(Content warning: This article mentions exploitation and eating disorders.)
Fan girls have often been negatively depicted in media. They are generalized as “crazy” mobs of teenage girls who are always crying and blindly worshipping their idols.
But these kinds of depictions, longstanding and normalized enough to be played off as a joke, are rooted in misogyny.
Personally, I was fortunate enough to have supportive people around me, people who did not ridicule my choice of going down the fan girl path. I also have friends who are avid fans in their own right — whether of other K-pop groups, games, shows, and many other niche spaces.
However, when it comes to the media discussing fan-related matters, there is always an air of condescension.
Diverse and powerful
Fandoms, in fact, are diverse communities, composed of people from different backgrounds and ages. While there is some truth to the “mob” stereotype, because fandoms do gather in large groups, when using their collective power, they create impactful actions for good causes.
One example is when K-pop fandoms hold tree-planting events, donate to charities, helm fundraisers, and host other philanthropic initiatives. ARMYs, for instance, have actually matched BTS’ $1 million donation to the Black Lives Matter fund.
In an interview, singer Halsey also shared how grateful she was for the way her fans gave back to the community.
“They wanted to say thank you to me and they organized something charitable in my name…. They organized this whole thing for me and they were like, ‘This is our way of saying thanks!’ And part of me was like, ‘Why isn’t everyone’s fans doing this?’”
The biggest and most localized example I can think of is the rebranded organization K-Pop Stans For Good Governance (KS4GG), formerly known as K-Pop Stans 4 Leni (KS4L). They volunteered for then-vice president Leni Robredo’s campaign during the 2022 national elections, selling merch to raise funds, and ultimately providing a way to mobilize and involve Filipino K-pop fans for a noble cause.
Until now, the organization is still active, holding concert afterparties and other fan events, where part of the income is donated to the Angat Buhay foundation.
When fan agency is utilized properly and directed toward something good, it can create positive effects and make the world a better place.
Fandom and mindfulness
Another misconception about fandom is that it is harmful. Some people think it’s a distraction and a worthless endeavor, because you’re loving and making time for people who don’t know you.
These kinds of perspectives only invalidate the positive effects of being a fan.
University of the Philippines-Diliman Professor Erik Capistrano shared that stanning Girls’ Generation actually made him more mindful of his privilege as a man, and made him want to be a better ally to women and queer communities.
Erik has been a SONE (the term for Girls Generation fans) since 2010, and said that the group was even included in the acknowledgments section of his dissertation.
Another example was when ARMYs expressed how EAT JIN (Seokjin’s meokbang segment) helped those who have eating disorders, because of the member’s kind words about eating and enjoying food without guilt.
Stanning has clearly brought such positive changes in some fans’ lives. Is it wrong, then, to form an emotional attachment even with healthy boundaries present? Is it bad that these fans want to express gratitude over something they are passionate about?
Yes, K-pop fandom, in particular, does have a dark side: the consumerism, the idols’ harsh working conditions, the stalker fans (sasaengs), and a lot more. I am not sweeping these issues under the rug. However, the media’s portrayal of fan girls remains misogynistic and outdated, regardless, and disregards how being a fan can change one’s life for the better.
I will end this piece with a conversation between BTS members RM and SUGA from the latter’s show Suchwita, about how being a fan is a form of selfless love:
Bianca Ysabelle Lucañas is a 21-year-old Journalism student from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She’s still learning to set boundaries between her hobbies and professional interests, but for now, she can’t help but intersect both.