A few months ago, one time One Directioner and owner of the world’s greatest hair Harry Styles did something shocking: he defended fangirls. “Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music — short for popular, right? — have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy,” Styles said to Rolling Stone. “That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious?”
The moment the article went live, the internet lost its shit. People acted as though Styles had just said something no-one had ever put into words before. They acted like he was some holy beacon of truth (which, fair, tbh); like he had just done the most unusual, beautiful thing in the world.
But why? Why is it so strange to imagine that musicians love their loudest, and most committed fans, or that they would be willing to defend them in interviews? Why should we be surprised that Styles went out of his way to say nice things about the complete strangers who have had his back every day of his seven year-long musical journey?
When did fangirl become a dirty word? Fangirls are passionate, dedicated people – when did we forget that? When did the world at large trick itself into believing that fangirls are stupid, and obsessed, and irritating?
After all, there is nothing wrong with passion. We’ve made a mistake by thinking that the dedication of fangirls is anything but beautiful, and inspiring. For some reason, we’re only choosing to focus on the uglier side of fandom – on the stalking, and the doxing, and the passive-aggressive behaviour.
But that kind of behaviour is rare, getting rarer every single day, particularly amongst the wealth of stans out there. Fangirls aren’t deranged, unhinged young stalkers. They are people with an abundance of care; people who want nothing more than to share love, with both the objects of their affections and with other fans.
Let me back myself up here with a story. A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece about an indie music band. I put a call out on Twitter, asking if people would get in touch and answer a few questions about their love for the group. Nobody did. When I started trawling fanpages dedicated to the band on Facebook, I was treated like a pest. People blocked me; chucked me out of groups. The article, when I ended up writing it, was slim, and mostly pointless, and it sucked.
A few weeks later, I was writing a story about Lorde. I put out a request for interviews on my Twitter, expecting that I’d maybe get the same reaction again. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Within five minutes, my tweet had already been shared by 12 different Lorde fan accounts. My DM’s filled up with messages from young fans, each of them eager to share stories about Lorde; about how much their music meant to them.
They weren’t sniffy, or weird, and they didn’t go out of their way to alienate me: they included me, and for no other reason than I was talking about a musician they loved.
That’s what real fandom is. That’s what it means to be a fangirl. Being in love with a band doesn’t somehow make you stupider than everyone else, or more irritating. It makes you kinder. It makes you full of more love; more compassion.
The world we live in is dark, and only ever getting darker. It sucks to be a teenager; it sucks to be in your 20’s; it sucks to be an adult. But we don’t combat that by getting grumpier – we combat it by being brighter, and more creative, and more caring. In other words? We do it by becoming fangirls.