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Sexism in the My Little Pony Fandom: An Essay by Cuddlepug Sexism in the My Little Pony Fandom: An Essay by Cuddlepug

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'Sexism in the My Little Pony Fandom': An Essay on Inequality' is a study into sexism within the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" fandom and beyond. The information has been gathered together from nearly 100 female participants who have, since 2011, felt alienated and discriminated against in one way or another as part of the 'brony' fandom.

While this essay was originally written back in early 2013, there were reasons for why I didn't upload it at the time. However, given the recent debate around the controversial 'Princess Molestia' blog by johnjoseco and an increase in people this past month asking me to upload it, I've finally decided to do so during this reasonably topical time.

While this essay has flaws and limitations - most of which have been engaged with in the 'Preamble' - and many of the issues discussed within have since gone quiet, I feel as if it is important to release this essay all the same. Even if it doesn't resonate with people now as much as it might have a year or so ago - and, even if I would write it differently if I'd started this today - it is important that we consider some of the issues that people were experiencing in the fandom back then. It is likely that they still permeate the fandom to an extent.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this deeply serious issue.

DISCLAIMER: This is a year-old article that I fully realize is outdated and flawed in a variety of ways. I decided to upload it as I had it lying about on my hard drive and I didn't want to waste a good chunk of text that many people contributed to and care passionately about.

If you care about gender equality, fighting sexism and shedding light on issues within the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" fandom, please share this essay with your friends, make journals about it and so on - the larger audience it meets, the more people will hopefully be influenced by it.

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catz537 Featured By Owner Edited Jul 18, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sexism..against FEMALES in the brony fandom? Well, this is something I never considered to be much of an issue, probably because I know it's generally more socially acceptable for girls to like kid's shows, especially one that is AIMED at females. But it does say "IN" the my little pony fandom, which implies sexism from other BRONIES towards FEMALE bronies.
I don't feel like reading the entire article, but from personal experience, I don't think I've faced sexism within this fandom from another brony. I really can't remember ever having to deal with that... At least, not blatantly obvious sexism. It's possible that another brony has been sexist towards me in a subtle way.
cloudsabovedawn Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
sometimes I feel a little left out of the fandom just because I'm a girl, but I mean, I do know there are so many female bronies out there..
Tuxedo-Guy2 Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
It's strange when this franchise is primarily marketed towards little girls, or girls in general... this show is no exception...
cloudsabovedawn Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
ZaubererbruderASP Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Let's make our own MLP-Fandom, with real love and tolerance
ZaubererbruderASP Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I also found them on several festivals totally unrelated to My Little Pony :D
LittleKunai Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2015
There are several already, you can find them on the TP and the Arena. The people there are welcoming and don't tolerate any of the nasties
SerBlack Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2015
Your articles are excellent, and are fast becoming my go-to when I need to explain why I stepped away from the fandom. 
ionoid Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015
When you say "stepped away from the fandom" do you mean that you stopped watching the show or that you stopped interacting with other fans while still watching the show?
SerBlack Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015
Stopped watching the show and browsing EQD/Fimfic. Deleted the music and wallpapers. I still follow certain artists here on Devi who do nice crossover stuff, but I don't follow the fandom or show any more. 
ionoid Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015
Why stop watching the show? You said it's the fans that are the problem.
SerBlack Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2015
My interest in the show was disappearing at the same time, and I suppose I took the opportunity to sever both at once. Nothing against it, but I'd been watching for three years. Time to move on. 
Xholankha Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Since I've "broken up" with the fandom for quite long now, just enjoying what is left as the best content on DeviantArt, I can't say that I have experienced such things as a brony. I have never witnessed anything targeted against women, most probably because the only girl that dares to call herself a brony is my girlfriend and is even less involved as I am (and now I think about it, I remember having dreams of smashing a dude's nose into his brain for stalking her on her DA page), I believe that the exclusion and persecution of women has been increasing on the internet in general these last months, especially during the GamerGate incident. The most prooves I have come from 9Gag, where countless blind anti-feminist and sexist posts were being displayed for all to see. 
The most dramatic part of this was that there were girls (or at least, men who pretended to be girls, which is more concerning) who were okay with this form of oppression towards their sex. There's no point in defending someone against their will, but I feel line these girls were trying to be accepted in a male-dominated environment and felt like they HAD to say such things.

