Are All Fandoms Treated Equal?

In about an hour, I will drive to Milwaukee to pick up my parents at the airport there.  They have spent the last week in the Denver area.  Why Denver?  The answer is simple.  They went there to see the Sox play the Rockies.  (BTW, they saw a great come-from-behind extra inning win!)  Strangely enough, I never hear negative comments or see funny looks when my parents tell people that they picked a vacation spot to see a Sox game.  (Last year, they went to DC to see them play the Nationals, for example.)  Yet, when I tell people that I’m going to insert-random-city-here to see Duran, I almost always get a funny look or some veiled statements, like these, “Really?  You are still following them?  How can you afford this?  Work lets you do this?  Why do you need to see so many shows?”  This leads me to wonder if all fandoms are treated equally and I have to admit that I don’t think so.

Obviously, there are many fandoms out there.  There are movie fandoms, TV show fandoms, book fandoms, specific actor/actress fandoms, music fandoms, sports fandom and more.  It seems to me that the only really acceptable fandom in American culture is sports.  No one thinks it is weird for football fans to set aside their Sundays to watch the games.  I doubt if those who are getting ready to travel to the All-Star game gets questioned like I do.  In fact, major media supports the sports fandom by not only showing the results of the games or events on the news but also by showing featured “big” games on primetime TV.  The Superbowl, itself, is a crazy, big deal with a significant viewership and big time dollars being spent to have an advertisement during it.  Can you imagine if the news covered things like Sci-fi conventions?  How would it be if they showed big concerts live in primetime?  Is the lack of media attention the cause of the unequal treatment between sports and every other fandom?  Perhaps.  Maybe the media coverage just reinforces what was already in existence.  *shrugs*

In analyzing fandom, I have thought a great deal about the differences between fandoms as well as the similarities.  When I think about what makes sports different from the rest, I’m forced to acknowledge the demographic difference.  Who were the majority of fans when most of the major American sports came to be?  Men.  Who are the majority of fans for things like Duran or movies like Twilight?  Women.  Are there female sports fans?  Obviously.  I’m a Sox fan and so is my mother, my sister, and my nieces.  I know many women who are into football or basketball.  Are there male fans of things like Duran or Harry Potter?  Of course.  Do they make up the majority or are they in the minority?  I think it is pretty clear that they are in the minority.  What about fandoms like Star Trek?  Those fandoms have a decent number of guys from what I can tell.  How come they aren’t treated like sports are?  Could it be that the guys involved in sci-fi or comic fandom aren’t like the guys into sports?  Perhaps.  Obviously, this assumption could be based solely on stereotypes of both types of fans.  Nonetheless, it does make me wonder if sexism isn’t playing a role.

If sexism is playing a role, could it be that some fandoms, like ours, won’t be accepted in general American society because the majority of fans are women?  Could it be that other fandoms aren’t treated equally because the majority of fans for those fandoms are made up of men who are deemed as cool as sports fans?  I don’t know.  What about fandoms like Phish or the Grateful Dead?  How are they treated?  They certainly aren’t put in the spotlight like sports but they aren’t as made fun of as Twilight fans?  What makes those fandoms different?  Could the age of the fans also play a role in determining how acceptable fandoms are?  Thus, younger fans equal less respect?  Could it be that Duranies experience far less acceptance because it is made up mostly of women, because many of us started when we were young and because the men that are involved aren’t as cool as sports fans? 

If this is the case, then, it seems like being a Duranie will never be accepted.  I wonder if there is anything we, as fans, can do to try and change this unequal treatment of fandom.  Of course, some will argue that it shouldn’t matter to me or to anyone else.  While I agree with that and will certainly deal with that, I have to admit that I would prefer the rest of the world to treat my fandom as it does sports as I believe that both can have value.

-A

8 thoughts on “Are All Fandoms Treated Equal?”

  1. Unfortunately it will NEVER be equal to sports. But sports also have the advantage of being on a very regular schedule. Every year, same time, same thing. The competitive nature of sports also makes it more popular (also perhaps a more male thing) and the rivalry between teams/cities can make sports fandom very appealing to a lot of people.

