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    Posted February 14, 2014 by
    Chicago, Illinois
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    First Person: Your essays

    Rise of the Bronies. No, it's not the end of American boyhood.


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Chicago blogger Pilar Clark says her 7-year-old son William and her 5-year-old daughter started liking ponies a few months ago after watching the show "My Little Pony," an animated television series. 'Some of the boys in his class think it's lame,' she explained. William, who has Asperger syndrome, is slowly becoming aware of kids who look down at him for liking ponies. 'We've talked at length about being free to like whatever you like as long as it's not something that hurts you or others, regardless of whether or not it's popular,' she said. She was inspired to write this essay about how Bronies, a slang term used to describe men or male teens who like the show and things affiliated with "My Little Pony," are not the end of boyhood after reading about an 11-year-old boy from Raleigh, North Carolina, who attempted suicide after being bullied for liking 'My Little Pony." 'It was truly gutting. Such a beautiful boy who doesn't think his life is of any value because he chooses to like something that goes against society's gender norms,' she said. 'It spurred me to reevaluate my own reservations about my son and his love for Ponyville. I realized that my concerns about him liking "My Little Pony" were all tied to my own fears about his acceptance.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    Cartoons in the 80s rocked. Don’t try to deny it. Rainbow Brite, He-Man, Thundercats, Care Bears, The Disney Afternoon, Ghost Busters; we had it all, fellow throwbacks.


    Then there were My Little Ponies.


    Swoon. Oh, how I loved their colorful manes and ability to win over every little horse-happy grade school girl with a glittery love for Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers.


    And though I only had one Pony (Apple Jack), she was fully incorporated into all my imaginative play, right alongside Barbie and Battle Cat, because I was an equal opportunity kind of kid.


    Fast forward a few decades, and now my own two are into the hugely popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Especially William, who is a total Brony (male superfan of the show). And it bothers me a little.


    Stay with me.


    I’m very liberal and free-spirited, and to know me is to immediately recognize my mostly non-traditional beliefs about the world and its multi-peopled fabric. I don’t believe in aligning genders with toys, and don’t think boys and girls should have to adhere to pink and blue play schemes. But yet, this Pony thing made me worry for reasons I couldn’t quite grasp.


    Then I read about Michael Morones of Raleigh, North Carolina, an 11-year-old boy who attempted to take his own life because of incessant bullying over his passion for Ponyville, and beyond making me so, so sad, it made me realize my concerns begin and end with me. They speak to deep-rooted fears I have because my son has Asperger’s, something that challenges him to untangle the intricacies of social language day in and day out, while he tries to figure out where and how he fits into his peer community.


    Maybe I’m afraid he’ll feel isolated. Or maybe I’m afraid this will somehow set him apart even more. But there’s no reason why I should keep him from a show that promotes kindness and fellowship – something our society at large desperately needs. And that realization makes me feel good. More importantly, it makes me feel like Jeff and I have done the right thing by letting William make My Little Pony a part of his life.


    I mean, just look at the awesome Doctor Whooves he drew for me with an awesome TARDIS cutie mark that’s way better than the hourglass on the existing DW. (Sorry, not sorry). That creative expression alone makes me so happy we didn’t project our misappropriated fears. Instead, we rolled with it, while reminding William not to forget his other passions outside of Ponyville. Because having so many passions is one of the best parts of being a kid. And later, it’s what helps us grow up to be well-rounded adults with individual visions that touch every star in the non-linear and linear universe.


    Look, if we want to raise our boy to be more sensitive and empathic, then we have to let them be sensitive and empathic. We can’t hesitate when our sons gravitate to something that might label them as different. We can’t wait for the world to change, because news flash – it’s not changing fast enough. We have to celebrate the originality and openness all children are inherently born with, and not mold it into something that judges those who go against what is considered “normal.” The world is not a normal place. It’s vast and complicated and wonderful and angry and right and wrong and evolutionary. And somewhere in that mostly beautiful mess, we have to make room for our little men.


    And it’s not an easy task. Nothing good ever is.


    I will always love my son and teach him to love others. I’ll continue to guide him not to judge without just cause. I’ll keep on teaching him to value himself, so that when others oppose him, he can have enough confidence to stand alone if he must.


    I’ll remind him that Jeff and I will always have his back no matter what. And I’ll never stop encouraging him to embrace differences, be they tied to complicated things like special needs, sexual orientation and world faiths; or more innocent ones, like preferred cartoon characters and favorite TV shows.


    Because in the end, it all comes down to happiness. If something fills our boys’ hearts with joy, and that joy isn’t hurting them or anyone else, embrace it. Cherish it. Because one day, our little boys will grow up to be men. Men made better by their ability to look past the world’s faults to better focus on its strengths.

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