I’m Not Your Brony, Bro

Happy New Year’s Eve! Today I want to talk about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

The newest addition to the classic My Little Pony franchise was created by Hasbro in 2010, produced and directed by animator Lauren Faust, who has worked on a number of other successful children’s shows, including The Powerpuff Girls (another great show for girls, I must say). Faust claims that in producing the new pony series, she wanted to create something that was closer to how she had played with her own ponies as a girl, and hopefully something that would be relatable to a lot of little girls, and enjoyable for their parents to watch also. She also wanted to prove that “cartoons for girls don’t have to be a puddle of smooshy, cutesy-wootsy, goody-two-shoeness.” [1]

In that, most will agree that she succeeded. The ‘mane’ cast of the show consists of six ponies, each with her own individual personality, strengths and weaknesses, who, despite the occasional argument, still manage to be best friends. The cast plays on archetypes, but without— for the most part— letting them fall into stereotypes. Twilight Sparkle, the bookish one, is highly intelligent and slightly socially awkward, but (at least after learning an important lesson about friendship) also enjoys spending time with her friends and actually experiencing the things she reads about. Fluttershy is quiet, timid, and gets along better with animals than other ponies, but she isn’t weak or helpless, and can be incredibly assertive when it comes to standing up for those she cares about. Rarity is a fashionista and a bit of a drama queen, but completely avoids the stereotype of ‘snotty mean girl’— she’s generous to a fault and always thinking about the needs of others.

Perhaps most importantly, even as each character learns lessons about what it means to be a true friend, none of the characters are ever shamed for being who they are. Twilight is never looked down on or scoffed at for being a ‘nerd,’ Fluttershy isn’t told that she must “come out of her shell” to be a worthwhile person pony, and Rarity’s fashion design is looked at as a legitimate career and an art form, not as a shallow or pointless pursuit.

However, because of the depth and relatability of the characters, and the fact that it was designed to be enjoyable for parents as well as children, Friendship is Magic has gained a popularity far outside its target demographic, specifically among older teens and young adults on various internet forums. This isn’t in and of itself a bad thing; in fact, for a children’s show (especially one aimed at girls, “girl cartoons” being a notoriously shallow genre) to have such appeal to an older audience speaks volumes about its quality and content. However, there’s a particular segment of the show’s following that I find to be intensely problematic.

They call themselves “bronies:” 18-35(ish)-year-old male fans of the show who congregate on self-created fansites
such as Equestria Daily and Ponychan. They (generally speaking), tend to be very vocal about being male fans of the show, seeing it as a sort of badge of honor. The word brony itself was originally created to separate the “cool and unique” male fans of the show from the target female fans. The word was later taken to be a sort of blanket term for all of the older, online fans. Brony became gender-neutral, because maleness is, as usual, taken as the societal default.

The thing about bronies is, they seem to think they’re the most important— or sometimes perhaps the only— viewers of the show. “My Little Pony isn’t for girls!” they shout. “It’s cool!”

… Do I even have to explain what’s wrong with that statement? My Little Pony is, in fact, for girls, that being the demographic the show and merchandise is marketed toward, but, more importantly, the fact that something being “cool” must mean it’s “not for girls” says a lot about how our society perceives femininity.

Bronies also tend to complain that the show doesn’t cater more to them. “There should be more male characters!” for example. Nevermind the fact that there is not only a male main character: Spike, the baby dragon, but also a decent number of male background characters of varying importance. Cartoon shows targeted primarily toward boys may have a token female character or two, but rarely very many important background women.

The toy line is also a problem for them. “Why do the ponies have such stupid hair?” they demand. “It isn’t show-accurate!” Never mind the fact that little girls (again: target marketing group) would probably much rather have fun, brushable, styleable hair than stiff, show-accurate molds.

Even the news media has noticed the phenomenon, writing articles about how extraordinary it is for grown men to like a little girls’ show, rather than the fact that the show itself is a standout of the genre and the excellent message that it sends to the actual little girls who watch it.

Overall, the main problem with the brony phenomenon is not that they are men who are fans of a show designed for young girls— there’s nothing inherently ‘creepy’ about it when the show was intended to be enjoyed by parents as well, which includes male parents. The problem lies in male fans demanding kudos for being male fans— by “pushing the envelope” by liking something perceived as girly or “sissy”— in what should be primarily a space for girls, about girls, and by girls. It lies in the fact that they clamor to be acknowledged above the target audience of the show, and complain bitterly when they aren’t catered to. It’s in the fact that they frequently completely overlook female fans of the show— both the young girls it’s aimed at and the older women who also populate their online communities. It’s in the rampant misogyny of the fandom: calling Rarity useless (or a bitch) simply for occupying the fashionista role, even when she completely defies the shallow girl stereotype, while simultaneously lauding Rainbow Dash (probably the character that sticks closest to common media tropes) for being tomboyish and tough, and therefore awesome; or wanting to protect and “take care of” poor, submissive little Fluttershy, while ignoring the fact that she isn’t actually submissive, nor does she need a man (or anyone) to take care of her.

I fully admit that there are male fans who don’t fall into this category in the slightest, and I appreciate that, but when so many of those who identify as “bronies” exhibit this entitled and misogynistic behavior, it’s a small wonder the word makes me twitch a bit each time I see it.

