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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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Artist credit: :iconlatecustomer:

'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DISCLAIMER: This is a year-old article that I fully realize is outdated and flawed in a variety of ways.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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:iconnightcaster460:
Nightcaster460 Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2016   Artist
Wait, what Princess M...M...M-M...Molestia blog?
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:iconfullmetal0thunder:
Fullmetal0Thunder Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2016
They are animals though.
Reply
:iconchimaeras12:
ChimaeraS12 Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2016
how to fight sexism

Chibi Twilight Sparkle Icon 68 cyclone gt on offensive peoples faces
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:iconcat-man-dancing:
Cat-man-dancing Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2016
"Bronies" is a contraction of "Brother ponies".
Bronies are merely male MLP fans.
Pegasisters are female MLP fans.
Neither are superior, they're just different groups.
Soooo... Why is this a problem, again?
Reply
:iconjewelappletree:
JewelAppleTree Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2016  Student General Artist
why can't a girl be a bro? I'm a girl but I call myself a brony? So is that wrong?
Reply
:iconcat-man-dancing:
Cat-man-dancing Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2016
No, you can call yourself whatever you want without being wrong. "Brony" is commonly accepted as a term for a male pony. So why would you want to? It's no big deal.
Reply
:icontrackerboss:
TrackerBoss Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Bronies and Pegasisters are in the same fandom. Bronies is one half and the Pegasisters are the other. They're both make up the recipe for the MLP fandom.
Reply
:iconcloudane:
Cloudane Featured By Owner Edited Jan 10, 2016
That was a fair essay and interesting read.

My only real criticism is, I don't know if it's intentional, it felt like it was saying Bronies are worse than others for the issues of sexist behaviour.  That would be a bit unfair.  Just like in the real world, it's impossible to label and count everyone so it's kind of subjective - some will think the majority of people in the world are a-holes, some will think the majority are nice, depends how misanthropic they are. The same goes for subgroups like Bronies.

Which type of Bronies you encounter depends where you go.  Where I hang out, there is a very good mix of genders and everyone is treated fairly that I've seen (but it has rules so... people who are obnoxious tend to be uninvited), so I'd not really want to be anywhere else :)

It's perfectly right to say that we're not any *better* than others though.  We 'should' be better with sexism, after all we're watching and lauding the values of a show created (in its G4 form anyway, I don't know a great deal about the history of G1) by a feminist to empower young girls, but that doesn't mean we *are* any better or that it's a judgement that can be made from within in the first place.  A lot of sexist behaviour is not consciously misogynist but just old habits picked up growing up in an unbalanced society.  Improvement comes when you're made aware of innate sexism (e.g. by reading something like this) and try to remain cognizant of such issues in future conduct. 

It's nice to *try* and be better and to hold ourselves to high standards though, and I think that's what I admired about the "Love and Tolerance" ethos when it was being pushed and kind of found myself joining in the circular back patting exercises.  Not because I thought we were any better, but because I liked and wanted to encourage the idea of "let's try to be our better selves".  The "try" is the difference.  To assume that we *are* better is to be supremacist, which is not good and is insulting to everyone else.  To use the fandom / label as a focal point for attempting to encourage better behaviour (love and tolerance) though is surely a good thing.
Reply
:iconheathfiedler:
heathfiedler Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015
i never had issue with the fandom, i guess it could be but then again i really don't know. I think the girls are calling them selves pegasisters now or something? which is fine
Reply
:iconstar3catcher:
star3catcher Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2015
I fortunately haven't personally experienced much sexism in this fandom, though that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The worst I've ever come across, like you already mentioned, is "girly" being synonymous with bad. Whenever something awesome happens in the show, it's always met with a flow of haughty cries of, "Show for little girls, suuuuure!" Admittedly, I know that a good chunk of the people who say this don't intend for this to have the implication that it does, but it remains that it perpetuates the idea that, "Feminine is low quality, if it starts to be of high quality, it stops being feminine and becomes masculine."

As Faust has said, and as I've believed even before this show, this mentality is exactly why quality girls shows are outnumbered by quality boys and "for everyone" shows. Studios know that no one expects more out of them when it comes to girl products, thus they don't bother with the effort, thus there are fewer examples of quality girl products, thus the belief is perpetuated. You can either be awesome, or you can be for girls.

