The Ponysister Manifesto
Rebecca Bettencourt / Pixel Coder
October 8, 2014
When the periphery demographic of adult fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic first formed on 4chan in October 2010, the members of the /b/ board called themselves /b/ronies and the members of the /co/ board called themselves /co/lts. As the series became popular outside of 4chan, the term for the periphery demographic evolved into brony, dropping the connection to 4chan and becoming just a portmanteau of bro and pony.
The term brony is and has always been gender-neutral, as a reflection of the use of the term bro as gender-neutral. However, whether due to a mistaken belief that brony was not gender-neutral, a perceived need to distinguish fans by gender for whatever reason, or a desire by female fans to have a term with which to identify, a term for female bronies seems to be necessary. There have been several such terms proposed over the course of the fandom’s history, but the one that has emerged as the most prominent is the word pegasister.
Most of the female bronies I have met do not like this word, myself included. I have also met many male bronies who feel the same way. Some bronies argue that gender-specific terms only serve to divide us and reinforce gender stereotypes, which runs counter to the philosophy of the brony community. While honorable, this appears to be a forgone conclusion at this point: there already exist several terms for female bronies, and many female bronies like having a word of their own. Some bronies argue that the word pegasister “sounds stupid,” but this is more a matter of taste and, in my opinion, not a good enough argument against the use of a term. Neither of these is the reason I personally find the term objectionable, however. Rather, I believe the term pegasister excludes and ignores a large segment of the female brony population. As a portmanteau of pegasus and sister, the word implies that all female bronies are pegasi (or more accurately, have pegasus pony personalities or “ponysonas”). Unicorns and Earth ponies are being excluded. It is for this reason that I am calling for an end of the use of the term pegasister.
This is not to say that there aren’t some female bronies who do like and identify with the term pegasister, nor that any particular female brony shouldn’t use it herself. By no means do I wish to infringe on anybody’s right to self-identify. What I do wish is for the term pegasister to no longer be used as the default term for a female brony, in the names of Facebook groups and meetups, on fan-made merchandise, and the like. I would like to join groups that include and buy merchandise that caters to all female bronies, and I believe the use of the word pegasister, without the use of a pony-species-inclusive alternative, indicates a failure to do so.
I propose instead the use of an alternative. There are many such alternatives, some more inclusive and some less so. Here are the terms for a female brony I have heard:
- The gender-inclusive original term for a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic outside of the primary demographic. According to some, this should be the only term necessary; however, the existence of these other terms demonstrates a need, real or imagined, for a female-specific version.
- The “de-bro-ification,” so to speak, of the term brony, resulting in just one of its roots. Also gender-neutral, but tends to have a feminine connotation (as most of the ponies on the show are female) in contrast to the masculine connotation of brony. However, as a fandom name, the term is too easily confusable with the characters themselves.
- A feminization of brony. However, the addition of the -ette suffix results in an elision of enough of the pony root that the connection is no longer obvious.
- As in “bronies before ho-nies,” a ponification of the expression “bros before hos.” One problem is awkward spelling: without the use of a punctuation mark, the word is easily confusable with honey and doesn’t even look like how it’s pronounced; with a punctuation mark, the spelling is even more awkward. The more important issue is, of course, that the word implies the same separation of and inequality between genders that the expression “bros before hos” does.
- Currently the most prominent term for a female brony. Though widely accepted, I find this term unacceptable as I believe it implies pegasi-only.
- A portmanteau of girl and unicorn. This has the same problem as pegasister, only with unicorns instead of pegasi.
- fan filly
- A natural ponification of fangirl, a widely-accepted term for a female fan of anything. However, while girl is somewhat accepted as inclusive of all females, when ponified that inclusivity is lost in translation to many people, and an argument is made that fan filly does not necessarily apply to the adult fans.
- lespony or lesbrony
- A rather clever term for a lesbian brony. While this certainly applies to me, it certainly does not apply to the vast majority of female bronies.
- A portmanteau of tomboy and brony. This works great for the tomboy bronies, but of course does not apply to all female bronies, myself included.
I have been a part of this fandom in one way or another since April 2011, just before The Cutie Mark Chronicles aired. In the three and a half years since, I had yet to find a term for a female brony that I liked and that was sufficiently inclusive. The last time I expressed my discontent with the word pegasister, I was Internet-trolled out of a Facebook group. But every cloud has a silver lining, and somewhere in that asinine comment thread I found what I had been looking for.
- It sounds strikingly like pegasister, so it doesn’t sound so foreign, but it includes every female brony, regardless of pony species, age, sexual orientation, or gender presentation. It’s simple, clear, and easy to spell.
So this is my call to all Facebook group admins, Meetup organizers, event hosts, documentarians, fan artists, and crafters: Please start using the term ponysister. You don’t even have to stop using other terms if you really don’t want to. But if female bronies are to be called out, I would like for all of us to be included, pegasi, unicorns, and Earth ponies alike.