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The Feminist Conspiracy at the Heart of My Little Pony · 3:04pm Mar 1st, 2015

Think Friendship is Magic was just made to entertain young kids and sell toy ponies? Think again. Why would any sensible media firm invest in such a high quality product, when young children are the easiest possible target audience to please and would settle for far less? Doesn't seem to make much business sense. But Hasbro chose to give Lauren Faust creative freedom in the design of the show, and she used it to advance her own agenda, executed with real passion. Beyond its pretty pastel exterior, the show is full of propaganda, set up to indoctrinate the next generation with a subconscious feminist message. And this is what makes it so awesome.

Delving into the blogsphere, we find plentiful evidence to support this. Starting with Lauren's own reply to ill-conceived criticism: My Little NON-Homophobic, NON-Racist, NON-Smart-Shaming Pony: A Rebuttal. If you haven't already read this, do so now. It gives a lot of insight into the philosophy behind the show. She describes her intention to replace the “puddle of smooshy, cutesy-wootsy, goody-two-shoes” with characters with a “diversity of personalities, ambitions, talents, strengths and even flaws”. Describing how she, “fought in development and story meetings to make female characters more than just the typical girlfriend, Mom or sex symbol.” Go Lauren!

And we find stronger evidence for a feminist agenda from the show itself, which is full of parodies of sexist tropes, references and in-jokes for the feminist community. An example, which is immediately recognised by feminist viewers, but seemed to have largely escaped comment by bronies, is that Spike is a parody of the Token Girl. This phenomenon, also known as the Smurfette Principle, is where a show contains a set of male characters, and a single girl (typically identified by a pink bow in her hair). Katha Pollitt explains the problem, “The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys.

In FiM this scenario is inverted with a diverse female cast, and Spike the Dragon as the token boy, who does the cooking, cleaning, secretarial work, and looks cute. This gender inversion is not creating a misandric version of a sexist trope, as the background context is everything. One is reinforcing a sexist female stereotype in our society, the other actively challenging it, showing that it's okay for boys to be sensitive.

Spike is a complex character in his own right. Indeed he has an important role is the next example. A Dog and Pony Show ridicules the notoriously sexist Damsel in Distress trope. Rarity is ponynapped by the Diamond Dogs. But unlike a conventional damsel, she is more than capable of dealing with the situation. While the picture of a powerless female awaiting rescue by a male hero is shown to be just an adolescent male fantasy.

This sort of feminist reinterpretation of a sexist fairy tale is a genre in itself. An original element here is that the heroine is not a tomboy princess, but a more traditional feminine character. But one perfectly able to take care of herself in a sticky situation.

My Little Pony is a gloriously girly world. This was Lauren's intention: to show that you can have a “little girls' show”, complete with rainbows and unicorns, but without all the patronising crap. But she still had constraints, having to “balance my personal ideas with my bosses' need for toy sales and good ratings.” It fascinating to see how these constraints have led to truly innovative storytelling. There was “a need to incorporate fashion play”. An phrase which will sound alarm bells in the mind of any feminist. How to balance the potential of fashion as a tool for building self-confidence, without shattering it through unrealistic ideals of beauty, or suggesting that appearance is everything and any girl who does not dream of being a model and spend an hour each morning applying makeup is somehow unfeminine? Green Isn't Your Color expertly navigates this labyrinth.

Moving on to Nightmare Night, which every year generates a stream of protests from concerned parents as costume retailers dictate what are acceptable 'girl' and 'boy' outfits, pushing the girls into stereotype roles. Not so for ponies, where we see the Ponyville fillies dressed in a diverse range of costumes. Including one little princess, which we cannot fault as it is all about choice, and just to make that clear, she is given the last word, “But I wanted to be a zombie next year.” Ensuring that no feminist critic could misinterpret the message.