1. A Rebuttal, Oct. 4, 2010.

Advertisements

About Melissa S.

I'm a 23-year-old, currently unemployed college graduate. I have a degree in French and German, and I'd love to work in publishing. I love writing and reading, makeup, clothes, surfing the internet, and playing video games. I'm also queer and a feminist. I started getting interested in feminism in college, but contrary to popular belief, I've never taken a women's studies course. You don't have to. Most of what I've learned, I've learned from the internet, where there's a wealth of sources, personal and scholarly, that can get you started on the right path. From there, you have to make your own decisions.

49 responses »

  1. “Never mind the fact that little girls (again: target marketing group) would probably much rather have fun, brushable, styleable hair than stiff, show-accurate molds.”

    So then why do the blindbags (which have stiff molds) not have show-accurate manes?

    Reply
  2. “They (generally speaking), tend to be very vocal about being male fans of the show, seeing it as a sort of badge of honor.”

    Aren’t these the same kind of people who flip their lid if a woman on the internet even so much as mentions being female? I SEE.

    Reply
  3. >“My Little Pony isn’t for girls!” they shout.

    You missed a word. They actually shout “My Little Pony isn’t ONLY for girls!”, this is because many people will typically yell down their throats for simply enjoying the show because they are outside of the target audience.

    I’m not a brony myself, however I see these bronies everywhere, and from my experience, the way you’ve described them is rather extreme. However, perhaps you’ve been to the places where the less pleasant types roam and I have not.

    From my experiences, they know full well that this is a girls show. Made for girls, by girls, etc., and have never gone about saying that is is not for them or was made by them. They overlook the female fans? Hell no. They’ve gone as far as giving them their own title, Pegasisters, when they prefer to be called such instead of Brony.

    As for the toys, they complain about show accuracy, and they are not the only ones. I’ve seen various reviews by non-fans and people unrelated to bronies saying such things, especially about the pink Princess Celestia doll.

    Your descriptions are quite generalized and not fully accurate to the entire group. Bronies you have described exist, this is true, however the vast majority are not such stuck-up slobs who feel they are entitled because they are not the target audience.

    Reply
    • I’ve definitely seen people saying “My Little Pony isn’t for girls.” Not necessarily in the sense of “girls CAN’T watch it,” but in the sense of “It’s not girly! Because being girly would be bad. But it’s not bad, it’s cool, so therefore it’s not girly!”

      Secondly, “giving female fans their own title” isn’t exactly a super act of selflessness and generosity (since, again, it’s not like they own the fandom: women don’t need their permission to like it), but also because all it’s doing is further separating the male fans from the female ones. MLP is the only fan community (that I know of– feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this!) that has separate terms for male and female fans. And then there’s the other subset of MLP fans who rail against the “pegasister” moniker because “it’s dividing the fandom, and why can’t we all be bronies?” [paraphrased]. When it was the male fans who came up with the term “brony” in the first place to separate themselves from the women.

      As for the pink Celestia doll: I could go on about that for a while. But that isn’t a brony issue. It comes down to the fact that the people in charge of the toy line are not the same people in charge of the production of the show, and the buyers (that is, the people who buy the toy from the manufacturer to supply to stores) insisted that Celestia be made pink or they wouldn’t buy it. Which is gender essentialism (little girl toys must be pink!) at its finest, and a topic for another post.

      Reply
      • “As for the pink Celestia doll: I could go on about that for a while. But that isn’t a brony issue.”

        Why not?

        The “bronies” concerns seem to align with yours, here.

    • Sorry (not really), I don’t need or want men to tell me what to call myself.

      And it’s not that preferring show accuracy in the toys is a bad thing, it’s that a lot of bronies use that as a part of their “but why are you not marketing to ME” complaints. When older, mostly male fans complain that the toys sacrifice accuracy for playability (such as having brushable hair that doesn’t stay in the styles used in-series) and wonder why companies aren’t making toys the way the fans want, they’re completely ignoring the fact that they’re first and foremost made for little girls who often prefer their toys that way. It’s one thing to say “I wish the toys were like this”, but when you act like your wants are more important than those of other fans, you’re going too far.

      Reply
    • No, in the experience of lots of people in fandom, this is completely accurate. And that statement? Is also accurate.

      The simple fact that they need to call themselves “bronies” as opposed to a gender neutral name or just “fans” goes a long way toward proving how selfish, egotistical and misogynistic they are. Other fandoms, fandom created for “everyone” (where male is the default) don’t give their fans gendered terms. Even fandoms that are supposed to be targeted at men don’t have names for the females who enjoy it “Giving women their own term” is just an extension of that. It’s not a nice gesture. It’s egotistical, vain and misogynistic.

      Reply
      • You seem to have it switched around. The term coined first was bronies, because they were mostly male. Mostly. The females mostly agreed to being called a brony, and some didn’t.
        THEY then invented the term pegasister instead, a title that a lot of female fans didn’t want to wear, and thus they didn’t. Noone forced any title upon anyone.

