Societal Double Standards: Sports and Boy Band Fans


Rebecca St Fleur, EHS Class of 2024, Contributor

Double standards between men and women have always been around, and females are expected to sit by, letting themselves be subject to this unfair law of the world. I had grown to deal with the expectation I was supposed to follow, but it was at the age of fourteen years old when it was the first time I had enough.

I had always listened to music within the bubble of what I heard on the radio. Generic pop, mumble rap, and forever skipping the country station. And then I heard about the kpop (Korean pop) group, BTS. I immediately judged people who liked them. Why were they listening to something they couldn’t even understand? But over the COVID-19 induced quarantine, I decided to check them out and didn’t regret it.

It wasn’t like I was just interested in their music—no, I liked them as people. I researched their names, listened to all their albums, and even found out about the solo work that they did outside the group.

I became a fangirl. During this journey, I rid myself of bias I hadn’t even realized I had and BTS truly made me a more open-minded person. I wanted everyone to know music has no boundaries. Especially due to something as stupid and minuscule as language. I have never hidden the fact that I like BTS. It’s obviously nothing to be ashamed of because it’s simply music. But because my interest stemmed during quarantine, not a lot of people know that I do. And when I tell them, I get a reaction I see in many people who don’t realize the bias they have. Or the internalized misogyny in some of their responses. So today, I want to speak up on it. And that starts with talking about the differences and similarities between sports and boy bands. And their fans.

Not many people realize but sports and boy bands have many things in common with one another. A sports team and a boy band entertain large crowds by showcasing their talents. They both practice and train for their careers, which typically have shorter lifespans than other professions. They also both have some sort of social media presence or engagement. Their fanbases have many similarities too. The sense of community they build within each other, the fact that they spend money on merchandise and events, the way they dress up for games/concerts, the intense loyalty and passion fans feel, attending concerts/games, and even getting emotional towards the team or artist.

Sports and boy bands both have screaming fans and organized fan chants. So where does the true difference stem from? I’ll give you three guesses. Sports are a male-dominated interest, while boy bands are female-dominated. And the world’s difference in perception and reception of these two interests is skewered so much only because of gender. 

Boy bands have a history of not being taken seriously by the industry as a whole and people in general. For example, BTS, One Direction, NSYNC, or the Backstreet Boys. Even the Beatles, who are now considered one of the greatest artists of all time, weren’t taken seriously in their prime because of the fact they were a boy band.

Sports teams have never been treated this way. They are portrayed in the media ideally and in a good light, while boy bands are the complete opposite. Even the way their fanbases are perceived is on two different spectrums. You’ll hear journalists call BTS’ fans (named Army), rabid and obsessive who are teenage girls devoted to the world’s biggest boy band.

But in turn, sports team fans are praised for their extreme dedication to the game. Boy band fans have garnered the name toxic for their behavior, and yet sports fans are the only ones who have a history and prevalence of violence. Sports are often associated with masculinity and the hyped emotions sometimes turned to violence displayed by these male fans are culturally accepted as the norm.

It’s simply “a part of the game.” But females are shamed and ridiculed for showing these same emotions often at a lesser level. It is not accepted for these girls to be excited over their interests. Females will be told that the artist they like has no idea they exist and that they have no connection to them but when men freak out over any sports-related game, it’s suddenly okay that these players don’t know they exist. That they don’t have any connection to their fans either. The hypocrisy behind these two statements is easy to see.

Have you ever heard sports fans called, wildly obsessive grown men? Well, that’s daily for boy band fans. As a fan of the band BTS, I have been called a wildly obsessive teenage girl. And it’s hard not to snap at comments like these. It’s based on an assumption that all boy bands’ fan bases are made up of wildly obsessive teenage girls. Females aren’t the only ones who listen to boy bands. Though boy bands may be a female-dominated interest, it doesn’t mean there aren’t male fans. And with comments like these, male counterparts are disregarded and ignored.

