"You do not bait the lioness in her den, nor the spider at the center of her web." Emma Frost.
I would not be offering any new information to say that the majority of any fannish activity* is perpetrated by males. Go to a convention, or a local sporting event, and you will find them largely comprised of men, very often the hairiest, sweatiest, and smelliest of the gender. But there are female exceptions who test this rule, and, I have noticed, they prove to be far more implacable and dangerous foes. The fanboy may be the better-known archetype, but the fangirl is an entirely different breed of nerd altogether.
Please be advised that the remainder of this entry will be full of statements that will get me slapped. If you feel you might be offended by them, go drink your fucking tea.**
Fangirls are ruthless. I say this not as misogyny, but as observation. I have entered into many conversations about how much I fucking hate Gambit. I have had people disagree with me, sometimes loudly. But it took a fangirl to dead-leg me over it. On Valentine's Day. That part's not really relevant, as we weren't dating, but it's damn poetic.
And we've all known the girl who's good at video games. God bless her, she's like a dream come true, except for the part where she kicks our asses mercilessly. Guys do that too, but in a different way. As with many things, MMORPGs illustrate this best: A guy player will burst into the middle of a non-battle conversation between two low-level players, wipe them out, and camp around their bodies to kill them again when they try to come back for their stuff. A girl player will team up with the low-level players, kill the camper, help them get their stuff back, give them a share of the camper's stuff, and then kill them and take all the stuff. And then sell the stuff's gold value on eBay. They're crafty, our penises make us stupid, and they are more than willing to exploit that fact.
They can also outstrip male fans in their defiance of logic. The first person online to well and truly scare me with the level of their devotion was a fangirl.*** 'Twas 1999, and I spent my time online at the WizardWorld forums (now defunct). Now, imagine the average Wizard reader, multiply that by the Internet nerd factor, and you'll understand the population of that board. To say it was anarchy is, quite frankly, insulting to anarchist, who are far more polite and tolerant of others.
There was a poster, I will call her Genfreak because that was her name, who was very, very much into the anime. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) No harm no foul, until someone had the gravely bad idea to post a thread debating the differences and merits of American and Japanese animation. Amidst the comments of "Well, Japanese animation is obviously more impressionistic" and "You have to remember that Osamu Tezuka listed Walt Disney as one of his greatest influences," in comes Genfreak with a blanket statement that all Japanese animation is artistically and literarily superior to all American animation, ever, period. American animation is all meaningless kiddie fluff, and Japanese animation appeals to far more adult and mature sensibilities.
The kicker? Her example of the ur-anime that symbolizes Japan's curbstomping of America in the moving funny pictures department:
What. The. Fuck.
I've seen Dragonball Z, and let me tell ya, there's not a lot of depth. It's fight scenes interspersed with training scenes. Even the most rabid of DBZ fanboys I've consulted with will admit, when pressed, that they like the show for all the punching and hitting. And yet, here's someone who honestly believes that it outstrips, not just obvious crap-on-a-stick like Hammerman or Wishkid (early '90s NBC, you have much to answer for), but friggin' Fantasia. So that thread went downhill fast.
Fangirls. All my experience tells me that they are the more ferocious, the more spittle-laden, the deadlier of the species. But why? Not surprisingly, it turns out to be society's fault.
Consider: Girls are taught to indulge their right brains, far beyond the age boys are. For centuries, women were expected to grow to sexual maturity, have babies, maintain the home, and nothing else. As girls, the richer ones would be allowed to practice creative exercise, like dance, poetry, or music. These were (and some still are) considered "soft skills," not worthy of an occupation. With few exceptions, men who made careers out of these same endeavors were looked upon as… well, let's just say queer. (Not that, until Victorian times, there was anything wrong with that.) Even today, girls are far more likely to be expected to entertain flights of fancy. Look at what we teach boys versus what we teach girls. Boy: Learn math and science, so you'll get a good job. Girl: Learn English and drawing, so you'll have an open mind. Boy: Play baseball or football, so you'll be strong, and learn the value of competition. Girl: Be a cheerleader or a dancer, so you'll learn supportiveness and teamwork. Boy: Be practical. Girl: Be fanciful.
And there's the key: fancy. Girls can, socially, get away with falling deeper into obsession with something. These thoughts are acceptable within their "pretty little heads." And when you combine that with the naturally obsessive tendencies of nerddom, you get a double obsession effect.
Then there's the ferocity. What's that about? Well, women have to fight harder. For everything. For jobs, for health care, for respect, everything, period, costs a woman more in effort than it does a man. And if we go further back, to the days when open combat was a social norm, we see that women had to fight harder for their lives (or maidenhoods, as the case was) than men did. Gentlemen had a code of honor when they dueled, and were of course expected never to harm a lady. Even the coarser of men had a vague idea of "fighting fair" that included not hitting women unless they came at you with a knife. So, any woman attacked by a man knew she was facing a completely barbaric lout who would give no quarter and ask none. She had to fight dirty. And she had to fight dirty when fighting other women as well, because that was also completely outside of society's rules. The women who fought dirty survived, and those who didn't bore the children on the men who did, and evolution did the rest.
So I offer this advice to anyone of either gender who finds themselves facing the jaws and claws of a fangirl: Stay calm. Don't make eye contact. Assume a non-threatening posture, and slowly, carefully, keeping an eye on them at all times, move away. Then, when you're out of range, run like hell and don't look back.
*I am, of course making a generalization, and there are exceptions. To give one that's not a horrendous gender stereotype, at 2003's Dragon*Con I noted that the entire US fanbase of an Australian television show called Tribe appears to be made up of twenty/thirty-something women. But that's another entry.
**Okay, that reference was just unfair. But if you can figure out where it's from, I'll do something nice for you. Who says this isn't the Michael Age of Reader Participation?
***I realize that, in dealing with an online person, I may have been duped into believing that a man was, in fact, a woman. I refute this by saying that Genfreak was way too into Sailor Moon for that to be possible. Like, beyond all possibility of a Y chromosome. Just trust me on this one.