Stereotype (noun): A standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment (Merriam-Webster).
BTS has been stretching gender norms for years. Jin recently reaffirmed they “believe everyone deserves to be respected,” and SUGA pointed out that “We can just accept the world with an open mind.” At ARMY Magazine, we strive to put BTS’ beautiful messages into light. Thus, we decided to deconstruct some groundless, yet persistent beliefs—like the “screaming teenage girls” narrative—that stick to BTS and ARMY. There are ARMY who are teenage girls, and everyone in the fandom does scream to encourage the boys. However, making these assumptions may be harmful, leading many of us to relentlessly fight against such prejudice.
The first part of our Break the Stereotypes series was about ARMYs with different careers and responsibilities. Today, let’s hear ARMYs who do not identify as females share their experiences and voice their love for BTS.
There are many ways to discover BTS, to fall into the infamous “rabbit hole,” to become “a Grammy-nominated artists’ fan,” or to join this “BTS stuff for life”—whichever definition one wants to give to their ARMY life. TastytoasttoastJ, Haritri and Z. became ARMYs through friends, and Jungham_casper did so through YouTube and social media. S., 38, discovered BTS by reading articles. Porappippam became ARMY because of their stage presence, and Icarus fell for “the message behind their songs, and the honesty of their lyrics.” BTS' genuineness and empathy are this magnetic. Provided that people take time to get rid of any prejudice, nobody can help but love their craft and personalities.
The boys’ UN speech and their poetic lyrics have also made great impressions on Moon_n_crabs, an art student who joined the fandom two years ago. Despite having been called “childish and silly for being that invested in a boy band,” he felt—like the majority of ARMYs—very welcomed in the fandom and was able to meet amazing people. When he faces mockery, he calmly explains that “BTS brings him happiness and that doesn't hurt anyone.”
Suga_will_hype was appealed by their performance, music, lyrics and “their relaxed relation to masculinity and femininity.” They also felt “very well accepted and safe among ARMY.”
Being able to find a huge and diverse family like ARMY, who won’t judge you and makes you feel at home, is precious and rare.
Still, disrespect and backlash because of one’s ARMY status and/or gender are rather common, especially from the general public. In their subunit song Respect, RM and SUGA ask themselves “Why is respect this hard?” after stating that “Re-spect means as it sounds, to literally look again and again.” If only people would monitor their attitude with more care, they would learn that respect is the key. Sadly, many haven’t quite achieved such self-reflection yet.
Earthrights2015, an OT7 ARMY in their twenties, was made fun of by their younger siblings, yet decided to “either ignore it or call it out depending on the situation.” Kasib Alam, 17 years old and OT7 j-hope biased, is still regularly “looked down upon in school” because he is “a boy who listens to a boy band” and is called “gay or girl just because he loves BTS.”
Shortcuts are the path of ignorance. Why would a boy who listens to a boy band automatically be gay? In fact, what does the sexual orientation or the gender of a person have to do with their music preferences? Jungham_casper, soon to be 22, is regrettably used to these common homophobic and belittling comments. Indeed, they are regularly mocked because “(their peers) consider BTS as gays because they put on makeup.” When they face such dismissive behaviors, their “mic drop ego comes out,” and they don’t hesitate to tell people, “This is my life, my choice.” What could be a better way than gaining strength and inspiration from BTS’ songs?
Standing for what we believe in is something that BTS has taught us. Hence, despite hardships and the risk of being ignored or mocked, ARMYs frequently choose to tell their family and friends they belong to BTS’ fandom. After being very confused at first, Cole’s sister was glad they found something that makes them happy. This 29-year-old retailer and artist also shared, “I'm very private, so the fact that my friends and coworkers know I listen to BTS says how much they've become part of my everyday life.” Jk3_CutiePie, makeup artist, manager and entrepreneur is lucky too, as their family and friends “almost lived the process with [them] and understand how important BTS is for [them].” On the other hand, Pikachu#0176 had a hard time with his family “and fought a lot due to it.” His friends, however, respect his choices, making him a living example of the positive outcome respect brings in two similar situations that were handled differently.
The ARMY fandom is known to be a warm, welcoming, inclusive and open-minded place, yet there is still a long way to go before people outside the fandom stop judging and being led by clichés. To those people, N., a young man soon to be a doctor, would like to say, “You are the one responsible for the regret you will feel when you realize you gave up the chance to actually be a part of something that was far beyond the stereotypes of the general public.” To that, Princess, a resource manager turning 33 soon, would add, “That's their prejudice speaking. Personally, I couldn't care less. I've nothing to prove to them.”
Against the “screaming teenage girl” petty narrative, KissNaMun, 32, rightly voices, “There's absolutely nothing wrong with a teenager having passion about something. There's also nothing wrong with having passion as an adult.” Actually, isn’t being driven or passionate the opposite of wrong? When it comes to BTS, one automatically realizes how beautiful, true and endearing a passion can be and soon gladly relates to Jungkook’s favorite quote: “I'd rather die than to live without passion.”
SUGAmahSUGA, a college student studying computer science who feels included in the fandom despite having faced backlash and sexism, has a lot to say as well: “Most of us have degrees and are educated. We have lawyers, data analysts, journalists, music engineers, etc. Maybe those ‘screaming girls’ they are referring to are the ones who are knowledgeable and the ones who are composed. Fear for the unknown is not new. A search away on Google is not that hard.” All these perfectly relatable opinions make us wish for more people to open their minds, hearts and ears to BTS and to the world.
Next time we will be giving ARMY girls—whether they are in their teens or older—the chance to speak for themselves and about BTS because, like butterflies, this fandom has many forms, more than two wings and millions of reasons to fly above and beyond any kind of stereotype.
Written by: Hel.B
Edited by: Tori
Designed by: Judy
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