I like My Little Pony – And That’s Hard to Say
I run a clothing store for ageplayers and adult babies on etsy. Unsurprisingly there is some overlap between ageplayers and adult fans of the TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (MLP). I regularly got requests for MLP themed clothing in my shop, but since no MLP fabric has been available since the 1990’s it was difficult for me to find a solution. Eventually a very smart customer found a solution for me, and using the ideas he provided I made him a few items and then listed them in my etsy shop. The new items were a huge success! The first customer posted some photos that got a lot of attention on Fetlife, and orders for more of them flowed in.
Except there was a problem. My customers enthusiastically flooded my inbox with questions that I did not have answers for. They asked if I could make them from characters other than the “mane six” and if the cutie mark for Luna would include “splotches” and other questions that sounded like gibberish to me. See, I had never seen a single episode of MLP. I didn’t know a single thing about the show.
I didn’t want to. The reason was actually kind of simple: MLP is a girl’s show. I LOVE kids stuff, but my kid’s stuff love is very distinctly directed towards boy stuff. Gender neutral stuff is good too. But after a childhood full of being expected to be into girl stuff and adulthood full of worrying that any feminine interests may make people not take my gender identity seriously I found myself resistant to showing interest in something so clearly identified as a show for little girls.
The thing is, I’ve mostly moved beyond defining interests as masculine or feminine. I try not to let those ideas influence my adult interests. I sew constantly (it is my job after all) and crochet. I wear kilts regularly, which are great for screwing with people’s ideas of gendered clothing. I even wear underwear under them, because fuck chafing for some dumbass macho tradition. My reading, music, and movie interests are all over the map. I THOUGHT I was beyond this stuff.
Plus, MLP has a huge male following. Most of my customers who wanted MLP items were men. Yes, it is a way for those men to express a feminine or gender queer interest… but still, what was my problem?
So I started watching the show. I did so incredibly defensively. I was just watching so I could understand my customers. I wasn’t going to actually LIKE it. Definitely not. I even tweeted about it when I started, mocking myself and the show.
Tonight I started the second season. I have watched 29 episodes in about a month. I have made excuses and blustered about it, but that stops now. I like the show. I like it a little more than most cartoon shows I’ve watched, but not as much as Scooby Doo. I like it even though it’s a “girl show.” I can like it and still be a guy. I can like it and still be a masculine guy.
It bugs me that I am still letting culture’s ideas of “boy things” and “girl things” influence me so much. I WANT to let that go, but it’s hard. I’m still scared of people thinking my identity isn’t valid because I am interested in some traditionally feminine stuff. It’s bullshit, but it’s part of my life.
I like My Little Pony. I am a masculine guy. That’s okay, and I’m going to learn to be okay with it.
I find this article a bit strange, especially because of “Most of my customers who wanted MLP items were men. Yes, it is a way for those men to express a feminine or gender queer interest…”. As a brought up traditionally, straight male, I’ve found MLP-FiM to be anything but “girly”. I have a young daughter and we watch the show together, and discussing the characters on the show is among the ways I’m trying to teach her to treat gender identity/ sexuality(not this one much yet)/ hobbies/clothing as separate issues and ones with no hard and fast rules. She has some dresses, some pink items of clothing, but she loves blue. She enjoys pretending to be a princess just as much as a pirate or soldier.
So watching MLP-FiM it has been interesting to see which individual character traits she likes in the ponies – rarity’s dresses, yes, but not her obsession with fashion, rainbow dash’s 20% extra coolness, but not her bragging, applejack’s relationship with her small sister, but also her strength and her not worrying about get dirty, etc. During this it feels perfectly normal for me as her dad to love Pinkie-pie’s latest prank and commend Twilight for her devotion to books. Perhaps I prefer some “masculine” aspects of the show over some “feminine” ones, but I think the reason there exists a brony fandom is not just because a lot of men want to express traditionally feminine aspects of their personalities, but because it’s a show where many stereotypes of what is feminine/masculine are swept away, allowing a male/masculine person to interact with the actual values directly.
But it’s great you’ve commited to watching the series. You’ll soon be humming “pinkie’s parasprite polka” and “Cutie Mark Crusaders” on your daily commute =P
In the case of my customers the overlap between male MLP fans and crossdressing is very high, made clear by messages to me, conversations with customers, and other product purchases. I probably should have been clearer about that. It is possible that my own interpretation of the show has been altered by that – it very well may be totally different among non-ageplaying bronies. Ageplay has a very high gender-play overlap in general, and that influences a lot my customer base.
I like your point that the show does do away with a lot of gender stereotypes, and that is a big part of why it grew on me.