Tag Blog: Vicarious Fannishness and Being a Semi-Outsider

Tag Blog - Series 1
Tag Blog is inspired by TAGJournal and Dr. Susan Lepselter at IU. We write blog entries about the fandom, then “tag” a new author to continue the chain. There are currently two concurrent series (Series 1 and Series 2). This is a guest post from Series 1 by Michelle Turner and follows “Being Different, Being Hated” by Benjamin Turner.

Confused Twilight

Vicarious Fannishness and Being a Semi-Outsider

by Michelle Turner (www.bronywife.com)

My entrance into the MLP: FiM fandom seems fairly typical among other female fans who grew up in the 80s — I had a small collection of the 1st Generation toys and watched the original cartoon, though I honestly couldn’t tell you much about it. When I heard that they’d resurrected the series, and that it was attracting adult fans due to quality, I was skeptical.

I was even more skeptical when I found out that the adult fans were mostly men; this just didn’t seem like something I’d be into. But my husband Ben watched the entire first season in something like a week, and suddenly wouldn’t shut up about it. There was no way I was going to be able to carry on a conversation with him dropping in MLP references every so often without going completely insane. (I hate not being in on the joke!) Finally, after a bit of prodding, I sat down to watch.

Shining Armor throws Cadance

The end result? I liked it. Just… liked it. To this day, that’s still more or less my opinion of the show, and I daresay that if it weren’t for my husband Ben’s fannishness, I would watch the show a bit more idly than I currently do. I might not even own any merchandise. But with a Brony husband to enable me, I have somehow amassed a small collection of pony swag. Sometimes when I look at our living room, which otherwise looks much like the living room of a responsible adult, I have moment of mental disconnect when I look at the shelf covered in ponies. There is a part of me that instinctively wonders if I am failing adulthood by co-enabling my husband to collect vinyl pony figurines and plush toys. Sometimes I wonder where we’re going to put the art we picked up at the last convention we attended — there are only so many rooms in our house, and I do feel compelled to decorate most of them in a fashion that will not garner odd stares from our non-fannish visitors. (My husband points out: “What non-fannish visitors?” to which I Say, touché. Everyone’s fannish about something.)

Walmart add

Still, I find myself in the odd position of knowing a lot about this fandom, its culture, and its notable content creators, all without feeling as though I’m really a part of the fandom itself. In some ways, this is good — I don’t have to spend a lot of time trawling the internet to find things I’ll like; my husband knows my tastes and will forward along content that he thinks I’ll find interesting. I miss all the fandom arguments — does this fandom even have arguments? — because I’m rarely in the position of having to read the comments.

In other ways, I feel like an imposter — like the mythical “Fake Geek Girl.” Dressed as Rarity at a recent fandom meetup, I wondered if I was doing it for the right reasons. (What even would those be? Are there really ethical dilemmas involved in dressing up as a cartoon unicorn?) I sometimes feel like I don’t really have the knowledge to comment upon my experiences in this fandom, because I’m not entirely sure I’m a part of it. I consider myself neither Brony nor Pegasister, but merely “someone who enjoys My Little Pony.” At the same time, I’ve finally, at Ben’s urging, started building a website for my “BronyWife” persona, which is meant to be a semi-humorous account of said experiences. Am I just in a massive state of denial because I feel that at least one person in my household needs to maintain a semblance of responsible adulthood? (Probably, though I’m already failing at that one, given that I’m pursuing a career as an actress. Pretending to be other people isn’t a great way to convince anyone that I’m a grownup!)

Me? Imposter?

In the end, I suspect I’m just not as comfortable as my husband is with being different in a way that receives so much outside criticism. I fended off the “geek” label for years because it was a label I shed as a young woman after years of being harshly teased, and even as an adult I find myself hyper-aware of how I might be viewed by others. I sometimes think that girl-geeks sometimes have it harder than guy-geeks in terms of how we’re treated growing up, and so I think some of us adopt the “Fake Geek Girl” persona as a way of potentially shrugging off criticism from non-geeks. Others admit fannishness of only relatively “safe” fandoms — who doesn’t like Doctor Who, for example? Or The Avengers? I don’t think twice about wearing my TARDIS shirt out of the house, but I’d cringe if a friend dropped by unannounced only to find me in my Derpy Hooves PJ pants, drinking coffee out of my Pinkie Pie mug. (And wearing Hello Kitty slippers. Oh, yeah, I’m a grownup, all right!)