The second part of what annoys me—and is the internalized misogyny—is that these boy bands are invalidated because the fans are teenage girls. Let’s say to just prove my point, there aren’t any male fans of boy bands. Why does the fact their fanbase is the so-called screaming, teenage girls, invalidate them? It’s what happened to the Beatles. People didn’t decide they were one of the greats until men decided they liked them too.

This even translates into pop culture, where the same exact thing occurred with Star Trek. And it’s not okay because this insinuates that the interests of females don’t matter.

It is incredibly interesting to me how most male-dominated interests such as sports are considered real and mature, but a mostly female-oriented one such as a boy band who do nothing but spread positive messages are often considered childish, fake, and embarrassing to like. There are female sports fans, and male boy band fans, and yet the only ones I see invalidated are the boy bands and the females’ interests. How is it that a man who enjoys their favorite sports team, goes out to see games, and even has that team’s memorabilia in their home any different than a BTS fan who likes listening to their music, buys their merchandise, and goes to their concerts? They both scream over the people they idolize and yet girls are called hysterical.

In a Ted Talk, playwright Yve Blake brought up the sexist history behind the word. She stated, “That in the 19th century, hysteria was considered to be a legitimate female disorder that could be diagnosed by a doctor if a woman displayed excessive emotion or difficult behavior. The word ‘hysterical’ comes from the Latin word ‘hystericus,’ meaning ‘of the womb,’ because it was thought that this condition was caused by a dysfunction of the uterus. And so, a treatment for hysteria was a hysterectomy. Which is what we still call a removal of the womb.”

She then went on to say, “Because, I want to know, if girls grow up in a world where words like ‘crazy’ and ‘psycho’ and ‘hysterical’ are casually used to describe female enthusiasm, then how does that shape the way that those girls get to see themselves? And if girls grow up in a world that tells them that they are designed just a bit crazier than the boys, then isn’t that a little bit like telling them that they are born less capable of rationality than men, less capable of reason, and unworthy of the same intellectual respect as their brothers.” The way that this viewpoint is accepted in society only lets internalized misogyny grow within people. 

The imbalance is clear. I have seen Army who are teased on social media because they listen to BTS. Comments like, “oh, you must be a twelve year old girl,” are thrown at them just because of their likes. And it’s so sad to see how this is used as a derogatory term.

The comment is condescending because it implies that a twelve year old girl is not worth having a valid opinion and Army take the bait every time.

Their responses to those statements aren’t, “so what if I am a twelve year old girl?” No, they point out how BTS has a diverse fanbase made up of people of different ages and gender. And while that fact is great, it’s disheartening to see these fans felt they needed to explain there are older males within their fanbase for their interest to be seen as valid.

My last example is that I watch a lot of reaction videos on YouTube. Youtuber xCeleste created a video called THIS IS BTS | Introduction to BTS available for anyone to watch, and new fans or people just curious watch it to learn about the members. The video, at one point, explains how BTS has one of the most diverse fanbases out there in age, gender, and race. By actual statistics, 23% of their fans are teenagers, 24% are in their 20s, 28% are in their 30s, 21% are in their 40s, and 4% are 50 and above.

And 31% of their fans are male, while a clear majority are female. But why should any of these numbers matter? But it does. I couldn’t tell you the amount of people who watched the video and didn’t take BTS seriously before, suddenly do once this was revealed. And it disappointed me. Why did it take knowing this boy band has male fans and most of them were older for them to be validated?

Why couldn’t the assumption of teenage girls be taken just as seriously as the real facts?

Why is something people enjoy as a female put down below males? Neither is above the other and yet most made it seem that way. And it’s sad that it happens everywhere. Whether it was by a friend who was a teenage boy or a man who thought his values were more important. When will we begin to respect the interests and opinions of women in this world just as valid as men? Why are we being ridiculed for enjoying something that makes us happy?

And my last question, which only would be a matter of time before it got answered: When would be the next time I encountered myself being put lower than that of a man? Since the beginning of our society, the patriarchal hierarchy has endured and it’s past time it changed.