Monday, June 28, 2010

Fanboys and "girl fans"

a grammar's post about the perception of "teenage-girl fandom" as irrational, visceral and anti-intellectual (as opposed to boys -- nay, men's fandom being nothing short of cerebral -- more on that later) gave me a lot to chew on. As a woman who has probably spent more time with music fans than actual musicians, this hits really close to home, and I'm glad someone had the nerve to say it.

(Disclaimer: All of this is based on my own experiences as a music geek. I'm not presenting it to be universal, and yours may be entirely different.)

Think of your favorite artist or band. I bet that band has a forum of some sort (and I'm showing my age here -- yeah, I am of the Usenet generation). If you don't already, spend some time chatting up other fans. I've been on several band boards in the past decade or so, and some things always ring true: one, there are very few women commenters, and two, those that do tend to stick to the periphery. I'm not saying this is true for every site, and granted, "indie rock" is a big ol' boys' club, but more often than not, I'm one of few women and usually the only one willing to get "nerdy."  You know, the kind of fan full of superfluous facts and theories and lyrical acumen. I'm basically Jack Black's character in High Fidelity. (I'm not copping to having taste or anything. Believe me, I killed off my indie cred long ago.) I'm fine with it; I own it. This usually poses some problems, especially since "girl fans" aren't expected to be analytical. We're supposed to be screaming, panting, and passing out in a puddle of our own piss. (Think early Beatles fans or thirty-something Twilight moms.) And you know what? That's okay. Passion is great. It shows you're a living, breathing, human who enjoys things. Except that it's not okay, because every "serious" fan of something does some pretty serious eyerolling when confronted with this type of fan. Oh, and I supposed this is a good time to mention that message boards and blogs dominated by male rock fans are, more often that not, anything but erudite.

But if girls' fandom is anti-intellectual and silly, womens' fandom is nonexistent. (Why do you think it's so easy to laugh at all those Twilight moms?) Being a grown-up woman who's also a music fan, I frequently feel a little less grown up compared to my friends who don't have boxes of old Rolling Stones  in the basement, yet this is perfectly acceptable behavior for men in their teens throughout their AARP years. So how is one supposed to navigate the world of rock fandom when she's outnumbered? I used to play the "guy's girl" in the company of male music fans. It's an incredibly easy role to play until you get caught "not being sufficiently reverent enough about dude music. ".  At some point I got wise and realized I do know what I'm talking about, and it's okay that I never really liked Dylan, or Neil Young, or Rush -- but a woman music fan who actually listens to music made by women is anathema. Needless to say, I don't post on those boards anymore.

So what else is there, aside from the "guy's girl" (or cool rock chic)? Groupie? Muse? Just as women have been making inroads as performers and songwriters, we're still underrepresented as critics, tastemakers, and fans. Or at least the kinds of fans that matter.

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