I know from personal experience that I’m not the only woman in my circle of acquaintances who feels this way about liking the show, so speak up! Where are all my BronyWives? I want to hear more from women who like the show while their partners LOOOOOOVE the show. Do you find yourself falling into the fandom largely by accident, like I have, or did you eagerly jump in with both feet?

Fluttershy falling

 

31 thoughts on “Tag Blog: Vicarious Fannishness and Being a Semi-Outsider

  1. Well you asked for brony wives and I don’t exactly fit the bill, so I’m gonna step aside for a while and give others an opportunity to speak up. That being said, I cannot walk away without posting something that I believe will be very relevant in this conversation.

    I found this quote many years ago and was taken aback at how pertinent it was to my life. After reading your post I think it may be applicable to you as well. Please don’t take it as a criticism, it is only intended as a piece of friendly advice.

    1. I’ve used this quote to make the same points to her many times. Though I actually only knew the last sentence – the one which is often misquoted to mean the exact opposite by ending it at the comma – and the rest is great, too, so thanks.

      Anyway, although things would obviously be easier for her if she could take this view, it can be hard to just change these sorts of values-based (i.e. subjective) notions, even in light of “evidence” to the contrary. I was raised with the idea that being “adult” just meant fulfilling one’s responsibilities – so I get up early, go to work, do a good job, get paid, and pay my bills before buying frivolous things (or ponies), etc. – and whatever else I do or don’t do has no bearing. But plenty of people were raised with broader definitions of adulthood – that you shouldn’t like anything which is “for kids” or that you should fulfill your traditional gender role or whatever else we discuss on here about why it’s “weird” that we love MLP – and that’s the sort of thing that can keep tugging on their thoughts even as they realize the logic of the “it doesn’t matter” view.

      And like, she’s in good company, as you can see by comparing these two classic xkcd strips: (that the second references the first in its hover text makes them a perfect pair)
      http://xkcd.com/150/
      http://xkcd.com/616/

      1. It’s a view that I came to gradually through observation. I use to work with a bunch of people who did all the things that adults are suppose to do, but were dangerously irresponsible individuals. I was responsible, but did things that society deems childish. I decided that the two were most definitely separate, and while I was the one doing ‘childish’ things, I was clearly the only real adult in the room.

        You’re absolutely right though, it does come down to perspective and it always has. I’m glad that you’re working on it, seems like she has a good champion.

        1. I know you said you didn’t mean it as criticism, but I left a longer reply below — basically, all this well-intentioned concern makes me feel like I’m still not engaging correctly, since I’ve been getting this advice from about three different places now.

          I feel like my attempts at humor were misunderstood. And, like it or not, engaging with any fandom as a woman is a different experience and we are perceived differently — we can’t always get away with seeming both professional and intelligent and freely expressing what we like. I tried to address a couple of loosely related points in my blog post and maybe I ended up not expressing any of them clearly enough.

          1. I guess I need to apologize. I assumed the post was more literal and less tongue-in-cheek, and when you mentioned feeling like an outsider and behaving childishly I wanted to respond because those are issues that bronies deal with constantly. You hit on two issues that I feel are pretty central to the brony experience and I gave the same advice I have given to others who expressed those concerns.

            If it helps, I don’t think a lack of engagement is the problem here. You honed in on issues at the very heart of pretty much every single brony, so I’d say your grasp on the topic is pretty solid.

    2. I love the C.S. Lewis quote. I just wish I could be a little more genuine about the things I like. The beauty of this fandom seems to be that it can be all encompassing. Since there’s ponified everything out there you could be fans of other shows and other things and still be a fan of MLP. Its like the pony is a costume people wear. Even in the how the characters don’t seem deterred about being ponies. That’s just how they are. They keep building things, writing things, doing things and what have you even though they are ponies. They acknowledge their poniness because that’s part of who they are but that doesn’t stop them from going out and doing whatever (I think I went off on a tangent here).

      Before I really immersed myself into this fandom (online at least), I had a serious crush on a celebrity who loved Disney among other things kids like. She didn’t worry about being seen as childish. She owned it. She flat out said that she’s a child at heart many times in magazines and online. I use her as an example because I can’t think of anyone better that is a lot closer to regular people.

      I have learned over the years that being a child at heart doesn’t mean you can’t be mature at the same time. I realized that being mature means you know when the time calls for being serious and when it calls for having fun and acting like a kid. That’s the way I see it anyway.

