25 thoughts on “Bronies challenging definition of masculinity

  1. Hello everyone. I found this on another blog I read yesterday. I think it’s great, even if I don’t like the show.

    One of the comments from the other blog stated that it is terrible that the Bronies selected such an exclusionary name, which it sets up a false dichotomy that implies that the only watchers are young girls and adult men.

    I said that I thought it was alright to have such a masculine name. That it was important for them to identify in a way that they felt safe. I said the name was a way to set up a “safe masculine space” not to different than women creating a “safe female space”. The commenter got very upset with me. Since all spaces are safe for men.

    But I want to argue that men who are part of Geek Culture do tend to feel marginalized. And having a group within a group is something that many men would welcome.

    What do you think?
    Was I off base?

  2. My first reaction, without being able to read all the clip, due to objections around me: I think you are right on. It is not really safe for men to love girls’ and women’s things.

    I’d love to think this takes them back to a time when gender rules weren’t internalized.

    I wonder if there’s any link between this phenomenon and gay men’s love of flashy women stars.

  3. Thanks. Oh, if you get a chance to watch the clip it is funny. This guy usually makes really great videos.

  4. Target right now is selling a tshirt in men’s sizes with a picture of a my little pony on it. My significant other bought it just because we thought it was so great. We didn’t realize this might be behind we Target has it. Love it!

  5. I think the progressive potential of this kind of thing is marred by words like “bronies,” and in general by portmanteaus like “bromance.” I think the latter is especially homophobic. But all of these “bromanteaus” (not my word, but I don’t remember where I got it) suggest that those who use them feel the need to distance themselves from “girly” or “gay” things. In that respect, I find terms like “bronies” to be denigrating to women and gay men.

  6. As someone who has loved MLP ever since I was 3, I feel extremely excluded from “Brony” culture (and by extension, from expressing that I like the new MLP series–b/c I do not want to be called a “girl Brony.” Eff that.). I find this immensely problematic.
    I’m saying “feel” right now instead of giving a full argument b/c I got into a discussion about this on the Sociological Images site and I’m a bit burnt out over it. I’ll try to supply more substance below:

    Bronies aren’t challenging their own masculinity. (I think it’s very similar to the way Nice Guys think they are challenging masculinity, but at the end of the day, they’re really not.)
    The fact that so many Bronies feel the need to stress the fact that they are straight men shows that they are not at all trying to tear down the traditional walls of masculinity. They’re just trying to widen the space a bit—and as a group they don’t seem to care if doing so constrains the available space of expression for other people (like adult women who like MLP).

    I hear what you’re saying Micheline about the importance of creating supportive communities but I think there’s a huge piece of context when it comes to the way the Brony community has developed. They don’t care (as a group) that by picking a dude-centered name and continually stressing that they are men and not just “adults who like MLP” they are using their male privilege in order to not feel marginalized.(“I’m a dude so anything I like it automatically cool and awesome even if it seems girly and uncool at first”)

    They are using the currency of “Bro-ness” to make MLP cooler. Which is still just another way of saying “Feminine things suck and are stupid. But MLP is actually cool b/c it is part of Bro culture.”

    As someone who has spent a lot of their life trying to garner “coolness” currency in male-dominated spaces–in spite of the risk that my mere feminine presence might ‘taint’ those spaces, making them less valuable or desirable–ya, not impressed or supportive of Brony culture. I still get the sense that my presence, as a woman, makes being a MLP fan ‘less cool’ in the eyes of many, many bronies. So eff that. I have to put up with that in philosophy and gamer culture. I really don’t want to add my favorite childhood toy to that list.

  7. I really hate the idea that MLP somehow was/is a “feminine” show or that bronies are changing the definition of masculinity by watching it. Aside from the fact that the main characters are all women and that they are cute pastel colours, there is absolutely nothing that distinguishes the show in terms of masculinity/femininity when compared to something like Pokemon. Is something feminine just because the colour swatches used in the show are soft? Is it feminine because the main characters happen to be women?

    Also (and I say this as someone whose last boyfriend was a brony, although I suppose I’m not): The reason some people (on the internet) hate MLP is because the MLP community is rather abrasive. Now, usually this is very funny and cute, because they are abrasive about ponies and friendship, but I suspect that most of the hatred that is garnered for the show is because of the MLP communities fanaticism rather than its supposed femininity (although that exists too).

    Also also: If you want to take a look at the MLP community, I would suggest that you ignore the posted youtube video (anyone who can’t resist mentioning Butler in a 5 min. cultural analysis video is probably best ignored). The first episode of the new season of MLP aired a week ago, and many fans watched the show simultaneously on the internet while live chatting. Check one of those out (eg here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYWoPgJXaC8).

  8. Adding the prefix “bro-” or “man-” to acts, concepts, or objects implicitly labels them feminine by default, in precisely the same way we do when we say a man or a boy is “getting in touch with his feminine side,” if he permits himself or is permitted to access a full range of healthy human emotions without fear of censure. In any discussion of subverting gender roles, a failure to ask “So what’s ‘feminine’ mean, then?” is the failure to engage meaningfully with the subject at all.

    In this way, Bronydom does not challenge or subvert masculine culture with gentleness, glitter, and happy horses; rather, it represents the colonisation of these things by a monolith of masculine cultural values. It does NOT give men a “safe place” to have these experiences, it just allows a pseudopod of gender policing to exist within the fandom. Pony fans are girls, says this narrative, and men are within it, but not OF it.

    I’m disappointed to see feministphilosophers publishing an article that fails to critique this common and problematic adherence to gender essentialism.