tl;dr version: this is why we can't have nice things.
spitfire-panda Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2015  Professional Writer
The cover picture broke my heart :(  Twilight should never be left out of anything she wants to enjoy, nor should anyone else.
TGOM Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2015
The most sexist show I watched is Powerpuff Girls. All the male characters are weak, ugly or evil. And the females are superior, the Girls have super powers and other women are smarter and prettier. I still like story and characters.
ConservativePip Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2015
You do realize the Rowdy Ruff boys were more than a match for the girls.
TGOM Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2015
Uh, yeah, and they've beaten the boys twice??
Arwing Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2015  Student Writer
Yet another great essay looking at a rather delicate subject. While reading it I have come to some conclusions of my own by reading it and I thought I would share them. However before that, a disclaimer.


Ok now that's out of the way here we go

It seems to me that the reason there is so much sexism surrounding MLP might have something to do with the mainly female cast. Maybe the menfolk feel like because they watch a show with strong female leads they are sub consciously threatened and as such look to exert there masculinity and dominance in the real world. They do this by ostracising the cause of this threat, a female. That is not to say that all men are like that and as was highlighted in the essay SOME males do this and to coin a quote to make Applejack proud "A few bad apple spoil the barrel." Now I have had the joy and pleasure of meeting some great bronies and pegisisters who share a great love for the characters as do I and most of the MLP fandom. And although it wasn't highlighted in the essay I thought I would point this out to keep some balance, if a female mocks a male for his love of MLP that doesn't make her right. That is sexism in reverse. Instead of being blanked and ignored this highlights and centralises on a single aspect. I believe men are more sensitive to what it is to be a man then a woman being a woman. However it seems that as there are strong female leads and few stallions some of these fans see it as a chance to live out a fantasy. But getting back on topic, with so many females in so many strong and powerful roles it is easy to see how male viewers could maybe feel a lose of identity or worth. There are so few stallions around and none of them are in a mane position. Big Mac is the only one I guess that we see a lot of but he doesn't seem to have that important a role. Soarin is second to Spitfire. There are a lot of strong female leads yes but maybe a strong male lead is needed to balance things out. That's just a thought though.

well that's my thoughts on the matter at least. Hopefully it's given some ponies something to add to the musings here.
J3susFreak Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nice! You've accurately represented the majority of issues I've come across, and I appreciate that you've taken the time to write on what many consider a controversial issue in a way that gets straight to the facts. You're good at that, I've noticed. :D
Somethingguy912 Featured By Owner Edited Dec 1, 2014  Professional Writer
After reading through every single chapter of inscrutable generalizations, quotes often misleading or need citation, and false equivalances and freelance approaches to calling anything, "sexism", I conclude that You failed on your part to address any kind of sexism going on. Your '100 testimonials', as many have so pointed out, can or could be males pretending to be females, because the best thing about the internet is anonymity, especially when it concerns this supposed 'harrassment' that these 'testimonials' that you TOTALLY didn't just make up to fit your bias have been appended. Not to mention how you seemed to fail to grasp your little test with rp'ing as a female to try to see the potential harassment going on in chat rooms, as you noticed that the person who was chatting with you gave up trying to sex rp with you as you told him no. Just because someone propositions you for something DOES NOT MEAN IT IS HARASSMENT. Nor is it harassment when men or any fan of the 4th generation of My Little Pony make their criticisms towards fans of the older Generations who ALL HAPPEN to be Female because THEY think the show is BAD, not because the fans are FEMALE. And even if your supposed testimonials are true and can be confirmed does not mean that there is some sort of 'epidemic' of sexism going on with My Little Pony. I happen to be more concerned with what all fandoms go through and that is largely of how Fandoms usually take a blind eye to aspects of the fandom which are negative, such as the responses to the Alicorn Sparkle or Derpy being 'removed' from the canon, especially of both Equestria Girls. Not to mention how you went on your spat of how Males supposedly use the Show to empower their 'masculinity' (for a show that has a female-dominant cast of characters that are all actually empowering women because they don't feel the need to stand on a soap box and say that they accurately represent women, they just DO) yet the entire reason that this show got so much media attention was of how these Males had to explain why they liked the show and their masculinities challenged because of the social norms that "men who watch things designed for women is not atypical". I guarantee you that if Call of Duty's next release got a LARGE following of Females, more so than the males, that the media would pay MORE attention to the Females who happen to enjoy it than the males. But of course when Men get the attention they're being empowered, and when it's women they're being oppressed. Double Standards, right? Because supposedly when women have less representation than males within certain areas of the fandom that either they have NO representation or that they don't have AS MUCH representation because they are females?

