The Rise of The Female Wota
What’s your first impression of the idol fan population? It’s not unusual to imagine that fans of female idols are made of a largely male demographic. The typical image of the fanbase is that of older males, a domineering crowd that fills the live venues with booming chants. While that might be true, there is no mistaking the rise in female fans. In the recent years, more and more girls have become more prominent in the audience as they come out to support female idols.
Just what kind of idol groups are the most popular among girls? In a survey conducted by messaging app LINE in July 2017, the popular techno pop trio Perfume placed first among the female respondents with 10.88% of the votes. Second place went to Momoiro Clover Z who bagged 7.38% of the votes, with E-girls following close behind with 7.22%. While simple, well-proportioned beauty was a key factor for males, females seemed to admire highly skilled dance performances and their sense of style most of all. Without doubt, the internationally famous Perfume has that in the bag with their complex choreography and effortlessly cool synchronization. Their performances are classic showcases of talent and style that fans just cannot get tired of.
Longtime idol groups like Perfume may be timelessly beloved by male and female fans alike, but even younger idols today are establishing themselves in a new generation of female artistes who attract supporters of the same gender. What could be the reason behind the massive popularity surge of female idols among girls themselves?
Female idols are seen as a representation of everything kawaii—from their appearances to their performances to their behavior—so it’s no surprise that many girls find role models in the idols they see. With the advent of social media, it’s become even easier to follow their favorite idols and constantly check their daily updates. With a constant supply of inspiration in everything from fashion to makeup to lifestyle, idols can become style icons for their female fans.
As such, there’s a wide scope of trends for girls to explore with these idols; it doesn’t also have to be the conventional standard of “idol kawaii”. Ano, from idol group You’ll melt more!, is known for her eccentric brand of kawaii—some call it yami-kawaii (loosely translated as “sickly-cute”) and has seen a rise in female fans who arrive at their live performances in outfits and hairstyles that pay homage to Ano.
Especially with popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, which are highly populated with younger females, some might think that girls have an even stronger fan presence there than the men. It’s a wave of trendsetters, and female idols these days are incredibly swift in reaching out to their audience even off the stage. It’s easy for them to scoop up a few hundred thousand followers—legendary breakout idol Kanna Hashimoto has well over 600,000. Others, like HKT48’s Rino Sashihara (514,000) and Sakura Miyawaki (268,000) are also high up on the leaderboard. And it’s not just about the follower count either, but the frequency of posting and engagement with followers. Five-member idol group Fairies, who have always been active on the social media front, are popular Instagram accounts to follow with their constant updates of selfies, outfit coordinates and all-round fashionable pictures. A look at the comments, and you’ll find an outpouring of gushing from young female fans. With such similar interests and goals, it’s no wonder that social media is the perfect place for girls to connect with their favorite female idols.
Up to this point we’ve discussed gravitation of girls in general to female idol groups, but that’s not all. In this increasingly connected industry, the idols themselves are becoming more and more outspoken about their mutual love for each other. Regardless of group or agency, it’s common to see idols express their love for other idols. Rino Sashihara, who was originally an idol fan before she became one herself, is a notorious Hello! Project fan who simply does not hold back from fangirling. On December 10 2017, she invited Morning Morning.’17 to perform at the “AKB48 Kouhaku Taikou Uta Gassen” as guests in a surprise collaboration. It was a dream come true for the longtime Hello! Project fan, who jokes that the close proximity with the members on stage turned her into a creepy wota.
As far as female idol fans go, what can beat actually sharing the stage with your favorite idols?
Of course, none of this goes to say which side is better. Whether male or female, every fan is important to the idol and forms a community that is welcome to all. The idols know this, and many have fun calling out the different sides of the audience to hear the chants of both their male and female fans. At the end of the day, it’s a space that everyone is a part of.
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