Disclaimer: This article is in no way the expressed opinion of the-arcade.ie as a whole. This is my view on the subject and mine alone.
So what’s this disclaimer thing for? Well, I’m going to be talking about something a little bit controversial. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on the matter, but I just thought I’d share mine. All this big fuss over this little shirt design (see above)!
Sexist, right? There’s been outrage over this t-shirt recently. TankHead Custom Tees are the creators of this print, and they are in no way apologizing. People are neglecting to point out the counterpoint to this shirt, which replaces ‘fangirls’ with ‘fanboys’. Now, let’s talk about it as if the shirt was marketed with ‘fanboys‘ as the default slogan. Girls, what images come to mind when you hear ‘fanboys‘? Cosplay creepers? Rude dudes? Groping gamers? That’s what I think of.
Tankhead didn’t bury their head in the sand nor did they apologise for the shirt, they made a statement: “Fans are people who like and genuinely respect a fandom, and it’s creators,” the post explains…Fangirls/boys are like those creepy fedora wearing neckbearded bronies, or hetalia fanfiction shippers, who make us all collectively cringe in pain at what they do to the things we love. No one should ever defend these kinds of people. Seriously, they make the rest of us look bad.“
Over the last few years there’s been a distinct line in the sand drawn between fan and fanboy/fangirl. When someone says they’re a fan, I think of someone who enjoys a certain series or movie. When I hear fanboy/fangirl, I think of the over-excitable shippers I see at conventions. Now, everyone ships. Be it Destiel, JohnLock or even ponies, everyone does it. It’s not a bad thing. It’s creative. You’re creating alternate stories for these characters, which is cool. It only crosses the line when you decide to broadcast these ideals and force them on others. People are allowed to think John and Sherlock are straight. People are allowed to think they’re gay. But what’s not okay is when people who don’t ship a pairing are attacked for it. I’ve seen it happen on sites like Tumblr, and that’s not cool.
I recently read an account of a little girl’s experience at a My Little Pony convention. For sale in the trade hall were body pillows of the ponies and even NSFW artwork of the characters. It makes me sick that a young girl can’t enjoy something she’s a fan of because of fanboys. There’s my distinction. Fanboys want the body pillows and erotic art, fans are there because they enjoy the show.
I’ve been trading at artist alleys for just over 3 years now, and I assure you, I’ve seen it all. I like people who come up to admire my art and tell me that it’s good. They tell me the like a certain character. That’s all great! I love chatting to people about it. But then of course you get people coming up and making crude comments and being generally disrespectful. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked to draw NSFW content at a convention. I deny it for 2 reasons:
1. You don’t draw something like that where there’s children around.
2. I don’t want to see characters doing something like that. This is what makes them mad. Their argument is always along the lines of ‘But I’m paying you! You have to draw Sasuke and Naruto doing these horrible acts!‘ Hate to burst your bubble, but no, I don’t. I refuse your payment and you can be on your way. No, I’m not homophobic because I didn’t draw it. Yes, it makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because I’m a fan of Naruto. I don’t want to see or draw these characters the way you see them, and I’m allowed to have the right as a fan.
Let’s even focus on the terms for a moment. Why is there a difference between the word fan and fanboy/fangirl? Why does one have a gender prefix added to it? Why can’t you say that you’re just a fan of something without adding your gender? Adding the gender prefix implies that attraction is a huge part of what or who you like. Let me give you an example. I searched fangirl on Tumblr, and here are two of the many identical posts I found:
What strikes your here? Both images are focusing on attraction to a character. There’s the difference. A fan of Free! will talk about what a good show it is, what episodes they like etc. A fangirl will talk about how perfect her bishi swimmer crush is.
The t-shirt wasn’t a pop at women! It wasn’t a warning to get out of the male only world of fans! It was a t-shirt, a pretty ordinary t-shirt! Not everything is an uphill struggle against patriarchal t-shirt companies and those intent on keeping women out of the geek community! It’s not to disparage or shame those who are that little bit more fanatical about their favourite book, character or game – this was a t-shirt making light of people taking things that little too far even when it comes to being a fan – we all know them, hell at one stage or another we’ve probably been accused of or realised it ourselves!
Discussions are needed, it’s important that no one be left out because of their identity whether it be physical or sociocultural! It’s just as important that we remain rational, calm and respectful when these discussions arise and recognise things for what they really are and in this case, it’s just a t-shirt!