International Womens Day – How Women Have Shaped Fangirl Culture

International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the achievements of women around the world, as well as to reflect on the challenges that still exist. This year’s International Woman’s Day theme is #EmbraceEquity, which pushes the need to recognise the differences women have faced, and how not everybody needs the same resources to achieve the same goals. Women have different needs from one another, and the sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we will reach a state of gender equality.

Here at That Fangirl Life, we want to recognise one area where women have made a significant impact: fangirl culture, where their contributions have helped to shape the way we consume media and engage with fandoms. 

Fangirl culture is a term that describes the passionate enthusiasm that fans, particularly women, have for their favorite celebrities, books, movies, TV shows, and other forms of media. This culture has existed for decades, think ‘Beatlemania’, but it wasn’t until the rise of the internet that it really began to flourish. The rise of social media and online communities, such as That Fangirl Life, has allowed fans to connect with one another and share their love of various fandoms, and women have been at the forefront of this movement.

One way in which women have shaped fangirl culture is by creating and curating fan content. From fanfiction and fan art to fan videos and fan podcasts, women have played an enormous role in bringing fans together in the form of content. In some cases, this content has become so popular that it has influenced the original creators of the media that inspired it. Who remembers when the popularity of “shipping” (pairing two characters romantically who are not canonically together) among fans of the TV show “Supernatural” led to the introduction of a same-sex romance between two characters in the show’s final season? We do! 

Women have also been influential in shaping the way that fandoms engage with social and political issues. From advocating for diverse representation in media to using their platforms to raise awareness about social justice issues, women have been at the forefront of using fandom as a tool for social change. For example, the #MeToo movement, which began as a way for women in the entertainment industry to speak out about sexual harassment and assault, quickly spread to fandoms and led to a wider conversation about harassment and abuse within fan communities.

We asked fans: what does fandom mean to you? And they responded in their droves.

"To me, being in a fandom is all about a sense of community. Surrounding yourself with people who, on paper, might not be anything like you, but in reality, are more alike than you could ever imagine. I've met so many people on my fangirl journey that I would ordinarily, never have met. Now, I consider them as some of my closest friends - friends who I'd tell anything to and know that they'd be there to support me when things got tough."

"Embracing equity, in my mind, means supporting one another through inclusivity - something which I think fandom has an unbelievable ability to do."

- Ellie G. Lincoln, UK
"It means to be in a safe space when I can be authentically myself and know that it's not that serious! Sure, fandom is a huge part of my life, but its an escape from the everyday stresses and worries of life, you know? People are always so encouraging towards others, and its a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of."

- Alyssa M. Mid-West, USA
"Fandom has this unique ability to bring people up. Whether you're having a bad week, a bad day or a bad month, there's always something going on in a fandom and people to talk to that can distract you from whatever is going on in your life. It's incredible. I think embracing equity is all about helping people elevate themselves - regardless of their circumstance, to help people realise their full potential and live their most authentic life."

Lisa F. Cardiff, Wales

Overall, women have played an integral role in shaping fangirl culture and using it as a platform for social change. As we celebrate International Women’s Day in 2023, we should take a moment to recognise and appreciate women’s contributions to this vibrant and passionate community. By continuing to support and uplift the voices of women within fandoms, we can help to create a more inclusive and equitable world for all.

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