This entire essay is almost as sickening as that Women's Magazine author who said that the show was racist because Celestia HAPPENED to be White, being the good guy, and that Nightmare Moon HAPPENED to be colored Black, being the bad guy. That supposedly their color has any distinction on their moral ambiguity, except, everywhere else, where the mane 6 is Blue, Orange, Yellow, Pink, White, and Purple, and the townsfolk of ponyville itself has a large variety of diverse colored manes. Or their spat of how Rainbow Dash was represented as a gay tom boy, even though her sexual orientation has never been shown in the show and she only really represents her desires with things with authenticity. It's these things like this and your essay that I wonder where you keep finding these invisible monsters that only you can see but since you 'feel' as if the My Little Pony Fandom is somehow sexist, that it makes it AUTOMATICALLY TRUE. Added with the typical attitudes directed towards your detractors like Fenwolf2003, saying shit like "you are obviously the problem that the essay points out" like as if that somehow invalidates any points he makes. Not to say that only YOU are the one who says it, but with your fans that have also been convinced into the narrative. And, the narrative. Nothing better detracts from having reasoned discussion than confirmation bias and the narrative. If you have one person who says that they've experienced sexism, it confirms that the ENTIRE FANDOM IS SEXIST. Give yourself a pulitzer prize for your analysis of nothing. 

Another note about the Princess Molestia blogs. Those blogs were meant to be satirical in fashion, such as with Cupcakes and Rainbow Factory. But since the Princess Molestia blogs have directly invaded your preconceptions of how 'sexism', 'oppression' and 'harassment' work in your mind, you decide it convenient to be absolutely butt hurt from something as someone making lewd drawings of cartoon characters. AS IF THAT HADN'T BEEN DONE IN THE PAST, of all of the Courage the Cowardly Dog, Dexter's Laboratory or any other children's show that I could pull thousands of lewd, sexually explicit images of your favorite childhood gone adult. But you are probably going to say that we must still concern ourselves with how massively sexist the post was, right? Despite missing the joke entirely, the aspect of it, as such? Even after it getting pulled you still feel like you need to twist the knife just a little deeper towards the people who wanted to express their own appreciation of the show as they see fit, even if it may make a few people a little butthurt such as yourself? If anyone within the fandom is trying to stop people from expressing theirselves, its the social justice warriors and white knights like you who feel the need to express their worrying concerns about this percieved danger that no one else can see because you've dug yourself a whole so deep into your own narrative that you can't see anything else but a small pinprick of light from the top. More importantly seeing the bullshit of a fandom designed on sexism if it were true.

