Second Wave feminists feel that My Little Pony is damaging because it perpetuates feminine stereotypes. Third Wave feminists (like myself) feel that something isn't automatically wrong because girls like it. And if girls like My Little Pony, they are free to do so.
This more nuanced understanding of the world depends heavily, however, in what the creators do with the product. For example, Disney Princesses. The princesses spend most of their time sighing sadly over some dude. They don't spend a lot of time, you know, DOING STUFF. You can find a lot of Disney Princess home decorations, but precious few active, useful items.
I once found a Disney Princess soccer ball, which is a start. But where are the Disney Princess microscopes, the Disney Princess archery sets, the Disney Princess toolboxes? Nowhere to be found. And that's where we have problems, the Disney Princess Marketing Machine and I.
My Little Pony is a little bit different. It's just as pink and sparkly. (Peformative gender? You're soaking in it!) But the ponies - who are almost exclusively female - DO STUFF. They don't clop around sadly waiting for a boy pony to save them from their lonesome castle tower prisons. They get out there and have lives and passions and activities and solve crimes and help people.
From the outside, Disney Princess and My Little Pony might seem to be pretty much the same thing. But in actuality, they are diametrically opposed.
These schisms - between Disney Princess mush and My Little Pony; between Second Wave and Third Wave feminism - are laid bare in this article and response on the Ms. Magazine website.
To sum up, a Ms. Magazine contributor caught an episode of the smash hit My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (a single episode, out of context) and was displeased. Lauren Faust, the show's creator, read the article and was hurt, because she has in fact worked very hard to create a girl-positive show.
Out of curiosity, I watched an episode of the show online. Or, well, I tried to. Not to say the show is bad - it just isn't for me. But what I saw was heartening.
First of all, I was astonished by the high quality of the animation. As an animation nerd, I notice these things. They matter to me. And believe me, the animation in most shows aimed at kids is TERRIBLE.
Second, I was impressed by the fact that the ponies exist in a world which is primarily female. That's a big change from most kids' cartoons, which typically have a 10-20% female cast. (One exception being the Powerpuff Girls - which was also produced by Lauren Faust.)
This is clearly a show for girls, and about girls. In the few minutes I watched, the female characters consistently took independent action. One of my beefs about kids' cartoons is that all too often, the female characters spend all their time following someone else's lead, which essentially relegates them to the position of support staff to the male characters.
Moreover, I was won over by Lauren Faust's passionate explanation of what she's trying to do and why. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic isn't the show for me, but I'm very glad it exists.
Photo credit: Flickr/LBpics