still, in 2015 – a full 63 years since Big Mama Thornton recorded ‘Hound Dog’, one of our earliest rock and roll songs – why do women feel like they don’t belong here?