Imagination is encouraged in children and I was lucky enough to be a little girl who had a good one. Turning my backyard into a place where horses and cats could talk to each other and treasures could be found in flowers, became a way for me explore reality while opening my mind to greater possibilities. When I was about ten years old, I found that I could put this imagination into a page of words. Writing solidified and extended worlds for me, taking them from fantasy and making them more real. I knew I was different then because the other kids told me I was weird to want to spend so much of my time writing stories. Fiction writing is something that has always made me special and I cherish it for that reason.
But as I grew older, my imagination became a concern to me. I read too many books about sad women who would go home by themselves and alone indulge in an Austen novel, passively wishing that the fantasy they read would become real. Being a writer with a love of the imagination, I have feared that I will become one of these sad women who only have a fantasy to hold on to. It becomes a worry when I spend more time with the characters I create then with my real friends. I should have a job that doesn’t involve reckless creativity. I need to pursue a professional career that will tie down my passion for words and things that are just “stories.” For an adult woman, imagination is dangerous when we are supposed to excel towards being a man’s equal in fields like entrepreneurship, politics, sciences, and criminal justice. I have grown to fear my ability to imagine just as much as I have grown to love it.
In the past, it seems like women have always been criticized for being fanciful, for reading too many novels, and for having dreams in their heads. Novels and fiction make women senseless. They allow us too much indulgence into our emotions causing us to be unruly, rebellious; or worse, hysterical. Women today are still captivated and obsessed with stories that we like – it is only a natural, human response that comes from having a brain. We have become what are called “fans” with lists and lists of unreal things we shower with admiration.
However, with the advent of the Internet, our interests and passions have become more obvious because we have the ability to share them instantly with the world. So the “fangirl” has been born – a woman who indulges in her imagination. But if only that were the sole definition for “fangirl.” She is not just someone who embraces the things that she likes. Look at urbandictionary.com and you will see that, for having these feelings, a fangirl is less than human. She is a “rabid breed of female.” Which sounds kind of like a description of a dog to me. She’s ugly and unattractive. We are victims of an “epidemic” like we don’t choose for ourselves what moves us. We are obsessed stalkers – emotionally unstable – who act like idiots. And the whole of our interests are made up of objectifying men and making our favorite characters have sex with each other. We are stuck in the belittlement of forever remaining a “girl” when there are plenty of us who are the age of respected adults. This is how the world see us and this is the stereotype we have been assigned.
Despite the negativity included in the fangirl stereotype, I believe that my own fear of my imagination, my fictions, my stories, and my fantasies is not unfounded. If one becomes too consumed with fiction, we become detached from the real world that we explored as children, which I believe is harmful to women. We become passive, hoping that our goals and dreams will come to us, instead of us reaching out to them. We have unreal expectations for ourselves – waiting for a man who looks like Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice – when the man sitting next to you in class, at work, or at the cafe is more handsome due to the fact that you can actually receive love and equality from him in a relationship. Being overwhelmed with fatasy allows us to stop thinking for ourselves. We let the fiction start to tell us what is right and wrong about who we are instead of own heads and hearts. There really is damage that can be done by having too active of an imagination and by spending too much time with fantasy. An imbalance of fiction and reality exists and an imbalance is rarely good. There is truth in every stereoptype, and this is what scares me.
As a woman who writes fiction, who writes fan fiction for fun, and who considers herself to be a fangirl, how do I find that balance? How do I maintain a level of imagination that expands my world of reality without losing myself with the fangirl stereotype? How do I know when escapism has taken over?
How do I be a fan and a fiction writer in a way that is responsible and respectful to my identity as a woman?
In order to answer that question and maintain that responsibility/respect for my identity, I have decided to make some promise to myself. This promise will hopefully give me peace of mind on the matter and also help to fight the negative stereotypes/truths of being a fangirl.
1) I promise to use fiction as not only a way of escaping from reality, but as a way of reflecting on my own reality.
Fiction is based in reality even if that fiction belongs in the science fiction or fantasy genre. When I write fiction or fan fiction, I promise to think about what I’m writing about. I will look for the reality within the fiction. I will apply it to my own life and ask myself why it is significant to me. I will use my own mind and my own heart to determine why I care about the things I admire and the things I write about. I will ask myself: How does this story change or contribute to how I see my own experiences? Can I apply what I have learned from it to my future life?
I believe that part of being a fangirl who respects her own identity, is showing respect for what I choose to admire. I promise to think about why I am a fan of someone or something. Do I have reasons beyond superficial appearance for admiring celebrities? If I do like someone just for their looks, what specific things do I like about them? How does this physical admiration empower, contain, or define my own sexuality?
Another thing that personally concerns me about being a part of the fangirl stereotype are the actions/reactions fangirls supposedly exhibit when in contact with the person they admire – being a stalker or excessively emotional. I will think about what is the correct way to express my admirations. I will ask myself: Are my actions as a fan related to my own self-affirmation/importance or am I using the experience interacting with a celebrity to genuinely compliment them? Is the interaction respectful or annoying and intrusive? Is the interaction based on who they are, what they have done, or your possible common interests? When is it the right time to go bat s**t crazy because I’ve just met him?!
I promise not to alter or portray the sexual identity of the person I admire. How would I feel if someone took my body image and against my will, put that image into sexual situations that do not describe me? What if someone I never met took an image of me and made that image having sexual relations with someone I’ve never wanted to have sex with? It is an assault of an individual’s sexual identity. It doesn’t matter to me if the celebrity sees it that way or not. It doesn’t matter if it never hurts their feelings or if they never see it/think about it. As a woman, I would personally like to have my own body image respected, so I promise never to be disrespectful to the body/sexual image of anyone else.
3) I promise not to fear my passions, but to embrace them in order to see what new reality they will lead me towards.
It is never wrong to feel, no matter what the emotion is or to what it is connected. Having fantasies, dreaming, and spending time with fiction is completely normal. I promise to never stop imagining new things. I promise never to turn my back on that child who wanted to explore the world. I promise to never fear what I have freely chosen as a passion. I promise that writing fiction will not keep me from real happiness or success.