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.