Breaking the fangirl stereotype


Illustration by Maya Scahill

Anna Marquardt, co-features editor

I was 14 when I came across an up-and-coming artist named Alexander 23. His debut single, “Dirty Af1’s”, lured me in, and I have been unable to escape his grasp since. 

From posting pictures from his concerts on my Instagram to wearing his tour merch to school, middle school me was perfectly comfortable expressing my love for Alexander 23 and his music to the world—that is, until I began to catch wind of how young girls are seen if they outwardly express fondness for a public figure.

According to the word’s official definition, fangirls are excessive and overly enthusiastic. Women and girls who admit to being passionate about a public figure are often laughed at or classified as acting in an immature, deranged, or obsessive manner, as if their devotion to a celebrity implies incompetence.

Unfortunately, I’ve found that prejudice against fangirls has been ingrained into Americans since the days of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, when teenage girls were seen as harboring an inappropriate obsession with the stars. These fans, then regarded as “Bobby Soxers,” were considered childish to older men of the era. However, it’s important to acknowledge that these young women’s devotion built the foundation for Sinatra and Presley’s stardoms. They are the ones responsible for popularizing many of the artists now idolized by the men who would have classified their affinity as immature. 

Take The Beatles, for example. If teenage girls had not catalyzed “Beatlemania” in the 1960s, The Beatles likely would not have had anywhere close to the impact on culture as they did. Today, men who listen to The Beatles are seen as having “taste”, disregarding the women who were looked down on for bringing the band to prominence in the first place. 

Fangirls hold an immense amount of power, especially in the music industry. Yet, we are continuously disrespected for expressing the very thing that has given us that power: our unrelenting commitment and enthusiasm. We modern “Bobby Soxers” are still faced with the same stereotypes created when this phenomenon arose over 80 years ago. 

So I will raise the question that has haunted my mind ever since I reluctantly shoved that tour merch into the back of my closet: what is so wrong with being passionate about the person or people behind a favorite song or album? In my opinion, gaining familiarity with artists can only make your connection to their media stronger and more personal.

Through interacting with Alexander 23 at concerts or on social media, I have gained a knowledge of the stories and experiences that have inspired his music. This allowed for a more thorough understanding of his personality and how it showcases itself in his art. Additionally, he has led me to so many people who I would not have known if not for the fandom. I have had inspiring, unifying experiences that have helped me grow as a person from the unique experiences I have had. Through the connections I have made and the three concerts of his that I have attended, I have learned a lot about what I enjoy and the people I surround myself with. 

Being a fangirl can pave the way for emotional awareness and self-confidence in the sense that a person can choose to interact with the media that resonates most with them and express this impact in a supportive community of individuals. Fangirling has led me on a path to self discovery, and it has always upset me that I have felt pressure to hide it.

Moving forward, I am making a promise to myself. I will no longer shudder in embarrassment when someone asks who the person on my lock screen is; I will wear merch whenever I feel like it, regardless of how I worry I may be perceived.

Because at the end of the day, being judged for my music taste or being invested in an artist feels, well, outdated. Being a teenage girl should not depict whether or not I can be open about my passions.

I am a fangirl, and I could not be prouder of it.