        How calling myself a brony “goes a long way toward proving how selfish, egotistical and misogynistic” I am, I cannot even begin to describe. So all the gender-related words have that? After all, the word “waiter” existed before “waitress”, so all waiters are mysogynistic pricks. Obviously.

  4. “but when the majority of those who identify as “bronies” exhibit this entitled and misogynistic behavior” [citation needed]

    I’d like to see some sources for *any* of these broad assertions. I’d also like to see some statistical analysis to suggest that this particular fandom is any worse than average on the internet. Finally, since I know for a fact you won’t be able to demonstrate my second point, I am interested as to why you have targeted this group over any other because, if anything, the goals of bronies would seem partially aligned with those of feminism in that they are both opposing traditional gender role models.

    Reply
    • You’re right: I shouldn’t have said ‘the majority’ when I don’t have any actual statistics, so I will amend that to “an awful lot.”

      As for your second point: I don’t think the MLP:FiM fandom is the worst on the internet, by far. A lot of fandoms are gross. I chose MLP because A) I like it, and B) It’s an awesome, feminist show for young girls, which is pretty rare in children’s cartoons, especially those based on a toy line. The awesomeness of the show and its message about friendship and its female empowerment makes it a strong contrast with the entitlement of the fans who think of it as ‘theirs.’

      Reply
    • “I’d like to see some sources for *any* of these broad assertions.”

      *snorts* Because simply going to any of the “brony” sites and looking at all the fail isn’t proof enough. FACTS are needed.
      http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#intellectual
      http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#opinion

      Reply
      • If you’re going to make an anecdotal argument, you could at least source the anecdote. No facts needed!

  5. The butthurt at Reddit is beautiful.

    Reply
  6. I agree with this, another thing I would add though is male fans’ (and a lot of female fans’) aversion to the term “pegasister”. “I’m a brony NOT a pegasister,” they’ll say. Personally I don’t what to be identified as a “brony” as a female. It doesn’t sound gender neutral at all!
    “Fluttershy is mai waifu” is just annoying. Fluttershy is capable of taking care of herself and really kind of a bad ass I must say, but I think this phrase is more of a carryover from anime fandoms, where male fans think it’s okay to take ownership is quiet, cute, female characters. SMH.
    (Off-topic but I wouldnt consider Powerpuff Girls to be as good for young girls as Friendship is Magic is. The existence of the Femme Fatale episode is enough to make me think this way.)

    Reply
    • Ok nvm about pegasisters, realized you adressed the issue in another reply.

      Reply
    • Personally I don’t see what’s wrong with “MLP fans.” Or “ponies” or “equestrians” or something like that if we must have a cutesy show-related term!

      And no, I would definitely consider FiM to have more of a feminist message than PPG, but I still think PPG is one of the better ones, in that it’s definitely girl-oriented without being all pink and fluffy. All shows, unfortunately, are gonna have problematic elements. :\

      Reply
      • “Personally I don’t see what’s wrong with “MLP fans.” Or “ponies” or “equestrians” or something like that if we must have a cutesy show-related term!”

        Well, “ponies” and “equestrians” have pre-established meanings, so it’s more confusing than “Trekkies” or “Whovians.”

        “MLP fans” works, but is uninspired.

    • Femme Fatale almost made me want to cry… I just don’t understand why that episode happened.

      Reply
  7. I’ll probably get a lot of flack for this, but in recent months “brony” has acquired the same sort of negative connotation in my mind as “furry”. Having been a member of both fandoms (in the case of the furry fandom, I was a part of it for over a decade) they are nearly identical. Actually, come to think on it, I can’t think of any differences between the two groups beyond terminology. The raging misogyny, sense of entitlement, most obnoxious fans in the minority eventually overshadowing all other fans and becoming the majority which negatively impacts and eventually defines the fandom for internal and external members, and a host of other traits are all things these two groups share. The only major difference as of now between bronies and furries is the speed at which bronies have blown through their fandom; it parallels several decades of furry fandom in its rise and decline but only took a few months to reach the same uncomfortable state in which furry fandom now finds itself (both fandoms appear to be unaware of this). We may possibly see the future of furries if we keep watching bronies over the next months/years.

    In short, as a woman in general, both of these fandoms made me feel very unwelcome and profoundly uncomfortable. Do I still like cartoon animals and “Friendship is Magic”? Oh, you bet! Will you see me participating in any way beyond a peripheral one in either of them? Not unless something major happens to change them for the better.

    Reply
    • It’s a shame that a bunch of vocal assholes have driven you (and so many other women) out of communities they used to enjoy. And then these same people tend to point out a lack of women in the fandom as “proof” that women aren’t into whatever it happens to be. Or “if they have a problem with it, why don’t they speak up?”

      Reply
      • I couldn’t agree with you more. The double standards in both of these communities are quite appalling (though I will admit that it surprised me with bronies as I had, initially and erroneously, thought they were something better than they have turned out to be). I did attempt to be more proactive in furry, but being fetishized and/or snubbed for my sexual orientation eventually got too uncomfortable (this same reason is one of the big things that keeps me away from large groups of bronies online).

      • “And then these same people tend to point out a lack of women in the fandom as “proof” that women aren’t into whatever it happens to be. Or “if they have a problem with it, why don’t they speak up?”

