Did you know that it is perfectly normal for a man to appear in public wearing pink pony ears and tail? No, really. There is nothing at all unusual about that. And if you don't believe me then I will write an overlong article trying to convince you of its complete normalcy.
Such is the attitude of Jennifer Goforth Gregory of The Atlantic who tries a bit too hard to convince the readers that men wearing flashy pony costumes is absolutely normal. The funniest thing about Gregory plugging such men aka "Bronies" is how much obvious effort she puts into this endeavor. Over and over again she reminds us that men "coming out of the stable" as they call it is perfectly acceptable male behavior. You might remember Ronan Farrow earlier this year telling us how normal the Brony lifestyle is and now Gregory continues this theme but with a lot more effort:
The college-age guy sitting next to me is wearing pink pony ears, a My Little Pony t-shirt, and pink, felt tail pinned to his jeans.
He’s not alone. At BronyCon, a three-day convention held last week in Baltimore for mostly adult fans of My Little Pony, many of the 9,607 attendees are male—and in costume. Some wear wigs. Many sport felt ears. Others dress in My Little Pony t-shirts decorated with a few pony-themed buttons. Among them are a few teenage and college girls, mostly wearing hand-sewn outfits.
People may assume that most fans of the My Little Pony television show are young girls, but that’s not necessarily true. Back in 2011, “Brony”—a combination of the word bro and pony—was coined in a discussion on a 4Chan message board online. Now, the subculture has an estimated 8 to 12 million fans. In 2013, an unaffiliated, unpublished online survey of over 50,000 Bronies found that 85 percent are male. Their average age is 21.
One of the researchers, Daniel Chadborn, who is currently enrolled in the psychology Ph.D. program at Southeastern Louisiana University, says Bronies have gotten a lot of attention over other fandoms because they violate a number of social norms. “There is a societal idea of what it means to be male or female, and they are going against that,” he said. “The show is predominantly marketed towards prepubescent girls. Bronies are saying, ‘We’re not only not prepubescent girls—we’re not girls.’”
Each time I told people I was taking my daughter to a Brony convention, I got a taste of some the misconceptions and prejudices that Bronies face when coming “out of the stable," which is the phrase fans use for telling people about being a Brony. The most common response was a blank stare. A few of my friends were genuinely curious to learn more and thought it was very interesting. Others tried to be polite and ask a few questions, but even after I tried to explain, they really never quite understood the appeal. Several people responded in a judgmental way—of those who were familiar with Brony culture, most assumed that all male Bronies are gay.
But another of the researchers, Patrick Edwards, an adjunct faculty member at the University of South Carolina Upstate, says this is not true. “There is a slightly lower percentage of gay men among Bronies than the general population. Male Bronies are actually less likely to be gay than other men.” His team has found that the opposite is true among women. “Female Bronies tend to be searching for the identity and exploring, so it makes sense that one of the things that they explore is their sexuality,” he says.
Sure, Jennifer. If you say so. And those "official" Brony stats sure back you up.
Walking into BronyCon 2014 for the first time was a bit nerve-wracking. As the mother of a tween girl, I didn’t know how I would feel about a room full of men dressed up in costumes typically seen on young girls. But surprisingly, it wasn’t creepy. My 12-year-old daughter and I never felt uncomfortable, and we didn’t see any deviant or perverted behavior. In fact, the atmosphere was accepting, light-hearted, and friendly. The men looked and acted just as masculine as they would at a sporting event or any other place where guys hang out—pony ears notwithstanding.
Right now I'm trying to envision Mike Ditka dressed up as a Brony.
Jesse Kendra, 22, a medical sales representative, was frequently asked to pose for pictures and complimented on his cosplay. In the weeks before the convention, Kendra spent his free time working with his grandmother to sew the giant Pinkie Pie mane that he wore on his head throughout BronyCon. As his picture was taken, Kendra had a huge smile on his face and hollered, “I guess I should call my Nana tonight and tell her it was a huge hit.”
I always have that urge to call my Nana to share my moments of Pinkie Pie mane glory.
As the convention winded down and Kendra carried his luggage out to the car, he was already making plans to attend BronyCon 2015. When I asked him his favorite part, he laughed, reminding me there were still two hours left and it wasn’t over yet. “It is incredible to get to meet people I have only talked to online and be around such inspiring people. There is so much positivity and acceptance here. It really was a surreal weekend for me.”
That latter sentence was the most accurate part of an article that kept telling us over and over and over again that, yeah, dressing up as a Brony is perfectly normal male behavior. Oh, and there is absolutely no not-so-hidden agenda here. Right?