Where to begin.
I’m going to make the reasonably safe assumption that few if any of the people I actually direct to this blog are aware of, or care for if they are already aware of, the recent burgeoning population of My Little Pony among those well outside its intended demographic. Bronies, pegasisters, Derpy, Dr. Whooves, fandom at large—these are all terms either totally foreign or only vaguely grasped, maybe long enough to express skepticism at but nothing more. I’m not going to educate you about them here. It’s easy enough to do that elsewhere—this is the internet, after all. So I’m skipping all that and cutting right to a post and a series of comments that deserves attention.
Now direct your attention to the first comment, by Thaddeus (whom I don’t believe for a moment is a male, but that is beside the point). The range of my responses to this waxed and waned as follows: “Oh good, someone’s taking a stand who isn’t just going to ooze invective.” “Well, if that logic follows then a good number of awful hurtful things I’ve heard are rendered okay, but moving on.” “Damn, this person even has something of a background in queer studies. Sweet.” “Wait a minute, you’re upset about the term brony not being gender neutral?” “You’re whining because the boys are getting all the attention?” “Stop! Get me off this bandwagon! Stopppp!”
I’m not going to sepia-tint this by going on about my fandom-less decade, the giddy years that preceded it, the real fringes to which I’ve kept re: FiM (due simply to the constraints of time and money), or anything anchoring me on a given point on the vast spectrum of fangirl/boydom. All I want to do is express my contempt for this kind of whining.
Yes, whining. I understand the erudition behind it and can probably name some of the articles—because “Thaddeus” is a recovering or concurrent academic, no bones about it—that would be brought up in defense of the Girls Not Allowed, Wah Wah position. I will brook none of it. Hijacking scholarship that is necessary to create spaces in which people can be themselves (please allow me this cop-out term), and using said scholarship as a crowbar with which to bludgeon anyone in any situation acting in a way that is not the way you find most charming, is infuriating. I cannot claim to agree completely with the commenter who follows Thaddeus—we’re all well and good until we get to cringeworthy claims like “boys naturally gravitate to this” and “girls naturally gravitate to that,” which is so detestable it would be distracting to address it in full—but the point s/he makes about it being a no-brainer that bronies use this term to protect themselves seems entirely valid to me. I was aware of the term before I cared a fig for FiM, and neither then nor now do I feel put out or disenfranchised by it.
I know personally and resent mightily men whose kneejerk reaction to bronies (and for that matter hipsters, steampunk fans, men in cardigans, or basically anyone they can lump under the umbrella of a group to which they specifically choose not to claim membership) is loud and elaborate disdain. And since in my experience few people of either gender have the balls to dispense with friends they find cruel or barbed or downright bigoted, it does make sense to me to participate in the construction of this term and the community attached to it, in which one can shelter from the strident condemnation of one’s peers. It is easier for girls. Chalupatime goes too far in saying that any time a girl wants to do something outside the realm deemed appropriate for her gender, legions of bloggers descend on her in a celebratory feminist parade, but still. Prior generations have done a lot of work for us, while men still—for all the privileges they maintain in other spheres, to be sure—are able to take pleasure within only a very narrow corridor of activities before they become questionable to their peers. Sucks for them, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to hold the bronies or bronyhood against them for trying to branch out a little.
And even if I were, as could conceivably happen, to enter a brony-centric IRC chat (yes, they still exist) and feel a bit left out…I’d suck it up. Sometimes you have to do that. This is the internet, people. You are never going to quash the urges of other people to out-squick or out-mock or out-argue you. This is neither pleasant nor avoidable. Deal. I realize this comes on the heels of my anti-snark post, and I in no way mean to advocate the dogged sucking-up of snark*. But by and large, being one of the few crashers at a sausagefest doesn’t mean putting up with snark. It just means having a backbone. So grow one.
* I’m treating it as defined by Adam Sternbergh in his displeased review of David Denby’s anti-snark book, as “humor as a vehicle for cruelty.” Whether it’s bronies, gamers or model railroaders you’re dealing with, nine times out of ten, the [potential] initial friction between you and the sausagefest you’re crashing isn’t cruelty, or the desire to perpetrate it. It’s a cocktail of unfamiliarity, bewilderment, and eagerness-disguised-as-idiocy. None of which is intentionally cruel, and very little of which ends up expressed in ways that could even be misconstrued as cruel. Which is categorically not the same for snark.