  2. First off, there’s nothing wrong or fake about keeping up with the interests of a friend or loved one. You’re basically being a fan of the loved one, and thus keeping up with the show more than you would otherwise; and that’s okay. My parents didn’t paint my brothers’ room to look like Tattooine because they were Star Wars fans; they did it for my brothers’ fannishness. My mom always left space on our family trips for visits to Civil War sites for my dad, or for Dad to go to his Civil War Roundtable meetings during the week (sometimes alone, sometimes with Mom, depending on what they decided). I’m just enough of a military history buff by exposure to Dad to keep up with conversation or know what Dad will like as gifts, and that’s okay. (The “Dogs and Generals” T-shirt, for example, was a big hit.)

    Second, there’s nothing wrong with being a fan of one generation of a show and not another. Just ask any Star Trek or Doctor Who fan, much less the people who watch soap operas or read multi-generational comics.

    Third, what the heck is this “fake geek girl” crap? All people are allowed to participate (in a safe, legal, considerate way) in all activities for their own reasons, or no reason. Sometimes it’s really useful to have folks in a fandom who aren’t quite as caught up; they’re often the people running the conventions or the party suites, for example, because they love conrunning or holding parties. If people just are fans of hanging out with other fannish people, regardless of stripe, there’s no shame in it.

    The only thing that concerns me about your activities is that you seem to feel a lot of cognitive dissonance and uncertainty about what you’re doing, and I think that’s bound to wear on you. Set aside any envy or feeling left out; there will be things in the future that you’ll feel strongly about, and your husband will be the one supporting you. Enjoy hanging out, and be amused by the amusing parts, and don’t take it all too seriously. If you need more time with your own interests, don’t be afraid to take that time, and to ask your husband to join you or help you or give you time away.

    1. Ok. I feel compelled to reply to this comment because I’ve been getting way, way too many comments like this for my comfort, and I feel compelled to set the record straight before I get any more.

      First, re: “Fake Geek Girls” — this is a criticism labeled at women who engage with fandom honestly, but not in “traditionally” geeky ways. Notice all the quotes around that label — it’s certainly not one that I agree with, and that was a not at all thinly veiled criticism of the label. See here for more explanation of the term: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Fake_geek_girls — and a Google search will yield many, many more. I agree that it’s 100% crap, but I didn’t invent it, and I’ve certainly been told in my real life that I “don’t look/act like a geek” by people who didn’t know me well enough to actually say whether or not I act like a geek.

      With that out of the way: I can’t help feeling subtly criticized by the tone that some of these well-intentioned comments are taking. (I don’t mean to single you out at all – you seem genuinely encouraging, but there’s this ongoing tone that seems to imply that I’m unhappy in some way, when… I’m not.) Regarding my self-deprecating “real grownup” talk — I’m actually pretty comfortable with the way I express my adulthood, but I do also get told very, very frequently that I do not “seem” my actual age. I’m at an age where that’s kind of a compliment, but it also gets in the way of people taking me as seriously as I’d like, or acknowledging that I have a brain. Women struggle hard enough to be taken seriously, and I know from experience that presenting as excessively girly sometimes takes away from also being read as professional or intelligent. So yeah, maybe I’m a little more careful than a male fan might be to express this side of my personality, but it’s not without reason.

      Let me make this super, super clear: I don’t feel left out! I don’t shy away from calling myself a geek. I just engage in this fandom differently, and with a certain degree of…ironic meta-commentary upon myself. It’s supposed to be at least mildly absurd/funny (I’m starting to think that my sense of humor sucks!) And I have plenty of time for my own interests — including MLP. If there’s any cognitive dissonance here, that’s just a facet of my personality — I like a lot of weird things, and I have an uncanny ability to step back and look at them criticially — perhaps, admittedly, too critically. But in the end, I don’t actually take many aspects of my fannishness all that seriously. Which probably isn’t evident by the amount of TL;DR I just typed, so… yeah.

      TL;DR: thanks for your concern, dudes, but I’m having fun over here, I swear. 😀

      1. Yeah, I was going to make a comment about the weird white-knighting that seems to be going on in a few threads around the internet following this post, but Michelle did it better than me.

        From my theoretical perch, I believe different identities require different levels of clarity and ambiguity. People perform different versions of themselves in front of different people (including themselves) and in different contexts all the time.