Did anything change when Lauren left the show? Not at all. Remember that she wrote the bible and picked writers to work on the show who would understand her vision. Meghan McCarthy, Amy Keating Rogers and other disciples are spreading the feminist gospel and continuing her work, while Lauren has gone on to promote further strong female protagonists in other projects.

Of course, Habro and the writers stop short of labelling My Little Pony as Feminist, which is only sensible given that the F-word does tend to inflame a small, but rather vocal, fraction of fans who seem to not understand what it actually means. But its feminist nature is an integral part of its awesomeness. Quite obvious really. If you set out to show that something “for girls” can still be of amazing quality, and succeed, the result is a high quality product which can be enjoyed by a much wider audience.

If there is one conclusion I draw from this, it is that the more feminists conspiring together in the entertainment industry, the more top quality entertainment we can expect to see.

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Comments ( 16 )

With how you start and end this, it seems like you're trying to make fun of something, and/or you're being... dang what's the word... Not satirical, but...

Anyway, it starts and ends worded oddly, IMO, but the message in the middle made me actually think. I... guess thanks for that. The overall tone of the beginning could use work, though, if you're serious, because it reads as setting up for sarcasm or something. (Then again, I could have just read it wrong, but still.)

Feminism, as presented here, is something I wholeheartedly approve of. My problem is when people preach a misandry that's a mirror to the misogyny of today and days past and call themselves feminists. It's those jerks who give feminism a bad name.

That aside, you brought up some points I hadn't considered. I didn't notice anything abnormal about the costumes, for instance. I'm glad I decided to follow you.

Good blog. As said in another, start felt like it was a setup almost felt like it was going to pull a "That site full of those who shalt not be named" pony place that loves twisting everything good Lauren has done into being a crusade against the other half of our race, males.

The only real issue I saw was the whole imply that the 'vocal crowd' is a minority and is an unwarranted action done by males to fight off any potential ideals actual feminists have, not mentioning the tumblr/twitter/facebook neo-fems who are mostly mentally militant in how they go about 'feminist' movements.

So, yeah, if the F-word is enough to rally a crowd of a 'vocal minority' it's typically because there's a very valid reason for it happening in the first place. So, yeah. Minor implies in the blog post essentially felt like it was leaning towards blaming males, though not outright lumping them all into the more radical psychos of males.

I blame corporates and marketing. They don't want feminism because labeling who should like what and peer pressuring them into conforming to their ways is easier then guessing what male and female consumers of today are actually interested in. Why market anything that they deem is too niche or unmarketable?

Otherwise, good blog.

You hit the nail on the head.

2840142 I think they're making fun of the people who believe the whole world revolves around a feminist conspiracy against them. Thus "The Feminist Conspiracy at the Heart of My Little Pony" is supposed to be humorous and the tone of the writing reflects that.

2840221 This is true, but if they had said some males or some feminists then it becomes the "Not All Men" fallacy. When that happens the group that needs to critically think about they're actions, the people who're being annoying/sending death threats/creating conspiracies in their heads, see that it's not all men or feminists or lizard people. They see that it's only the bad men or feminists or lizard people, and they aren't bad men or feminists or lizard people. So if someone writes a critical article against a group using facts and rational thought, but then puts not all which ever group, then it doesn't achieve anything because the people who would need to read it and understand and change their own actions don't because they aren't a part of the bad people of their group. That's why you literally cannot use not all or some to describe a group. Is it very fair or right to the rest of the people who are decent? Not really, but it's just how humans read and react to such things. Could someone read something and have say not all of their group and still come to change their actions? Yes, it is possible. Is it definite or likely? No.
And now I think I've gone on long enough about this.


Guessing what consumers are actually interested in is the very essence of marketing...in general, businesses will prefer the past of least resistance with respect to social forces. And that very same laziness, or disinterest, or what have you, leads to an abundance of niche; just as forces "conspire" to fill every niche in an ecosystem, so the same is true of an economy. Notice that it is a corporation behind our favorite pony show, and that you are on a website dedicated to fanfiction of that show....

