OTW Fannews: Women in Fandom

  • The media has apparently decided that there are women in fandom — a lot of them even! One of the latest features to announce this information appeared in Time Magazine, which unfortunately focused more on how their presence is controversial rather than how their contributions are awesome. But it did counter the idea that female fandom is a novel occurrence. “Karen Healey suggests that “many fandoms have been primarily female (often white, middle-class, straight, cisgendered women — but again, not exclusively) spaces for a very long time, often co-existing beside primary male fandoms for the exact same media. Women in the ’80s were trading stories and arguing about the plot arcs of Star Trek and Dr. Who, much as they do now.” That’s a point that writer and editor Rachel Edidin agrees with. “Modern fan culture has always been female-driven,” she says. “The ferocity with which people engage and identify with fictional media and build subcultures around it seems to develop in inverse proportion to their social power. There’s a case to be made for the intensity of women and girls’ engagement in fandom — especially narrative and/or direct-engagement fandom like fan fiction or cosplay — as a cultural underclass co-opting a dominant narrative in which they’re overwhelmingly underrepresented as both creators and characters.”
  • Features about female majority fandoms do seem to be multiplying. Writing for Grantland, reporter Sam Lansky discussed his experiences with K-Pop fandom. “The term “idol” correlates with the tendency toward celebrity apotheosis worldwide, but in the States, it’s rare to find anyone other than Ryan Seacrest use it to describe a pop star, since I don’t know that American fans care as much about idolatry so much as they care about themselves. Consider the instances of stalking, hacking, and B&Es targeting celebrities in the Western world…All of these aims are ultimately selfish ones, crassly commercial or materialistic. For the sasaeng fans, the business of deifying K-pop stars serves no indirect function: The lawless obsession isn’t a means to an end, it’s an end itself.”
  • Meanwhile at The Awl, Rachel Monroe takes a look from the inside rather than the outside at celebrity fandoms. “The crush was a private thing that happened in my room, but it was also a shared activity between friends…Our crushes weren’t about anything as simple as attainability, or kissing. You couldn’t take Paul McCartney to the homecoming dance; the very idea was absurd, because the homecoming dance was an absurd nothing, especially when compared with the immensity and violence of our feelings. My mom should’ve understood. At the Beatles’ 1966 concert in Chicago, she’d had to slap my Aunt Martha hard to get her to stop from screaming herself into a faint. From the teenyboppers to the Beliebers, teenage girls have been mocked for their crushes, but that scorn is just a shoddy mask for the anxiety these crushes inspire.”
  • In writing about the strategy of promoting fantasy sports to its fans, FOXSports writer Reid Forgrave suggests women respond to fandoms differently. “The NFL knows what it’s doing here. Its embrace of fantasy football…gives fans a sense of control over this sport where many of us are priced out of attending more than a game or two a year.” And “[o]nce you were able to create a competition within a competition, you brought those niche audiences to your television to watch your product,” said Ryan Fowler, the FOXSports.com fantasy editor. “That’s where it changed, where you were able to get women to see what the guys liked about it.””
  • Women are also making gains in being recognized on the professional side. The Mary Sue noticed that half the Hugo Award winners were women this past year, including the winners for best fan artist and best fancast.

If you have things to say about female fandom, why not write something for Fanlore? Contributions are welcome from all fans.

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