Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fangirls, Fanboys, Gendered Language,... and Cumberbitches (again)

A few weeks ago I mentioned this link in a post about Chick Lit. Apparently men are now reading Fifty Shades of Grey. And being the good culture vulture, semi-stalker fangirl that I am, I investigated.

I found this article from the Advocate of Baton Rouge, LA (no, not this Advocate, which I'm actually more familiar with) which appears to be the same one that's been posted in the forum.

And then I found this:

My reaction:
Um, bros... while you continue to argue what sort of books are accessible to men and which aren't (and question the fact whether you're actually reading it), I'm going to ask a man about reading Fifty Shades. That man being my friend Kevin, who is like a brother to me and probably the only man I could ask this to without feeling awkward. So here's our text conversation:
Me: Hey, I need your opinion: what do you think of guys reading fifty shades of grey?
Kevin: I'm not sure i have time...Nor the desire. Why? Haha
Me: I was just wondering what you thought of guys in general wanting to read fifty shades; I'm doing a blog post on it
Kevin: I mean i guess I could haha... :P
Me: Ok... Good enough
Kevin: Should i try to get a hold of a copy?
Me: No! Don't feel pressured to read it! I'm just asking what you think of the idea of guys choosing of their own free will to read it. Because guys actually ARE reading it. And I'm intrigued why they would
Kevin: Ohhh i thought you legit wanted me to read it :p i was like why is she asking? Am i a research subject? Haha
Me: Sorry if I was unclear! Or is it just bizarre that men are actually willingly reading it?
Kevin: Well considering the sex drive men have i'm not surprised they are... They're looking to give their wives/girlfriends what they want i guess. You should talk about how rope sales have gone through the roof haha
Me: Oh my god, have rope sales really? Is Target perpetually out of stock? *
Kevin: Target doesn't carry rope, i just saw it on tv haha We do carry twine and bungee cords though :p
Me: Target doesn't carry rope?! Good to know :) how are the bungee cords stock-wise? :P kidding.
Kevin: Ewwww ginaaaaaaaaa :p
Kevin: haha gross :p
Me: Indeed. For the record, I'm typing up this convo to put on the blog :D
Kevin: Oh god haha
Me: I'm considering that an approval :)
*Point of clarification: My friend Kevin works at Target, an American retail superstore that is slowly stealing his soul. Kidding, Kev. But you have worked there for about five years, which is an awfully long time in retail.

So that's what I learned from Kevin. And it was still awkward. *sigh...*

Here's the deal: this isn't really about why a man would or wouldn't read Fifty Shades. This is more about why anyone would read the damned book. And I'm just never going to understand that. So, I'm going to move on to a topic to pursuit with a better chance of resolution. That of the fanboy.

As I really badly explained here (it was an early post; it shows), I don't really distinguish between fangirls and fanboys because they overlap so much. And I'm kind of more interested in talking about feminism. But I realize that I'm doing men a great disservice. Because what about fanboys that fangirl?

Let me explain... I found this post on Tumblr. And it made me feel like a heterosexist asshole (for not the first time in my very theory-filled life). Actually, more accurately, it made me feel like this:

So that seriously has nothing to do with heterosexism (or maybe it does, but I'm so not going there right now) but I've wanted to use this clip forever. BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN RUNNING A BLOG FOR WHAT, FIVE MONTHS (holy crap, really; five months?!) AND BEEN PRIORITIZING FANGIRLS AND NOW I FEEL LIKE A TOOL.

In my defense, it's gendered language, not me that's at fault. Because what can I replace fangirl with? Fan? No, fan"girls" like to recognize the fact that they are above and beyond the passion of the average fan (as this post illustrates). Fansquee as was recommended on Tumblr? I'll have to spend an hour describing it every time I want to use it. So I'm stuck using gendered language. Which I think proves a point in itself. Especially considering a conversation that came up in my cinema and ideology class last week. Which went a little something like this:

For one reason or another (which I could explain, but that would involve discussing consumerism and feminism for the next hour) the average American consumer is typified as a woman. Since the 1950s - and farther back - women have been thought of as the ones buying stuff for their household. And thus, advertisers target them in advertising.
In a really basic sense, one could see fans as consumers. They buy movies and books and films and multitudes of merchandise that promotes their area of interest. And, because the fans that the media show are emotional, obsessive, and passionate - all negative traits generally attributed to women - the idea of fans/fandoms/fangirls becomes labeled feminine. It doesn't matter that there are actually many men who do the exact same thing. It's still labeled as a feminine activity. And we can't even come up with a word to get us away from that. *sigh* So if you've got any ideas, let me know.

