Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Fangirl is a Fangirl

So there's been a fair amount of talk about the term "Fangirl" lately.

Since the origin of this debate essentially comes from being linked on WFA, and I'm the one who came up with the name of the link blog, I thought I'd weigh in.

Jade of Nerd in High Heels (a very snappy name itself, if I may say) asks if The term 'Fan Girl' is derogatory. (She concludes yes, here.)

There's a lot of interesting interchange back and forth (I think Brainfreeze has a nice post up.)

What I want to know is...does it matter?

I remember a while back there was a podcast floating around which criticized WFA for using the term, I'd link it if I could remember where it was, but it probably doesn't matter. There was something about how using the term somehow lessened our cause.

I consider that bullshit, but your mileage may very.

Jade quotes sites that differentiate fangirls from fanboys as being more involved with shipper debates than canon debates. I think this differentiation is arbitrary and meaningless. Sure there are many female fans particularly interested in who's romantically involved with whom, and slashers in particular make a very large subset, one that is likely not matched by the male fans.

But ultimately is that the definition of "fangirl"? I don't think so. I think the most important components in "fangirl" are simply "fan" and "girl".

There are many female fans more interested in relationships than canon, but there are quite a few who like to pick apart canon as well as any man. I've gotten into my share of "can Hulk beat Superman?" or "Wolverine vs. Cyclops" fights after all. I like to dissect canon. I like to nitpick and bitch about inconsistancies and the like.

So if you use the wikipedia and common definitions of fangirl, I'm really not one. I'm a fanboy.

But I'm not a boy. I'm a girl. Are you saying that whether I squeal over a particular actor, stalk someone at a convention, or care about romance versus nitpicking, that those qualities somehow override my GENDER?

I'm a fan. I'm a girl. I'm a "fangirl". I've got just as much claim on the title as anyone else. In fact, since "fan" is a fairly old term, as is "girl", I'm pretty sure it's a term that's older than any of those linked sites. There may not be documentation to support it, but it's hardly unique nomenclature. "Fanzines" existed as early as the nineteen-seventies, (they were in fact the origin of the term "slash", from the relationship denotion of "Kirk/Spock". I wouldn't be surprised to find out some women writing in "fanzines" would decide to call themselves "fangirls".

And even if not, I've used it longer than that wikipedia site's had the definition. Longer than the other sites Jade's linked. Why should those definitions, written by outsiders, trump mine and those of other women who've taken the term for themselves?

To try to argue "fangirl" as derogatory implies a sense of shame that simply doesn't exist among most of the people who actually claim the title. It's not even a matter of reclamation as is the case with "bitch" or certain racial or homophobic slurs. I feel no need to reclaim a term I've used since I was a twelve-year-old kalinara first embarking on the internet in 1995. It's always been mine and has been long before those sites written by non-fangirls have tried to turn it into something mean.

Sure some outsiders, often men but not always, might try to turn the phrase INTO something derogatory, but hell, I've seen some men turn "woman" into a derogatory term. Does that make it by nature derogatory? No. A woman is a woman. The only negative meaning is from someone who wants to feel powerful by belittling someone else.

"Bitch" means "a female dog". It's by nature a derogatory term designed to put down the target by comparing her to an animal. "Woman" means a female person. There is nothing innately dirty or insulting about being called a woman. There is no attached negative meaning except for what some stupid people try to latch on to it.

By extension "fangirl" means a "fan" who is a "girl". Anything else added to it, anything derogatory comes from outside of the classification, from context rather than inherent to the term, and I don't see why that should have anything to do with me.

I am a fangirl. I use the term proudly. If anyone wants to read something negative into that, they're more than welcome to do so. I reserve the right to laugh derisively at anyone who tries though.


  • At October 02, 2007 4:00 AM, Blogger Jade said…

    Ta, thanks for the clarification.

    I only questioned the silly issue because I didn't know if WFA was run by a female or not. The use of 'fangirls attack'ing made me think it was run by a male mocking females so I tried to find a defintion. The last two posts on the issue were in response to people getting quite annoyed at a definition that I didn't come up with.

    I didn't get the word because I'm not as involved as many genres as most. I flit between various interests. So I posted to those people, they showed me why they were offended, and I documented what I learnt.

    I'm a fangirl too. Don't see what the big deal is when I'm just quoting what the people who actually use this definition say.

  • At October 02, 2007 4:11 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) Yep, female. The name might be a little bit of a dig at people who use the term derogatorily. Which is probably a bit hypocritical, but there ya go. :-)

    This post wasn't meant to sound irritated with you, actually, but my style can be a bit acerbic if you're not used to me. :-)

    If there is irritation, it's more for people who try to make the terms derogatory. (So really, more aimed at your linked sources instead). Mostly though, I just like any opportunity to soap box my own opinion. :-)

  • At October 02, 2007 4:27 AM, Blogger Jade said…

    I thought for a while I was alienating every other female online! The different contexts are hypocritical and lead to more confusion.

