This week for my fandom class, I created this timeline of past fan loves of my past. It took more time than I expected– what merited inclusion? What categories were too broad? Was there anything I was too embarrassed to include? (A definite “yes” on that last count, which is interesting. Next week is supposed to be about class dynamics of fandom, which should address this shame. Is my shame stemming from the class signifiers of these fandoms? Are subcultures necessarily indicative of class?) I did my best to track how my interests grew and faded, but I did less good of a job with how they scaled relative to each either– it was hard to keep track of them all.
We also read two pieces this week: Loving Music: Listeners, Entertainments, and the Origins of Music Fandom in Nineteenth-Century America, which detailed the fandom for musical performances in the 19th century, and Shooter Boys and At-Risk Girls, a reflection by Molly Crabapple about being an “at-risk girl” in the 1990s. What struck me about these readings was the idea of how gender intersects with fandom– Loving Music prominently featured the story of Lucy Lowell, a 19th century opera fan, and Shooter Boys recounts the personal history of Crabapple. Although both pieces do address other genders, and there are certainly male fans out there, there are current discrepancies that make me wonder about the gender representation of fans throughout time.
As far as I can tell, it’s little studied and demographic studies do not generally exist, but many fandom communities feel like they are primarily women. Some of the most prominent examples of fanfiction have been written for and by women: Fifty Shades of Grey started as fanfiction, Wide Sargasso Sea is essentially Jane Eyre fanfic, and the term Mary Sue was coined for a notorious type of Star Trek original character that was a clear stand-in for the (female) author. Does being a part of fandom hold particular appeal to women? Or is it just certain fandom activities, and not just fandom in general? Perhaps certain fandom communities? Is anonymity a factor?
It’s hard to address these questions without doing more reading. My current hypotheses: the appeal of fandom isn’t gendered, but certain communities and activities are. Online fanwork communities are dominated by women– they are a safe place to find an audience and get feedback anonymously. It’s hard to address these questions without doing more reading; perhaps I’ll return to the topic at a further date.
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