Feminism, Fangirls and the Fandom

feminism fangirls fandom

I am a really big advocate of all things fandom. I love to be a fan, and I love to talk to other fans, and I love fanfic. In short: I love being excited about things! I didn’t always know what fandom was – for me now, being active in the fandom is not just liking something, but liking something and connecting with other people about it. (Probably over the internet, but not necessarily.)

Fandom has not just been about discovering the community. It’s more than the actual fandoms themselves: although I’m pretty new to everything, it’s essentially been my doorway into learning more about feminism and diversity and current issues. It’s really interesting to look at the demographics of the fandom in comparison to that of the characters in fanworks.

Personally, I feel as though the fandom – through the way I experience it – is largely women. But I often see articles saying talking about being a girl geek as though we’re in a minority? Maybe this used to be more true; I’m not sure. (And sadly I don’t have a TARDIS.) Is a fangirl different to a fan or a geek or a nerd? I don’t feel like it should be, but in my mind it’s more closely linked with someone…kind of like Cath Avery. And also maybe like me. I thought this was just my brain, but it seems like it’s true that the creators of fanworks (I’m kind of using this to talk about fanfic, art, edits, podfic, all that kind of thing) are mostly female.

The gender disparity is really, really wide when it comes to fanwork creation. It’s quite unusual for me to see a fanartist, writer, or blogger who isn’t female. I mean, It’s difficult for me to talk about fandom as an entire entity because at it is essentially ‘I like something and I participate on the internet about it’, and I am definitely not capable of collecting statistics for the entire internet. But as someone young and new in the fandom, the concept of ‘fan’ as a male role bemuses me because coming into the fandom in recent years I’ve never experienced it that way.

Do I think we shouldn’t call ourselves fangirls? For a while, I thought that it was kind of a negative term, but it can better to change those views than the actual word itself. Although some fans might get on your nerves, that’s not everyone! I find that in most part people who call fangirls stupid etc. don’t tend to be part of the fandom. I’m happy to call myself a fangirl. However, even within the fandom I think there’s negativity towards people who are quite fierce in their shipping. (Also: I keep trying to find a place to put this stat, but I haven’t found it yet. Apparently most slash shippers are LGBTQ+, which admittedly was not something I had thought. It feels like there’s an idea they’re mostly straight?)

Even as I say that the creators of the fandom are predominantly women, the subjects of their works are usually men. It’s a really strange relationship. Probably because it’s strange how mainstream media is populated by white men… I mean, fic is even more overwhelmingly male than actual published fiction. Fic is still remixing something already there, and what’s already there tends to be men.

I have a lot of strong feelings about fanfiction. I would happily give a fully PowerPoint-ed presentation explaining why it is an excellent thing. There’s this idea that it’s all terrible and terribly written, and whilst there are some maybe less good examples, they’re not the only fics out there. There are also trashy books, in case you hadn’t noticed. (I like some fics more than books. I admit it.) And one of the things that I enjoy the most about fic is the diversity, because I kind of end up wanting everyone to be queer and that can definitely happen in fic.

The spectrum of diversity and representation in fandom is really varied. In canon queer elements tend to stay in subtext a lot; even though there’s starting to be more representation of LGBTQ+ characters and same-sex relationships in mainstream media, it’s still not…that much. Whereas most fanfiction on AO3 features a non-straight couple.

RETURNING TO MY POINT. I love fanfiction because people write pieces that are both diverse and well-written. You can find awesome fics about queer characters that both a) don’t erase their queerness or struggles and b) have excellent plots and writing. can we have this in books as well pls Or you can even write it yourself! But, I mean, whilst fic can have a really diverse cast in relation to sexualities, there are less fics with characters who are any gender other than male. If you go into the Archive of Our Own tags and plug the numbers into a calculator, the ratio of f/f to m/m is about 2:15. Which is a lot. There was a great conversation on Twitter about LGBTQ+ characters in YA fiction and the media — about the fetishization of m/n/, and the lack of f/f — which is also very true for fanfiction. And here is another post about queer girls as a cautionary tale in literature, including some stuff about the fandom. Fic isn’t without its problems.