        OMG! Yes.

        You see this in comics and horror all the time.

        “Where are all the women?”

        Uhm. You’re driving them away with sexist products and sexist marketing and sexist attitudes when they DO decide to speak up. It’s a chicken and egg affect. Except if the misogyny were reigned in more women would show up…

  8. Pretty much all fans who gather online are entitled and think their numbers are bigger than they actually are; that’s a gripe you really shouldn’t single the bronies out for. As for the brony-specific accusations: You need to find better FiM communities, because your experiences certainly don’t mirror mine. I’m sure the kind of negative, misogynist brony you describe exists, but the majority, or even “an awful lot”? I don’t think so.

    I also think you are misinterpreting some of the behaviours you rail against, like the fact that some bronies seem to take special pride in being fans of the show. That’s a defensive gesture a lot of the time; criticism and insults are expected, so people are proactive about it and say, “yes, I like ponies, and why the hell not? in fact, I think I’m so ‘manly’ and courageous that I challenge gender roles instead of conforming to them”. That attitude is aimed at other males (the sort who are quick to assume bronies are sexual deviants, whatever that means in their minds), not at women who also like the show.

    As for the term “brony”, I don’t use it as an exclusionary term, but I’m also one of those people who use “dude” to refer informally to both men and women. It may have started out the way you stated, to separate the new male fans from both the target audience and any female fans, but to say it’s still used that way by the majority is a generalisation. Every time there’s been a report in the mainstream media stating that bronies are male fans of FiM, the majority reaction is “boo, it refers to women, too”. By both male and female fans. Unless you can’t get over the fact that there’s a “bro” in the name, in which case of course it’s inherently exclusionary and will always remain so. That ship has sailed, though; the term has caught on. There are segments of the fanbase that want to force their definition of brony (whether it’s used to mean “boys only” or “everypony”) on others, I’ll give you that, and I don’t condone that sort of behaviour. Anybody (or anypony) can call themselves whatever they like. But again, I think your anecdotal picture is skewed and not representative (says I, judging from my own anecdotal experience).

    I’ve also frankly never heard someone call Rarity useless because of her love of fashion. Rarity has quite a sizeable fandom; she’s the favourite character of one the Equestria Daily webmasters, and he’s not shy about that. If anything, it’s the athletic, hard-working, rough-and-tumble Applejack who is the most underappreciated among the main ponies.
    Personally, I don’t like Rarity all that much, because unlike what you say, she is not always “generous to a fault” and has quite a lot of annoying personality quirks (for instance, in a recent episode she lied to her friends so she could go to a party, abused her cat to perpetuate that lie, and never confessed). Similarly, Rainbow Dash is my least favourite character because more often than not, she is arrogant, lazy, and generally obnoxious. (There was a study recently that showed that, among respondents at least, Rainbow Dash was actually among the least popular ponies across the board, for both children and adults and male and female fans. Maybe Rainbow Dash fans are just particularly loud and insecureself-confident, like the character they love?)
    It’s the ponies’ personalities that make me like or dislike them, not their sex or how they conform to stereotypes. And in any case, the fact that these characters are flawed is what makes the show interesting; many of the Rarity-centred episodes are among my favourites. Somehow I don’t think I’m all that atypical. Though I’ll admit I avoid 4chan like the plague and also don’t visit ponychan all that much.

    Reply
    • Actually, I am in better FiM communities; small ones that I like a lot. But even though I don’t frequently go to the main pony comms, I still come by the sort of behavior mentioned in the article whenever I do tend to venture out of my own little circles; just because I don’t choose to stay in spaces like that doesn’t mean it’s something that should just be ignored. Also the “Well if you don’t like it, leave!” argument is incredibly problematic. Some women might be satisfied with only participating in small circles within the fandom, but a large percent would like to actually be able to go into general fandom spaces without being assaulted by misogyny on every side. This stuff needs to be called out and fixed, not ignored.

      And sure it’s a defensive mechanism for people who accuse them of being girly (or gay)– which is of course also not okay– and you’re right, some do just take it as “So what, I watch a show for little girls and I’m still a man.” But there are also an awful lot who go too far the other way.

      Whether or not brony is currently used as an exclusively male term or not is not the point. It is not gender-neutral; assuming that it is works in the same way that ‘man’ or ‘mankind’ is assumed gender neutral: because men are default, and women are other. Many women may be okay with calling themselves bronies, but many others are NOT, and the fact that “bronies” tends to be used to mean “all fans outside the target audience” makes many women feel incredibly excluded.

      A lot of your arguments seem to boil down to “I haven’t seen that happen, so it’s probably not as bad as you say.” It’s true, we’re both working on anecdotal evidence, but it’s different to say “I have seen this happen, therefore it happens” (as long as you are acknowledging that it doesn’t happen in all cases) than “I have never seen this happen, therefore it doesn’t happen.” Does that make sense? You can prove a positive, but not a negative.

