In this post-covid era, people are diving into their passions, like seeing their favourite artists in concert. The sensation of sharing a space with people who love the same songs as you feels like home. However, for some, it feels as though the outside world is against you for sharing your happiness. Someone almost always has a problem with how women show their passions. This is what it means to be a fan girl and how it is gendered. 

Fan culture has become prominent with the rise of artists like Harry Styles, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift with their massive world tours, creating a sense of community within their fandoms. People, especially women, are becoming more outspoken in supporting their favourite artists. However, that showcase of passion seems to rub some people the wrong way, criticising fans who proudly support the artists they love.

As a fan girl, I see disparagement towards fans and gendered differential treatment. One example is on-lookers scoffing at a young woman crying at a Harry Styles concert, stating how it’s “not that deep” and she’s pathetic for her behaviour. However, when men get emotional at a sporting event, they’re showered with respect for showing their “love for the game.” Girls decorate their walls with artwork of their favourite artists and get labelled as “obsessed” or “eccentric.” When a man decorates his walls with sports memorabilia, he gets complimented on his dedication. Women aren’t in their right mind for travelling to see their favourite artists multiple times. But, resources such as season passes are like gold for sports fans, and these passes are just as expensive as seeing an artist multiple times. Attendants of the 2024 superbowl spent $13,000 on tickets alone. But me spending $500 on a round trip to Los Angeles for two concerts is seen as absurd. These double standards exist because of different factors, such as the generational mindset that women are over-emotional or the entanglement of sport and masculine ideals. As a result, many girls choose not to share the things that bring them joy due to fear of being mocked. These gendered preconceptions of fan culture also limit the possibility for women to find careers, undermining a woman’s ability and craft. Women can turn their passions into art and even a successful business. But according to these double standards, it is more acceptable to call them a hobby since loudly proclaiming the things that make you happy is unladylike. 

However, women are not the only emotional ones when it comes to their passions. The behaviour of overzealous supporters can lead to dramatic consequences. Violent assaults on police officers increase by 91% on match days. During the Football World Cup, domestic abuse skyrockets. In Germany, simple assaults increase by 13% during a home game, and by 25% for aggravated assault on game days. In the United States, rape increases by 28% on Divion-1 American football game days, even higher with unexpected game results. According to the frustration-aggression hypothesis, violent behaviour shown through abuse is a form of rehabilitating a man’s self-esteem after a blow like losing the big game. 

For instance, something as trivial as Taylor Swift appearing for less than a minute on tv while supporting her boyfriend, tight end of the Kansas Chiefs, Travis Kelce, during football games has led to problematic behaviour. A video of a man smashing a Taylor Swift vinyl on the sidewalk went viral after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Baltimore Ravens to move forward to the Superbowl. This behaviour makes me wonder, Where is the accountability of violent behaviour from men, especially toward women, when it comes to sports?  These patterns  go almost unnoticed by many. But the bullying of fan girls is seen almost daily. Where does this difference in perception come from? What can be done about it? 

Now, imagine the opposite situation where men and women act differently than the status quo. If a cisheterosexual man likes an artist with a fan base composed of women, his men friends may ridicule him, saying he’s “gay” for liking such artists or the music genre. Even though his men friends may not accept him, the women within that fan base will. Many women love seeing men breaking expectations, liking artists that bend the constructs of toxic masculinity. For women who are adamant sports fans, however, they will rarely be accepted by a fan base predominantly composed of men. When a woman states her loyalty to a team, many men will often question her knowledge, asking questions like, “Can you even name five members of the team?” A woman can sit and prove that she is a fan of a sports team or athlete, but she will rarely be taken seriously by her men counterparts. This trend shows that stereotypes of what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine” transfer into common interests. Not only are interests and passions stereotyped, but they are also questioned in gendered ways. There continues to be a pattern of men belittling anything feminine, or a woman’s knowledge of something remotely masculine. 

Race and ethnicity also impact how people understand fan culture. There is a racially assumed idea of what fans of different artists “look or act like.” Studies suggest these stereotypes determine what type of music people of different racial and ethnic identities should listen to. Those who “cross the colour line” are thought to identify with a different racial or ethnic group. These differences between music taste and racial or ethnic identity lead to alienation amongst those who go against the expectations of music taste. 

These patterns of judgement make me wonder why men are so bothered by what women do to make themselves happy. This is only a small example of a power structure that continues to drive women into silence while also putting down other men for breaking the mould. By making women feel ashamed of their passions, women stay quiet to avoid further embarrassment. Women, and each and everyone of us, must continue to push against this sexist agenda to break the construct of what men and women can or can’t enjoy.