Hi! It’s Annie!
I find that when I’m writing about my favorite K-Pop groups, particularly ATEEZ, I often say that I don’t have the words to describe what they mean to me. And while that is most likely true and I most likely will never be able to formulate just how much these men have done for me and my life and how much I care about them; this post is hopefully a start in trying to put a little more of it into words. On top of that, I’ve written posts about the way K-Pop fans are often treated by people outside the fandom. How we are often demonized for having crushes on members and at the very beginning of this blog, I even wrote a post on BTS and the teenage girl argument. That post basically talked about how music that has mostly a fan base of women or even sometimes teenage girls is looked down on society for having those demographics. This can even be seen in fans of theme parks like “Disney adults”. Where, once again, because the demographic is mostly women, society finds it more socially acceptable to call it “cringey”. Unlike similar demographics of mostly men. (Ahem, sports.) My feelings are still similar, but they have also massively grown as I’ve had more experiences and as my ult group changed. Because people who love these groups, who say that they’ve had their lives change ever since they started stanning them, are not people to be scoffed at or thrown away. Your dismissal of these people is not only wrong, but it’s also problematic. And here’s why.
“They saved my life.”:
When anybody says this about anything fandom related, they are usually met with a fair bit of scrutiny. How could something so un-personal save your life? This especially feels to be the criticism directed at bands or K-Pop group stans. These groups don’t know you and if you have ever met them before it was very briefly. How could these men that you don’t know have saved your life? These people don’t really know, or remember, how important it is to feel that you aren’t alone when you are at your loneliest. Being in a fandom gives you a community that has your back; but being a fan of these groups offers you even more support than that. Most of these groups know that people are drawn to them especially when they’re going through rough times. And one of the reasons they know that, is because they are human beings who have also gone through rough times. ATEEZ was extremely important to me because they are my age. In fact, my sister and I were born in the same year as five of the eight members. Because of being so close in age to them I was able to understand their sense of humor better than any other group and their lyrics hit me at times I desperately needed them. “Turbulence” was a song that I absolutely bawled at the first time I listened to it, because it was that relatable. It was a song about not knowing where you were going with life and feeling lost. It came at a time where I was feeling so incredibly lost in my life. They have a song called “One Day at a Time” that offers comfort and encourages those experiencing sadness and depression to take it one day at a time. “Wave” is a summery fun song that’s actually about feeling hopeful when you’re struggling through a difficult wave in your life. “THANXX” was comforting at a time where I decided a direction for myself that not everyone in my family agreed with. It seemed like they had a song for every feeling that I was having. And most of the members had talked about experiencing those things at one point or another. When Mingi took a break because of his mental health, I completely understood because I was going through one of the worst times in my life. And when he made the difficult decision to come back, it helped inspire me to get better.
“They actually care.”:
Most people seem to think that this is a desperate hope and a rather pitiful thing to think. But I have no idea why people seem to think that this is impossible. Every K-Pop group and their fandom creates a community. A community that allows people to find people similar to them, to find enjoyment in the same things, and to feel closer together with a larger population of the world. It seems as though the people who don’t believe in the above statement, don’t actually count the group themselves as part of this community. So why would the people who create the community suddenly not be a part of the community? Fans are needed for concerts to be fun; what would be a concert without the cheering fans? Not only that, but they also know that the fans are the ones supporting them and always express their hopes to give back to them. I honestly don’t see a version of this where a group doesn’t care about their fans. But for ATEEZ, this absolutely goes beyond monetary. ATEEZ has done several events for their fans, is known for thanking fans and staff to the point of bowing to them, and have even given up their chairs for fans at an event where the chairs were crates that the fans were literally falling through. They were not asked. As soon as a second fan fell through the crates, Hongjoong and Yunho brought out their chairs which prompted the others to follow with theirs as well. Saying that they don’t actually care seems to be the defense mechanism of someone who doesn’t want to see the community as all that caring. And that should not be the problem of Atiny or any other K-Pop fan.