2840276 Hasbro only lucked out that someone like Lauren whose worked on previously successful, yet still niche, shows even took up the "See if you can do something with this" Hasbro offer after they declined her Galaxy Girls pitch.

Marketing didn't get me into ponies. S1 and a Droid X in the middle of the night boringly surfing the web and stumbling upon a relatable episode that was shit quality uploaded by some youtuber, a rather enjoyable episode Applebuck Season, is what got me into ponies.

My sticking around had nothing to do with corporate marketing. And EQD had no affiliations what so ever then, a site that only popped up one day out of the blue that didn't even have a counter. Chance encounters, and a stubborn streak. That's why I'm here. Otherwise, I'd be watching more anime and hanging in the other circles I browse.

After they fired Lauren, to which surprised her in her original telling, of the she said they said side of things, the show continued. Continued past what Hasbro originally only saw would be a one season deal. This fandom is even here only because a certain business woman fought to let the fandom grow despite the illegal uploads of the show to youtube. It was new and they didn't know what to do. They basically new it was new, attacking a fanbase they didn't know the show would attract was on the table, but a profit needed to be made.

After the series became a success, and they had to rely less on those unexpected fans for sales, Hasbro in their normal ways became more possessive and started making more investments. Then Hasbro started reigning in their IP more. Hence youtube takedowns being surprisingly not a troll as they used to be, but actually from Hasbro who had apparently got shotdown by the Chinese when trying to market the show there saying why they should pay when they have it easily accessible on Youtube. Following said turndown for the initial pitch, a wave of takedowns took place across youtube during the S2 upload days.

Corporates invest in shit all the time. Take UBISOFT and Blackflag. Investments don't make for good products. Heaven knows more and more people are swearing off TV, and more and more are using adblock and such over the web. We don't want their ads. We consumers are more in control of what we expose ourselves to.

So no, they invested because they saw the effect it had with the unexpected fans who took to the show. I owe nothing to Corporate advertisers or Hasbro other then they allowed a woman with a passion for story telling and character development to impart alternative ways a girl can grow up to be something beyond a baby machine or some mooch who spends their days banging or making out with whoever will give her free weed or cigs.

In short, I'm here because I chose to continue to follow what I enjoyed. I'm a S1 fan. I enjoy the community which is something that has become its own thing since the days of posting stories on DA or fanfic.net.

As much as you want people to believe advertisers and corporate are to be praised for this, they aren't and deserve none of it. They are just doing what any corporate does with a right mind: milk it for all its worth.

So, yeah, now back to playing some Re;Birth 2. :P

Well, the word feminism always leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, because it is interpreted very differently by every person you ask. There are even woman rights activists that avoid the word for this reason. :fluttershysad: A problem I often see with so called feminism is that it avoids the normal gender stereotypes by forcing other stereotypes.

If a girl wants to play with puppets and a boy with cars, they should not be denied or labeled as backwards.
There are in fact dozens of data-sets indicating that gender stereotype behaviour does indeed exist and is not completely forced upon children by their parents.
Forcing them to behave equal for equalities' sake is just as bad as keeping them in their traditional roles.

But FIM is nothing like that.

What I really like about it is, that it opens up the possibility to not behave like the stereotype, without condemning it.
There are characters that meet their gender-cliches very well most of the time (Rarity, Fluttershy and Sweetie Belle) and some that stay away from them almost completely (Rainbow Dash).
But every character is allowed to have their 'slip-ups', where a bit of untypical 'masculine' or 'feminine' behaviour flashes out and there are even some characters (Twilight, Scootaloo and Applebloom) that show tendencies to both sides equally.

There is nothing wrong with a majority of females choosing 'female toys', 'female jobs' and 'female interests', as long as it is their natural choice, they are happy with it, and those who don't choose that way aren't discriminated.