        By “perform,” I mean literally everything that you do, consciously or habitually, that signifies to the world some marker of your identity. In one of my very first posts, I explicitly said that I did not consider myself a brony. I don’t have conscious access to everything about why I feel that way, but I have some guesses: 1) it rarely looks good as an anthropologist to “go native” and be 100% the same as the people you study; 2) calling myself a brony vs a fan of the show decenters my interest in the show and shifts it towards other fans; 3) the term brony indexes a bunch of baggage about geek culture, gender, fan culture, etc. that I’m not prepared to take on.

        So, I when I posted it, I read Michelle’s article as a clearly tongue-in-cheek treatment of the liminal (in-between) status of the people in the lives of hardcore fans, who themselves take on the behaviors of fandomness because they like being around those people: you do the things your friends and lovers do BECAUSE they’re your friends and lovers. That’s not a bad thing–it’s how socializing works. But as you do those things, it becomes more likely that people (you or others) start to identify you as “a person who does those things”…and in this case, that means “brony” or whatever other fandom label suits you.

  3. Piping up from opposite world! I’m a brony (pegasister if you prefer, but gender-specific term seems superfluous, bleh!) with a bronyboyfriend – while he likes the show, he would not watch it if not for me. In addition, I have three like-minded sisters, so together we form some kind of Mane 4. I know they’ve helped me be open and honest about my interests – and I hope someday that more girls will feel more free to be openly geeks!

    1. I really didn’t expect the girl/geek discourse to enter into this conversation as strongly as it did. I guess I figured in some way that MLP being a “girls’ brand” to begin with would keep most of that discourse at bay, but I guess if you’re a girl and your interests overlap with other bronies, then you’re probably also overlapping with them into other “geek” subcultures where that conversation is more prominent (gaming, other fandoms, comics, etc.). And after the Golden Muffin Awards stuff a few days ago, I think there’s still a lot to be discussed about women’s positionality within the fandom.

      I really appreciate everyone who comes and comments here and I hope it continues to be a safe space where these sorts of issues can be discussed.

      1. Perhaps not this specific conversation – and Michelle’s mention of “fake geek girls” was really just by analogy – but I think the gender issues raised by so many men watching a “girls’ show” make it inevitable to an extent, though the details would be different from, say, the discussion as it pertains to gamer culture.

        Again, probably a topic for an entire post and discussion thread, but I have seen the charge levied that bronies (or at least the male majority) are
        “appropriating” something that belonged to girls/women, as well as the further charge that we’re trying to take it from them, by excluding them and/or transforming it. See, for example, comment #2 on this great Tor.com blog post and some replies to it further down in the comments. I, for one, find these accusations baseless, and my belief is reinforced every time kids are sent to the front of the Q&A line at a con panel or bronies cheer Hasbro and the creators for saying they won’t change the show to try to appeal (read: pander) to the adult fans.

        Of course, similar things are said based on age instead of gender. The one that always gets me is when I see bronies complain in a product review about some poor-quality MLP merch, and people ascribe a sense of entitlement to us because we think kids’ products should be made for us. Well, I can’t speak for all bronies, but I think kids’ products should also be high quality, and when I was a kid I thought so, too – especially about tie-in merch to something I was a fan of. (At age 11, I’d have reacted with no less disdain that I would today to, say, a USS Enterprise with the wrong registry number.) I felt enormously vindicated when my wife and I saw two girls in the MLP aisle of a Target toy section seriously harshing on some of the product designs. After all, Lauren Faust’s entire premise with the show was that “for kids” (and specifically “for girls”) shouldn’t mean “crappy”.

        Wow, THAT diverged from the original subject! XD

        1. I really gotta be honest here, I don’t understand the hang up we have with gender at all. Especially in this setting. This is a fun show, it’s fun for girls and guys and both of them participate. I don’t understand why the issue need be any more complicated than that, but after all of this I guess I’m in a minority here.

          I appreciate the sentiment that this is a safe space. I really enjoy talking about these issues and what they mean in a larger social context. That being said, I’ve stepped on one landmine already, and with all the talk of white knighting I don’t really feel comfortable with this topic anymore, so I’m gonna bow out and wait for something less volatile to come along.

          1. Heh. Fair enough. I actually agree with you that it should be that simple – it is for me – I just recognize that society as a whole has a long way to go before it’s that simple for most people. (Within the fandom, though, I don’t think we’re in the minority for thinking this way.)