      Reply
      • Well, first off, I acknowledged that my experiences were just as anecdotal as yours, and that the behaviours you cite do exist. I have no objection to you calling them out. I just take umbrage at the term “majority” (which remains in the post). “Some” or “in my experience, many” are not as forceful, I know, but also not as incendiary. I apologise that I assumed you were not aware of “nice” brony communities, but considering the tone of your post, I think it was an easy mistake to make, since you did seem to paint the entire community – except a very small minority that isn’t specified further – with a very broad brush. And I still think your perception is off; yes, some of the stuff in the Equestria Daily comments is cringe-worthy and full of entitlement, but it’s nothing I haven’t experienced with other fandoms, and the percentage of idiots and trolls seems to be quite a bit smaller. There is an irony to some fans of FiM being actively misogynist, but I do think more fans than just a small minority take both the explicit friendship-related messages of the show to heart, as well as its implicit ones.

        I am familiar with feminist criticism of language, hence my acknowledgement that “brony” can be seen as inherently exclusionary. As a linguistic pragmatist, I just don’t agree (both in general, and in this specific case).
        I also think the male-as-default criticism related to this issue can be valid (it often is), but sometimes reaches a bit too far; this seems to me to be one such case. You cite both “there should be more male toys” and “there should be more male characters” as examples for male entitlement, and I while I can’t disprove that you witnessed both opinions in equal measure, I can only once again question whether reality bears your impressions out. I would anticipate such a complaint to occur much more frequently than I see it if a majority of fans really were concerned with preserving the male-as-default paradigm in the media they consume, despite the fact that the show they profess to love does such a good job subverting that very concept.

        I don’t think there are all that many people who use “brony” gleefully aware that they’re being sexist pigs. And while I know that’s not an excuse (“I didn’t mean to be sexist, so I’m not”), I do think it’s arguable whether language needs to be parsed down that much and intent should be ignored completely. I can’t convince you not to think of “brony” as segregative, and it’s your prerogative to prefer a different term and call on others to do the same. But I hope you can accept that not everyone (including women) shares your views on this matter, and that that doesn’t automatically mean they hate women.

      • I’m willing to edit the post to remove the word “majority,” but my intent is not really to make the brony community (that I am talking about) “change their ways” (because I know it’s pretty much futile): I am highlighting a problem I have experienced and explaining why it is a problem. If my wording is incendiary (I take that to mean “It’s making bronies mad”), well maybe they should take a good long look at the problem elements in their community and what they can do to change things themselves, rather than complain about someone pointing the problems out.

        A number of commenters now have brought up the fact that other fandoms are worse, or just as bad. I’m well aware of that, being active in a number of them. But this is a post about My Little Pony, so whether other fandoms are worse or not is kind of irrelevant? I never said that it was the worst fandom anywhere ever, or even that most of these problems are unique to it (they’re not). I just felt like writing about the problems I have with bronies today, not with every fandom ever (I could do that later).

        I realize that most people who use “brony” are not aware that they’re being sexist, but the fact that the term evolved and was gendered in the first place– and it most definitely was created to distinguish the male fans from the “girly” target audience, if not to explicitly distinguish them from older female fans– is a problem. I can accept that not everyone feels that way, of course, and that they’re certainly not all he-man woman-haters, but “misogyny” doesn’t just mean overt hatred of women: it also encompasses much more subtle things, including internalized things, that prevent women from being recognized on the same level as men, and treating male-gendered terms as gender neutral is one of those. Is it the biggest problem in the world that women face? Obviously not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pointing out and thinking critically about.

      • @tulipclaymore
        “I just take umbrage at the term “majority” (which remains in the post).”

        WOW! Entitled much? Why does she have to change the words of her own post FOR YOU?

        “I don’t think there are all that many people who use “brony” gleefully aware that they’re being sexist pigs.”

        Yeah, they tend not to be in the brony communities…

        You’re still being dismissive and rude. None of your arguments are any better this time around. Stop belittling others then try to have an open dialog. You’d be SHOCKED to know how well that works.

      • @Melissa:
        I said “incendiary” because the wording made the post needlessly antagonistic. Making people mad and offended may get you more attention in the short term (which is also important, I suppose), but it will also mean more people will write you off as a crank and move on instead of thinking about your position calmly and critically.

        I know many feminists feel strongly about gendered terms (or terms perceived as such), but I continue to disagree with the notion that use of them, consciously or subconsciously, is inherently misogynist even in the broader sense of the term. I’m not against finding more neutral words or inventing neutral or female equivalents when it is easy to do (and arguably it is easy to do so here, when the term is barely a year old), but taking etymology into account is problematic because it is often done very selectively. But anyway, this is neither the time nor the place for this sort of tangent.

        @Spitphyre:
        “WOW! Entitled much? Why does she have to change the words of her own post FOR YOU?”
        Where did I say she had to? I pointed out that the word remained in the post because I know lots of people won’t bother to read the comments, where Melissa clarified her position.

    • “It may have started out the way you stated, to separate the new male fans from both the target audience and any female fans, but to say it’s still used that way by the majority is a generalisation(sic).”

      This is problematic in and of itself. It’s a gendered term (really, when you look at the entomology of the word it’s fairly blatant) that is now being applied to both men and women. Once again making “men” the default for all humans, especially when concerning any interests of the geek persuasion. Just because YOU think it’s fine doesn’t make it so.