As well as your citations. Apart from conveniently not including your testimonials, you carefully made sure to include the ages of the 'brony' 'males' but not of the 'brony' 'females'. I wonder if it would have anything to do with the fact that since the media gets at these bronies for both their gender and their age that you, finding that to be so OBVIOUSLY misogynistic, felt that age would somehow make any of your anonymous comments more inscrutable towards the community as a whole? or the fact that your 'partial bibliography' actually goes into very little detail about any perceived sexism, and more tackles of how the phenomena came about and small criticisms about the Documentary itself (you also conveniently took out the criticism of how BOTH male and female bronies criticized the lack of females being represented within the Documentary, and how males also complained how the documentary still made the fandom itself taboo to which males still felt challenged to enjoy it), yet you specify that the citations carved the structure of your piece. I guess when you read the lines of "the online fan culture of bronies grew out of 4chan, so they have a computer nerd vestigial tail of Mountain Dew, anime appreciation, chronic virginity, and cyberbullying." and "the bronies' own behavior en masse in the fandom reinforces the same old male-centre/female-margin dynamic, as does much of the media coverage"  Those were the only things that catered to your narrative to feel so compelled as to write this essay that pretty much treads the same issues within 27 pages of obligatory self-justification of your own contempt for the fandom just solely based on one testimonial alone.

So will you and all of your 'like-minded' fans come at me with the same rhetoric of 'I am part of the problem' and that 'we should still do something about it even if one person 'feels' oppressed' just like you did with Fenwolf2003? Or would I have somehow managed through sheer dumb luck alone to possibly consider the arguments you are making? Because I for one don't support sexism in any form at all, but when you have enough people cry wolf when there are no wolves to cry about, who will be there to listen when the wolves actually come howling?

BrightGlow Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2014
Well I'm in the MLP fandom since the 1st Jan 2008 and I can say there were adult male fans just like me (I was 19 back than) back in 2008 too soo nothing special. The only thing that surprised me was the big bang in the fandom and how many male fan arrived into the fandom and how openly they showed it.
Pink-Mist10 Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2014
Wow this is a pretty in depth essay and while I was aware that alot of this was happening, there were some things that I wasn't aware of. It's good for us bronies to open our eyes and observe what's REALLY going on around the fandom. I myself haven't gone to any conventions yet but when I do I'll definitely be precautious since from what I read here for some females, it's not as happy go lucky as it might seem. Even if this doesn't represent the fandom as a whole, it's good to explore those parts of it that are concerning so the people who haven't been exposed to it don't see the fandom as perfect. Thanks alot for making this, and cheers to you :D
artsysketches Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Usually, "BROny" isn't really a thing to refer to when talking about a female fan, and yes, female fans need more attention in the fanbase itself too...

But society has taught males that liking traditionally female things is bad, and those males who like it are heavily frowned upon, and because of the bad people in the fanbase who make bronies look bad, that stereotype still stands.

In the fanbase itself, yes we do need more female representation, but the societal standards for males still remain and need to be abolished as well as the horrible gatekeeping that the bad parts of the brony fandom do to the female fans.
Kfcnyancat Featured By Owner Edited Nov 4, 2014
All of these issues I've seen in other fandoms (in the case of female-dominated fandoms, it happens to men!) Really, the only reason to focus in on bronies is because they are the "in" fandom right now.

The only two that are brony-specific are the Pegasister issue (the only reason the word ever existed is because you don't call your female sibling your brother) and the issue with hating on previous gens because they are girly (this is bad, but it's something feminism implanted in our brains: girly = weak, weak = bad.)
Healer-and-protecter Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Cuddle Pug has got me thinking about the serious issues that I've not seen, for the most part, on the internet. I don't visit too many social media websites and other social areas of the internet, too often. I pick and choose who I hang out with so I don't hang out with people that are mean but I don't tolerate the abuse of the female half of our fandom. I have ZERO tolerance for the abuse of another living being.