            Interestingly, the statements that brought about the assertion that “white-knighting” was going on weren’t gender-based statements. Bronies are very accustomed to telling other bronies that they shouldn’t feel bad for liking the show, and that’s what was being said here. In the context of the original post – by a woman – those were entirely age-based in this case. Even then the only real disconnect was taking some self-deprecating humor more seriously than it was intended. 🙂

            1. i sometimes give myself over to the sensibility that things should be that simple, that people should be allowed to like what they please in whatever way they like, but of course what one “likes” is rarely ever so simple.

              Our genders, sexualities, ages, etc. will never NOT be part of the equation when it comes to our affinities and how we express them, because we have bodies that have throughout our lives experienced the forcefields of those social constructions in our daily interactions with others. Regardless of our ideological positions that seem to so logically state otherwise (i.e. men and women are equal, an adult is allowed to like kid stuff, your individual choice is what matters, etc.), social conditioning in our world involves, very often, the designation of different spaces for male and female socialization as well as for different life periods, and these different spaces lead to us accruing different behaviors. It’s not a natural law of the universe that adults don’t watch MLP…but most adults don’t watch MLP, and they’ve constructed all kinds of reasons why. It’s true of all social norms.

              Acting against these differences requires a retraining of habits and the cognitive dissonance that attends to it. If you did not have to retrain yourself against some prejudice or bias, then in some ways you were quite privileged. Privileged to understand that men and women are not existentially different creatures. Privileged to understand that adulthood need not be completely separate from childhood. Etc. Perhaps your parents raised you that way or you figured it out in your circle of friends, but it’s not a sentiment that one has inherently.

              I appreciated Michelle’s tongue-in-cheek tone, but I also believe it speaks to something real that other commenters seemed to so quickly blow off: for all of us, liking this show is — at one time or another — a source or sign of tension with the world, and we always negotiate our desires through those tensions. It appeared in comments as if some people didn’t have those problems or thought they were frivolous…but they’ve probably already surrounded themselves with people with similar interests or are at least sympathetic to those interests.

              When you’re surrounded by difference, little tensions flare continuously, sometimes with yourself and sometimes with others. One moment you are wondering to yourself whether you are too old for this stuff. Another moment a coworker or classmate flashes a dirty look because you’re wearing some pony merch. Some other time, one doesn’t understand an MLP reference every other brony knows and gets kidded a little. It’s quite easy to feel like an outsider on either side of the fence.

              1. All true! The thing is, it’s not a purely philosophical exercise when I say, “other people are wrong for judging,” or, “society needs to change.” I really believe that, and watching state after state legalize gay marriage, I believe this sort of societal change is actually possible (in reasonable timeframes).

                As an engineer (at heart as well as by trade), I just look at all these variables – sex, age, race, sexuality, upbringing, locality, education, intellect, and so on – and all the countless ways that they and every random event in a person’s life can all interact to form one’s likes, desires, thoughts, and feelings, and it’s obvious to me that there’s no way to pick them apart. It’s just not feasible to evaluate a person as anything but an individual, in the literal sense of “cannot be divided”.

                Note that I don’t think that the forces that forge what a person enjoys are simple; what I think should be simple (and it is for me) is the acceptance of the fact that they might like something which is statistically anomalous for one of the myriad groups to which they belong. And it’s the very complexity of those forces that make that so. Of course there are going to be anomalies when looking at everyone of a given trait, there are countless other traits! One might as well use average temperature as their weather forecast.

                It’s true, I’m incredibly privileged to have been raised by such a phenomenal parent. My (single) mother is intelligent, educated, loving, and has retained her iconoclastic child-of-the-60s values. That individualism which we all (all here in this blog’s comments, I mean) seem to value is what I was raised with, not something I came to later that still has to fight different ingrained beliefs. So yeah, it’s easy for me, and not so easy for Michelle or some others. Damn right I’m lucky.

                What those of us who are strong individualists realize is that conformity isn’t necessary for society to function. Indeed, the strongest societies, teams, corporations, species – or whatever other groups striving to overcome obstacles you might name – are those whose members exhibit diversity…as long as they don’t let their differences get in the way of working together.

                And that’s how Equestria was made! (No, this time it really is. See, everything ties back to MLP!)