      “Pretty much all fans who gather online are entitled and think their numbers are bigger than they actually are; that’s a gripe you really shouldn’t single the bronies out for.”

      That REALLY doesn’t matter given that this is an article about bronies. We’re not talking about gun fanatics or dog show enthusiasts. Bringing this up is only an attempt to lessen the legit complaints of a woman and it’s a disgusting tactic in any argument.

      “As for the brony-specific accusations: You need to find better FiM communities, because your experiences certainly don’t mirror mine.”

      O rly? That couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you are unconcerned with misogyny and male privilege could it? Because really, I think THAT is the problem. Not Melissa’s experiences (ok, her experiences are problems to but they exist, they’re real and dismissing them as unimportant at best and imaginary at worst is another repulsive tactic simply meant to silence and oppress)

      “I also think you are misinterpreting some of the behaviours you rail against,”

      She’s not.

      “like the fact that some bronies seem to take special pride in being fans of the show. That’s a defensive gesture a lot of the time; criticism and insults are expected, so people are proactive about it and say, “yes, I like ponies, and why the hell not? in fact, I think I’m so ‘manly’ and courageous that I challenge gender roles instead of conforming to them”.

      Really? Challenging gender roles by using gendered terms to refer to fans? Challenging gender roles by calling yourself “manly” to mean something good whereas “girly” is bad? Because really, that’s not challenging gender roles at all. That’s contributing to them.

      Or do you mean challenging gender roles in the other things bronies do? Like insisting their voices be heard over that of women and girls simply because they’re men? (Really, giving themselves the name “brony” is, in and of itself” a demand to be acknowledged as MEN… which also doesn’t challenge gender roles) Or insisting that their needs and desires are more important than that of girls (and I’m talking the target demographic here, not women) based solely on the fact that they’re men… Yeah. I’m not seeing a gender role challenged here. Simply liking something not “designed” for your gender isn’t what it takes to challenge gender roles, sorry.

      Anyway, most of the rest of what you’re saying is just as insulting, dismissive and plain wrong. You make statements like this one:
      “I’ve also frankly never heard someone call Rarity useless because of her love of fashion.”
      and it just makes it painfully clear that either you haven’t participated much in the
      fandom or you’re outright lying.

      Seriously, you’re a condescending jackwad. Given that you spend so much time talking down to Melissa and dismissing her (something I’m going to guess you do to others aside from her… it’s just a feeling I have) you’re lucky anyone dignifies you with any real responses.

      Reply
      • Regarding “brony as a gendered term”, I refer you to the reply I posted earlier. Think if me as insensitive, if you want to, but I value the fact that “brony” rhymes with “pony” over the fact that the gendered “bro” is a component of the word. You may also want to look up what entomology is.

        You also shouldn’t make assumptions about my sex, gender, personality, views on women and feminism, and my behaviour towards women based on a single 642-word blog comment. You especially shouldn’t make assumptions about my intentions; written comments being what they are, it’s easy to misunderstand one another. I don’t think my initial comment was disrespectful of Melissa, or of women in general. If you point anything out to me, I’ll be happy to apologise.

        I brought up entitlement in other fandoms because entitlement is a fan thing in general, not necessarily a male thing or a brony thing. I then went on to address her points. And I never said Melissa’s complaints were imaginary, just that in my experience they seemed a bit out of proportion.

        Concerning Rarity, I can only tell you what my experiences are. I cannot recall ever having seen her referred to as “useless”. “Bitch”, yes, but not because of her fashion sense or girlishness (which doesn’t mean use of the term is okay).

        Finally, there are quotation marks around “manly” for a reason; it uses the terminology of the accuser and hurls it back at them. I don’t doubt it is also used unironically, but it’s not like there are any statistics on that. Like I said above, the internet doesn’t always make it easy to discern intent.

      • “You may also want to look up what entomology is.”

        What does the study of insects have to do with My Little Pony?

    • I very much agree with your assessment of the characters! Applejack is very underrated and the fandom doesn’t recognize her, while Rarity has more fans than hatred really. Rainbow Dash fans are fewer than you’d think. I like her voice the most out of everything she has to offer really.

      Reply
  9. “But I’VE never seen it, so it must not have happened!”

    Newsflash, dumbasses: JUST BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T SEE IT DOESN’T MEAN IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. Especially if you’re A) not a woman (shock and awe, entitled Bronies trying to talk over female fans) and B) not a member of all of the same communities. Not all communities are terrible – but all of them have their moments of fail.

    God, it seems like basic logic shouldn’t be something you have to teach – and then I remember, oh, right! Bronies!

    Great article, I really enjoyed reading it. It made a lot of sense, and I absolutely agree, as do my own personal experiences in this realm. I’ve seen a lot of the same sexism/misogyny you have, even though so much of it is heinous and subtle. “But telling her ‘I like your titties’ is a COMPLIMENT! she’s just an UNGRATEFUL ATTENTION WHORE!” is, sadly, a familiar tune to me. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

    Reply
    • YES THIS. Has it not occurred to these people that maybe the reason they’re not noticing misogyny is because they’re not hurt by it?

      Reply
      • BUT LOGIC IS HARD, OKAY? GEEZ.

