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Douchebag Music Dudes Made Band T-Shirts Too Much Work

I stopped wearing band shirts in high school. I gave them up because whenever I wore one to a party or a group hang, within 0.3 seconds I'd be bailed up by some interminable Music Dude.

Photo not of author. Image by Ben Clements

I stopped wearing band shirts in high school. I gave them up because whenever I wore one to a party or a group hang, within 0.3 seconds I'd be bailed up by some interminable Music Dude. He'd immediately saunter up to me in his Joy Division top and question my band shirt credentials. "So, you like The Clash, huh?" he'd ask. "What's your favourite song? Favourite member? Yeah, I prefer the early stuff. You know the early stuff, don't you? Where did you get that t-shirt? Did you buy the t-shirt before you downloaded their greatest hits off Kazaa?" I was so sick of having the importance of The Strokes (note: it was the early 2000s) mansplained to me, I gave up the shirts altogether.


By the time I hit my twenties, I figured the Music Dudes my age might have finally grown up (or at least been crushed a little by adulthood). I was wrong. Years later, these Exposers of Fraud and Protectors of Culture were still fighting the good fight, just with added beards for maximum chin-stroking pretension. The bands may have changed, but the men telling you how you don't get them remain the same. The lesson: to Music Dudes, it doesn't matter how much you love a band or record or track, you're a poser if you're not a guy.

This kind of overly aggressive fandom is pop culture's greatest poison, and not just because it limits my clothing options. It's not even exclusive to music. It's a battle that begins and ends with the idea that I know more about this album/film/show than anyone, therefore you are an imposter. The whole thing reminds me of when writer Glen Weldon noted on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, while talking about some male nerds' fear that women in their ranks somehow aren't real nerds or fans, that "it's the tendency of geek culture to turn in on itself by saying to someone in their own community, 'You're doing it wrong'". And let's face it: Douche Music Guy is basically Douche Nerd Guy with a different pair of shoes.

It's a weird system of ownership over a particular pop culture product, as if it's something that needs to be protected instead of shared, and it promotes an exclusivity that traditionally leaves women out. If it's popular enough that even girls like it, well it's too mainstream to be special (also see: The 2015 Academy Awards!). If you're going to get all deep on it, maybe it's a case of dudes who were persecuted for their fandom in high school, developing an underdog complex and taking on a persona of the unappreciated scholar. Maybe they were rejected for not being good at the right things, so now you have to suffer for the same reason. The things that they liked made them different from everyone else, so their identity is threatened when someone who appears less knowledgeable likes that thing too. But why is it that not all boy nerds are like this? Well, because some boys are misogynistic jerks and some aren't. Just because you're sensitive and artistic, doesn't means you're not a sexist asshole.


Or maybe it's because women often don't play an active role in video games or comics, and thus they aren't seen as equal participants in the fandom. Arthur Chu at The Daily Beast even goes as far to say that women are traditionally seen as prizes in geek culture. We're the object of a game rather than authors of our own stories and we're here to be educated and to be won.

So why is this cross-gender pissing contest so ingrained in music and TV shows? What is it about this sub strata of society that is so intent on keeping the clubhouse door closed? Maybe it's because this is the kind of fandom you have to work at; to immerse yourself in every piece of information and data available about a subject takes effort, and the thought that someone might start liking your thing without entering at the same "correct" point as you, means that your effort is for nothing.

This often seems to organically circle back to geek guy entitlement and nerd culture's problematic relationship with women in gaming and at pop culture conventions. And just like most cultural frameworks, it runs on a power system of misogyny (if women didn't engage in misogynist frameworks though, we pretty much couldn't do anything but sit at home and eat candy corn).

At its best Nerd World is a comforting place of identification, where you can admit to seeing each Lord of the Rings film 47 times and of printing out sections of Samwise Gamgee's final monologue and sticking it up in your room. But it can also be a place of intense meanness, exclusivity, and unchecked sexism. At its most extreme it takes the form of the Fake Geek Girl phenomenon that Alyssa Rosenberg identified last year as "women who feign an interest in geek culture for the purpose of attracting men who like comics, science fiction, fantasy, superhero movies, etc, in order to later emotionally mutilate them". I mean, holy shit. Not to be a downer guys, but that's a lot of effort to undo the delicate fabric of your own self-perception.

If a woman had ever done this to me I wouldn't consider it a gendered issue, but I've only ever experienced this type fandom at the hands of guys protecting their sacred pop-cultural realm. Maybe women do do it, but are less likely to call each other out publicly, or maybe men are just less likely to do it to other men.

So obviously I should put on my Beastie Boys hoodie and verbally mace any dude who questions my authenticity—or worse, asks if I bought it at Dangerfield. But honestly it's got so boring to continuously fight to simply be a fan. When you're a woman, your body is political regardless of what you wear and that can be exhausting in itself. Maybe one day I'll go back to the band t-shirts and be tough enough to ask my interrogator why I have to apply for a permit to like the same things as them. What is gained by exposing my presumed ignorance? Why is there only one way to be a fan? And do you have a Velvet Underground shirt I can borrow? I think my Nicki Minaj badge would look real nice on it.

Follow Sinead on Twitter: @SineadStubbins