credit Daniel Dinu

Is it sexist to hate the 1975?

By Allysa Olis

A discussion of what it means to be a fan, and the inherent sexism present in the media.

The present era of musical culture is punctuated by the concept of fandoms. Certain individuals can become so captivated by a particular artist or subject that their knowledge and research exists lightyears ahead of music journalists. Die hard fans, armed with their knowledge of the birthdays, origin stories, and past relationships of artists such as The 1975, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and Five Seconds of Summer have turned support into an artform of album promotions, merchandise sales, and the ruthless fights against the Ticketmaster machine.

The idea of a “fan” has become synonymous with predominantly female and queer spaces, at least in terms of media coverage and scrutiny. Tiktok, Rolling Stone, and GQ are wrought with articles dissecting the way female fans spend their time theorising and deciphering easter eggs by their favourite artists. This facilitates a discussion of obsession and a phenomena related to pop icons and conventionally attractive male artists, while interest in individuals such as Mac Demarco or Kendrick Lamar, whose fan bases are predominantly male, receive little to no discourse.

Author of Believability: Sexual Violence, Media and the Politics of Doubt, Professor Sarah-Banet Weiser, stated that “As far as I know, most of the causes of fans stalking and being violent against celebrities are men. The idea that women fans are unstable is a real issue as it comes to women being seen as irrational.”

The first fangirls originated in the time of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, and solidified their place through the wave of mass hysteria brought on by Beatlemania in the 1960s. This paved the way for the stigma surrounding that same lifestyle today. Harry Styles fans, after interviews conducted by Billboard Magazine during his Los Angeles residency, gave in depth descriptions of sleeping outside the venue for 15 hours, with others depicting deeply parasocial relationships and the nature of fights among the women attending the concerts. Though articles occasionally touch on the camaraderie and positive messages of the artist, it is largely framed as delusion and obsession, and is regarded as a “lack of musical taste” by the music community.

Though pop artists typically follow a more formulaic, mainstream and radio centric approach to their music, male artists with a more indie aesthetic have developed their own formula to cater to their respective demographics. Men are never questioned when The Smiths exist in their Spotify discography, and yet when a female shares her love of Lana Del Rey, it becomes “typical”.

Despite the prevalent usage of the term “male manipulator”, men with a preference for bands such as The Strokes are still able to operate under the guise of having objectively good music taste. They coincide with the new mainstream “indie” aesthetic and facilitate a superiority complex around these male dominated spaces, even with the equally large and devoted number of listeners which could equate to fanboys. Fuelled by the mutual societal agreement that more obscure music automatically constitutes something much better, it is as though women in pop-dominated fandoms have no chance to be taken seriously.

Phoebe Bridgers told The Forty-Five, “Hating the 1975, I feel like, is sexist. Because teenage girls invented that band being famous. Like, teenage girls invented The Beatles. Teenage girls invented music. You’re trying to say that something’s stupid just because teenage girls like it? It’s fucking insane. Or people saying that female indie rock stars were invented by a trust fund or something.  It’s like you know where The Strokes come from? Nepotism has always informed music. It has never not.”

The 1975 themselves are a band wrought with controversy, derived from the commentary and actions of their front man, Matty Healy. He embodies a “Morrisey-esque” type persona in the eyes of the general public, and has generated discourse over whether or not it is socially acceptable to support the group. Despite the initially alternative sound the band adopted with their debut album, they have been feeding larger demographics of pop music propelling into mainstream fangirl culture.

On 21 July 2023, the band stoked a large controversy after protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Malaysia on stage during their set at the Good Vibes Music Festival, resulting in their removal from the country and the cancellation of the event. Prior to this, Healy faced public scrutiny for comments made on The Adam Friedland Show podcast, where he speculated on the ethnicity of Ice Spice and imitated the phonetics of Hawaiian and Chinese accents. However, a lot of the public discourse about the band accuses fans of making exceptions for this behaviour because of the appeal of the lead singer’s physical appearance.

Nostalgia and emotional connections often serve as driving forces behind fan culture, which is reflected by the success and ticket sales of Five Seconds of Summer’s ongoing tour. The same can be said for the vast majority of 1975 stans, who have been listening to the band since its conception and are fully aware of the problematic nature of some of its members. Separating the artist from the art is excusable for performers such as Kanye West, but in the case of the 1975, the burden falls on the fans of the band for a lack of accountability.

Internet culture visible in Tiktok comment sections and Twitter hold a vast array of hostility for those who still manage to garner their support or find Matty Healy attractive. Though if the fan base was predominantly male the conversation would appear a lot different.

Ultimately, distaste for a particular musical group or artist when derived from legitimate claims and behaviours is not inherently sexist. Genuinely disliking content also evades the label of sexism. However, when the only basis for distaste is derived from the female dominated fan base, and the argument is that said females only appreciate the music because of the sex appeal of who is on stage, it feeds the stigma and isolation of fangirls from the rest of the music community.

Music taste does not fully encompass the entire personality of an individual. Fangirls can be versatile in taste, enjoying artists such as Mitski, Big Thief and Angel Olsen, but such aspects will never generate media discourse or discussion as long as they are tethered to artists such as the 1975.


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