                Okay, okay, I glossed over a key point of yours. I get that, however one feels internally, if surrounded by those who aren’t accepting, it can be hard. I’m sympathetic to that. I personally haven’t found that that sort of thing affects how I feel internally, only how I might express it. (This coming week, in fact, I’ve acquiesced to not wearing MLP shirts at my in-laws.) I joke that my guilty pleasure on TV isn’t My Little Pony, it’s WWE Raw, because my social group is pretty much all intellectuals, and it’s a dumb, anti-intellectual show. (And I say that as a fan!) Still, I watch it and enjoy it, and even when I do joke about a “guilty” pleasure, I’m referring to admitting it, not watching it. But I also recognize that I seek external validation a lot less than most people, so it’s likely different for me than many. I don’t have an easy answer for them, since, “care less about external validation,” doesn’t qualify as easy. So, if I can’t help them, I sort of turn the problem on its head and seek to change everyone else instead. Like I said, an engineer at work. 😉

                1. Right. The only thing I would add is that it’s not even necessarily about external validation per se, but about the internalization of social norms. The first time I looked at a pair of gay men making out, I viscerally wretched inside. Nobody was telling me to feel that way right that moment, but of course that sentiment had been constructed my entire life. Now, I think it’s cute–just as cute as any straight couple–but I remember that first knee-jerk reaction. Now I try to imagine myself being gay and having had those some values inculcated…it’d be difficult indeed.

                  Anyhoo, yeah. WWE. That’s what’s up.

          2. This will be a bit inflammatory, and I don’t mean to direct it that way at you, but hopefully this observation helps you to understand where some other people might be coming from:

            It’s generally men who don’t understand why we’re hung up on gender. It’s also generally white people in America who think race shouldn’t matter. And it’s generally rich people who think we can all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

            Being a man has some privileges afforded to it, which in gendered spaces means we have a baseline level of authenticity. I can play some games once in a while and call myself a gamer, and while people might think I’m a BAD gamer, my gamer-ness is generally not questioned. But a woman…the line is rarely at bad vs. good gamer…it’s at gamer vs. non-gamer. The basic assumptions are different, and while that’s not true of everyone, it’s true of enough people in enough different ways that the privilege remains.

            1. I understand your point and I agree in large measure. Unless an issue effects you personally it’s often hard to identify with it in a real sense. The flip side of this is that everyone has a cross to bear, and everyone has something that sets them apart.

              I haven’t mentioned this in the past because it hasn’t been relevant to anything, but I’m an adult with a moderate/severe stutter. That probably doesn’t mean much on its face, so let me go into some math. About 1 child in 10 will stutter, but 9 out of 10 children who begin to stutter grow out of it by the time they enter adolescence. That means only about 1 adult in 100 has a stutter. For the vast majority of those adults, their stutter is so slight that most people will never notice it, but anyone that shares more than a handful of words with me knows something is wrong.

              I bring this up not to elevate myself or try to one-up anyone, but because I have made a conscious choice to define myself not by how I am different from other people, but how I am the same. It would be incredibly easy for me to spin every issue into one about speaking fluently and lament how 99% of the world will never understand the pain of not being able to hold a normal conversation. I don’t do this for a whole bunch of reasons, one of the most important being that sometimes the debate just doesn’t need to happen.

              I will agree 100% that the plight of women and gaming, or geek culture in general needs a ton of work. There is rampant sexism on the internet and it is absolutely not fair. It truly is unfortunate that so many women have experienced blatant sexism surrounding the things they love, and that is absolutely unforgivable. However, this isn’t a discussion about women gamers or fake geek girls. This began as a discussion about feeling like you don’t quite belong in the MLP community. Here’s where my hangup lies.

              Somewhere along the way, we as a group decided to spin this issue that had broad focus into the narrow focus of gender. I mentioned above that gender shouldn’t matter “especially in this setting”, and I should elaborate on that. When we’re discussing MLP we’re talking about a traditionally female property that features a predominantly female cast, female voice talent, and mostly female writers in its current iteration. We few men who are fortunate enough to take part on this are under no illusions, this thing we’re so passionate about is girly as shit. It is completely dominated by women and they’re doing a wonderful job. The very idea that we need to question or discuss the role of women in MLP is laughable, at least to me, because in my mind MLP is the sovereign territory of women and they are kind enough to let me visit.

              This in turn leads me to believe that when we begin discussing gender inequality as it pertains to MLP, there are only 2 conclusions that I can come to. Either there are a ton of men who are absolute jerks and are trying to exclude women (and I don’t for one second believe this to be true in the brony community) or we are bringing societal baggage into a place where we really don’t have to. Don’t get me wrong here either, I completely understand that one can’t help but examine the world through the lens of their own experiences; and in a society that largely marginalizes women I understand the tendency to view every issue in that light. However, I think that examining feminism against the strongly feminist backdrop of MLP is a debate that doesn’t really need to happen.

