Gender in Subcultures and Fandom
Although being a female fan of rock music is in no way surprising or unusual, it still takes me longer than it should when searching the shelves of magazines in supermarkets for Kerrang or Rocksound. This is because I cannot get used to the fact that a magazine that I, and many of my female friends, have read for years is categorized as ‘male interest.’ According to the categories laid out by Sainsbury’s I should be exclusively interested in magazines featuring celebrities revealing their shocking weight loss secrets or if I am to read about music, I would only concern myself with news of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.
Generally, these ‘female’ magazines are targeted at young girls and teenagers, with nothing suitable for adult females. This is demonstrated by the playful, pink text that results in the magazine lacking any credibility of music journalism and acting more as a means for 12-year-olds to certify which member of One Direction they’re most likely to marry. In contrast, the images, colour schemes and text on the cover of ‘male’ music magazines create a much more serious image, with more well established bands whose interviews often cover real-life topics such as drug use and mental health, rather than focusing on each member’s favourite colour, relationship status and equally the important facts that pop music magazines fixate on.
This reflects Andreas Huyssen’s view in 1986, and shows that very little has changed since then in the gender association within media industries. He states ‘mass culture is somehow associated with women while real, authentic culture remains the prerogative of men.’ This idea is now taken even further to create the illusion that women are incapable of participating in a fandom that is labelled as a male interest. As rock and metal music is generally regarded to have a predominantly male fan base, excuses are made on the behalf of women in the fandom.
An example of this is given in “Anyone who Calls Muse a Twilight Band will be Shot on Sight’: Music, Distinction, and the ‘Interloping Fan’ in the Twilight Franchise’ by Rebecca Williams which discusses bands, such as Muse who were heavily featured in The Twilight Saga films. This has led to the assumption that every female fan, whether loyal since the start or not, is only interested in the band because of their association with Twilight. Despite the fact they formed in 1994 and released their debut album, Showbiz in 1999, it is a far too accepted assumption that they would have had no female fans until the first Twilight film was released in 2008. Williams discusses ‘issues which force seemingly arbitrary fandoms into opposition to each other, causing them to operate on axes of distinction and to engage in forms of ‘accidental anti-fandom.”
Both Williams and Huyssen’s research shows how infuriating it can be as a female member of fandoms typically seen as ‘male’. ‘Female’ fandoms are often seen as worthless due to their mass-produced nature and women cannot be part of a ‘male’ fandom without being accused of having an ulterior motive for their interest. Identifying yourself as a member of any fandom should not require justifying your interests so as not to be seen as a ‘fake.’
Huyssen, A. (1988) After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism, Basingstoke, Macmillan.
Williams, R. (2013) ”Anyone Who Calls Muse a Twilight Band Will Be Shot on Sight’: Music, Distinction, and the ‘Interloping Fan’ in the Twilight Franchise”, Popular Music and Society, vol. 36, no. 3, p. 327.