Your fandom doesn’t need a name.
The desire to name fandoms could be considered derivative of the label-dependent society we live in, but while personally applied labels for gender, sexuality, and identity can be helpful, it seems that fandom nomenclature, as of late, has been hurting the presentation of fandom and nerds more than helping.
Historically speaking, there have always been fans. The Aeneid is basically a fanfiction response to the Illiad. Purportedly, the first documented ship war was over Jo and Laurie in Little Women. The original Sherlock Holmes fandom was so rabid that the author was forced to revitalize the character after he had killed him off. And, since at least the dawn of modern “slash”, fans have applied portmanteaus to describe who they are by relating the name to what they are interested in (Trekkies being one of the most historically prominent labels).
The Trekkies felt the need to define themselves because the science fiction fandom was not welcoming to them. Some of the most verbal participants in the Star Trek fandom were female; they wrote fanfiction, created fanzines and newspapers, and presented a female perspective on the show (which included what is widely recognized as first slash fic, Kirk/Spock). The boys club of SF fandom (often considered to have, at the time, a 9:1 ratio of men to women) was not interested in having women be a part of their imagined organization, and so the concept of “the Trekkie” (in one aspect) was created.
Since then, fandom, in a lot of ways, has been viewed as specifically female. Fanfiction has been generally seen as a female hobby, with a 2010 survey confirming the 78% of Fanfiction.net’s users identified as female. Fanart is often seen as an inherently female outlet, ranging from fan comics to slash–however, the “male” aspect of fanart tends to be associated with art of female characters being sexualized or engaging in sexual (sometimes non-consensual) acts. Many of the most popular fan vloggers, bloggers, and columnists are women.
Yet, some of the most prominent fandom names of the 2010s thus far seem to be specifically gendered: Jobros. Cumberbitches. Bronies.
Female-gendered fandom names are often derogatory, like Cumberbitches or Pie-Hos, and enforce the idea that woman in media should be presented as objects, like FullMetal Alchemist‘s Miniskirt Army. The names may initially seem clever or funny, but there’s a deeper, underlying current of internalize misogyny.
Male-gendered fandom portmanteaus, like Bronies (My Little Pony) or the newly rumored “Gemtlemen” (Steven Universe), specifically imply that their fandom is for men only. Both My Little Pony and Steven Universe are shows that ultimately focus on presenting female characters (albeit non-binary female-appearing characters in Steven Universe) as real, well-rounded, fully fleshed-out characters. To have men as fans is wonderful, but for men to specifically highjack the media and turn the fandom into a space that is not only unfriendly to children (the shows’ intended demographic), but outright dangerous to women is unacceptable.
Media, especially cartoons with a young demographic, is already staunchly biased against women, presenting them as caricatures and tokens. Networks and companies defend their decision to not have female-led shows by saying young boys can’t relate to female characters, despite the fact that this theory has been criticized and disproved by a number of experts. Add to that male fans taking control of female oriented fandom, and that becomes a whole new layer as to why corporations may not want to feature female-led content.
Male-driven fandom that insists on essentially appropriating female-led shows and subsequently sexualize the female characters, demand that male characters get more screen time, or threaten female fans for “invading their fandom” are contributing to the idea that women are secondary citizens in what once was a specifically female space. To love something is wonderful, but to keep others from loving it is miserable.
Not all fandom names are bad: for me, the Carol Corps seems different. It’s not just an identity as a fan of a type of media, it’s expanded to include a lifestyle and attitude. Carol Corps is about embracing feminism and personal identity. The name is not gendered or specific to any personal label. The idea is that fans are a Corps, a body of people engaged in similar activities.
Fandom is problematic: from racism and sexism to female characters being specifically disposed of by fans so male characters can be paired together to online and in-person harassment, fandom represents a double edged sword for nerds. It is a powerful tool to connect like-minded people, but it can just as easily be used destroy and harm people. In a lot of cases, the name a fandom choses contributes to the attitude of the fandom. Tacking “tard” onto the end of the titular character’s name is not just insulting to the people who created the content, but also to the people who love it. Being a nerd is about passionately embracing what you love, even if it is looked upon as childish, silly, or dorky. If fans insist on having a portmanteau, following the lead of the Carol Corps seems like the best idea: have a genderless title that emphasizes the idea of joining together out of friendship and similar interests.