A favorite YouTuber of mine did a short but very interesting talk about this. It didn't have to do with MLP, but still had to do with the principle. It's worth a listen: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZtkkh…
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:iconresidentsmile:
residentsmile Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2015
Ouch.
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:iconduckapie15:
DUCKaPIE15 Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2015
i better go
Reply
:iconcoffeemunch:
CoffeeMunch Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
For some reason, I feel guilty
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:iconykajitaka:
YKajitaka Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
...  I'm gonna toss this out there just because I'm female and outside the fandom.  If all the women in the world stopped getting stuck on "They won't let me be a brony!" and realized "I'm a fucking pegasister you asshat, and this was our fandom before you were ever fucking born" things would go a lot smoother.  Do we really argue the difference of "They won't let me be an actor, I have to be an actress"?  As far as I'm concerned, it's a gender deferential no more important than the terms male and female.

I can't say it's all oversensitivity because you have some serious evidence on here, but as much as men make asses of themselves I think women need to learn to carry a big, ACME-style hammer while they're busy speaking softly.  They're so busy trying to be men that they're forgetting their original goal was to be proud of being women.  T_T;;
Reply
:icontijopi11:
Tijopi11 Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Wow, very enlightening article. I had no idea something like this was even going on in the fandom! One of my favorite parts of the fandom (second to the sheer creativity around here) was reading comments from males celebrating femininity and opposing gender roles. It's half the reason I even gave the show a chance. I've scarcely encountered many problems as a female 'brony' but I do admit I've often felt like a 'lesser fan' for being female. You constantly hear people in the fandom talking up the male audience, but females are practically invisible around here.
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:icongoldenlines:
GoldenLineS Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2015
Really unnecessary for the female fans to call themselves special solely because they're females in a predominantly male fandom.

There's a lot of both male and female discrimination aimed toward the fandom, and I find it appalling how hypocritical outsiders of the fandom can be.
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:iconacitorianscoria:
AcitorianScoria Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2015  Student Writer
Actually the show and most of its audience is or intended to be 5-15 year old females. Or just female. And the large majority of its audience as I said were female. So these idiots who think that alienating a female for a prodominately female audience is stupid.
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:icongoldenlines:
GoldenLineS Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2015
Exactly. Females don't need their own special label, since the show is aimed at them.

The outsiders who think that watching the show automatically makes them "weak" are also sexist. 
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:iconacitorianscoria:
AcitorianScoria Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2015  Student Writer
I agree completely. Although I just don't watch the show because I don't really enjoy the genre. (Although I have seen a few episodes and I wouldn't call it horrible.) And I don't understand why people stop watching or just don't even try to watch shows because of its target audience.
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:iconstanley578:
stanley578 Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
It's very unorthodox that a cartoon targeted towards the female audience is enjoyed by male viewers. As a feminist, I find the discrimination in the fandom to be appalling. I'm not affiliated with MLP fandom in any way nor am I a brony.
Reply
:iconabdisam-billystorm:
Abdisam-Billystorm Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2015
This is Internet,shipping is very much appreciated as well as NSFW artworks.C'mon let's face the truth Tiarawhy rules celestia drools:D
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:iconsterileritalin:
SterileRitalin Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Reply
:iconkitsunelove:
kitsunelove Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2016  Student
SJW doesn't seem like such a bad word...But calling someone a dirty molester sure does the trick!
AKA probably you.
Reply
:iconsterileritalin:
SterileRitalin Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
'But calling someone a dirty molester sure does the trick!
AKA probably you.'
What, was calling me an MRA not enough? 
Also, me calling cuttlepug a 'SJW' makes more sense, because they're the one who made a whole fucking essay on why the MLP fandom is supposedly sexist, and SJWs will label any primarily male fandom as sexist.
You calling me a 'dirty molester' doesn't make sense because theres no evidence to base it off of.
This is insult 101.
Reply
:iconkitsunelove:
kitsunelove Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2016  Student
No, I don't think calling you a MRA is enough, because I don't believe there's anything inherently wrong with a movement that addresses societies issues. Though admittedly many MRA's are not actively trying to makes men's lives better.

