By Erin Howatson.
Teenage girls across the globe tend to be labelled as ‘emotional’ or ‘hysterical’ the moment they show any appreciation for their favourite bands or artists, but when grown men cause property damage or resort to physical violence over their favourite football team losing it is treated as a normal side-effect of being a sports fan. How far does the idea that ‘boys will be boys’ go?
If you were to strip the components of each group back to the very basics, sports fans are simply a group of men who buy tickets to watch a match, meet up with their friends before the match, sing songs/chants and cheer for their favourite team. Whereas fangirls are simply girls who buy tickets to go to a concert, meet up with their friends before the concert, sing songs and cheer for their favourite artist.
So if there are so many similarities between the two groups why is the reception so different?
Fangirls have existed for decades, most notably emerging for artists such as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra who caused teenage girls to cry, scream, and physically swoon for these artists who stood within touching distance, only meters away from them.
However, the most notable example of a band having an impact on their fans was The Beatles and the subsequent ‘Beatlemania’ that occurred in the early 1960s. As a result of this phenomenon, fan culture was born and carried into the present with artists such as One Direction, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber.
Fangirls tend to be seen as an easy target and a cheap joke, with millions of girls instantly earning the title of ‘hysterical’ and being mocked the minute they declare an interest in an artist.
However, fangirls actually have the power to make a difference if they feel strongly about something. For example – in 2020 a group of K-pop fans agreed to register for tickets to attend Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma but with the intention of never actually showing up. This left hundreds of thousands of seats empty, embarrassing Trump and damaging his campaign in the process.
Yet, in a well-known essay for New Statesman, Paul Johnson jeered: “Those who flock round the Beatles, who scream themselves into hysteria, whose vacant faces flicker over the TV screen, are the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures”.
Despite their poor reputation, I can confidently assume that fangirls have never rioted after their favourite band lost an award, or caused property damage when receiving bad news – even in particularly dire times like when Zayn left One Direction.
The same cannot be said, however, for football fans as there have been many instances over the years of sports fans causing damage to public property by both celebrating their favourite team’s success or rioting after a bad loss.
There are also many studies that show evidence to support the idea that sports have a negative influence on domestic abuse incidents. Research by the University of Lancaster shows violent domestic abuse incidents increase by 38% when England loses football matches. Yet even when they win or draw rates still sit high at 26%.
Despite the negative reputation that sports fans receive, the reception of fangirls is less forgiving. Even simple examples like when men cried after England lost to Italy in the Euros, they were sympathised with in comparison to girls who cried after One Direction split up – which was seen as dramatic and an overreaction.