Friday, March 21, 2014

My Little Gender Non-Conformist

Earlier this week the following article caught my attention as I scrolled down my Facebook news feed: 

I was initially drawn to this article because it angered my inner pegasister (the term some female fans of My Little Pony chose to use to refer themselves as opposed to brony).  However, upon reading the article and viewing the corresponding news story, I came to understand the situation as a stringent enforcement of gender norms which exhibits both the dangers that can arise as a result of gender non-conformity and the complexities involved in dismantling those norms. Grayson is being prohibited from wearing his Rainbow Dash backpack to school because it is a “trigger for bullying” as a result of the fact that it is perceived as “girly” by fellow students. This perception arose purely from socialization and the school officials’ decision is only perpetuating gender norms, inadvertently promoting the ideals underlying the bullying, insuring its future continuation.  

The mane six [from left to right] Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle,
Rarity, Apple Jack, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy 

Although I completely disagree with their decision, I can understand where the school is coming from. This past January, a similar (however, much darker) story came out of Grayson’s home state of North Carolina, in which an 11 year-old male My Little Pony fan allegedly attempted suicide as a result of the bullying he received due to his fandom. News stories recounting this event are generally accompanied by heartbreaking images of the young victim lying in a medically induced coma with a stuffed Pinkie Pie at his side. Even though this incident was not described in conjunction with Grayson’s situation, it is conceivable that school officials are overcorrecting as a result of it. The unfortunate reality is that not conforming to gender norms is dangerous and I imagine that their main concern is Grayson’s safety. I maintain the belief, as an outsider to the situation, that school officials took the wrong course of action, however, I also care for his safety. I want to dismantle gender norms, but never at the expense of a child’s well-being. The issues at hand are complex and unfortunately this new story does not provide us with much insight into the risks involved and how survivable those risks are.

I love and appreciate bronies because they are using the privilege that they have to challenge gender norms in their own small way. I believe that we need to challenge gender norms, but collecting martyrs is the absolute last way that we want to go about doing it. Therefore, I am thankful for bronies’ unconscious allyship and the ways in which they are willingly taking survivable risks. As they continue to chip away at the structure that prohibits young men from carrying Rainbow Dash backpacks, who knows what other types of backpacks might emerge. 

Finally, to anyone who believes that liking ponies will “make you gay,” I assert the following question: Am I queer because I didn’t like ponies enough? Because I believe the following photograph will render your argument invalid. 

This author cosplaying her favorite pony, Fluttershy
Photo Credit: Tyler Westlund


<3 Mylo 

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