Meanwhile, I stumbled across this:

CUMBERBRO. YES. I am of the hopeful belief that bro is becoming like the word dude which, initially describe men became mostly gender neutral. Considering I call everyone a dude, I'm hoping it's more gender neutral... otherwise I'm constantly offending people and being totally unaware of it. Funny I came across this Twitter posting on Tumblr, a I'd just found this Tumblr post recounting the evolution of the world Cumberbabe, invented by Cumberbatch himself to get fans away from saying Cumberbitches (which, we all know my feelings on :P). I like Cumberbabe. Plus it makes me think of this:

Yup. David Bowie in Labyrinth. Love this (because, c'mon, it's David Bowie; what's not to love?)

So we've got Cumberbabes and Cumberbros (which, as far as I'm concerned can be counted as somewhat gender neutral because everyone gets called "bro" these days (my personal favorite is to call people Brodo Baggins. Be warned, all)).

And yet, according to one of the people commenting on the Tumblr post, people still continue to use Cumberbitches despite the fact that it's embarrassing and, according to Mr. Cumberbatch himself, "a step back for feminism."

Ahem. *steps onto soapbox* DEAR PEOPLE OF THE FANDOM OF MR. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH WHO CALL THEMSELVES "CUMBERBITCHES": While it behooves me to address you and use an unnecessary amount of capital letters in the process, please understand that I do not intend to tell you want to do. You are free-thinking, clever people; telling you what to do completely destroys my point. But it is the twenty-first century and I kindly ask of you to reconsider the use of the phrase "Cumberbitch." Fan... peoples (fanpeoples, there we go; that's gender neutral) are stereotyped plenty and stigmatized in our culture. "Bitch" has few (if any) non-pejorative uses. Combining the two together in a phrase to call yourself, I fear, does more harm than good for all. Reinforcing stereotypes does little good and I wonder if that isn't what's happening here. So, just thinking about it. Thank you, and good night and good luck.

Because fangirls do not dress the same. Or look the same. Or take the exact same weird wide-legged stance. WTF.
So there you go. Oh, and because I started on the Fifty Shades note, there's this, which I came across Tumblr the other day:

Rock on, Amanda Abbington. Rock on.


  1. So when you were talking about consumerism and how the female is often labeled as the consumer, it reminded me of the "cute" or "kawaii" culture that often comes from Japan. One of the way people explained it was that women seem to have a say in money manners or whatever (it has been write a while since I've searched it), and are thus often thought of as the consumer. I mean, other people claim that the "cute" culture is like chasing after innocence and purity, but, who knows.... Also, I'm new to tumblr and asked a friend about it (because your posts have gotten me curious), and apparently there's this thing where if someone comments, "cool shoes," and you reply, "yeah, I got them from the president," it indicates to other tumblr users that you use tumblr... Almost seems a little strange--remind me of when you mentioned something of how people don't just talk about tumblr and all.... Anyway, just thought you might potentially find some of that interesting. (Lol, this is actually from the same person who has been requesting the yaoi and fanboys posts.) (Yes, I feel a need to identify myself, because I am increasingly enjoying your blogs, and often enjoy reading your posts even the second or third time around, as they are thought-provoking.) So...... Yeah... :3 I kinda am really enjoying tumblr (just having a hard time finding time to find great quality blogs to follow), but yeah.

    1. Hi again! It's nice to put a name to comments :) I know a little bit about kawaii from a video blog series I follow from a Canadian couple who live in Korea (I'm trying to find the vlog where they talk about it but can't; I can't recall if it's called kawaii in Korea or not) where they were discussing this phenomenon. However, I never connected it with consumerism, but that's a really interesting point. And it's funny you mentioned the "secret code" thing about the shoes and the President, as I was thinking about this the other day after I saw a post about it. It's interesting that some users don't want to talk about Tumblr, others want to talk about it in code, and others have no qualms about mentioning openly. Welcome to Tumblr, by the way! It's an fascinating place :)