  9. There’s no way that bronies are challenging masculinity if they are not actually challenging it but rather trying to latch onto this entertainment as “acceptably masculine” and wrestling it out of the hands of girls/women who might enjoy it, rather than sitting alongside. The fact that there’s quite a bit of the culture in Bronydom that’s very, very overtly sexual towards the ponies as well as usual nerd bullshit means this is one more flavour of men trying to make something they enjoy “acceptable” and not letting everyone have a piece of it. The fact that the show started out as a really interesting and healthy way to portray friendships between a group of young lady ponies and only got attention because male nerds started jumping up and down about being included and then eventually, as Socratic put it, “colonized” means nothing at all is being challenged here.

  10. RE: Method Man

    Even if it the case that the term brony has the problematic implication that ponies are defaultedly for females (additional note: the term originates with 4chan, which is probably one of the most disgusting places on the internet), it doesn’t mean that males who adopt the term brony are somehow poisoned by that implication. The world is not a piece of literature, most males (I refrain from saying all) who take up the name brony do so without any understanding of that implication, so I find it hard to believe that the implication is somehow preventing them, consciously or otherwise, from having a safe space to express themselves (although, again, I doubt that ” gentleness, glitter, and happy horses” expresses what the show is actually about).

    Additionally, your statement that “Pony fans are girls, says this narrative, and men are within it, but not OF it.” seems very wrong considering those critiques from people like Stacey (and most female fans, it seems to me) who feel like the ubiquity of the term brony has the very overt implication that ONLY males like MLP.

    Just for the record, the female term is pegasister :D.

    RE: Very Lemonade

    “The fact that there’s quite a bit of the culture in Bronydom that’s very, very overtly sexual towards the ponies”

    Hahaha. Watch out, the next brony you see could be a pedophile (or a murderer!)!!!?!?! Pleassssssse.

  11. Oh my. I have stepped into a minefield, never having even watched My Little Pony, and having no acquaintance with the online communities discussed above.

  12. Well, at the risk of revealing myself to be sexist, homophobic, patriarchy-bound and bro-centric (is that a thing?), I’ll happily declare that I thought this video was awesome. Thanks for posting it, Jenny.

  13. Feel comfortable, then, in that case, magicalersatz, declaring your homophobia and belittling other’s criticisms. You are entitled. Very feminist of you.

  14. Sorry, the post responding to magicalersatz was not meant to be anonymous. It was mine, Pepe Nero’s (i.e., Peter Higgins’). I apologize if my post violates the “be nice” rule. I just find the post to which I’m responding distressingly offensive.

  15. I definitely don’t have a problem with Jenny posting the video, with or without commentary (comment discussion is good!), but I think that if you want to know what the MLP community is about then you are better off, y’know, watching a video by an actual member of the MLP community. Just sayin’,

    Kinda really fucking confused about how the word brony is homophobic tho (I am also confused as to why having a long-lasting erection would make your balls explode).

  16. Ok, I confess, my head is still spinning from the news that there is such a thing as the “MLP community”, and from the fact that my 11 year old’s favorite expression, “Derp”, made it onto FP. While I am processing all that, I’d really like an explanation of the homophobia charge too please.

    Meanwhile, off to google…

  17. I know next to nothing about ponies, but this link is surely obligatory:


    Also, I had always understood that in ‘bromance’ the ‘bro-‘ prefix is intended to signal that the relationship is platonic, not that the men in question are straight. The last section of the Wikipedia article on bromance seems to support this. It could be, though, that more recently ‘bro-‘ has been used to signal straightness instead.

  18. In my view, “bromanteaus” like “brony” and “bromance” are homophobic (and sexist) because they are used as reassertions of heterosexuality masculinity in contexts in which the interests and activities of some heterosexual men are regarded as (too) gay or (too) girly by conventional standards. The reassertion of heterosexual masculinity that these bromanteaus are used to effect is necessary only alongside the assumption that such interests and activities are laughable, pathetic, silly, frivolous, worthless, or in some other sense evidence of the inferiority of those who “normally” have them or partake in them – women and gay men. I can’t quite imagine any other reason why it would be necessary for heterosexual men who use such terms to name their interests and activities to engage in this kind of word-play other than to imply by doing so, “Hey, I may like MLP [for example], but I am still a Real Man (i.e., neither unacceptably feminine nor gay).”

    As a qualification, I should add that I don’t think that the homophobia and sexism that these bromanteaus represent is necessarily consciously recognized or endorsed by those who use the terms.

  19. @ Pepe Nero

    Someone — a journalist probably — coined the term “Bromance” to describe buddy movies (involving male buddies), and the term stuck because it is sort of funny. Then male fans of MLP started calling themselves “Bronies” because they found it amusing to do so. Surely that is a much simpler and more plausible explanation of why these “Bromanteaus” have caught on than that they are devices to assert hetrosexual masculinity. It takes a lot of effort to be offended by the term “Brony”.

  20. Hmm, I feel this is likely to veer toward the not-nice… Perhaps we should stay away from the topic of what one should and shouldn’t be offended by. (Ironically, folks always wind up uber-offended by the stuff that gets said!)

  21. @nightglare

    Clearly, saying that people use the word because it is funny is not a satisfactory alternative explanation, since 1) stupid people think that homophobia is funny (surprise surprise, laughter can be oppressing!) and 2) Pepe’s explanation explicitly says the association need not be conscious. So it would be more like the person thinking “haha this word is funny, and I cant quite tell why” and the unconscious would be saying “OMG this is homosexual, better mock yourself”.

  22. Jarrod, I have edited your comment. And I’m now closing comments on this post, because I’m not going to be online, and I’m certain it will continue to get nastier.

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