    I'll stick to random postings about confusion of historical context lol.

  • At October 02, 2007 5:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would say that "fangirl" can be derogatory, but only in the same way that "fanboy" is. But at the same time, both terms are for the most part neutral, albeit gendered, words for fans.

    For every fangirl who is accused of caring more about what superhero is dating who, there is a fanboy who is accused of being absurdly entitled and petty. Yeah, the stereotypes may be different (as with all gendered words) but the problem is with the sexist culture of comics, not with the word "fangirl."http:

  • At October 02, 2007 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good post!

    And no, I don't think fangirl is an insult either. No more than fanboy is and the nly time I ever hear that used as an insult is by non-fans mocking our geeky interests.

    Funny thing is that I don't know anyone who is actually insulted by this kind of thing.

  • At October 02, 2007 9:43 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Hit the nail on the head, Kali.

  • At October 02, 2007 10:38 AM, Blogger Ragtime said…

    In my opinion, changing a term because it has a negative connotation is often self-defeating.

    I mean, just look at how the "correct" name for a black person has changed in the last century -- Negro, colored person, black, person of color, African-American . . .

    While it's an extreme case, it points out that the real problem isn't the word -- the real problem is that no matter what term you use, enough white people are going to say it with condescension and audible disgust that pretty soon the term will leave a bad taste in your mouth and you start wanting to cast out for something that seems fresh and unsullied.

    Now, I'm not saying the desire for a "clean" term is a wrong desire to have, and maybe it does work for a few years, but I think its ultimately self-defeating, because the problem is always the underlying sentiment in which the term is used,and only possibly secondarily the term itself.

    So, people who think "fangirl" is derogatory are likely those people who have heard people talk about "those ditzy fangirls" or say, "Yeah, that's what a fangirl would think, but really . . ."

    What amuses me personally are the many people who don't know a lot of (or any) Jewish people, and ask me whether the term "Jew" is offensive.

    They ask because growing up in their little world, they hear lots of people talking about "those damned Jews" or about how some guy "Jewed down the price", and never hear anyone say, "Look at that nice Jew", so they assume it is a slur. (I have heard some Jews think it is a slur, as well, but I do not know any personally.)

    While any group, I think, has the right to decide what it is they would like to be called, I think that except in the most extreme cases, it makes a lot more sense to work on changing the underlying negative sentiment that to just change the word.

  • At October 02, 2007 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree w/ rob, starman, sallyp, and ragtime. Who gives a flyin' frak what people say who don't understand our geekdom and have nothing but put-downs to compensate for it.

    It's just biggotry and unless it's harming someone or in my face I don't waste my time on its stupidity. When It is I destroy and humiliate it intellectually and physically.

    jade all I can say is you can't always trust wikipedia

    One question Kalinara: you bring up Superman vs. Hulk but not Logan vs. Lobo?...

  • At October 02, 2007 12:18 PM, Blogger Your Obedient Serpent said…

    You and Ragnell put the "fang" in "fangirl".

    (That's meant as a compliment. Dragons approve of fang.)

  • At October 02, 2007 1:23 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    "Logan vs. Lobo?" this would be both the longest and most annoying fight ever

  • At October 02, 2007 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Except in DC vs. Marvel #3 which is the point because it was writen REALY badly :)

  • At October 02, 2007 2:27 PM, Blogger Brainfreeze said…

    While the "official" definition may not be important if you're using it with reference to yourself, or if you're aware of other potential connotations and mindfully using the word in reaction to that, it is important if you're planning to use it in a descriptive way--for example, using it to describe someone else whose views on the subject you don't know. (Just as it's fine to take "bitch" to heart as a self-descriptive, not necessarily to use it in reference to other women who may not share your take on the term and will find it insulting.)

    In other words, context is crucial. I'd have had no idea that "fangirl" was anything but a simple descriptive if I hadn't done a little web research. Obviously it's not a word I should use without keeping in mind the audience and the forum.

  • At October 03, 2007 11:48 PM, Blogger Chris Sims said…

    A fangirl who thinks like a fanboy?

    This can only mean one thing.. You're a FANSVESTITE!

  • At October 05, 2007 10:40 PM, Blogger Alix said…

    The only times I've heard "fangirl" used derogatorily, it was by:

    1. People from outside a fandom trying to shame the women involved in it, or

    2. (Rarely) A few people in a given fandom trying to distance themselves from overzealous newbies.

    And I'd say 95% of the time, I hear "fangirl" used as a neutral term for a female fan, and it's not an externally-imposed identity, either, but a self-chosen one.


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