By definition ‘The Fangirl’ is an overly enthusiastic female fan. It is a trope that is weaponized by men in order to silence femininity within the music industry. The fangirl is crazy. She is obsessive. She is hysterical. She has bad taste in music. However, it is these fangirls that have effectively handed many musicians their careers. It is time society recognized that modern fangirls are not crazy, they are smart; driven, and passionate. Fangirls handed you ‘the Beatles’. They created ‘One Direction‘, of which without, we would never have been graced with Harry Styles’ ‘Fine Line’ era. Female fans have contributed multitudes to the music industry, with modern fangirls arguably contributing more, having taken on a more political role in the 21st century. Fangirls are awesome and it is about time that female contribution was truly appreciated.
Modern fangirls are a political force to be reckoned with. In a political climate, where young people’s voices are often ignored, fangirl activism has proved to be the most effective way of participation for young people. and, it would be wrong to say that this form of activism is ineffective.
Take, for example, the power of Taylor Swift and her Swifties during the 2018 US election cycle. For the first time, Swift broke her silence regarding politics urging her fans to back Democrat Phil Bredesen in the Tennessee senate midterm elections. Swift’s tweets in support of the democrats were met with immense backlash from republican fans, with Donald Trump commenting he liked her music “25% less”. Despite this, within 24 hours of Swift’s comments, voter registration between 18-25 increased by 65,000. Within a couple of days, this had increased by 102,000. Thus emphasizing not only Swift’s influence, but the hive mind of her fangirls to bring about political change. Despite the efforts of the Swifties, Republican Marsha Blackburn won the senate seat. It could be said that in this instance fangirls failed to bring about political change, however, it is the sheer participation and voter registrations that show fangirls as a political force. Swifties relate to each other through Taylor. The shared love of her music grew into political activism, exemplifying the fact that fangirls collectively are a political force.
Even more politically motivated are the K-pop stans. As a unified force, these fans have taken on both Trump and the alt-right and came out on top. In June of 2020 Trump delivered one of his campaign rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The venue had a capacity of 19,000 yet only 6,200 people were in attendance. The Trump administration boasted over a million American citizens had registered for a ticket. So, where were all these supporters? The answer lies within the K-pop fandom. Having organized themselves on social media, these fans registered for Trump tickets in their droves. The plan? To take tickets away from actual Trump supporters ultimately embarrassing Trump when no one shows up. Which is exactly what they did. This is not the first time K-pop stans have become involved in politics. At the height of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests last summer, fans crashed the Dallas Police Department App. They flooded the app with thousands of fancams; short clips of Korean pop music. On Twitter they took over #WhiteLivesMatter, spamming the hashtag with K-pop content until the initial white supremacist message was pushed out of the trending timeline.
It is the hive mind of fandoms that creates political action. As a collective group, fangirls have the power to create change and unity in the politics that matter to them. These examples demonstrate how powerful fangirls can be within political activism. Modern fangirls are quite clearly a political force to be reckoned with.
Fangirls are often responsible for handing the most successful musicians their careers. The best example is probably the rise and rise of One Direction. One Direction gained their success through the social media frenzy of their fans. Fangirls congregated on online fan clubs, forums, and across social media to propel 1D into superstardom. While Harry, Liam, Louis, Niall, and Zayn’s journey began on The X-Factor, they only placed third. It was the fans that gave them the legacy of being The X-Factor’s most successful act. The key factor in their success is the internet. One Direction was one of the first bands to properly utilize it. CD sales became less important as streams and social media hype took over. One Direction’s fans grew in large communities across social media such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Wattpad. The sheer size of this community enabled fans from across the globe to share their love of the boys, which in turn increased their fame with incredible momentum. The fangirls that adored One Direction changed fan culture forever. They set the tone for how fans interact with each other in the digital age.
Fans also hold up the music industry in times of need. The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on the arts. Fans have pulled together during this time to try and save smaller grassroots venues and support smaller artists. Fans have supported artists through buying their merch and supported venues via go-fundme’s. Fangirls continued to devotedly stream their favorite artists’ tracks, as well as tune into their live streams. While the pandemic has devastated the lives of so many, the way fans have pulled together to protect the music industry is commendable. It emphasizes the strength of fangirls and their ability to protect what they love. Without their fans, musicians are nothing. The support of fangirls can ultimately make or break a band’s career.
What separates the fangirl from the fan is the way society treats them. They are used as a scapegoat in order to attack femininity in the music industry, which remains heavily male-dominated. Because of this, it is your feminist right to be a fangirl. Fangirls exist within a public sphere meaning their presence is inherently political. This comes from the feminist theory that women exist in both the public and private spheres. The former being the realm of work, politics, and culture; the latter being the home. Women have typically been pigeonholed into the private sphere; where their success depends on the homes and families they keep. However women belong in both spheres, and the presence of fangirls in the public sphere is proof of that. As discussed earlier, fangirls have used their power for political activism, as well as handing many men their careers. This shows women being an active voice in the public sphere and taking up space that would have been typically handed to men. Fangirls have every right to take up this space and use their voices however they choose. From this perspective, fangirls are feminist icons.
A fangirl may not see herself as either a political or feminist diety. She probably sees herself as simply a fan and supporter of the music she loves. However, her presence is far more important than at first glance. Modern fangirls are the backbone of the music industry. They are often responsible for the virality and hype that surrounds the most famous artists and bands. This is especially true in the digital age, where artists gain traction on social media. Fangirls were the first to utilize the internet when they handed One Direction a stellar career. Since then, fangirls have set the tone for how not only fans interact online, but how music is now reliant on social media hype and streams. Fangirls have also sought influence outside the realms of the music industry. Modern fangirls are often politically motivated and have taken on the likes of the alt-right and even Donald Trump. This in particular separates modern fangirls from the fangirls that came before them. Modern fangirls are confident and self-assured. They are prepared to take on the world, whether that’s through supporting their favorite artists or by taking on social injustices across the world. Just the presence of the fangirl in society is significant. They fight back against misogynistic ideas that dictate that women have no place in the music industry. Modern fangirls are awesome and it is about time that this is recognized.
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