Chances are, if you google "fangirl" one of the first results you'll come across will be the Urbandictionary.com definition of it:
"A rabid breed of human female who is obsessed with either a fictional character or an actor. Similar to the breed of fanboy. Fangirls congregate at anime conventions and livejournal. Have been known to glomp, grope, and tackle when encountering said obsessions."
Geek culture is in these days - but so is the bashing of it. Or rather, the bashing of specific members of it. The archetypal fangirl - teenaged, shrieking, irrationally obsessed with whatever boy band or sparkly vampire or new Marvel hunk happens to capture her interest - is still mocked despite the rise in the popularity and acceptability of participating in fandom or traditionally "geeky" pursuits and interest. The word is thrown around with barely-disguised contempt, and many members are fandom are quick to disassociate them selves with they feel fits this definition. Namely, teenage girls.
Teenage girls are powerful tastemakers, and always have been. But everyone - content creators, the content itself, other more "normal" fans, are very quick to disregard them when they are associated with something popular, and to demonize them when they're associated with something unpopular. Take, for example, the Beatles versus the Twilight Saga. Both, in their day, had massive fanbases of fangirls, mostly teenaged. The Beatles are remembered for their music, Twilight is remembered for it's fanbase - because only the former is really culturally acceptable to enjoy, so it's predominantly fangirl fanbase is mostly casually ignored. Twilight on the other hand, is widely regarded as being awful both due to it's content and it's screaming teenage girl fans. Everyone, from serious news reporters to the cast of SNL are quick to latch on to the trope of ragging on fangirls. Fangirl has become less of a title and more of a pejorative term used to Other what is actually a massive part of fandom.
Teenage girls are not a market anyone is interested in cornering despite the fact they male up the fanbases for some of the most lucrative franchises on the market right now (The Hunger Games, the Marvel movieverse, a significant chunk of the sci-fi/fantasy programming on TV right now). Even things marketed to young/teenage boys (for instant, DC's Young Justice tv show) ended up having a predominantly teenaged girl fanbase (and the moment this was discovered, the show was promptly cancelled). Women, specifically young women, are being ignored. Their participation is being overlooked. There is an inherent incorrect assumption that young women are shallow and vapid, that their interests are inherently silly, that their approval is somehow less valid than that coveted 18-24 year old male demographic.
But women have become an extremely powerful force in modern fandom, and some people are actually listening. Fandom has become a safe space for fangirls to express their interest without the inevitable judgement from the outside world. It is dominated by women, and their voices are becoming loud enough and their opinions powerful enough that the face of fandom is changing and the content they enjoy as well. In my next post I'll be looking at some of those changes!