Words: Elise Rose
After the year we’ve had, we really shouldn’t be putting ourselves down any more than we already do. 2020 was rough. I’m fairly confident in saying that’s a given for pretty much everyone on earth right now. Since March 2020, we’ve had time to reflect on practically every aspect of our lives – daily routines, shopping habits, our love lives – sometimes the aspects we didn’t really want to think about. For me, England’s lockdown trilogy had me thinking about what brought me joy in, quite frankly, a joyless time. It wasn’t a person, I’m embarrassingly single, nor scrolling through @thedukesspoon on Instagram, but I mean, come on! Instead, it was the comforting vibrations of pop music that provided the soundtrack to all three lockdowns which truly brought me a feeling of happiness I hadn’t felt since my preteen years.
Illustrations by Emma Lammie & Grace Walsh
Ever since Ariana Grande dropped her debut album “Yours Truly” in 2013, I’ve been completely mesmerised by her talent and charismatic personality. Over the years, not only have I attempted – and failed – to mimic her four-octave soprano, but I’ve spent hours trying to recreate her iconic ponytail and thigh-high fashions. Yet, when I got to university, being a fangirl felt almost like a badge of shame; It felt childish as if being passionate about an artist equaled immaturity. When I decorated my dull, university-provided box room, I hesitated before putting up pictures of me at an Ari concert. I stashed any form of merch I had at the back of drawers, or simply left it at home where it was safely hidden away from prying student eyes. What if someone saw it and laughed – sneered even? I had my second-hand record player proudly presented on my desk, and rows of Penguin classics lined importantly on my bookshelf, but for some reason, a picture of myself having the time of my life at one of my favourite artists’ concerts was a cause of embarrassment and shame. I’d bought an Ari jumper, especially for that concert. I’d cried when I got the tickets for my 18th birthday, and I’d sobbed when I got to the O2, so why was I not allowing myself to publically fangirl over an artist who had provided the soundtrack to my young adult life?
It was due to something people in fandoms know all too well: fangirl shame. Yes, it’s a real thing, and yes I’m here to call it out. If you shame someone for being a fangirl, stop it! Whatever your thoughts on fandom representation on social media are, the reality is this: being a fangirl can be exhilarating, and fandom can provide a safe space for our confidence to flourish. In fact, in Fandom At The Crossroads: Celebration, Shame and Fan/Producer Relationships, the authors note that Stern’s 2011 online survey tells us exactly that, alongside how fandoms can offer support systems and allow us to explore our identity. Despite knowing this from my experience of being a fangirl throughout my teenhood, I recently came to realise that I needed to read the encouragement from facts about fangirl identity because one of the main contributors to my fangirl shame was in fact myself.
Admitting you like a pop artist at university and beyond is risky business. When you say “I’m an Arianator” or “I’m a Harrie”, you make yourself vulnerable to judgment and shame, solely because pop music is seen as a guilty pleasure. The likes of One Direction and Ariana Grande release albums listened to by millions. And yet, their names are shrouded in shame and guilt because their lyrics aren’t dripped in misery, nor do they describe all the wrongdoings in the world. In the intricate workings of higher education society, if you let on that you’ve queued for 6 hours for a One Direction concert, you might as well drop out. At least that’s the feeling I had when I toured other people’s accommodations and socialised in undergraduate circles. You can’t openly like something unless it’s cool, especially when it comes to music.
Historically, fangirling over pop artists has always been looked down upon and shamed. When Take That split up in 1996, Samaritans set up helplines to console their largely female fan base, no doubt a move met with hate from those who don’t know or simply don’t want to. Search “Directioners” on Google images and you’ll be greeted by hundreds of faces – screaming fangirls, all snapped with the intention of portraying them as ‘hysterical’ or ‘out of control’. To take it further, there’s even a YouTube video titled “Craziest fangirls of all time”, which has racked up over 1 million views. And yes, even I have to admit there have been some shocking and frankly disturbing fangirl trends in modern times. However, I think that fangirls are shamed by the media and our peers for simply enjoying something that we’re truly passionate about. I look back on my teen years of obsessing over what Harry Styles wore during a Good Morning America performance, or staying up to listen to a newly released Ariana Grande track as some of the happiest times of my life.
Perhaps it’s the “I’m not like the other girls” phenomenon that’s made me think I can’t openly like pop artists because they’re not “in” at the moment. Maybe we can point the finger at patriarchy for creating said phenomenon, which has driven fangirls to curb their enthusiasm towards their faves because it will make them look uncool, and, therefore unworthy. Whatever it is, the time that 2020 granted us made me think more about going into my twenties as an Arianator. So now I’m making it my mission to break up with the fangirl shame because, frankly, I’m bored.
After all, is there anything better than the exhilaration of being a fangirl? It unites us, stirring unique energy that zings from person to person all over the globe. The feeling of being surrounded by people who get you – no matter their age – at concert stadiums, on Instagram communities, on Twitter feeds, is something that gives you a sense of belonging and confidence. You know exactly who you are when you’re part of those groups; you’re a Swiftie, a Directioner, or an Arianator, and there’s something powerful about that shared identity with hundreds of thousands of others. In its simplest form, fangirling is pure happiness. And for too long people have shamed others for it. Going further into this year, no more will I hide my fangirling over artists who mean so much to me. I won’t turn the volume down on my earphones when I walk past people, God forbid they disapprove of Break Free, and I certainly won’t keep my Ari jumper stashed at the back of my pyjama drawer anymore.
It’s time I broke up with my fangirl shame, and I think you should do too.
You can read more about embracing your fangirl from our founder Laurel; here.
Want to write for us?!
Thank you, fellow fangirl!
Your message has been sent and We'll contact you shortly. :)