Today, we’re trying a different format — a conversation.
Warning: Contains Strong Language and Dumb Jokes
Jason: They are a [redacted]. But seriously, the way they are treated in the Brony documentary is as a parallel mirror image of the documentary’s brony typology of hipsters, moderates, and creatives — with vaginas. Also a minority.
Jason: So basically, once the documentary established the three types of bronies, it made a point of showing how the typology only represented male bronies. In the doc’s animated segment, a number of female bronies — each a hipster, moderate, or creative — argues for inclusion in the fandom and the narrator is forced to amend his explanation to include them. When I refer to them as a mirror, I mean that, as represented in the documentary, there is no variation in the types of fans between the two genders. That’s weird to me, since I can count at least one type of fan over-represented among women and girls and all but non-existent among men and boys — the nostalgic collectors of G1-G3 MLP.
Kurt: You have a point there. That could make for some interesting dynamics, and certainly a new possibility for that typology—Nostalgists (what the fuck do you call someone with nostalgia?). I’m not sure I have heard much talk of this group of people, although I have trouble imagining that they do not exist within the fandom (or even, possibly, their male counterparts). I do like the documentary’s typology a lot… it seems like it might be useful.
Jason: It should be noted that nostalgia also plays a large part in male Bronies’ enjoyment of the series, though it seems to take on a more intertextual form1.
Kurt: Nostalgia for X show that FiM is reminiscient of… nostalgia for a specific time period or worldview or something that might be associated with this, mayhaps. Several people talk about the way the MLP shows a more positive outlook on life/way of being that differs from the ways that they see things before.
Jason: I think the parallels to Star Trek: The Next Generation that some blog commenters are making speak to this. But to get us back to the sistas, should we be distinguishing between these kinds of nostalgia along gendered lines, or is that unnecessary or even wrongheaded?
J: What would make the distinction clearer to me is whether there was some kind of friction or at least boundary work between fans of MLP from the “old days” and the fans brought in explicitly through FIM.
Kurt William Baer: True dat… I guess the issue might lie in the fact that this particular typology is focusing upon the main reasons that people are drawn into the fandom. I’d imagine that very few people fit neatly into the categories and, should our MLP Gen 1-3 fans be in this particular fandom, they might fit into other categories as well. Also, where would that friction be?
J.aegerbomb: I am thinking boundary work comes closer to what happens, since the underlying premise of FIM makes open conflict difficult to reconcile with fandom membership (in fact, I want to make a future post exploring fights in the fandom). For example, the lack of an engaging story in early MLP means older fans fall more into the category of collector of pony figures. This may also align with female collectors often being the craftspeople of the brony community, since they have the experience working with the figures. They aren’t fighting over the division of labor per se–but the fact of a roughly-gendered division of labor is significant.
Also, just goin’ off, I would just like to brag that I have that limited edition t-shirt of Pinkie Pie as Andrew WK with a nose bleed; that is my greatest brony accomplishment.
Dom: I find it hard to separate the “creatives” from the Bronies themselves, because Bronies have such an active creative side in the fandom. If the general rule of the internet is “pics or it didn’t happen”, I think the rule for internet fan communities is “fan-art, or it isn’t happening”. So I feel those early 4chan image macros were the first and most notable step in making a community out of a property. Those early creatives were in many ways, the “first real Bronies”.
Now, infamously, those first “mods are asleep, post ponies” bros were deemed, bros- bronies. That’s not to say they weren’t females; who knows who you are when you post as “anon”.
Kurt: That’s a good point, and one that I have seen argued before on several internet sites that I’ve checked out (that will remain nameless because I forget them now). I’ve also heard that brony is a gender neutral term because, apparently, the early 4-chan stuff was under [b]rony and thus it wasn’t actually “bro” somehow.
The difficulty for the inclusion of women in the ranks of bronies isn’t necessarily the word itself though, but rather the gendered habitus2 of precisely those 4chan fans from the early days (though the word is probably a good trace of the gendered origins). Those fans produced a strain in the fandom that celebrates a heteronormatively ironic adoration of the show that connects it to largely male interests and needs3. Furthermore, there’s a tendency to understand those male ways of inhabiting the world as being natural and UN-gendered, when they are clearly indices of heteronormative maleness.
K: Yeah. I’d like to talk a bit more about this “difficulty for the inclusion”… It feels like a really interesting kind of difficulty that is totally there, but, as you said, more at the level of habitus than anything else. There is a disposition toward things being that way, but a disposition is just that. I guess what I am saying is that there are female bronies, many of them thrive in the fandom, and many people are genuinely encouraging of women in the fandom. Mute point, perhaps.
J: But the existence of the term “Pegasister” or any other qualifier (even “female brony”) by itself suggests at least enough of a clash with the standards of the fandom that such a discursive move is necessary. Otherwise, they would just be bronies and not feel the need for qualifiers (as many do, I’m sure, but not all).
K: The viewpoints of people who aren’t dudes would be very beneficial here… this is a bit of a sausage fest (hint, hint, everypony). Hopefully our musings can get something going in this regard. Even numbers-wise, if y’all like that shit, “the” Brony Study (www. bronystudy.com) took a big-ass survey sometime around 2011 and found 14% of their participants were female. I’m guessing the percentage might have grown since then.
Anyway, some of the debate, at least on r/mylittlepony, indicates that:
- female mlp:fim fans dislike the label “pegasister”
- openly male bronies want to call all pony fans “bronies”.
- a fancy brony should be called a “pegasir”.
I’m kinda unsure how the term pegasister came to be, if no one likes it.
Pegasister kinda feels like “dudette” to me: it only means “girl version of this guy term”.
K: And the term “woman”? The point is not that “pegasister” isn’t somewhat contrived, but that the male term is naturalized and is a male term4.
J: The politics of the term is somewhat complicated. On one hand, there are a number of people on Reddit who rail against it on grounds like Dom is saying, that it is the girl version of the naturalized boy term. On the other hand, there was at least one person who said: “To my fellow bronies: Why I’m A Pegasister ( and why that doesn’t mean that I’m a man-hating feminazi ).” She doth protest too much! The unprovoked denial suggests a pre-existing linkage between the term pegasister and “feminist,” at least in some circles.
But overall, I think it’s pretty bullshit that for an ostensibly female property, there’s a term for the female fans that is understood as the female version of the male fan and not vice versa.
D: Well I think at the end of the day, this show/fandom is about love and tolerance for everypony. And I hope we get to a point where we can love and tolerate each other past gender squabbles and get to the real issues:
- What are the actual rules of becoming a Princess? Do you just need a horn and wings? Speciesist much?
- Trixie; who really wants more of her?
- Remember when Pinkie Pie morphed her face into a gen 3 pony? Has she always been able to do that?!
Shit is speciesist… look at the zebras and bison. Problematic representations much? I do love them though.5
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That’s all folks!
-Jason, Kurt, and Dom
“Intertextuality” is a termed coined by Julia Kristeva, linked to work by scholars like Mikhail Bakhtin. In short, it refers to the ways in which different “texts” — for our purposes, any cultural object that can be understood as a bounded thing — influence one another. ↩
We’re borrowing the word “habitus” here from the work of Pierre Bourdieu (see The Logic of Practice, p. 53), which refers to the embodied predispositions people have that structure how they understand the world and yet are themselves structured by the social worlds they inhabit. ↩
Kurt is referencing ideas of “patriarchy” –a social system in which men are deemed authoritative–and cultural “hegemony”–the idea that people in positions of power produce systems in which the values that keep them in power are naturalized ↩
Speciesism, like racism, is the assignment of different values to different categories of beings…in this case different values to different species ↩