To some, the word fangirl evokes images of pre-teens screaming bloody murder at the mention of their favorite boy band. To others, the word symbolizes devout fans who support artists in all of their endeavors. How can one word elicit such drastically different perceptions? We try to answer that question and more in our final episode.
Reality TV, fangirls, romance novels, chick flicks, astrology: Our culture loves to hate stereotypical ‘women’s interests,’ but why? What makes beer-fueled Sunday football more acceptable than a wine glass on Bachelor Monday? And who gets to decide? In this podcast, Kim and Kate will reclaim the power of women’s interests by taking them out of the depths of shame and into the center spotlight.
Kate Franke, Host: Could football fans be the male equivalent to a fangirl? Could they be FANBOYS?
Kim Bates, Host: I think that men who clock in a lot of hours playing video games could be fanboys of said video games
Kim: Hey everyone, welcome to the third episode of the War on Women’s Interests: a podcast where we discuss stereotypical women’s interests and why they are viewed as less than by the dominant culture. My name is Kim Bates.
Kate: And my name is Kate Franke. For our third episode, we will be talking about music artists that are viewed as stereotypically popular with young girls and women. So dig out your Taylor Swift posters, spray on a little One Direction perfume, and listen in.
Kate: So we acknowledge that we are not experts on the psychology of sexism and the dominant culture. Rather, we are two women who have experienced many of the things we will discuss in this podcast. It’s important to know that we are not speaking on behalf of all people in the dominant culture. Instead, we are discussing our own thoughts, anecdotes and opinions. Along with the research that we found. We acknowledge that not all men think or act in the way we will be discussing, but they do benefit from it because misogyny perpetuates a patriarchal society. So with that being said, let’s dive in.
Kim: So before we start talking about how women’s music tastes, and girly music tastes are judged we should take a step back and talk about what society’s idea of girly music is. Think women Singing love songs or group of young men singing about loving someone or going through heartbreak. A good example of this is the Beatles. They were originally deemed a boy band back in the 1960s. Though that is even argued now in the 21st century, when people think boyband they think of screaming teenage girls and the stigma that their music won’t be as good as other artists. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times compiled early articles and reviews about the Beatles, their reviews in short detail, but their fan base was mostly young women, and therefore they were looked down upon. Well, the Beatles can think their rise to stardom to screaming teenage girls. This resulted in sold out stadiums and eventually they didn’t play live music anymore, because they couldn’t hear themselves over the excited screams of their fans.
Kate: And to me, as well as other people. That’s a big accomplishment. And I feel like this is where we start to see the birth of the fangirl. I’m sure many of you have heard this term before. But according to Merriam Webster, the definition of a fangirl is, “a girl or woman who is an extremely or overly enthusiastic fan of someone or something.” And so as the definition states, the word fangirl only refers to girls and women so men cannot be fangirls. But come on. I think there are some points that we should hit on with that definition. Mostly, there’s a lot of inherent misogyny just caked on there in that definition.
Kim: Just a little bit. Just a smidge. I had no idea about that. That’s insane. What?
Kate: Merriam Webster, like, reputable dictionary.
Kim: Oh my god, that’s so terrible. Crazy.
Kate: Okay, first of all, how can somebody be overly enthusiastic and who gets to decide? Because, like, what is the appropriate amount of enthusiasm so that I know not to go over that?
Kim: I didn’t know being happy was like a sin.
Kate: Apparently, it is because only women can be overly enthusiastic, not men. I think that is very interesting to know. But also, a part of me wonders can’t ‘overly enthusiastic’ also be rephrased to ‘loyal, excited, supportive,’ which are all positive attributes. It’s just how you look at something how you perceive it. To me, fangirls could have a lot of positive qualities, which we will touch on later. But I think it comes with you know, the vernacular there; how we’re stating it. Another thing that I was wondering about is could football fans be the male equivalent to a fangirl could they be FANBOYS?
Kim: I think that men who clocking a lot of hours playing video games could be fanboys of said video game. So you know, like that Spotify wrapped at the end of the year. And it tells you like how many hours I’ve spent like a lot of time listening to Taylor Swift, so you could, like, classify me as a fangirl of her. But I think at the same time, if you compare the hours that a lot of men put in playing Smash Bros or Minecraft, then I feel like the hours would be pretty similar. And wouldn’t that count as a fanboy?
