I support the welcoming of men into the fan base (fandom) of mediums that are typically more female-dominated, notable examples including the TV series My Little Pony and Steven Universe. If you are a male and want to enjoy things that are traditionally considered “girly”, I think that’s great. I am all for breaking down the stereotypes surrounding gender binaries.
What I am not a fan of is the tendency of male fans to create their own nomenclature that emphasizes their masculinity.
Men who identify as “bronies,” are probably the most prominent offenders. These men have been heralded for proudly enjoying something that is traditionally feminine, yet are so insecure about possibly being mistaken for a female should they adhere to just being a fan in a female-dominated fan base that they feel the need to create an identity that reminds everyone that they are, in fact, men. These male fans desperately seek to differentiate themselves lest they be mistaken for a female.
This is further proved as this only happens in media that is seemingly directed towards females or that have a large female following. Never does this phenomenon occur in media that is already male-dominated; only in shows or activities that are typically female-populated does this act of labeling flare up. In a group that is already masculine, there is no urge to differentiate from the rest of the crowd because they are already assumed to be male. It is only when there is a risk of being mistaken as female that group identities like “bronies” and “gemtlemen” (male fans of Steven Universe) begin to appear.
Furthermore, they strive to claim the medium as their own, that this medium is actually for men. It is their way of taking away something from its intended demographic, rather than seeking to become part of the demographic. Not only does this form of labeling suggest it is bad to engage in a feminine media if you are a male, it also forces females in that group to either adopt an entirely unnecessary name of their own, despite not needing one prior, or to accept the rebranding of a thing as now “male” just because a minority of men within that group has been extra loud about their identity.
As one of the writers of Steven Universe says, specific nomenclature such as “gemtlemen” implies it is unusual for a male to enjoy something because it may contain feminine elements, which is certainly not true.
What I don’t understand is why we can’t all just be “fans,” why men in these groups can’t just accept that they might be part of something they don’t necessarily control, or that they are men enjoying something that is traditionally feminine. Although there might be claims that labels such as these might be to help discourage sexist beliefs that might try to steer their interests towards other media, it is clear from their actions that they do not really care about this otherwise they would not feel the need to so aggressively rebrand something feminine as not actually feminine at all, but is actually for men now that they have taken interest. If anything, a true testament to the rejection of gender norms would be to simply identify as a fan. Announcing one’s status as a male and that the thing they like is not actually feminine only works to strengthen the belief that men should only enjoy things that are masculine, and vice versa, because why else would you strive so hard to avoid any other categorization?
So to all the men in fandoms out there, I leave you with this. It is possible to be a part of something that is not about you. Feminine does not necessarily equate to female. There is no need whatsoever to announce to everyone that you are interested in something but also that you are a guy. Just sit back and enjoy the thing, whatever it is, and let yourself be a fan. Just a fan.