When a mother from North Carolina bought her nine-year-old son a My Little Pony bag, she never expected his school would request that he leave the bag at home.
Grayson Bruce, a huge fan of the My Little Pony TV series, was bullied by classmates who claimed the show was only for girls, reports ABC News. Mom Noreen Bruce—who fully supports his fandom—got involved once she realized that the bullying did not stop. However, rather than teaching the bullies about being open-minded to other people’s interests, the Buncombe Country School District told Grayson to refrain from bringing his Rainbow Dash bag to school because it’s “a trigger for bullies.”
Not only does Grayson’s situation speak to the international problem of bullying, but it says a lot about how our society has not yet fully accepted gender-neutrality amongst children.
Read more: Gender-neutral toys >
Although My Little Pony dates back to the ‘80s, animator Lauren Faust revamped the brand with her show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Faust, known for refusing to conform to gender roles, realized the series was rapidly gaining young male fans. Go to any comic convention, such as Fan Expo in Toronto, and you will surely see a little boy with My Little Pony merchandise. However, it doesn’t seem to be widely-accepted outside of the convention, such as in Grayson’s case.
A large part of this is because gender-neutral toys aren’t a big part of every kid’s life, and rarely do you see a girl playing with a traditional boy’s toy or vice-versa.
When I was four years old, I had a plethora of toys such as Barbies, action figures, Play-Doh, Lego sets—you name it. Yet, I was the girliest-girl around. Maybe it was because my immigrant parents never bothered to make a big deal about me playing with boys’ toys, but gender roles with play things was never an issue in my house.
Last November, CEO of GoldieBlox Debbie Sterling released a set of interactive books and games hoping to inspire a new generation of female engineers, grabbing them early from the get-go. The commercial depicted young girls refusing to conform to typical girl stereotypes, like wearing ballet tutus and princess crowns. Sterling sees the need to let kids play with whatever they want, as does the Toys ‘R Us in Stockholm, Sweden.
Last December, Sweden’s Toys ‘R Us threw together a mixture of toys on their shelves—placing ninja costumes beside princess dresses, Lego sets beside Barbie houses, and, yes, even My Little Pony products beside plastic swords. According to The Guardian, the gender debate in Sweden has forced retailers to re-brand and get with the times.
It’s difficult to foresee when this movement will reach North America, but My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a start.
As for Grayson, he now has a Facebook page dedicated to his support, and has his mom every step with him along the way.
If parents raise their children with acceptance and open-mindedness, maybe for once, kids would just be able to be kids.