What is in a Name: The Brony Phenomenon and Fake Geek Girls

Let me prefix this post by saying that I have no problem with men liking My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The demographic is meant to be younger children, but here I am a 20-year-old woman who does enjoy the show. MLP advocates loyalty, kindness, generosity, honesty and laughter, and teaches that there is no wrong way to be yourself. The music is cute, the animation is refreshing in a world of CGI-animated cartoons, and the voice actors do have something of a cult following.

Today I’d like to talk to you about the Brony Phenomenon.

A Brony is a man who is fanatic about the show. What was once a name used amongst a fandom is now a globally known name. I really can not stress enough that I don’t think that there is anything wrong with liking the show. What I think is most interesting about the Brony Phenomenon is that it’s a purely male movement.

See, when men like something that is traditionally aimed at females, there is a habit of heralding it by granting it its own title, and congratulating it for breaking gender stereotypes. This pattern obviously didn’t start with the Bronies. One needs only to look at the popularity of guyliner and manbags to know that there needs to be a mark of masculinity for men to admit to being fans or users. It becomes a justifier, and within a fandom that is not necessarily a bad thing.

It is when it breaches mainstream culture that it becomes a bad thing.

Women do not have a positive equivalent. There is the “Pegasister” binary opposite of the Brony in the forums, but that is not a reply to the problem at hand. When a woman likes a particularly male-dominated area of interest, like comics, games or sports, she is not granted her own title.  She is not lauded for defying gender conventions. She isn’t celebrated in the same way. In fact, she isn’t celebrated at all. There are only negative titles to be applied.

You’ve read my previous posts on the Fake Geek Girl culture. As a society, we feel the need to constantly question a woman’s credentials if she claims to like a certain field of interest. A man never has to pass a test in any hobby. But it takes on a more sinister level when it’s investigated further.

The Fake Geek Girl trope adopts many means in which to humiliate or harass these women. There are memes which act only to highlight how ridiculous geek girls are. There is no male version of this.

Because we are all born in to the fandom with encyclopedic knowledge.

Because we are all born in to the fandom with encyclopedic knowledge.

It becomes far more sinister when women who want to indulge in cons or LARPing are subjected to bullying– because we just do this for your attention, right?– and sexual harassment because we’re clearly asking for it.

It’s not just the fandoms that seem to make a distinction between men and women in this respect. Lauren Faust, the creator of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, openly approves of and even references bronies in her interviews. She thinks they’re a good thing. Conversely, we have comic artists like Tony Harris who have… colourful views on women in his domain.

Strangely he has since deleted this status. But we remember.

Strangely he has since deleted this status. But we remember.

 

I can’t even begin to tell you how angry this made me.

So what is my point?

My point is that men who defy gender conventions get documentaries; women get shamed. Men are considered crusaders of equality; women are considered to be seeking attention. Men are viewed as a valuable demographic; women are not good for the media.

There is a serious discrepancy between what how men and women are viewed, and it is toxic.  In a perfect world, we could like what we wanted without our gender being a factor. But we don’t live in that world now, and that’s why we need to fix it. There is something inherently wrong in our culture if a grown man liking cartoon ponies is a phenomenal occurrence while a grown woman liking Call of Duty is the mark of an attention-seeking slut.

So, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.

Do you think naming ourselves like this is beneficial? Have you ever been mocked for a love of something not aimed at your gender?

Let me know your thoughts.

 

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About Stephanie Gallon

I'm 22 years old with first class honours in BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing. I'm currently studying MA English Studies. I'm an author, a blogger, and a zealot of all things written. I write on everything from comics, to feminism, to advice on university life.
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