I love the fandom. I am ever-grateful to it. It would be nice if fanfiction and books could help each other out over a nice cup of tea — the only way to do it, darling — and then I can find even more things to be excited about than before.

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14 thoughts on “Feminism, Fangirls and the Fandom

  1. THIS IS SO AMAZING AND TRUE. Sometimes I read a fanfiction and I’m just like why can’t you be a real book?! (And then I read some real books and am just like, why can’t you be trashy fanfiction…) BUT ANYWAYS. The queerness in fanfiction (especially les mis fics omg) is so amazing and happy like YAY EVERYBODY’S GAY (or bi or nonbinary or queer or pan but you get my meaning). So awesome post!

    • IKR. Fanfic yaay ❤
      *whispers* did someone say Les Mis fic *restrains self from asking WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FIC, AUTHOR, TELL ME EVERYTHING* (Honestly…I read a ridiculous amount of Les Mis fic. And I got into it through a fic as well, which is probably not the most intellectual way but HEY.)

  2. *reads this post* *reads it again* Well, that was a lot of very insightful discussion. This is definitely a very multi-faceted discussion, and that’s great. I find that fanfiction is really great for encouraging the production and consumption of alternative media, although I’m more wary when it comes to the unhealthy relationships that are so common because of so-called “angst”? Fanfiction is one of the most diverse media out there, but a lot of fandom is really the whitefem gaze — as a woman of colour, at least, I don’t think there are many fanfictions focusing on WOC as much as white men, arguably

    I don’t know — it seems that because fangirls in general tend to view white guys as most sexually desirable, even though there is great exploration of m/m and some f/f relationships, PoC (and disabled people, and chronically ill people, and probably this list could go on forever) tend to be marginalised. And there’s also some romanticised portrayal of mental illnesses, although that’s really more of a problem with the entire area of arts.

    What I’m trying to say is — fandom is more progressive than mainstream media, but it’s still not good enough and those are some of my reasons why? Yep. Great post!

    • Thanks so much for mentioning this – I neglected talking about marginalisation beyond gender in the fandom, which I think I should have. The fandom definitely does have its problems, although they might appear in different ways, and I think whilst some of it is great I forget the other parts of it. That fanfic isn’t an inherently good thing just because it’s fic… I agree with what you said!

  3. I LOVE FICS. Don’t we all? I think it’s more of the fact that fics actually focus on the PLOT and moving it forward, and the queerness of a particular character isn’t what the whole story revolves around, but it’s something that’s just *there*. I’m not sure if that made sense, but what I’m trying to say, that if we normalize gay relationships in books – which fanfics do successfully – we’re showing the world that all books featuring queer characters don’t have to revolve around them coming to terms with themselves, but basically just go on with their life, and them coming out as something normal.

    ALSO I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING MOrE TO SAY BECAUSE THIS IS A GREAT POST…you said it all for me 😉

    • YAY FANFICTION. I mean, I think there are so many different kinds of fics — but the abundance of fics with queer characters kind of means they have to have a plot if the author wants people to read it. It’s not, like, a novelty thing? It’s a part of the character .and not necessarily the plot. EVERYTHING YOU SAID IS WHAT I WAS TRYING TO SAY. XD

      There are for sure some great books with LGBTQ+ characters! But I think there aren’t enough with the complexity I’d like. (Also: I need my queer space pirates and wizards and ridiculous fake relationships. There are also not enough books like that as I’d like.)

    • Thank you so much! AAH I’M REALLY GLAD YOU ENJOYED IT. And yes to fanfiction! *nods* Even though I feel it’s sometimes written off as trashy, there’s a ridiculous amount of great fic authors.

  4. I love fanfiction and the fandom, cause it allows everyone to express themselves and their beliefs. Not much allows us to do that these days. I love your writing, you have a natural way with words 🙂

    • Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed reading! I think the fandom definitely allows more creative freedom, and it brings a lot of people into reading & writing as well. 🙂 That’s a really lovely part of it!

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