Opinion | Discrepancies between sports and “fangirl” fan culture

Discrepancy amongst sports and “fangirl” fan culture 

When you’re a fan of something, whether that be a sports fan or artist, it becomes easy to be fueled by passion and excitement as you cheer on the people you love most. Surrounded by others who bounce the energy off one another is what makes this shared adoration so special. 

One of the most prominent examples of sports culture being openly displayed is the Super Bowl. Feb 13 marked the 56th annual Super Bowl, and with it came millions of fans and plenty of eagerness to watch the game as per usual. So much so that within the cities whose teams were competing in the game, people were advised not to go out into the street in case fans grew angry at the result of the game. 

This intense sports fan culture is nothing new. In fact, sports fandom are often known for their passion, as fans aren’t afraid to holler their deep dedication to the teams, paint their bodies the color of the sports team they adore, and deck themselves out in merchandise. Fans get invested in watching every sports game and staying up to date with every significant detail of the sport. Activities like March Madness allow fans to fill brackets with only their favorite teams and compete with friends. 

ETHS sports often brings this same energy and allows students to fill the student sections and watch their peers engage in nail-biting games. With everyone cheering, there’s something unique about being able to watch a game with those around you and share in your extreme desire for them to win.

“It’s fun because you feel like you’re doing something. It’s just like a fun place to be because everyone’s doing the same thing. The reason why I like it a lot is growing up going to all the games, when my parents and I went, the student section of Evanston games used to be insane. Seeing a big student section there made me want to make the crowd go crazy” explains freshman Collin Livatino. 

The ways to appreciate the things you love most vary. Similar fan culture exists within music as well. The incredible growth of the Beatles fan base in the 1960s, known as Beatlemania, was a prominent example of how young fangirls were able to reimagine what it meant to be a fan. Now, social media terms like stan culture yet again alter how fans show their devotion. 

Stan culture, a combination of stalker and fan that originally came from the Eminem song regarding a superfan turned homicidal stalker, is defined as an “excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan.” This fan culture aims to get their favorites to higher streams and billboards, similar to what sports fans do by comparing championship wins, point averages, and shooting percentages. Updating the screen with every new update becomes a battle of making sure you are up to date with everything going on.

The utilization of social media also perpetuates the concept of actively defending your favorites from strangers on the internet, even if you’ve never met those people. In both sport and artists’ fan culture, the idea of canceling culture makes it difficult for fans to accept when their favorites have done something wrong and shows the power this culture can bring. 

While both sport and pop culture fans have ways of expressing their love, sexism and misogyny have created a divide between these seemingly similar forms of expression. 

Sports fans are able to perpetuate their feelings without fear of much pushback. So why, when young girls show support for their favorite artists, are they the only ones being ridiculed? Fangirls are often not taken seriously, or suspected of only liking the artists for certain reasons, while sports fans are praised for their expressions of love. 

“I’ve heard fangirls be described as someone that’s kind of there only to mingle, and not really enjoying them. But that’s not always true. I’m a fangirl of certain teams and people, but that doesn’t mean that I’m only there because it’s a trend. I’m there because I want to support and I want to watch, or because I actually want to listen to somebody’s music. I actually support them and I enjoy it,” explains junior Daisy Frazier. 

Additionally, despite sports fans having a history of violence, fangirls are the ones being referred to as toxic and crazy. The violence that happens at sporting events is normalized and excused as just being “a part of the game.” The invalidation of one’s love for something is mostly thrown on young women. 

“I have been a part of stan culture, it was fun. There were so many people to meet through your shared interests it really felt like a family. but, there is such a negative connotation surrounding women being in fandoms. People automatically assume that’s they are just throwing themselves at men who are famous rather than men who are obsessed with sports,” says junior Marlena Weheliye.

So why is it that women are left feeling guilty for the ways they choose to express their love for an artist? Young girls oftentimes are the backbone to an artist’s success, but any display of affection or admiration is immediately shut down and seen as embarrassing or obsessive. 

“[Sports fans] are accepted in society for doing the “traditional masculine thing” while when women do the same thing over a pop star they are instantly shamed. Women are ostracized for expressing their interest, while men are praised. It’s part of a continuous pattern of misogyny within our society where women and men do essentially the same thing but receive two completely opposite reactions,” expresses Weheliye.

The media labels these fans as “obsessive” and “crazy” for engaging in many of the same things sports fans are. Shaming fan girls belittles their confidence and can make them feel ashamed for something perfectly normal. Just like how sports fans will get hyped for the game, yelling and crying over who won and who lost, fangirls too engage in hollers and crying when joined with their peers. 

This is not to say there aren’t discrepancies amongst these perceptions. Stereotypes play into both sport and fangirl cultures and can be the reason these harmful ideas continue to be perpetuated. 

“You hear that sometimes, certain things may happen due to [sports fans] being rowdy or, if they’re intoxicated or something like that, and sometimes that’s not how everyone is. It kind of puts a stereotype on everyone, especially if you support a certain team, and some of their fans do that, but not all of them do. [It] that makes everyone seem like they’re all that type of way, and it kind of makes me feel embarrassed for my team,” says Frazier. 

Not all sports fans are wild and rowdy, and not all pop culture fans are crazy and obsessive. Next time you see a sports fan cheering on the sport they love, or a fangirl singing along to their favorite artist, let them express their appreciation and call these discrepancies out when you see them spread on social media. Having active, engaged fans plays a huge role in the game or concert, as everyone is simply trying to have a good time. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with cheering on those you like and letting your emotions through, as long as we aren’t setting up double standards for fangirls and sports fans to be interpreted differently. If we want to get rid of the sexism inherent in the discourse around fangirl culture, we must respect one another’s choice in what we devote our energy to, and only then are we able to move past this battle of trying to prove who is the more valid fan.