This piece, showing Twilight in the background as one of our Brony friends, puts a famous character in the shoes of one of our girls. It provides a strong message that I hadn't previously thought about. If it were her that was being picked on and I could be by her side, I would declare Twilight one of us Bronies and I would have the upper hand (no pun intended) because, I'm human and we're the ones who created the fandom in the first place.
For the love of candy, people... We created this fandom because we love the ideals that MLP:FiM brang about: Honesty, loyalty, KINDNESS (I hope that makes it stand out), laughter, generosity and magic (love, basically). Spread good will, for crying out loud!

I'm gonna cool down now. I get hot under the collar when people act like hypocrites and are mean to others. \:<
Cooper31 Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Nice pic!
Shadowflashdabearded Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2014
Agree, there are flaws and loop holes. What is it that is being created if it can easy be abused. All I know is that a common interest of the show has been able to connect a wider variety, that goes beyond bounds (perhaps bounds is needed) of gender and age.
ShnarfBird Featured By Owner Edited Oct 1, 2014
And what of those of us who do not feel such a way?
Are we simply to suffer persecution because of our uncouth fellows?
It is disappointing that nowadays I cannot safely express my love for this wonderful show without reminding others of those who have done them wrong.
Beeooow Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2014
Uninstall life. It can't run properly on your corrupted system.
JakeCrusher4 Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2014  Student Writer
SO let me see if I got this straight, a show that is meant for female impowerment fan-base includes male supremists. And those same sexist men are oblivious to the fact that their beloved show is meant for little girls? 

Bronies are becoming Christians of the new age.
GoldenLineS Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2015
Also, "male supremists"? I will never understand why people think that bronies are sexist when they are grown men watching a show for little girls WITHOUT bringing self-afaced humor into everything.

Bronies care greatly about the show's quality and little about the show's target audience. That's why they bitch about things like Alicorn Twilight (Although, I disagree with that; and bronies call that constructive criticism).
GoldenLineS Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015
Actually, ignore the comment I made below. It was true, but after re-reading this, it wasn't that relevant.

"a show that is meant for female impowerment"

... what? Where did you get that idea?

And those same sexist men are oblivious to the fact that their beloved show is meant for little girls?"

Not really. It's more "they like they show, so it becomes one of their interests that they write about it, draw it, etc."
ionoid Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015
Atleast there are a few people (like me) who still recognize that the show is made for little girls, like anytime someone tries to boycott the show because of an issue (twilicorn, reformed discord, equestria girls, etc.), I tend to mention to them the target audience. Although they tend to brush it off with the "I still have the right to bitch!" bullshit argument.
Syrahl696 Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2015
I actually did stop watching the show and participating in the fandom at the end of season 3 as a direct result of Twilicorn. I was active in reading a lot of fanfics, including a number of Twilicorn fanfics, and so I felt there were a number of problems with canon-ising Twilicorn that I can now, with hindsight, basically boil down to "I dont think the show properly comprehended the weight of this particular change". But I didn't dramatically "Quit the fandom" as I have heard said; instead, I just didn't do things I didnt feel like doing. I slowed down and eventually stopped reading fanfiction, stopped browsing Equestria Daily, and didn't watch Season 4. I still kept all my wallpapers, but I removed all but one from my rotation (I just couldn't get over how awesome that wallpaper was, and can still just sit back, look at it and be like "Damn, that's awesome". Shoutout to DerpLight:… ), and I still have cheap $15AUD toys of all the Mane 6 sitting in an MLP cookie tin in my cupboard that I dont plan on losing. Anyway, I sort of got back into MLP very recently, with the announcement of Fallout 4. It made me want to re-read Fallout: Equestria, and then for some reason I started to want to watch S4 and S5 for the first time. So I did, and it was nice. The only episode that I really enjoyed was Filli Vanilli (S4E14), as that was the only episode that seemed to take into account Fluttershy's character development in S2, especially with the earlier episode 7 (Bats!) of the same season not taking this same development into account and making her submit to her friends demands for something that she really didn't want to do.

