Thursday, May 26, 2011

The stigma of being a fan

So, I wrote this blog post mid April, right after I got my JE calendars and expected to make this post shortly after. However, everything always gets pushed back. But regardless of when I made this post, I really wanted to make it to get all this frustration off my chest. It's just basically what I go through and feel on a day to day basis, just from being an idol fan. I also hope that in some small way people will relate to this post.
But anyway, disclaimer over and on to the real post.

I'm sure everyone out there who is a fan of idol music has faced some sort of judgment or mocking for liking idols. Especially the fans that live outside of Asia. Since wota are usually around 30 years old, I'm sure lots of people would question why someone that age listens to teenage girls singing about love. Or question if liking idol music is as innocent as it seems. But since I'm not a 30 year old man, and never will be, I of course can't say for sure every fan has experienced or will experience this. But one can assume this is how people would react if they have no idea what idols are.
However, if a male fan were to like an idol group like AKB48 or SDN48 I'm sure people would react differently. Since both groups take a lot of revealing and sexy photos, people would understand the appeal more and accept it more. Even if they didn't accept it they would at least understand it better.

And because of that male idol fans have it much easier than us female fans. I never really realized just how hard it is for a female fan until recently. I found out because as I started to get idol merchandise, and my family became more aware of idols as a whole, they have voiced their opinions on it several times. And I found myself not only being slightly ashamed and embarrassed, but also pretty angry. There seems to be a real stigma for being a fan of idol music. And that stigma is even greater for female fans.

As a female fan I think there's a stigma right off the bat for being a female idol fan because apparently by default if I'm listening to a female singer I have to have the hots for them, or I wouldn't listen to them. Which is absolutely ridiculous because no one would assume that if I was listening to an American female group. I think that logic stems from 2 reasons. The first being, I'm choosing to listen to that type of music. I would have a lot less grief if I choose to listen to regular legit Jpop. And the second reason being the type of music they make and the way they present themselves. Since female idols are mostly marketed to male fans everything they do reflects that. The PVs, the photo shoots, the photobooks, and to some extent the lyrics. And when you choose to like something like that, there's some automatic judgment in that. Even when I say I like the music because I'm a girl and they are girls. They are singing about things girls relate to, therefore I like it. It doesn't really make much of a difference or change anything.
And because of that I usually downplay my love for female idols around my family. I usually only mention liking male idols because that's easier to accept. So, then I also don't ask for, or buy, much female idol merchandise. I can't imagine the backlash if I asked for a photobook. Obviously I'm ok enough in my own sexuality to say such and such looks adorable. Or such and such looks sexy in that outfit, without physically being attracted to that person. However, most people do not feel that way. I feel a little ostracized because of it.

And since I'm a girl you'd think liking male idols would be easier, but it's just as bad. It might actually be worse. And that stems, of course, mostly from the way male idols look. In America, and most countries outside of Asia, the aesthetics are completely different. What the West sees as flamboyant, girly, or in a sense "gay", Asia finds normal and the most appealing. And when you show someone photos of male idols, and they don't understand the aesthetics of Asia, they are obviously going to judge it, and you, based on what they've been taught to be "normal." So, I obviously hear a lot of, "OMG, how is that not a woman?" But whatever, I think Asian guys are attractive, even if people find them to be quote unquote girly. But that's mostly because I like a lot of pretty boy American celebrities. And some American celebrities who are actually gay. (What can I say, I'm weird I guess.) But I like a wide range of different appearances. From Chace Crawford to Jay Baruchel to Lil Wayne. However, none of that seems to matter. And I am still judged for liking Asian guys who are too girly for American standards. I'm sure most of it comes from the logic that, "If she likes guys that look like girls, she must be into girls." Which is obviously not the case. And therefore is the dilemma.