        It’s kind of boggling. Sometimes, people see things differently than you do. They might even pick up on more things than you see, because they are coming at it from a different perspective. THAT DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN THEY’RE WRONG, JUST BECAUSE YOU SAW DIFFERENT THINGS.

        How many idiotic “Nice Guy” Bronies have said shit like “wow, what a bitch” or “hey, your tits are sooooo huge” to other members of the fandom, and not even realized that it’s misogynist/demeaning as hell? And how many of those, in the same breath, talk about how ‘welcoming’ they are to women in the fandom, or how they “don’t see” all of the misogyny? I basically assume that any Brony who tells me that HE’S nice, it’s just all those OTHER guys who are gross, is a liar, or stupid.

        As a woman, I have SEEN THIS firsthand. The early merch threads used to be a nightmare – men would post their pictures, with no comment, but the moment any women showed theirs, it was automatically “oh wow, what an attention whore” or variants of “landwhale/you make me hard,” depending on their relative ‘attractiveness.’ Anyone who tells me that I’m ‘overreacting’ or making this up is pretty much a liar, or hasn’t been watching the fandom closely enough. Or, surprise surprise, thinks that this is ‘acceptable’ internet behavior.

  10. I will admit right now that I have nothing to contribute to the larger discussion going on about My Little Pony and “bronies.” I know one “brony” and he’s such a misogynistic douchenozzle in just about every single other aspect of his existence that even if his love of My Little Pony didn’t have a misogynistic undertone to it (and I’ve no way of knowing if it does because that would require speaking to him for more than three or four mumbled words when I get into work in the morning) I would be unable to extract it from his overall odious personality.
    I can, however, speak to this portion of your post (which is what really struck me as a relevant statement that I want to acknowledge):
    “My Little Pony isn’t for girls!” they shout. “It’s cool!”

    … Do I even have to explain what’s wrong with that statement? My Little Pony is, in fact, for girls, that being the demographic the show and merchandise is marketed toward, but, more importantly, the fact that something being “cool” must mean it’s “not for girls” says a lot about how our society perceives femininity.

    Because…YES! EXACTLY! Because “It’s cool” shouldn’t be in direct opposition to “It’s for girls” and yet somehow that’s exactly what goes on in our society. Girls and women are forced to defend what is made “just for girls” as something worthwhile or publicly diss it whilst privately enjoying it because what is made for teh ladiez just isn’t “cool.” (And of course I don’t mean to imply here that all women like the same things or that only women like “girly” things but you get my point I hope?) And that’s icky. And anyway, good post. I enjoyed it.

    Reply
  11. I’m not sure how I stumbled across this article, but I’m glad that I did. As male pony fan, I always have been a bit uncomfortable with the sex-specific term ‘brony’ for the reasons that you stated. I still haven’t come up with a replacement term that I really like, but this read did help me to clarify my thoughts on the subject, and led me to decide to finally reject the ‘brony’ label as applied to me.

    I have noticed the unbalanced sex ratio in the online community, and yet I find it hard to believe that adult female fans of the show are any less numerous than the males. I have wondered about this on various occasions – supposing that female fans are simply less outspoken, as they don’t feel they have anything to prove, sans the ego issues man commonly have for liking MLP.

    It is disturbing to me to think that female fans may feel unwelcome or uncomfortable in a community that preaches love and tolerance, I have noticed some of the sexism you describe in isolated cases only, but I accept that I may not be as aware of it happening as you are.

    Thank you for writing this. I am curious if you have any thoughts as to why the online fanbase is so male-biased, and how representative it really is of the fanbase in reality. I appreciate any advice you have to offer to a male ponyfan who cares about this issue.

    Reply
    • I only have guesses as to how the online fandom became so male focused, but I assume it went something like this: if I recall correctly, 4chan was a big factor in ponies gaining popularity among the older, internet-going audience, and since 4chan (particularly /b/, I realize other boards aren’t quite as bad) is notably hostile to women, the initial popularity and first online communities were incredibly male-dominated. A lot of these guys felt like it was really unique for them to be into a show marketed toward little girls, so the community kind of became focused on that perceived uniqueness. At first, I think, things weren’t so bad, and the fandom focused on the show and how awesome it is, but eventually the focus began to shift to the *fans* and how awesome *they* are for being men who aren’t afraid to be into girly stuff (while appropriating it and making it all about them, of course).

      Personally I know many more female pony fans than male, just because of the circles I travel in, but I’m not sure how many of them are actually active in the “main,” male-dominated pony spaces. Not a lot, I think.

      Basically my advice, if you want to do your part to make the fandom a little less sexist, is to call out sexist things when you see them, and most importantly, don’t try to talk over female fans, if any are speaking up. If someone points out something as sexist and you don’t see it, take a step back first and try to figure out why they might have said that, rather than getting defensive. And then let that shape your future discourse. :) Hope that helps!

      Reply
      • “A lot of these guys felt like it was really unique for them to be into a show marketed toward little girls, so the community kind of became focused on that perceived uniqueness.”

        You seem to resent this. I think it’s valid. It’s *very* transgressive to cross gender lines like that, especially when it’s men encroaching onto young girls’ territory. I’ve seen some instances of female bronies complaining about their female friends mocking them, but not nearly as many as the males. Like it or not, they’re largely the ones carrying an additional burden here.