“They raised my standards.”:
I think we can all relate to this to some degree. When you enter any K-Pop fandom, the guys are probably going to raise your standards. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same after Yunho. He’s so sweet, responsible, and absolutely forward thinking. I’ve absolutely loved how much he’s been participating in the Painted Man campaign ( a campaign that helps ensure the safety of women and children) with Hongjoong. ATEEZ has to be one of the most forward thinking groups out there and it shows. Yunho has provided me comfort in a way that I haven’t been able to get in daily life. Especially when it comes to actually feeling comfortable around men. I talked about this a little in the teenage girl argument post, but K-Pop groups absolutely do market themselves as dateable. This is something they know is part of their appeal and they jump on it. It’s one of the things that draws so many women to the groups and this is somehow framed as a bad thing in the minds of many people. Firstly, it is never the only reason someone becomes a fan of one of these groups. ATEEZ specifically created ‘HALA HALA’ to prove that they had plenty of talent behind their good looks and that it wasn’t the only reason for their success. But looks aren’t all of it. These groups often say things to women that men wouldn’t usually say or treat them better than any men has ever treated them before. I have barely been treated worse and less like a human in my life than when I try entering the dating field. Most of my female friends feel the exact same way. Women are frequently treated by men like we are needy and unneeded. Like we’re too “emotional” and absolutely replaceable. And this doesn’t just happen in dating; this is a regular reality to how men continue to treat women. Men will often come back and state that we must be going after the wrong type of men, but that’s such an idiotic comeback. There are no “type” of men who are exempt from this. This is how society has taught men to treat women and victim blaming certainly doesn’t help the situation. It makes me never want to date. How can people think that any part of queerness is a choice, when I would not choose to be attracted to men if I could? K-Pop idols actually have more respect for women because they know we’re, for the most part, the ones helping to raise them up. ATEEZ is aware and they help fight for us. Not many men I’ve met actually are feminist when it comes time to fighting against the way women are treated. Groups like BTS, ATEEZ, and Monsta X have and do, which absolutely sets my standards higher. Because women deserve better.
I found ATEEZ when I was at a low point in my life. At a time where the pandemic had taken so much from me and I felt completely lost and directionless. ATEEZ were some of the first idols to come out and talk about it, and talk about it in a way that I understood. I was a young twenty something who had very little success and was just starting a new chapter in my life when I was hit with worldwide issues. They were the same. Yunho kept me happy and comfortable with him speaking about his own hopes and struggles while having cozy bedtime lives. He’s the golden retriever therapy idol I never knew I needed until I really very much needed him. Mingi started talking about his anxiety when I was going through the same thing. Their songs made me feel heard and no longer alone. I was able to grow as a person while they grew as a group. Not only that, but their storytelling appealed to the huge geek in me and their music had beats that completely distracted my anxiety. But more than that, they became a support group for me. When I attended my first of their concerts, I was in a bad place. Then I cried while watching Yunho sing “Still Here” and again when he cried because he had also been having a rough time and then again when he said that we should lean on him if we were having a rough time. Hongjoong made us all promise to be back when they returned the next year and I promised myself that I would be better by then. And I was. And part of it was because I felt that these eight men were there for me and understood me every step of the way. That was instrumental in me feeling better. To diminish and dismiss my story and the story of the many like me is a grave mistake. And I am finally at the point where I can confidently say that my experience is far more important than your opinion.
I will forever be grateful to ATEEZ for helping me through some of the toughest parts of my life. For assuring me that I wasn’t alone in my feelings when I absolutely felt that I was. And for giving me a place to grow as a person while they also grew as people. It’s been amazing to watch and be a part of. And seeing how lately they’ve been wanting to connect even more, like Mingi showing us his mother and his daily life in order for us to see that he’s human and Yeosang giving us more comeback looks without hiding his birthmark, have made me feel like this community is only becoming closer. But no matter how much they want to share with us (Boundaries are always ok!) I will continue to be here. I care about them and their success. I hope to give back some of what they gave me. Being an Atiny gives me a sense of belonging I’ve barely felt before. And that is so incredibly important. No matter what anyone else thinks.
See you across the pond!