              More over, I believe that any discussion of feminism or gender at all is one that is inherently dangerous for men to take part in. As a man, if I take a supportive stance I am either patronizing or white-knighting, and if I take an opposing stance I am branded as sexist and bigoted, and that makes it very hard to hold a conversation. Honestly if this were about ‘any’ subject other than MLP I very likely would have never responded at all. But this is about MLP, and I would very much like to believe that here, at least, is a place where the equality of women is beyond question and maybe, just maybe, those failings of society can be left at the door.

              1. I get where you’re coming from, but I don’t think you can separate gender out as if the fandom is not a place that by its very existence implicates broader problematics of gender. The majority of the fans of this particular incarnation of My Little Pony are male, and they bring the fact of their gendered bodies into the equations every time they interact with others. They tend to be socially progressive in many ways, but I’ve also seen a tendency within certain circles of the fandom to marginalize women–not by explicitly excluding them–but through actions that implicitly code fandom activities as belonging to male spaces. That’s not true across the board, of course, but it’s always a possibility.

                As a space where the gender expectations of the outside world seem ever-present in people’s minds (people on Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr seem to constantly be asking why they are treated as gay/effeminate/sexually-deviant/etc.) and where the average fan is most likely to be a somewhat geeky male (with whatever that implies), an analysis of this fandom is never going to be able to avoid the question of gender altogether.

                There’s a huge crossover b/w geeks and gamers w/ the MLP fandom, so of course whatever baggage comes from the former follows to the latter. I’m not suggesting that bronies are particularly horrible–they are probably on the whole more progressive on gender issues–but I think the fandom is such an amazingly rich place to watch this clash of gender expectations that simply would not be a concern in most other fandoms. If I’m picking on us at all, it’s not to suggest that we’re particularly egregious, but more that we are particularly self-aware on the topic, especially because of perspectives like your own.

                1. My love of playing devil’s advocate makes me unable to point out how silly it is in this context to speak of activities “implicitly coded as belonging to [gendered] spaces.”

                  …Regardless of how much I may agree.

  4. I feel like I can identify as the vicarious fan to some extent, although it is in a completely different sphere that MLP (my wife is tolerant but isn’t even a “vicarious fan” or fan enabler at this point). My wife is crazy about all things Disney—she tries to get to one of the parks at least once a year, she buys the mercy, watches the movies, fantasizes about quitting her job to become a Disney World photographer, and just generally eats, sleeps, and breathes anything and everything pertaining to the Walt Disney Corporation.

    Overall, I like Disney. I genuinely enjoy the movies, I really like traveling to Disney World to play the tourist, and (now that the Jim Hensen Company is officially part of Disney) I even have an outlet to, with my wife’s aid, totally geek out over everything Muppet/Fraggle/Sesame Street/Jim Henson related that I have loved since I was a kid. However, without my wife’s “help” I can pretty much guarantee I would not have been to Disney so many times, and I am also fairly certain that my guest bedroom would not have a giant set of mouse ears painted on the wall.

    I had sort of felt the connection between your post and my feelings about Disney beforehand, but today, after I had finished looking at the comments on this post, my wife showed me some new Mickey and friends themed Christmas decorations and asked me about my thoughts of the plans she had been working on for yet another Disney trip (it’ll be in May, but we almost have the dining situation figured out and reserved). I kind of took that as my sign to post a comment.

    So yeah… ultimately, I have no real analysis or commentary that adds anything to the discussion. I’m just feeling particularly vicariously fannish right now and felt like voicing that fact. Is it the same thing? I’m not sure to what extent anything can be counted as “the same” in completely different circumstances, but the parallels helped me notice something about myself in this case and putting a fun/useful term to a set of feelings that I often feel, the fannish consumption that I find myself enjoying of stuff that I am cool with but my wife LOVES, and those moments where I am stuck questioning questioning my position relative to Disney and how it got to be the way it was (before quickly going right back to purchasing the action figure of Sam the Eagle as Obi-Wan Kenobi… which is totally a thing that I totally own).

    So yeah… meandering comment is now complete. Hopefully I’ll be able to do a bit more here now that the semester is over and I can regain some semblance of sanity. Merry Christmas, y’all!

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