      • Thank you for your insight and valueable advice. I suppose short of someone doing a random sociological survey, we won’t know what the true makeup of the fanbase is. I would guess that Hasbro is doing this if they haven’t done so already, and while i don’t hold out much hope for ever seeing the results, I’m sure it would be fascinating.

        I did a little thinking about your advice and I think it really is the best advice possible. I will do my best to implement it. Oddly, your advice about not talking over female fans has interesting timing in my life. Just a couple of days ago, I caught myself talking over a female -supervisor- at work! Thankfully I snapped to my senses pretty quickly when she cut back in, and it didn’t become a major incident, but I was really disappointed in myself. To be quite honest, I don’t think I would have done that if it were a male supervisor. Apparently I still have substantial learning and especially, UN-learning to do.

  12. @Church (WordPress won’t let me reply directly to your comment, as the thread is too long)

    It *might* be transgressive for bronies to cross gender lines if A) the show hadn’t been specifically designed to be enjoyable by children *and* their families (meaning it’s not really that startling that adult men should like it, since it was geared toward a wider audience), and B), and this is the important part, they didn’t *overwhelmingly* try and reclaim the show for the adult male audience in particular. If the prevailing attitude were “This show is for little girls, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome,” that would be a very different thing than “This show is so awesome, stop calling it girly!” You don’t really get to pat yourselves on the back for “crossing gender lines” when the dominant attitude is all about making the show about them.

    Reply
    • “If the prevailing attitude were “This show is for little girls, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome,” that would be a very different thing than “This show is so awesome, stop calling it girly!” ”

      You have to remember that these are largely guys at a very vulnerable age who are having their masculinity assaulted (just like you say they don’t see the sexism coming your way, you’re not seeing it in the other direction.) If the ammunition fired at them is “It’s Girly!” don’t expect them to say “Yes it is!” (as awesome a response as that might be.)

      Reply
      • No, believe me, I do see it. And it’s super terrible when straight dudes get called gay or girly, because that’s the worst possible thing they could be. But that doesn’t mean I have to pat them on the back for being defensive of their masculinity instead of defending the awesomeness of “girly” things just because it’s understandable, sorry.

      • “But that doesn’t mean I have to pat them on the back for being defensive of their masculinity instead of defending the awesomeness of “girly” things just because it’s understandable, sorry.”

        No, that’s when you *do* have to be understanding They’re trying to defend their very identity.

        Even my old skool feminist Angela Davis-fan GF gave me shit about my obsession with the ponies until I managed to get her into it. It’s more pervasive than you’d think.

  13. @Melissa and Church….

    I think the phrase “It’s understandable” needs some clarification here.

    I believe what Church is saying about male ponyfans having to endure ridicule for watching the show IS a real problem, because society says that men who have anything to do with something ‘girly’ are deviants, homosexual, immature, or even pedophiles – or any combination thereof. Take your pick, really.

    Of course a typical male fan is going to have a knee-jerk reaction to such accusations and try to defend himself by saying that the show is ‘not girly’. That is ‘understandable’ in the sense that I can fully understand why male fans have done it. In fact, I’m guilty of doing it myself.

    But it’s not ‘understandable’ in the sense that it’s morally right to do so. It’s not morally right to respond in a way that reinforces society’s stereotypes, and it’s not morally right to try to steal ownership of the show from its main audience, which is young girls.

    I think it is fair to say that a lot of the jerk-ism that Melissa described in her original post is an extreme case of this type of male backlash – guys are trying to overcompensate for their insecurities about liking a show intended for little girls, and in in doing so, they offer their ‘defense’ in the most jerk-waddish way they can. Is it ‘understandable’ that they do this? Sure. I do think I get what drives some guys to act this way, but that doesn’t really make it any less reprehensible at the end of the day. As the adage goes: two wrongs never make a right.

    As for me, next time someone confronts me with these accusations, I’ll be sure to tell them yes, My Little Pony is girly, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome. In fact – it’s intelligent, funny, and maybe surprisingly, it even provides valuable life lessons for adults. In short, it has something for everyone.

    Reply
    • Yes, that is basically what I meant :) It’s “understandable” in that I understand why it happens (and it says a lot about our society that there IS such backlash against men who want to watch something for girls), but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to do so, and just because I understand the reaction, doesn’t mean I have to condone it.

      If you’re a male fan, and someone accuses you of liking a girly show, well, that could be your chance for a teaching moment– “Yes, it is a girly show, and it’s still awesome” (like you suggest). Or you could just get defensive, insist that “NO WAY, IT’S NOT GIRLY,” and thus further entrench this notion that “girly” things are bad, and “awesome” things can’t be girly.

      Reply
      • One thing you have to remember is that it’s not the bronies who are framing this argument. The terms are usually laid out for them from the get-go. Try to be understanding when they reject those terms, because it’s usually the other party that’s framing “girly = bad (and morally reprehensible if you’re a guy)”

        Your ultimate point is a fair one, but it’s honestly not something I would see an objection to outside of a loaded argument.

  14. While I really like this publish, I believe there was an punctuational error close towards the finish of your third section.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: