As far as I’m concerned, it not only can, it is.
We have made a lot of strides in the world of gender equality. Little girls are no longer relegated to playing dolls and dress-up; women have held almost every job in the country. We haven’t reached a state of equality; no matter how you calculate it, women still make less money than men, and we have to look pretty while we do it. However, the girls who are more interested in sports than stickers and the women who would rather work in a boardroom or join the army are no longer universally regarded as freaks. That is a huge step.
We have not done nearly as well on the flip side of the coin. Stay-at-home dads face the same trials and tribulations that working women fought through fifty years ago. Little boys who want to play dolls or paint their toenails pink are still considered freaks.
So, what does all this have to do with My Little Pony?
The newest incarnation of MLP revolves around the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It is an awesome show, and much of that is due to the show’s original creative director, Lauren Faust. She set out to make something that was more than just “girly,” and she succeeded. Kids like it, adults like it, and, somewhat surprisingly, young men like it.
They call themselves “Bronies” (a portmanteau of bro-ponies), and they are teenage boys and young men who proudly proclaim their love of My Little Pony. They watch the shows, they wear the T-shirts, they sleep on the sheets, and they do it with enthusiasm and without irony. There is even a faction of Bronies who write fanfic and create fan art. They are called “Cloppers” and the two groups can be a bit like Sharks and Jets. It is fascinating to me, because it is one of the happiest sub-cultures I have ever come across. And I love the fact that their unofficial motto is “Haters gonna hate.”
This is a friend of my son’s. I called him to explain my idea for a post and ask if I could use his picture. When I got to the part about how the Ponies were originally for little girls, he interrupted me with an affronted, “Ponies aren’t for girls, ponies are for everybody!” This is a glimpse of the utopian future I dream of, when there aren’t “girl things” and “boy things,” there are just things that people are welcome to be interested in, or not. As long as we cling to the idea of gender stereotypes, we won’t be able to let go of gender roles. As long as gender roles are a part of our society, true gender equality will never be possible. The Brony sub-culture, and the fact that people who are not a part of it accept it, is another important step toward my utopian future. My son’s friend may not have understood everything I said about how his love of Rainbow Dash was helping further the cause of gender equality, but when I summed it up by saying that Bronies were making the world a better place, he agreed with a, “Hell yeah we are.”
I leave you now with Pinkie Pie, showing us exactly how much she cares about the haters:
Author’s note – I must clarify. Fanfic and fan art is not limited to Clopppers, the Cloppers are the subset of Bronies who take their artwork into adult territory and prove Internet Rule #34. I apologize to any Pony fans I may have offended with my mistake.