Continuing our International Women’s Day week content is today’s editorial, written by forum members rudecyrus and ShieldedDiamond.
It’s hard to pin down why Friendship is Magic became so popular outside of its intended demographic of 6-10 year old girls. Perhaps the focus on character and not just marketability allowed the show to reach across generations. The internet certainly allowed fans to organize and communicate, but the surge of older, male fans was unprecedented. Suddenly, a large number of twenty-something men were willing to declare that they were fans of My Little Pony. At first, this crossing of age and gender boundaries was a positive thing—it allowed FiM to become more popular than it could have normally. However, the fandom has done some very questionable things that show it needs to change.
The fandom has exhibited sexist tendencies, which includes bullying and harassing women and making threats against those who try to change the status quo. Rape is seen as a joke. Femininity is frowned upon. The point of this article is to expose these practices and convince readers to fight them. It’s possible the actions documented here are only representative of a small part of the fandom – or it may represent the majority. Either way, there is too much of this behaviour and not enough pushback against it. There needs to be a concentrated effort to curtail this kind of thing.
Attacks on PinkiePony
One of the biggest issues in the fandom is the fighting over “Down With Molestia” and what is going on with PinkiePony. PinkiePony is the individual who organized the whole movement, and as a result, she has been the target of a lot of hate from the fandom. This is a seventeen year old girl who has had her personal information put up online as if it were some kind of joke. She receives countless threats on her own safety and well-being, and was followed at some point, which she recounted in a Tumblr post:
I went to the shopping center. I put all my hair up in a beanie and I have no makeup on, my eyebrows aren’t even pink and my hair kept slipping out and I have so much fucking hair and some guys were calling me pinkiepony, not Pinkie or April. It confused me and they kept bombarding me with DWM questions so I grabbed a random bra and went into the changing room (which they laughed about) and now I’m in a changing room with a bra I’m not even trying on because these men are really scary they’re like 6 feet tall and they think this is so amusing so I’m going to call my Dad.
Why is this behaviour acceptable to some people? This started because PinkiePony wanted to boycott a blog showcasing adult material that included Friendship is Magic characters, due to the fact that her younger sister discovered some of this material. One could argue that such images can be blocked, but even with filters it still crops up. For her attempts, she was sent graphic death threats and even has an entry on Encyclopedia Dramtica titled “How to Troll this Pony Weeaboo” (which includes joking about the rape of a family member).
Compare this reaction to the Michael Morones incident. Michael was a 10-year old child who attempted suicide after being bullied for being a My Little Pony fan.. He was subject of much concern from the fandom, which donated money to him over a period of time. Many members of the fandom would go on to use this to show why bullying is a terrible thing. In the midst of this, PinkiePony spoke out, saying, “I feel like bronies only care because he’s another brony.” She pointed out that when she attempted suicide, people dismissed it as attention seeking and even expressed disappointment.
It should be made clear that Michael Morones should be supported in whatever way possible, but the lack of action and bullying towards PinkiePony’s similar situation is hypocritical and in bad taste.
Women in the Fandom
Another noteworthy thing is that a good chunk of these people being target of criticism are women. Why is this? As pointed out, PinkiePony, Many other members of the My Little Pony community have been the targets of misogynistic insults and abuse. They certainly aren’t the only ones. This essay by Cuddlepug points out some disturbing trends emerging in the fandom, including the marginalization of female fans and the casual attitude towards rape. Many women have been victims of criticism, being referred to as “fake fans” or “attention whores”. When it comes to the term brony, there have been cases where some individuals say, “Women can’t be bronies, bro means guy.” Previous generations of My Little Pony are attacked for being “too feminine,” despite the fact that this is a show aimed at little girls. The attempt to redefine watching Friendship is Magic as “manly” threatens to turn anything female-oriented into a taboo. Sexual harassment is frequent at conventions. Lesbians are subjected to homophobic insults.
Ironically, “love and tolerance” is advertised as a key theme of the fandom, an important thing to follow, yet it’s not abided by its own community. Perhaps that is one reason why people look down on the fandom. People don’t give the fandom respect because they don’t treat each other with respect. If everyone treated each other better inside the community, perhaps those outside the community will treat the fandom with understanding. The question is if the fandom is willing to make that change.
Feminism in My Little Pony
Make no mistake: Friendship is Magic is a feminist show. The main cast is female, most of the supporting cast is female, and most episode plots focus on self-improvement and how to be a good person. “Suited for Success,” for example, while ostensibly about colorful ponies trying out dresses for a formal event, is actually about not placing unwieldy demands on a friend. There are no endless tea parties, no episodes where everyone sits around and is nice to each other all the time — there’s conflict and excitement, which is in stark contrast to most media aimed at young girls. In addition, the Mane Six each have their own unique personalities and flaws:
Twilight Sparkle: The most cerebral of the Six, she loves to read and study magic. She has a knack for organization and takes a rational approach to problems, although she can lose her mind when it comes to certain situations (usually impressing Princess Celestia), like in “Swarm of the Century” or “Lesson Zero.” Twilight has done a lot of growing over the course of the series, from someone who sees friendship as unimportant to someone who values it highly, but she still has a way to go.