In critique of the essay, however:
As a first-year university level student, I can safely say that this work doesn't really constitute an essay. That's not a comment on the quality of the piece, but the format: with the extensive use of the first person (justified, given the subjective nature of the topic) and the reliance on anecdotal evidence(again justified, given the topic) I would argue that this could more accurately be called a report(I'm sure there is another format that fits it more precisely than that, but I can't remember what it is.). While it is true that the bias present in your work (and indicated in the preamble) reduces the validity of your arguments, the fact remains that serious issues exist in this community surrounding this topic, and those issues need to be addressed. Your work is a start in the right direction, and that by itself is enough for me to heavily commend you. You have done more than a great number of people (including me) to address this topic. I think that we would need a lawyer to write a piece on this issue that could not be argued down by attacks on credibility or straw man arguments (I'm seeing a few of these in these comments, perhaps watch this video?:… ), and even then, opponents of this stance would still find something to nitpick and justify their disagreement. All in all, nice work, you definitely don't deserve a lot of the criticism you've received for this.
JakeCrusher4 Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Student Writer
The sad thing is that they really do have the right to bitch! Of course we have the right to ignore them!
AfraidToDraw Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2014
Generally we accept everyone except the shit stirrers and drama whores, and those get way too much acceptance on Tumblr anyway.

Btw I notice the lack of examples and sources in your essay.  Aren't essays supposed to contain facts not just "i heard this from someone who heard this from someone"?

You should look over this essay it would help improve your writing…

Spasticpug Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist…

tell me what you think of this
SuperAlex64 Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014  Hobbyist
Smartest thing I've read all day
MuteKrocodil Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Lets see what this is about
*one read later*
Little-Hellion-Fever Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2014
Maybe I'm just boring or ignorant or what have you but I'll be the first to admit I was unaware this was even an issue. Is it the name "brony" that's ostracizing? The easiest way to figure this out if to imagine myself as a female fan of the show. Well, I would love the show just the same. Only difference is I would be cast aside by the brony movement and the brony cause even though I'm just as influential and important to the movement as any pony else be them mare or colt. If only we could coin a term that encompasses all fans of MLP. I think female fans should be welcomed into the fandom because last time I checked friendship is magic and not exclusive. Even sometimes unknowingly we are making it hard for female fans of the show to feel welcome. Every time we use the word "brony" in our art, music, names, language we are hurting a very important part of fandom. I'm not just agreeing to agree. I've always found the word "brony" to be insensitive and I don't like using it, so I don't. We have a responsibility to help everypony feel welcome otherwise our fandom would lose integrity and meaning. The beautiful thing about our fandom (well one of the beautiful things about it anyway) is that if we really truly love MLP:FiM and the things it teaches we can use it to become better ponies (persons, horses, whatever). It's no exception here. ^-^ That being said I love this fandom and I consider myself to be lucky a part of it. 
crackpairingluver Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014
This is just brilliant, from beginning to end.
Teen-Lyoko-Fan7777 Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Student General Artist
Do you know how to cite this essay? I need it for a paper.
SpaceSheepie Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2014
Two words: Thank you :)
Missbowtielover Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
There is a lot female fans in DA or youtube just i dont get this name thing
Brony or Pegasister isnt it same thing?
Emfen Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014  Hobbyist
I read it and I can nod in agreement of your findings. Some may say that this is not true, but usually they entierly miss the point. As a "brony" who run a facebook group with another female, I can assure you these examples can be verified. It may not be that everyone can see the problem, but the more people speak about these issues the more apparent they become.
And as you pointed out, the fandom is not friendly towards lgbt as the terms brony/pegasister themselves assumes that a person born with a certain genitalia identifies with the social gender associated with it.

In regards to criticism, I wish that it wasn't in a font/italic that is hard to read.
Alde1011 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2014
i have to think this is serious? i not trolling or joking
i read the commetns and now i dont kwon what think about that
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