I stood close to the stage.
The room was pitch black, and bright lights flashed sporadically into my eyes, as I was surrounded by sweating bodies. Cheering, squealing, sometimes crying, and other sounds of the like enveloped me; my ears were blocked, but the band hadn’t even made their way onto the stage yet.
I spent my last February weekend at a Wallows concert; the band isn’t that well known, but, if you’ve ever had the misfortune of watching Thirteen Reasons Why, you’d recognize the lead singer as his character in the show, Clay Jensen.
Of course, under such circumstances, I was surrounded by people who were “fangirling”, hence the deafening noise that put that of the amplified guitars to shame.
I’ve also heard people shout things to the band members, such as “I LOVE YOU DYLAN!” and “MARRY ME BRAEDEN!”
Of course, the first thing that came to mind under such circumstances was, “Wow, these people are crazy!”
This train of thought made me consciously keep a certain composure, all while inadvertently positing myself as separate, or somehow superior, to the “crazy fangirls” because I’m totally not like other girls.
In other words, by thinking that they, and not I, were crazy, I was able to make the distinction between them and myself. Of course, I’m being sarcastic here, but this sentiment of not wanting others to perceive me as another hysterical fangirl remained in my subconscious.
Today, the concept of hysteria refers to a ridiculous excess of emotional expression. However, the word dates back to the nineteenth century, when it was originally defined as a psychoneurosis. Overly emotional or non-compliant women were mostly given the then-clinical diagnosis of Hysteria; it’s also important to note that the word “hysteria” shares the same root as “hysterectomy”, the removal of the uterus, as Hysteria was seen as a psychological issue caused by a malfunctioning uterus, thereby making it exclusive to females.
I recently came across a TEDTalk where Yves Blake aimed to address the question: “Why are Fangirls scary?,” and she effectively made the connection between The Fangirl and Hysteria.
As I previously iterated, The Fangirls’ reactions to the mere thought of seeing the band were superfluous, thereby making such exaggerated expressions of emotion fit the definition of hysteria.
However, Blake points out that, like the women who were historically marginalized through their diagnosis of Hysteria, fangirls are also singled out for their excessive display of emotion and lack of reason; of course, in both instances, these positions are female exclusive.
Blake defines The Fangirl’s shriek as “an honest expression of pure celebration and joy,” which begs the question as to why something this spontaneous and pure is perceived negatively.
It’s very plausible that the historical caricature of the hysterical woman hasn’t parted from our collective memory, but has merely morphed to fit the context of current pop-culture. (sksksksksksk)
Therefore, by consciously employing reason to separate myself from the fangirls at the concert, even though all of those in attendance were there because they liked the band, I subscribed to this old stereotype of female hysteria.
Alas, nobody’s perfect.
So, in defense of The Fangirl, this is what I have left to say: If everyone in a concert setting were to use their reason so as to keep themselves composed and their passion in check, the environment would become dull, due to a lack of audience engagement, or even tense, as a result of a collective sense of self-consciousness.
By contrast, as Blake states in her talk, “Fangirls know how to love something without fear or apology.” As such, rather than using reason as a means to mediate one’s emotions, I’d argue that it’s best to express them, and, if that makes The Fangirl hysterical, at least she is being authentic.
By Mel Spiridigliozzi