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Misogyny within fan culture affects real women

Misogyny within fan culture affects real women

Misogyny within fan culture affects real women
September 13
16:13 2019

Fan culture is meant to provide people with opportunities to find their niche and bond over similar interests. Unfortunately, misogyny within these communities prevents women from fully engaging with the media they invest in.

Characters meant to represent or serve as role models for women are pulverized on social media for the amusement of male fans who then project their real issues with women onto fictional characters who can’t defend themselves. In turn, these fans never receive any consequences for their sexism.

Even as the idolization of Hermione Granger inspired little girls across the globe to embrace intellectualism, other female Harry Potter characters were vilified. Ginny Weasley was slut-shamed for dating around even as she was criticized for having few significant flaws even though her critics didn’t actually seem all that keen on female characters who do have faults in the first place.

Alternative love interest Cho Chang was branded a crybaby, despite being 16 years old and in mourning for her murdered boyfriend. Representation in the Harry Potter universe is notably lackluster, so it is telling that one of the few characters of color within the series was met with little sympathy from fans when confronted with tragedy.

As for the hostility toward Ginny Weasley, fans attribute it to her so-called “Mary Sue” status. A Mary Sue is the female counterpart of idealized male characters such as Indiana Jones or John McClane, the difference being that Mary Sues are almost universally derided. Unlike Ginny, many of them do not belong to an established canon and were invented by young girls invested in a particular fan base.

Instead of asking themselves why women characters should be devoid of imperfections, older, primarily male fans displayed an inappropriate amount of scorn for both these original characters and their creators.

One of the most vitriolic examples of a double standard from the fans comes from the television show, “Breaking Bad.” Main character Walter White is a murderous methamphetamine manufacturer who chooses to sell drugs overtaking charity due to his own warped perception of masculinity, yet the wife he emotionally and sexually abuses was hated by fans for her “nagging” personality. The actress even received multiple death threats for simply taking on the role.

The slandering of Skyler White was quickly popularized until even women within the fanbase would express intense hatred for the character as if her lack of likability was an undeniable fact, rather than an opinion shaped by societal perceptions that were never properly deconstructed.

More recently, Captain Marvel received backlash for almost every aspect of her character. Men often object to films that promote female empowerment, though the existence of Captain Marvel doesn’t actually erase movies like “John Wick” and “James Bond” from media altogether.

Their fear that acceptable representation of women, queer people and people of color will displace white, straight, cis men from cinema is reflective of their fears that more human rights for others means less for them. As a queer woman, I know firsthand that the perception men have of women often automatically shifts when they discover she has nothing to offer them, and besides fictional women’s often hyper-sexualized imagery, these characters really don’t.

So, that combined with fictional women’s inability to hear degrading commentary, men can say, draw and do anything they want without feeling pressured to face their own internalized misogyny.

People bond over vilifying women because it’s fun to hate things that other people hate and refer to it as a shared experience rather than acknowledge it as mob mentality. Women in fanbases often feel policed by these practices, which then encourage unrealistic expectations onto other women.

Fiction often reflects reality, and the way a man perceives a woman who is not capable of challenging his behavior is indicative of how he views real women.

Featured Illustration: Zahraa Hassan

About Author

Rachel Card

Rachel Card

Rachel Card is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. She was born in Austin, Texas, and is currently quarantining there with her family and three dogs.

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