Opinion: ‘Fangirling’ has turned misogynistic

Throughout middle school, and really even high school, I have gone through hyperfixations. Whether it’s a music artist, TV show or hobby, I have month-long periods where I find things to obsess over to avoid thinking about my problems. The worst one: the boyband One Direction. 

The typical ‘fangirl’ obsession, the boyband phase, was when it really got serious. And it isn’t a coincidence that this happened in the most stressful and frightening period of many people’s lives: March 2020. 

After waking up, making whipped coffee and going for a four-mile walk, I spent the majority of my day in quarantine watching and rewatching One Direction interviews, music videos and documentaries. That was really what made me happy during this stressful time. So why do I get embarrassed talking about it and call it “the worst ” of my hyperfixations? 

After making friends this year who feel the same way about the boy band, I have realized there is nothing wrong with enjoying music from a popular band. It was society that made me embarrassed about it. 

I spent my time interested in the band avoiding the criticism that came with it. I guess it was embarrassing because people thought I only looked up to them in desperate romantic ways, as if teenage girls can’t enjoy artists for the quality of their music and artist’s personalities. The main reason I enjoyed the band so much was because of the people they were. Their interviews were so funny, and I just loved getting to know them. Many outsiders viewed looking up to them as an obsession that tied into the stereotype of desperate teenage girls. 

I won’t deny that a lot of fans are attracted to them, but this is not the only reason for their following. 

It seems as though girls aren’t allowed to have any enthusiasm over anything, but men with interests act similarly to these ‘emotional’ and ‘hysterical’ women. So many qualities of One Direction female fans also apply to men who are fanatic football fans. They both follow their teams around, keep up with their every move, watch interviews online, buy merchandise and dedicate their lives to following a group of people. 

Men don’t get shamed for painting their faces and screaming at the top of their lungs at sporting events. They are seen as ‘passionate,’ while teenage girls doing almost the same are seen as ‘crazy’ and ‘obsessive.’ And sometimes, the men go so far as to start physical fights over these teams. There have been riots and fighting in the streets following sports games. So why don’t these football fans get as much criticism as teenage girls do? 

Of course, there are some fangirls who go way too far with their obsession. If any One Direction fans are reading, they will most likely remember the situation regarding Harry Styles’ stalker. I am, by all means, not trying to sympathize with people who genuinely ruin the lives of celebrities by never giving them space or privacy. There is definitely a line, but one that is rarely crossed by girls my age who look up to a group of adults. 

Being in a fandom is also rewarding at times. Having a community of people online who all look up to the same celebrities and generally have the same values is so nice. In the middle of quarantine, I had a group chat of fans from all around the world who I could talk to about Harry’s new music. In one of the most lonely times during my high school experience, I had something to distract me from it all and a group of people to talk about these problems with. I should not have had to deal with the negativity that came from this family I had found through a fandom. 

Much of the negativity occurred on social media platforms and made me question if I should be embarrassed about being a fan of a band. Feeling like I had to censor myself from talking about my hobby in the middle of an extremely stressful time is something that was difficult, and other girls who have idols they look up to should not have to experience the same thing. 

Misogyny has driven the shaming of girls with idols. It causes teenagers to second guess the thing that makes them happy or gets them through a difficult time. Girls are having to suppress who they are and what they enjoy to avoid hate. It is time that teenage girls are allowed to have interests without constant criticism. If men dedicating their whole lives to sports teams has been normalized, it will be easy to normalize this too.