    And honestly, sports just have a larger fan base. Think about how many games a team has every season, and for most teams (except for the worst ones), the stadium is full, or close to it. One professional sports team probably sells more tickets in one season than Duran will sell in an entire world tour.

    I think there are certain bands you could travel to see without getting a lot of slack: The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, U2, etc. Because they have a larger male fan base? Because they have more “respect” in the rock music world? Probably. Duran Duran is never going to get that kind of respect because teenage girls made them famous.

  2. I go to a Doctor Who con every year where there are as many (if not more) guys than there are girls. Many of those guys are in costume. Now, granted, I think they wear the costumes to pick up the girls (and it works), but that is one fandom that actually seems to be more guys than gals (although now, with the new series, more women seem to be getting on board with the show).

    Star Trek fans, though, are the most obsessive. Duranies have nothing on them. I've been to one Star Trek convention and will never ever ever do that again. Talk about a fandom that tends to take itself entirely too seriously!

  3. I'm sorry but I don't see the inequality here at all. I think most people would find it just as weird if someone followed a sports team around the country and felt the need to go to every one of their games. Most sports fans don't do that. They tend to watch the games on tv and maybe go to home games and very occasionally go to away games.
    It's not the same as following a band around the world at all. Also, every game is different and you don't know the outcome. With concerts with a band, most of the time the set list is quite similiar on a given tour so people wonder why a fan has to see so many shows. I can totally understand traveling to see your favorite band if they don't come to your town, but I honestly don't get why some fans feel the need to travel to go to every out of town show when the band does come to their own city.
    And I'm a female who loves football and basketball so I really hate the stereotypes that women don't like sports. Women are half the country so sports wouldn't be so popular if plenty of women weren't watching. There are way more female sports fans than people think!

  4. This touched me because I always get the same reaction when people find out I'm a Duran fan – a litany of “Why?”s and “They're still around?”s. My friends and family, most of whom have been well aware of my fandom for the past 28 years, were still surprised I would spend time and money to go see their show in Chicago a couple of months ago (20 miles from where I live) because despite my loving them, they just still don't think Duran is worthy of my time. And I seem to remember that always being the case, even back when they were arguably the biggest band in the world. It was never “cool” to be into them, and you are probably onto something when you say it's because their fanbase was largely girls. Well, if I didn't give a rip about being cool when I was 14 I certainly don't now! Anyway, thanks for writing this. It might give my friends who are Cubs fans something to think about. Their fandom is somehow seen as romantic rather than pointless – but in my opinion it's more pointless than being a Duranie. At least I get something out of it, in terms of enjoyment of life. The Cub fans might enjoy watching games (but more often do NOT); whereas I have a whole soundtrack set to 3/4th of my life thus far – a soundtrack that was largely responsible for making it bearable in the first place. And wonderful memories, with hopefully more to come.

  5. @semibold-You speak the truth on all fronts. While being a Duranie will never equal being a sports fan, I would just really like to have a little bit more respect, you know?

    @Robin, do you think that Dr. Who fans or Trekkies get the same respect that sports fans do? If not, why do you think that is?

    @Marlissa, thank you for reading and commenting!! So glad that this touched you. Next Chicago show, we should all meet up!

    -A

  6. @Anonymous, there is SO much to respond to with your comments! First, do you really think that music fans, like us, go to every show?! That's funny! I only wish that I could! I doubt that anyone does that! Second, the shows on the same tour aren't the same. Yes, you are right that each game is different because the outcome is always different. Well, the same is true for concerts as there are different set lists and different crowds, which make for different experiences. In some ways going to concerts are like going to games where there is a 90% chance of winning! Third, I stated that there were female sports fans. I am one of them. That said, sports fans are typically watching MEN play the sports. Lastly, your first statement says that there is no inequality and then you go on to criticize my fandom. You proved my point.

    -A

  7. I think it really depends on who you ask. I don't think any fandom gets more respect than another. Because people still make fun of that half naked guy at the football game who has painted himself blue and white. But if you ask that same guy about guys dressing up as Captain Kirk, they'd probably call those guys names.

    Interestingly enough, I've found a lot of crossover fandom in Doctor Who and Duran, so maybe I'm not the best person to ask about differences.

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