mother and daughter

My Little Pony TV Series Empowers Girls And I Question Everything I Knew About Feminism

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ponyI’ll admit it: When I first clicked this headline about how the My Little Pony TV series markets to girls, I was expecting an angry article criticizing girly-girl culture. Hoping for it, actually. As a woman who casts a skeptical eye on pink toy aisles and never embraced the pony thing during childhood, I have a hard time understanding the appeal. This blog, however, changed my mind a bit — at least where “My Little Pony” is concerned.

Ashley Wells of blogs:

At the center of horse-girl media these days is the astounding successful animated show My Little Pony (full awkward show name: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), which centers on the happy travails of an all-female cast of ponies. Though marketed toward young girls, the show has caught on with older and male viewers, resulting in a cult of bronies: guys who flout age and gender norms as proud fans of the show. 

With the series’ success came a plethora of discussions of its impact on media and gender.

“It breaks my heart that the word ‘girly’ is synonymous with ‘stupid,’” series creator Lauren Faust said last year. “I want so badly for that to change. If this is a start in the direction of maybe changing that, or at least making that better, I can die happy.”

How about that. I’ve noticed that we parents sometimes shun “girly” things for fear of over-feminizing our daughters. But reading this article has made me acutely aware of the truth that I’m very, very guilty of this — and maybe I’m doing my daughter a disservice. I praise my daughter when she plays with her baby tool shop, but don’t quite have the same reaction when she wears various objects like bracelets or plays with her doll.

It’s a fine line to walk. On one hand, I don’t want my daughter to equate femininity with being shallow, submissive, superficial, etc. I think there are certain aspects of girly-girl culture that perpetuate this, and the obvious way to counter its effects is to emphasize things like tools, blocks, gender-neutral toys and “boy” colors (i.e., all those other parts of the color spectrum that don’t start with “p”).

But on the other hand, if my daughter wants to pursue a career in fashion design or cosmetology or something our culture deems frivolous, shouldn’t she be free to do it? Shouldn’t I be okay with it?

I think the thing about the My Little Pony TV series that really excites me is that it manages to unite pink and pretty with strong and intelligent. We need more of this. Feminine only equals frivolous when we let it. A tutu by itself may be frivolous, a girl wearing a tutu fighting crime is badass. A sparkly tiara by itself is frivolous, but a tiara on a girl doing calculus is badass.

And for those of you with sons, I think this “My Little Pony” phenomenon presents an even more exciting option: if we can start equating sequins and sparkles with courage and substance, maybe non gender-conforming boys can start openly playing with “girl” toys.

(photo: wenn/WENN)