The people we look up to – like musicians, actors, YouTubers, and Viners – can be influential in our lives. And being part of fan culture can be a positive thing.
But there can also be a dark side to fan culture – or “stan” culture. Here’s Riley J. Dennis to talk about where we can go wrong when we’re stanning for our faves, and how we can do better.
The Editors at Everyday Feminism
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Singers, songwriters, bands, artists, actors, YouTubers, Viners – these kinds of people can be very influential to us.
Some people feel a real connection to the music from a certain band, or they watch their favorite YouTuber regularly and feel a genuine friendship there. I think this is awesome. I have a lot of people who I really look up to and fangirl about, and I like that. I like having these people in my life who I feel are a positive influence and whose content I enjoy listening to or watching.
So for all intents and purposes, I’m a fan, and I’m a part of fan culture. There’s another word for this that you might’ve heard and that’s “stanning” or being a “stan.”
It comes from that Eminem song, “Stan,” about an overly obsessive fan, and I’ve also heard people say it’s a combination of the words stalker and fan – though I don’t like normalizing that kind of violent behavior. But anyway, stans are usually the ones who spend their savings on concert tickets for their favorite artist, or who have Twitter accounts named for their favorite YouTubers and retweet and favorite everything they post.
This kind of fan culture, stan culture – whatever you want to call it – has both its positives and its negatives.
One thing I want to address right up front, though, is that I think stanners are usually wrongly stereotyped as naive, airheaded young girls. People pretty regularly make fun of Directioners or Beliebers, and it usually has some kind of sexist connotation of, “Well, only little girls like that.”
And I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think there have been many studies of the gender ratio of different stans, but on the whole, it does feel like stanners are usually young girls. But discrediting any kind of work just because its fan base is largely young girls doesn’t make any sense. In fact, from a feminist standpoint, it’s hugely discriminatory and sexist to hate on something simply because girls like it.
If I had to guess, I’d say that young girls are just the most allowed to be passionate about things.
Young boys, as a byproduct of toxic gender roles, are told they shouldn’t really get emotional or passionate about things – especially not things that girls like. If, as feminists, we want to eliminate these harmful gender roles, we need to not stigmatize being passionate about stuff.
And in general, as we get older, I think we all kind of learn that it isn’t “cool” to be obsessed with or passionate about something. Plus, young people are just more likely to feel “obsessive” or “passionate” about things since they’re figuring out who they are as individuals.
So there’s nothing inherently wrong with stanning for someone. If you enjoy someone and their work, then go ahead, it’s not hurting anyone. And I think it can even create a positive little community where you can meet like-minded people and work on fan fictions or other passion projects together.
However, there’s a darker side to stan culture that I don’t think we talk about enough – and that’s made up of two major aspects: angry mob mentality, and believing your fave is infallible.
Because, while stanning can be nice and fun while everyone is on the same page, what happens when someone doesn’t like your fave? Some fans can seem like the happiest, kindest people in the world until you mention one negative opinion about their fave, and then they turn on you.
This can be as innocent as someone saying they don’t like One Direction’s music, and a Directioner tweeting them like, “Hey, you suck.” But it’s often more than that. It could be a barrage of tweets from a ton of stanners filled with racist or homophobic slurs. If the confrontation is in real life, it could result in fights.
And at its very worst, this is people defending their fave even when their fav has been accused of committing violence.
For example, it’s not uncommon for people to be incredibly afraid of naming their rapist if their rapist is a celebrity or a major sports player or something. Doing that means facing the wrath of thousands of angry fans who aren’t going to believe you no matter what. They might send you death threats, they might dox you, you never know.
And that, I think, is the worst part of stan culture. You need to recognize that your fave is not infallible. No matter how much you think you know them from their music, or their movies, or their YouTube videos, if they had a dark side, they wouldn’t show that to you. I mean, the same thing happens in real life – people who we love or trust can do terrible things.
So I understand that there’s a connection there with these celebrities, but at the end of the day, they’re fallible humans just like you and me, and they can make mistakes or they can be genuinely bad people who are just exceptionally good at hiding it.
I don’t want to talk about anyone specifically, but there have been countless instances across the Internet where major YouTubers or Viners have been accused of or caught doing really messed up stuff, and their stanners still defend them and attack anyone who speaks negatively of them – and that’s not okay.
Even on a smaller scale, stanners really just need to chill. Once I tweeted out a hate comment I’d gotten on one of my videos, and another YouTuber replied with like an angry face emoji, like being angry at the comment I received. A few minutes later, I got a tweet from one of their stanners calling me all sorts of names because they thought the angry emoji was directed at me.
Obviously, this was a miscommunication, but even if it hadn’t been, there’s no reason to attack anyone who your fave disagrees with or doesn’t like. You’re an independent person, and you can think for yourself. Don’t allow anyone, no matter how much you look up to them, to be able to tell you who or what you do or don’t like.
I’d also argue that this is explicitly a feminist issue because of how it reinforces so many toxic aspects of our culture in relation to gender. There’s the unnecessary gendering of feeling passionate about stuff, there’s the rape culture that prevents survivors from coming forward to accuse their attackers, and there’s the violent gender- and sexuality-based attacks that often come out in angry mobs.
So, yeah, enjoy the positive aspects of stan culture. Have a community, meet awesome people, support causes you think are important, write cool fan fiction – but remember that your fave is not infallible. Don’t follow them unquestioningly. Make them earn your love and respect.
Donald Trump recently said he could go out into 5th Avenue and shoot someone and his supporters would still vote for him. He clearly has some dedicated stanners. But don’t be a Trump fan. I would really hope that if your fave shot someone, you wouldn’t support them anymore.
If your fave messes up, call them out on it. Don’t be a part of the angry mob that attacks anyone outside your fandom. Please just live and let live, and think for yourself.
Alright, that’s all I’ve got for you today. This video is a part of a series I’m doing for Everyday Feminism, a website dedicated to helping you stand up to and break down everyday oppression. I’ll put a link down below so you can check out my previous videos in the series.
And I love you all so much, I hope you have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you next week. Bye!
To learn more about this topic, check out:
- 8 Things White Fans Can Do to Make Fandom More Inclusive
- Your Favorite Media Is Problematic – Here’s How to Deal (And What Not to Do)
Riley J. Dennis is a Contributing Vlogger for Everyday Feminism. She’s a polyamorous, atheist, gender non-binary trans woman with a passion for fiction writing, feminism, and technology. She got her BA from Whittier College in 2015 doing a self-designed major called Writing Worlds, a mixture of creative writing and anthropology, focused on realistic fictional world building. Find her on her YouTube channel, Twitter @RileyJayDennis, or her website RileyJayDennis.com.