Kate: I would think so. Apparently, Merriam Webster would probably disagree, but I have beef with them now.
Kim: I have a little bit of beef with them too.
Kate: That’s just not cool. Okay, so the concept of the fangirl has been around for decades. And according to Google Trends, the word fangirl reached its peak search in October 2015. The word originally started picking up traction in July 2010. And has stayed consistent in popularity from August 2019 to now, in the increasing popularity of the word fangirl, not so coincidentally matches the rise of one of the world’s most famous boy bands, and my personal favorite, One Direction. So, woop woop, I’m sure most of you already know who we are, but if not, let me give you a little rundown. They are one of the most famous societally perceived women centered artists and depending on your viewpoint, you know, you might consider that they have five or four members. But those are Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Zayn Malik. And they rose to fame in 2010 after being placed in a boyband by Simon Cowell on The X Factor UK, and ever since then, their popularity has skyrocketed, earning them 242 awards out of the 366. They were nominated for setting six Guinness World Records in 2016, alone, and selling out stadiums all across the globe. So in total, the band released five albums from 2011 to 2015. And with popular hits, like “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Night Changes,” and “Best Song Ever.” And since then, the band has gone on an indefinite hiatus with each member pursuing a solo career. So that’s kind of like your little rundown. What I noticed as a fan of One Direction is that they often—the fans often get criticized in the media for their obsession with the members. A lot of, like, critics in the music industry claim that young girls only like the group for their looks, not because they make actually good music. I have a problem with that.
Kim: This is making me think about how when women are criticized for their obsession with you know, the male members of band, it really makes me think of football fans and how they have, like, obsessions with a certain player, and they have the jersey of the player or maybe they have a signed a ball. This could be for any sport, or they’re like, I’m really rooting for this person or they talk about that person a lot ahead of an upcoming game, I would say it’s kind of like an obsession yet that is more so socially acceptable. I also think there’s something to be said about men being obsessed with men is fine. But women being obsessed with men is not fine. Yet, it’s still kind of desired. There’s a lot of double standards and a lot of contradictions in that mindset.
Kate: I feel like frequently when a girl or woman likes any sort of man in the public eye, whether that’s football, music, anything, it’s always because it gets framed as they think he’s cute or something like that. Like, it always goes back to their looks. And it’s never about like, ‘Oh, I just actually genuinely liked the music that they make,’ or ‘I love you know that they’re the quarterback of this team, they play really well.’ Like it always has to come back to looks. And I feel like that doesn’t really happens with men. It’s like they can like women without constantly being asked to like, ‘Oh, is it because you think she’s hot?’ Or I guess not in the circles that I run in? That could be a thing, but I have not seen it. But I guess another thing is in terms of One Direction fans, specifically, the dominant culture really takes the actions of a small percentage of fans and then frames them as the face of all fangirls. Like I know a big thing when One Direction was like, in their height of fame, was that people were finding out which hotels the members were staying at, you know, fans were leaking songs before they were officially released. And they even went so far as to find out, like, each member’s blood type, like hacking into medical records. So that’s like…
Kim: Actually a little impressive, and I kind of respect that. Like, that is dedication.
Kate: I know it is. Like okay, so yes, is that somewhat crazy obsessive? Possibly.
Kim: A little bit, but I respect it. I can roll with it.
Kate: That’s a small percentage of fans. Like, that is not every fangirl.
Kim: I feel like that might be the same type of people who figure out true crime, like on the internet from just digging and they, like, figure that stuff out. So I don’t know, it’s a little bit of a skill. You got to you know, double edged sword pick and choose how you want to use it, but I kind of respect that.
Kate: They’re fostering the skills to go on to work in the criminal criminal industry, the criminal system justice system. So technically, you can credit One Direction as being the inspiration for the next generation of female geniuses. So you’re welcome.
Kim: So you got to talk about who you love, and I’m going to talk about who I love. It’s Taylor Swift. Y’all have no idea how much I love this woman. And you know, but despite my love for her and many others, she’s come under fire for a lot of things. What’s her crime? Being a very successful young woman in music, Swift began her career singing about crushes on boys, High School woes, and boyfriends. Since then she’s won 11 Grammys, 10 LPs and has gone number one, tying her with Elvis Presley, Eminem, Drake and Kanye West, and, she has over eight number one songs and 30 Top 10 songs, all according to Billboard.com. And she has even gone so far to re-record her first six albums because her rights to them were sold without her consent, and she wants to own the music she wrote, recorded and performed. A lot of people question if she even wrote her own songs. But that question doesn’t always come up for men. And I think regardless of our high successes and prestigious marketing, using Instagram and other celebrity friends to hint up projects, she still faces a lot of ridicule. A lot of the Internet and other celebrities call her a snake or fake. She’s got a high profile feuds with Kanye West which ended with the truth coming out that West used a doctored recording to make Swift out to be a liar. She is frequently asked about the men she’ll be taking home or current lovers at award shows in interviews. Even now, she is seen as promiscuous and a snake, and some can’t believe she’s been in a relationship for nearly six years with the same person, an actor Joe Alwin. So like I said her only crime is being a successful woman in music compared to some artists. She isn’t very problematic, she has been a great advocate for women, her politics in her state, Tennessee, for the LGBTQ community.
Kate: I think she also just says a lot for the music industry. Like it’s unprecedented that she re-recorded all of her stuff and created new songs from the vault. Like, that’s never been done before. And it’s all in the name of having rights to her own music.
Kim: And it opens up a lot of doors for other female artists to be able to own their music, not just female artists actually like a lot of artists who don’t always own their music. Now they get the choice to definitely demand and own their music. It’s changing the music industry for sure. And I have always been a firm believer that you don’t have to like her music. You don’t have to like her. But I think that you should respect her marketing and her business skills because they are extremely impressive. The amount of people that she enlists that she builds strong relationships with and a list to help hint at future projects, to give her fans these fun Easter eggs or scavenger hunts to figure out what the songs are, to give snippets to be featured in movies to have songs with famous male artists such as Kendrick Lamar. Yeah. Ed Sheeran, Future, I think that she’s got a lot of range. And I think that she isn’t always praised for that or recognized for that. Everyone always focuses on her body or her fashion or who she’s dating.
Kate: Exactly. Yeah, I think it’s so demeaning that this woman puts so much time and effort and thought into everything that she creates, like leaving these Easter eggs, like you said, often, like a year two years in advance. So she is like a well thought out plan. And then she does all of this hard work. And then people go, is this song about Joe Jonas? Like, I get it. We’re all a little curious. But there’s more to Taylor Swift than the subject of her songs.
Kim: Yes. And you know, shouldn’t we just be happy that she’s giving us music that we find very relatable, like I kind of grew up with her like I remember debut when she was just a little girl, I was a little girl all the way up to now she’s doing Folklore and Evermore and I really relate to the mellow vibes. I relate to 1989 and being very female friend centric. I relate to Red going through a heartbreak that I thought would kill me, but it didn’t. She’s always given me content that I can like really relate to and everyone’s always interested about dating lives. That’s always the question and it really is with her. But I think we should just celebrate that there’s artists out there that really captures heartbreak and learning to love yourself and loving your friends. Because I don’t think you always get that relatable content.
Kate: And there was a trend there for like a good chunk of years where people just love to hate Taylor Swift. And there was no, like, good reason behind it. Like I would ask people and be like, ‘Oh, like, why don’t you like Taylor Swift?’ And they’d usually bring up something about the Kanye situation that, like, she’s a liar, and she, like, uses all of her boyfriends for stuff. But I’m like, ‘This is all like speculation.’ Yeah, like you don’t actually know her. This is just how she has been portrayed in the media. Uh, so I don’t know, I just think it’s ridiculous. I think she should be honored for what she’s done in the music industry instead of, like, looked down upon.
Kim: Not to say she doesn’t have problematic traits, but I think out of a lot of artists, she doesn’t spend her time putting down other artists or demonizing other people or saying homophobic, racist or misogynistic things to be famous.
Kate: For sure. And I think bringing this back to good old fangirls, I think the key factor in the dominant culture that we tend to leave out is that there are benefits to being a fangirl. And I think one of those—probably one of the most important is that fangirls are loyal to the artist. Like, they will go down with them till the end, and they’ll support their endeavors whether they’re music related or not. Like I know, Justin Bieber came out with a clothing line, which is like Drew House, his own label. And a lot of his fans went and supported that. Harry Styles makes films. He’s got “Dunkirk” that one came out, and then he has “Don’t Worry, Darling,” and “My Policeman” coming up soon.
Kim: Taylor Swift made a short film.
Kate: Exactly. Yeah. When obviously, when these people branch out, like I know, Selena Gomez, she has a beauty line, Rare Beauty. She’s also been in movies. Yeah. So like, these loyal fangirls will go and support them in all of these other various endeavors, and they’ll win them awards, especially fan voted awards. They’ll be hacking into those websites, doing everything, voting every minute.
Kim: I think that there’s something to be said about the support that fangirls give to people’s ability to do and be different things to try different parts of their personality to not fit into one box. I think that there’s something very special about that kind of support, because I don’t think even in everyday life, people get that.
Kate: Yeah. And I know Harry Styles has spoken openly about how like, because of that unwavering support that he gets from fangirls, he feels comfortable, like branching out and playing with his style, and all that stuff like that, because his fans make him feel comfortable. And to me, like, I just can’t imagine looking at that and then saying, like, ‘Well, fangirls, like, they don’t know anything. They’re just a bunch of girls who like boys like, like, no. It’s—it’s so much more than that. And I guess another big thing is that, you know, people who mutually like the same artists, and who are a part of the same fandoms it gives people a sense of belonging, and where they can meet other people and bond over, you know, like, ‘Oh my gosh, were you at this concert? Yes, I was.’ Like, and now it gives you something to talk about, make friends. And I think a lot of the time in early adolescence, you do look for those places where you can belong. So a fandom gives you a good place for that.
Kim: My two roommates and I, we became best friends and ended up all living together because we bonded over the fact that we are obsessed with coffee, probably to an unhealthy amount. And we loved Taylor Swift. So we will have days where we’ll just put on one of our Taylor Swift records, and my one roommate will paint, I’ll embroider and my other roommate will like read, and we’ll just hang out and that has just like, bonded us, who was like the first thing that we can all really like bond over and it’s just kept us together ever since it’s something that like we can always share.
Kate: I love that. That sounds like an ideal day.
Kim: It’s a good Sunday. Um, yeah. So, you know, I think that women’s opinions and music, whether they’re an artist or a fangirl is very treated, it’s treated differently compared to male fans and male artists. And in a CBS Sunday Morning interview Taylor Swift talks about how men and women have a different vocabulary thrown at them in the music industry. First, she mentions that as a woman, she’s always asked you write your own songs, or people will ask about her personal life and dating life. She states, “There’s a very different vocabulary for men and women in the music industry, right? Man does something and it’s strategic. If a woman does the same thing, it’s calculated. A man is allowed to react. A woman is only allowed to overreact.” Going back to us talking about how the it’s only girls and women that can be fangirls with an obsession they are air quotes, overreacting.
Kate: Yeah, and I think before we leave you today, I just want to read off a little quote by my guy Harry Styles because I think he discussed fangirls, honestly, the best way I’ve ever heard and it was in a Rolling Stone magazine interview.
Kim: I love Rolling Stone. Oh my goodness.
Kate: Yes. if you like music, please check out Rolling Stone
Kim: Of course. They’re reason why I got into journalism. Fun fact, started reading that when I was like in seventh grade, I’ve every single issue I have ever bought since seventh grade, huge. heavy, stack. Anyway continue to read your quote. Alright, I’m just like I’m fangirling over Rolling Stone!
Kate: That is valid, that is valid. Okay, so he says, “Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music short for popular right? Have worse musical tastes than a 30-year-old hipster guy. That’s not up to you to say. There’s no goalpost. Young girls like The Beatles. You’re going to tell me they’re not serious? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, that kind of keep the world going.” And then he also praised young women’s honesty. He said, “Teenage girl fans, they don’t lie. They like you. They’re there. They don’t act too cool. They like you, and they tell you, which is sick.”
Kim: Something to be said. I appreciate the honesty.
Kate: We should take a note from Harry Styles. And in the meantime, before the next episode comes out, please remember to take up space, enjoy your interests, and don’t take anyone’s BS.