“Girl dies of dehydration due to excessive crying at Justin Bieber concert,” a headline – if it were to be published – that might not take many people by surprise.
Screaming, obsessive masses of female fans have been portrayed as nothing short of maniacal demons from hell, sent to absorb the souls of their beloved boy-idols.
How exquisitely terrifying.
While I would personally enjoy my very own army of Directioners, the rest of the world seems to be simultaneously cowering in fear and doing everything in their power to suppress teen fangirls from – dare I say it – expressing their emotions.
The “fangirl” goes by many definitions. To some, she is vapid, only liking the band for their “looks,” not caring about the quality of the music. To others, she is rabid, foaming at the mouth while pushing through bouncers to throw her bra onstage.
To fangirls themselves, they are a community that bonds over loving and supporting their favorite bands.
What’s the big deal?
Girls are having fun! Girls are engaging with each other to share their feelings and explore their burgeoning identities!
Apparently that’s a bit too shocking for some people.
In a 2013 issue of GQ U.K. magazine, U.K. features director Jonathan Heaf said he was completely disgusted by what he witnessed at a One Direction concert. There were girls in black cloaks chanting satanic – wait no! That’s not right. These girls were screaming, which at some point in Heaf’s cognition were transformed into “wide-open mouths, hundreds of pleading eyes … a dark-pink oil slick that howls and moans and undulates.”
Whoa! Let me get this straight: underage teen girls loudly cheering at this One Direction concert are walking sexual organs?
But what about any other big name band on a stadium tour? Do their fans get the same judgment? Do mosh pits get the same criticism for their own violent reaction to the music?
Ridiculing someone for being a fangirl is sexist.
When sports fans paint themselves their team’s colors or get a tattoo of their team’s insignia, they are labeled nothing more than “devout” and “real” fans. Society gives them legitimacy when they choose to outwardly and ostentatiously express their passion for sport.
But when a girl makes an “I Heart Nick Jonas” shirt, she is a brainless teen girl who has no taste in music. When One Direction fans scream for the band, they are sexualized and objectified by a male 34-year-old GQ U.K. reporter.
The only time being an excited fan is labeled “phenomenon” is when that fan is a teenage girl fawning over a pop star.
Media has done more than enough damage to the teen girl psyche: Beatlemania, Bieber Fever.
To the public, being a fangirl means you are ill. Being a fangirl costs you your identity and your integrity – you are categorized as insane, you are weak with a hormonal overload.
Suggesting these fangirls have succumbed to their hormones or some epidemic takes away teen girls’ agency. It removes the validity of their emotions and perpetuates societal ideas of teen girl inadequacy.
While girls definitely do project romantic and sexual fantasies onto boy band members, claiming their increased libido is the driving force behind the fandom is an extreme oversimplification and assumption that girls are first and foremost sexual objects.
Instead of perpetuating the sexualization and invalidation of their fans, boy bands sing about positivity and high self-esteem.The bands give girls a harmless and consequence-free medium through which they can explore how they relate to others.
Fangirl fandom is so much more than being in love with a boy band. It is a sisterhood, a support system and a creative outlet.
Micro-blogging sites like Tumblr or LiveJournal have exponentially amplified this creative aspect. Girls teach themselves how to Photoshop pictures, how to create .GIFS and how to write via fan fiction.
Because fandom material is so widespread and commonplace, more people can become fans – beyond what society deems a “typical” fangirl.
There are teen girls. There are young women. There are wives. There are mothers.
From every corner of the globe, girls find each other through engaging in fandom. They become friends and supporters for life’s challenges outside of the issue of Harry Styles’ new girlfriend.
Fangirling is important because it allows teen girls to legitimize each other’s emotions. Because society is currently so hypercritical of every decision a teen girl makes, it is important for girls to have an outlet to express their individuality and their developing ideas about the world. In a boy band fandom, each fangirl’s ideas matter. Their voices are acknowledged by their peers.
If the media is right about fangirling creating “an army of girls,” I would love nothing more than to see its positive, uplifting and compassionate take over.
Hanna Greenblott is a sophomore English language and literature major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.