Gender politics should always be about equal rights and equal respect, not about making both genders statistically equal in every aspect.

I considered making a bigoted comment about feminists just to make people angry, but that wouldn't be fitting due to the subject of this blog.

I totally agree, honestly. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic manages to do something that I never thought would be possible to do, which is make a show about talking pastel horses that no one has a problem with watching that's related to its actual content. Everyone's concern is about the target audience, which people seem to forget isn't one particular group.

Having watched some of the earlier generations of My Little Pony, particularly G1, I find myself surprised that such a thing as FIM could exist, despite my knowing that it most certainly does.

Why can I like Comments but not the original blog posts? If I could I assure you I would.


Thanks for the comments. I wasn't sure how this would be received and was bracing myself for being ignored, or getting lots of abuse. I wrote this as I was getting fed up of reading ignorant anti-feminist comments on forums (usually more ignorant than malicious), and I wanted to make it clear that feminism is an integral part of the show we love.

I think part of the problem is that many writers sympathetic to feminism (myself included) too often avoid talking about it or using the F-word, because we know that someone will always misinterpret what we say and get annoyed. Do-not-feed-the-trolls and all that. But the problem is then that no one is challenging the false "feminism = man haters" idea, so it persists.

Of course there are plenty of idiot "feminists", just as there are idiots in the brony movement. But the kill-all-men brigade are really not representative of the mainstream movement. Fourth wave feminism has been very inclusive of men from the start.

2844525 intriguing. I'm familiar with Second Wave Feminism and I've heard bits and pieces of Third Wave Feminism but this is the first I'm heaving of Fourth Wave Feminism. Any literature you would recommend?

The fourth wave is defined through the internet. Start at @EverydaySexism by Laura Bates and go from there

2845603 Hmmmm... well usually the waves were divided based on different stances on certain issues such as, say, pornography and whether or not such things could be re-legitimized and if so how. I use that as an example because each wave has had a very different stance on that issue. "Hook-Up culture" might be easier discuss with the three different waves that I am aware of seeing it either as an example of male oppression at one end, or as casual sex as a sign of female empowerment on the other. While I can understand that the Internet is a powerful tool that is changing Social Interaction including activism I'm still not sure where Fourth Wavers stand on concepts of compulsory gender desegregation, casual sex, home economics, etc. Do you remember where you first learned of Fourth Wave Feminism by any chance or any place that specifically talks about Fourth Wave Feminism as opposed to previous incarnations? Thank you again.

The 'fourth wave' is a bit different. Whereas first and second wave feminism had by a clear common agenda, fourth wave feminism is characterised by the methodology used - social media. Five years ago feminism had a low profile, but then activists started using twitter, facebook and other sites to organise, communicate and suddenly it became a popular movement. I've been following feminism for years, I don't remember where I first heard the term, but suddenly the media started describing it as a "fourth wave" and it does feel that way. The focus point of the movement (at least in Britain) is the everyday sexism project. This is very inclusive movement - it includes a lot of women (and some men) with different views. There's not really a common agenda beyond "fighting violence and discrimination against women". But the high profile issues include challenging the blame-the-victim rape culture; highlighting blatant sexism in the media; campaigning for better sex and relationships education. The issues I most closely follow are fighting the "laddish" culture in universities and how to get more girls into science and engineering. The best summary article I could find is The fourth wave of feminism: meet the rebel women (that does have a UK bias, but this is a global movement.)

Thanks for the comments and questions. The more I think about it, there are parallels between the rise of fourth wave feminism and the brony movement. Maybe I'll spin this into another blog post.

2852302 I would be happy to read such a blog post and I look forward to learning more about the fourth wave. Of course these movements usually get more defined as one moves further along in time. Each individual in the movement has their own goals and agendas but as collaboration occurs something resonates and becomes larger than the sum of it's parts. Perhaps it's just two new to reach that level of definition just yet.

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