Pinkie Pie: Bubbly and optimistic, Pinkie likes to make her friends smile and loves to throw parties. While she may seem endlessly happy, she has an insecure side, which manifests whenever she feels doubtful about herself or her friends, as showcased in “Party of One” and the more recent “Pinkie Pride.” It’s easy to dismiss Pinkie as an airhead, and she can be oblivious to her friends’ emotions at times, but it’s out of ignorance than stupidity. She’s capable of deeper thought, but that can be hard to see because Pinkie is…eccentric.
Fluttershy: As her name implies, she’s timid and soft-spoken, preferring to keep her hooves on the ground despite being a Pegasus and she has a natural rapport with animals. Fluttershy may be the most stereotypically feminine of the group, but her traits are both a weakness and a strength. Her kindness makes her sympathetic to those in need and allows her to achieve things the others can’t. In spite of her shy nature (which can be crippling), she can be counted on to stand up for her friends.
Rainbow Dash: She is the polar opposite of Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash is brash, cocky, loves winning, and almost never has her hooves on the ground. Her tendency to act before thinking can get her in trouble and she can be tactless, but she’s never malicious. While she displays more masculine traits than the others (sometimes interrupting an emotional moment by calling it “sappy”), she likes to dress up with the rest of them, sees certain things as cute (“Swarm of the Century”), and has taken on a big sister role with Scootaloo.
Rarity: With an eye for detail and a love of fashion, Rarity is determined to make her dresses known throughout Equestria, which makes her the most entrepreneurial of the Mane Six. She can be vain and melodramatic, but she also puts other ponies’ needs ahead of her own, like when she crafts new dresses for all of her friends (“Suited for Success”), or spends time with Sweetie Belle.
Applejack: Applejack is strong, hard-working and reliable. She can be stubborn at times, but she’s also the most mature, having to balance taking care of a large family with working on a farm. Applejack’s biggest flaw is that she places a lot of pressure on herself to succeed, whether in farm work (“Applebuck Season”) or in competition (“The Last Roundup”), but that same drive makes her a dedicated friend.
Faust wrote, “There is a diversity of personalities, ambitions, talents, strengths and even flaws in our characters—it’s not an army of cookie-cutter nice-girls or cookie-cutter beauty queens like you see in most shows for girls.” She lamented once that girls’ shows based on toys were boring and nonsensical, filled with one-dimensional characters. She set out to change this by creating a cast with vibrant personalities, as you can see above.
What do all of the Mane Six have in common? They feel real. They all have positive traits and flaws, like real people. They have different interests, likes and dislikes. They also exemplify the different ways to be a girl. This show says, “If you like to read a book, that’s okay! If you prefer playing sports, that’s okay too!” The show manages to represent unique personalities without making them cookie-cutter. The Mane Six aren’t focused on one aspect in their lives, but many, from family to competitive events to personal problems.
If Lauren Faust hadn’t been involved in the show’s creation, would these characters have been this strong? It’s hard to say. Without Faust and the other creative people behind her, this show would’ve probably ended up like most other girl-focused media: bland, boring, and one-dimensional. It was Faust’s drive to create something as good as or better than boy-focused media that resulted in Friendship is Magic.
Lauren Faust wrote about she was trying to accomplish by creating Friendship is Magic:
To look at the quality of most girls’ cartoons, it would seem that not one artist really cared about them. Not one designer, not one background painter, not one animator. Some of the more well-meaning, more expensive animated productions for girl audiences may look better, but the female characters have been so homogenized with old-fashioned “niceness” that they have no flaws and are unrelatable. They are so pretty, polite and perfect; there is no legitimate conflict and nothing exciting ever happens. In short, animated shows for little girls come across as boring. Stupid. Lame.
This perception, more than anything, is what I am trying to change with My Little Pony.
Sadly, it looks like the girls and women Faust was reaching out for have been alienated — not by an overbearing corporate mandate, but by a fandom that makes them feel unwelcome.
It is sad that there is so much misogyny in the fandom and so many women have been alienated. Fans need to fight against this sort of thing, and here some suggestions:
- Whenever you see or hear something misogynistic or sexist, speak up. Staying silent allows these attitudes to thrive.
- Realize that the show was created with little girls in mind. It’s fine for men to watch the show, but they are not the primary demographic. Acting otherwise goes against Faust’s vision and the spirit of the show.
- What happened to PinkiePony was abhorrent and should serve as a lesson: it’s fine to have disagreements, but gendered insults and threats are out of line.
- Realize that it’s okay if something is “girly” or “feminine.” There are attempts to downplay the femininity of the show, and that it’s “manly” to watch the show, but that tells girls “This isn’t really your show.”
The main reason this article was written was because the fandom has a lot of misogyny and sexism running through it, and that is unacceptable, especially since My Little Pony is aimed at little girls. Some of the things that go on in the fandom are disgusting and have no place. If the fandom wants to improve its image, it should fight against such problems and allow women to participate without fear of threats or bullying. ■