Another stigma is the fact that they are idols. And since the West doesn't have idols, they are compared to the closest thing we have to idols, boy bands and girl groups. Even though that's what idols basically are, they are also completely different. And the whole idol thing in Japan is way beyond boy bands and girl groups. Idols often become widely popular and accepted groups. Because the whole culture of Japan is different. Back in the 90's boy bands and girl groups were for tweens and teenage girls. And any self respecting person who didn't fit into those 2 categories would never dare listen to them without facing massive amounts of mocking. So, of course with that mind set, and it being the general consensus, a person unaware of what idols are all about is going to completely make fun of and look down on it. Which is why I don't tell anyone I like idols. My friends don't really know I listen to idols, they don't even know I have this blog. And it's all because of ignorance and close mindedness.

I also get the stigma because of ages. Both their ages and my own. My age because by American logic is, I'm starting to be too old to listen to idols. My family thinks me liking idols is something 12 year olds do and I should basically stop. Do they care about the average age of wotas? Or that the biggest JE supporters are women in their teens and 40's? Of course not! If they knew that, would they even care? Of course not! Because they've been feed their whole life what is normal and what is not. And to go beyond that is both outrageous and ridiculous. I'm probably going to listen to idols for as long as I like the music. Which is probably years or even decades. And who's to say I can't? No one, really. Yet, that stigma will always be there.
And of course when I say their ages I mean the idols who are young, or young to American standards. Right now I'm 19 and most idols are my age or very close to my age, so it's hardly a big deal. But for some reason my family still thinks it is. Since half of Hey! Say! JUMP are younger then me, my sister thinks it's stupid and immature to listen to them. She doesn't care that 5 JUMP members are older than me or that 4 members are just one year younger than me.
Yet, she listens to the Jonas Brother and thinks it's fine. They are absolutely the closest America can get to idols, music and looks wise. Yes, my sister is 23 and likes the Jonas Brothers. Do you see the hypocrisy and irony in that? Whenever she gets grief for liking them her logic is: "since I'm the same age as the oldest member it's not weird." But me, who is nearly the same age as all of HSJ, am immature. That's just horrible logic. And it's based on nothing more than ignorance. I'm really not looking forward to seeing what will happen when I start to become a little older than my favorite idols.

Obviously, I shouldn't let general ignorance bother me or effect my love for idol music. And I pretty much don't let it. But hearing things like this constantly will take its toll on anyone. Especially someone like me. I like to think of myself as extremely sensitive and I hate being made fun of. Besides that, I am also very defensive and slightly opinionated. So it's pretty obvious why things like this upset me so easily. I just really wish people weren't so close minded all the time because it's absolutely frustrating. And it makes me feel like this stigma of being an idol fan will never go away.


Anonymous said...

I am an 18 year old girl who is a fan of a lot of female idol groups, as well as male idol groups. I feel the same way as you do on a lot! I was reading your post and nodding to myself like, "Yep, that's exactly how I feel." When I tried to show my sister Morning Musume, she just kept calling them the Japanese version of The Pussycat Dolls, and I kept telling her that their not like that at all. I guess if you don't understand the culture, then you just don't get it. It's hard for me to show my family anything that I buy too. When I buy photobooks, my mom always tells me how much of a waste it is. But to me it's not a waste at all. Also, I've wanted to buy solo photobooks (Gaki's and Reina's because their my favorites in Morning Musume), but I always think that people are going to assume that I'm a lesbian or something, which I'm completely not. I just don't want people to judge me just because I like/look up to these female idols. My family/friends are much less judgmental when I like/talk about male idols, which annoys me because I think of them all on the same field. Sure, I'm attracted to the male idols and not the female idols, but I look up to them and like them all in the same way.

So, I completely feel your pain. I think it's really hard to be a fan of Asian idols when you aren't living in Asia.

AimxAim said...

Yeah, there's seems to be a lot of greif from being a girl and a female idol fan. When my sister saw Morning Musume or sees any of my idols she just thinks they are really immature and super bubblegum like the Spice Girls or something. When I told her I like all the lyrics about girlish things and unrequited love, she just laughed. XD

Yeah, it's just easier not to show them stuff you buy. That's exactly how I feel with photobooks! And I don't own any because of it. I really want to buy Kusumi Koharu's photobooks and W's photobook, but I know my family will take one look and say that I'm a lesbian. And if I said that Koharu is my favorite and I want to support her, they would probably laugh.

I don't want people to judge me either. My family knows I like idols and I get greif. My friends don't know I like idols. And I would never show them male idols. They like Jrock, so I usually just say about the Jrock guys I like. But some of my friends even say stuff about Jrockers. :/
I look up to idols as well. Especially the female ones. I usually get inspiration from their clothes and hairstyles. My family is actually kinda of wore with male idols. Because they are too girly. And then can't see any reason that I like them. XD

It really is. It makes me wish I lived in Asia sometimes. But I completely love where I live. I just wish people would stop making snap judgments.

Shireen said...

I feel your pain, although my embarrassment and shame is slightly different. My boyfriend is Japanese and I started to get interested in Japanese music because of him. I came across Morning Musume and became really interested in how a group can have so many members and member changes. After researching them and listening to a hand full of songs my "addiction" started haha. When my boyfriend found out he was a little shocked. It upset me because I didn't find this that big of a deal. For me liking MM is the same as liking a western girl band. I'm a girl, surely that's normal. He explained to me about the "type of people" for listen to idols in Japan. He described them as the weirdoes who have nothing better to do than worship teenage girls in short skirts. This hurt. Over time he's managed to accept this and just finds it funny now. However because of his reaction I have kept my love for H!P a secret from my other Japanese friends. I'm afraid that their opinion of me would change and they'd start to see me as strange. It's a real shame that I can't be totally open with them about this type of stuff. It's good to know that I'm not the only one who doesn't feel comfortable proclaiming to the world that I'm a female idol lover. Nevertheless the one thing you should never feel ashamed of is your blog. It's amazing. I always look forward to reading your reviews and opinions on news. Keep up the good work ;)

MTSayuRin said...

Well at least you're still in the same age range with most active idols! :) I'm 30 and a straight woman so I really feel like I have the wrong combination of sex and age for being a fan of female idols! Really interesting post, I enjoyed reading it. I can't completely relate to it though as I don't really speak to non-fans about idols. And those who I have talked to, they do think I have a weird hobby but they're happy for me I have found something I enjoy so much. And my boyfriend is a H!P fan himself, in his 30s. :) I do have one negative experience though. A friendship with a Japanese woman ended before it even began, when she heard about this. I think I will never be able to understand, why it is such a big problem to some when a person has an interest that differs from theirs. To me, idol fandom is a fun and life-affirming hobby full of positive emotions, and no matter how I look at it, no matter what age or nationality or sex you have, I see nothing wrong with it. Is it jealousy because they are not brave enough to do the same and like whatever they want, regardless what others think?

Derrot said...

I understand the stigma also. But! I don't let it get to me. My family and friends know I love idols, and I would even talk about it with classmates to the point that I'm probably known as "that girl that obsesses over that Japanese girl with the pinky" (and I totally wasn't afraid to use idols as inspirations for art projects!)

I'm 23 and I know it sounds awkward to others to hear me gushing over idols like 12 year old Kanon Suzuki, but these idols are only going to get younger and we're going to get older, so I know it's worthless to be concerned about it if I want to continue enjoying the concept of idols and watch them be silly and charming. You shouldn't worry either. Life's a lot happier when you can freely talk about yourself and your interests. If someone makes an incorrect assumption about you, let them make fools of themselves.

(Though I agree about the photobooks. A lot of the girls look under 18 or actually are under 18, and if you show the wrong person, it would be annoying and embarrassing to explain to the police that you aren't a pedo and swimwear does not have to mean erotica. >_> )

Anonymous said...

As a 20-year-old female fan, I feel a lot the same way, but I just keep my idol fandom on the down-low. I don't even buy physical CDs, just itunes CDs, though one day I do plan on getting all of Aya's later stuff.

That said, as an Asian female fan, it does seem a lot more accepted to be into male idols instead of female idols, and sadly, I wasn't ever into male idols. I guess I have it a bit easier, though apparently once you're like...over age 15 you're not supposed to like idols either.

Ah, well.

Unknown said...

When I read your pose I was think yeah so right. And sometimes I wonder, I don´t not undertstand all^^ when I get 2008 Morning Musume Fan all asked why but their asspect it, when I then get Arashi Fan it´s was like my family and friends thinking I get back to a 13 years TEEN GIRL. I had in my room Poster but then I feel again like a teen girl. I think their are different types of fans.

In Germany people call your ill when you have with 20 Poster from 30 years old guys, but when your 13and have poster from guys from 16 - 27 then it´s ok. So it´s really stupid because their not Boys I like, their men. Also it´s a problem when you say ARASHI is a Boygroup, when people hear boygroup thinking your are still a child. But when you fan of a Girlgroup is ok, with 27!!! I think it´s really intolerant, all my family now understand that I´m fan of them, I have not poster but one picture from them in my room, is not to much. And that the boys all looks like girls, not all I think. When I watched Saturday evening a Movie with Tomoya Nagase my Mama call him HOT and she also think that Arashi looks hot, she never say their looks like girls, all my friends and family call just Tego, Aiba, Yuri and Taisuke girls. I think the way for people what their think is beautiful is different.

I don´t know why their all understand it! My friend Pia, not Johnny´s fan, not Japan fan, not H!P fan, but she listen so often with me together to the music, she is a really good friend, I think more people like her are really good for this world.

When you talk about the photobooks, I by myself try do buy some, but then I think I DON`T WANT HAVE HALFNAKED GIRLS IN A BOOK... don´t thinking about gay because I mean I have clothes magazines and their also half naked girls^^

AimxAim said...

@Travelling Girl: Really? Wow, there appears to be a bigger stigma in Japan then I actually realized. I do remember a few eyars back I had a pen pal from Japan. (Yes, I'm a loser.) I told her that I liked Morning Musume and she said that no one really likes the group. I of course brushed that off. XD
I guess your boyfriend didn't want people to make fun of you or see you as a weirdo, which in a way is almost a nice thing to do. XD
It's good that he accepts it more now though. Even if it is in a joking manner.
I'm not sure if I'm ready to proclaim my love either. There would just be a lot of heartache I'm not looking forward to. :/
Thanks so much. :] I'm glad you like my blog.

AimxAim said...

MTSayuRin: It's good to know that there are female fans in their 30's because I'm going to be one of them in a few years. :]
You're lucky that you have people you can talk to about idols, and your boyfriend is an idol fan. Besides offline, I don't know anyone I can tlak to about idols. And I haven't even told this guy I'm into that I like Japanese music at all. XD
It seems a lot of Japanese people have a problem with liking idols. I thought Japanese people would at least be a little more understanding.
Well, that's exactly why I've stayed an idol fan for so long. Idol music, and idols in gerneral, just make me incredibly happy. The music is upbeat and positive, which is a nice escape from oversexualized American music.
I think it might actually be that they aren't brave enough. People in the US, and I'm sure all over the world, care far too much what others think and only do and like things to be accepted by people. I know several people who only like things because everyone else does.

AimxAim said...

@Derrot: That's really awesome that you can talk openly with your family and friends. But I've always been extremely shy, I was even voted most quiet in my school. XD And without even mentioning idol music I was labeled that weird girl that likes Japan. And Ms. Japanese by my history teacher. XD (I totally used Japan as inspiration for art projects, but no one really seemed to care. lol)

I'm not sure my friends could handel me gushing over anyone. lol. (oh, and fellow Zukki fan FTW! XD) It is true that they are just going to keep getting younger. I thought Momusu's audition age range being 11-17 was absolutely perfect. I never even noticed it was weird until my mom said to me, "11? Isn't that really young?" That's also true I should proabably try explaining things to people. But I'm worried people aren't going to sit through the explination. XD

(Lmao. It would be super hard to explain to anyone about photobooks, which is why I don't have any. :/)

AimxAim said...

verilian: Really? That's kinda sad. Physicall CDs are the easiest idol merch to get that people won't judge. People might judge the cover, but they can't judge the contents. Like they could with a photobook, a calendar, or a towel, etc. You should totally buy Ayaya's CDs soon. :]

As an Asian fan I thought they would except it either way. It's a little sad that even though you're Asian people still judge. :/ 15, at least people are giving you that. I was told over 12 and it's too old. lol XD

AimxAim said...

@Natalie: Yeah, usually I get called immature and a teeny bopper. Which makes no sense since I am still a teen. >_<

I'm not exactly sure what you are trying to say with the posters. XD
Exactly! If you ever say boygroup people automatically start thinking The Backstreet Boys, and it's downhill from there. That's why I usually just say idols because people don't really know what idols are. Lol.
I don't have any posters in my room of idols. My family say ALL of them look like girls. Not, just the girly ones, all. And it's kinda sad. My family doesn't call any of them hot. They don't think Asian guys are attractive, and can't fathom why I do. :/

You're lucky your friend listens to it with you. My friends only like anime music and Jrock. XD Yeah, I wish more people like her existed too.

I want photobooks, of course not for the bikini shots. I want them to support my favorite idol, and the pictures are usually cute and pretty.

Kath said...

I am a 15 year old female fan and I fully understand the points you brought up in this post. I remember when I was 12 telling my dad about this person I had come accross on wikipedia called Koharu Kusumi. I said how interesting I thought it was that she had started out at my age. Back then my dad was a more than a bit wary of the whole idol concept but now he thinks that it is quite funny. But he still describes them as S Club 7 doubled in size but without the boys.
I buy several CDs but I wouldn't dare buy a photobook even though I seriously considered buying Ai-chan's "Love No. 10". I doubt anyone would understand the reasoning behind buying a photobook.

AimxAim said...

I'm glad you understand the points. :]

You know, I started liking idols for the same reason. When I first found Kusumi Koharu, I liked her because we were the same age. And I found that most idols were my age, so it made me like them more.
Lol at Morning Musume being like S Club 7. Why didn't he just compare them to the Spice Girls? My family usually does. XD

That's exactly how I feel! I wanted Kusumi Koharu's Sugardoll, but my family would never understand. :/

Anonymous said...

I just love this post! I'm a 30 year old female idol fan and I would never tell my friends and family that I was into them. I was a child stage performer for over 10 years, so there is something about idols that just brings me back to all that. My husband usually brushes it all off as "anime stuff" (which he calls anything related to Japan - and that I don't even watch!) and only gets upset when the music finds its way into his itunes playlist. I think the main problem is having to explain to people why you are into "young Japanese girls" when the same people would be totally fine with me enjoying pageants consisting of 3 year olds wearing makeup and hair extensions (which I honestly find creepy). So, I just keep my hobby to myself, and thank the internet for helping me find others who enjoy the same!

AimxAim said...

Thanks, glad you like it. :]

Yeah, it seems like a lot of fans don't tell people they are into idol. Lol.
Wow, a child stage performer, that's awesome. But I can totally see how idols bring you back to that.
That's what most people call anything releated to Japan. If you like Japanese music or culture it's just assumed you like anime. Just because it's one of their biggest exports. XD
That really is the biggest problem. I have no idea how to tell people I think idols, without them thinking I'm creepy. So, I usually just don't tell people beyond my family.
I actually like children's beauty pageants, I watch toddler's and tiaras all the time. Mostly becuase I want to put my future daughter in pageants. ><
Exactly! Before I found forums for idol music, and Japanese music in general, I thought I was the only one who liked Japanese music. or at least it fet that way.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post! =O
I started liking idols (berryz) in school, it's my first time liking a group so much.
Glady, I didn't have any problems with it ^^ I told my friends and showed them videos, and they ended liking them too! xD We even made a little video doing Munasawagi Scarlet dance XD! haha of course, after a time, they didn't hear them anymore but at least, I know that they won't going to mock me because of my likes ^^

I also order singles when I can, my mom is like "buying that again??" but that's all :P

Ah, the other day I showed my Berryz PB (7) to a university friend, she's entertained learning the name of the girls xD!

(W)otutu said...

It's even worse being a young mum and liking idols. I imagine if members of family saw my blog they'd be worried about all sorts of ridiculous things like me bringing my daughter up to like girls. It's amazing that since it's foreign, people automatically get tense- especially because it's Japanese. Whereas if I was raising her listening to Pink and Girls Aloud, it'd be ok.

I just love the cute innocence of the sogs, the wee one loves bouncing along to it too. And hey, it's helping us both learn the language ^~^;;