Does it really matter that cuddlepug decided to write up an essay? If they want to research a topic, let em.
I am basing my comment on the link you sent, in case you're wondering, also you have a rubbish taste in humour. Even if that video was created by a brony hater it still feels like it came from the pits of hell in 4chan, (and lets face it we all know bronies came from there) when it starts throwing the autism label around. 
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:iconjealousbass:
JealousBass Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2015
I hate sexism no matter what kind even if its about things i hate i just hate sexism more than anything
Reply
:iconcatz537:
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.
Reply
:iconcloudsabovedawn:
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..
Reply
:icontuxedo-guy2:
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...
Reply
:iconcloudsabovedawn:
cloudsabovedawn Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
exactly.
Reply
:icontijopi11:
Tijopi11 Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2015  Student Digital Artist
I feel the same way. People in the fandom constantly chat up how the fandom is 'predominantly male' and how odd that is for a 'girl show' but being a male in this fandom is much faster accepted than being female. I feel like my own inclusion in the fandom is less of an achievement. I feel like a 'lesser fan' and I think that might be why most of the bigger idols in the fandom are male. People are less interested in a woman talking about it, and I think girls are therefore less eager to put themselves out there in the fandom. 
Reply
:iconcloudsabovedawn:
cloudsabovedawn Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I agree with you 100%!
Reply
:iconzaubererbruderasp:
ZaubererbruderASP Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Let's make our own MLP-Fandom, with real love and tolerance
Reply
:iconzaubererbruderasp:
ZaubererbruderASP Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I also found them on several festivals totally unrelated to My Little Pony :D
Reply
:iconlittlekunai:
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
Reply
:iconserblack:
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. 
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:iconionoid:
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?
Reply
:iconserblack:
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. 
Reply
:iconionoid:
ionoid Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015
Why stop watching the show? You said it's the fans that are the problem.
Reply
:iconserblack:
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. 
Reply
:iconxholankha:
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.
Reply
:iconspitfire-panda:
spitfire-panda Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
The cover picture broke my heart :(  Twilight should never be left out of anything she wants to enjoy, nor should anyone else.
Reply
:icontgom:
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.
Reply
:iconconservativepip:
ConservativePip Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
You do realize the Rowdy Ruff boys were more than a match for the girls.
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:icontgom:
TGOM Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2015
Uh, yeah, and they've beaten the boys twice??
Reply
:iconstanley578:
stanley578 Featured By Owner Edited Sep 14, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
You do also realize that the episode Equal Fights misconceptualizes feminism. It shows more misandry than feminism, depicting women hating/looking down on men rather than gender equality. Femme Fatale did not practice what she preached.
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:icontgom:
TGOM Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2015
Well, that's what I meant in my original comment. Equal Fights was okay, they actually showed that feminism is not hating men. But the rest of the show doesn't show men in good sight. I understand this is a show for little girls, but they should've included more nice male characters like Professor Utonium. He's probably the only male character that is worthy of respect.
Reply
:iconstanley578:
stanley578 Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
True.
Reply
:iconarwing:
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.

I DO NOT ACCEPT, APPROVE OR CONDONE IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM THE ACTIONS OF INDIVIUALS HIGHLIGHTED IN THIS ESSAY OR ANY FORM OF SEXISM BE IT FEMALE OR MALE. THE VIEWS CONTAINED WITHIN ARE MY OWN PERSONAL VIEWS AND AS SUCH ARE NOT FACT AND ARE NOT RIGHT OR WRONG. if ANY POINTS HIGHLIGHTED IN THIS COMMENT SOUND SEXIST THEN I APOLOGISE AS IT IS HARD TO RAISE A POINT IN THIS TYPE OF ARGUEMENT WITH OUT SOUNDING SEXIST. THAT IS NOT THE POINT OF THIS REPLY. I HOPE TO MAYBE BUILD ON WHAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN AND MAYBE ADD SOMETHING ERLSE FOR PEOPLE TO THINK ABOUT.

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.
Reply
:iconj3susfreak:
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
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