"She Could Be Your Sister, Bro!" Breaking Down Bro-Ness

If I'm your bro, SHE could be your sister! Would you talk about your sister like that?!

Why This Robin Thicke Song Is Bad, besides the obvious reason

Okay, I know this doesn’t pertain specifically to Bro-ness, necessarily, but I had a lot of thoughts about the Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines” after my girlfriend sent me the link to the DailyBeast article I mention below.

Firstly, on a purely taste-related level, I think this song is fucking awful. Is this serious? “What rhymes with ‘hug me'”? Come on. Thicke’s father, Allan Thicke, was a comedian so I suppose I should let it go (Although Allan was a talented songwriter. Take this TV theme, for example). Not to mention the shameless recycling of the aesthetics of about 10 predecessors (James Brown, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Justin Timberlake, and the French New Wave stylistic choices, where the screen-wide hashtag and balloon-text techniques originated).

I don’t see why “catchy pop tunes” have to be about subjects and value systems that I equate with the degeneration of civilization, and not in a good way.

On a more critically analytical, less taste-related note, I think this song and video are definitely problematic. America has a love affair with “the unspoken,” or “that certain je ne sais quoi” in other people, a sense of pseudo-telepathic communication that only comes from meeting “the one” or, in the case of men, “a one.” By that I mean, men are encouraged to feel like “this chick is [a] one that I want to bang.” (Hey, this IS about Bro-ness after all!) The idea that women ever make the decision to bang, or that that decision is mutual, is taboo as a muthafucka. And the man envisions the woman thinking “I know you want it,” to emotionally justify his own quest for sex.

Women, on the other hand, are encouraged to see “THE one, the one man who will fulfill all of my dreams and give me everything I’ve ever wanted,” and her consent, such as it is, is based on this preconceived transactional understanding of the nature of “giving” a man sexual intercourse (as exemplified in the Kanye song, “Gold Digger”).

Much as the DailyBeast columnist mentions, the women in this video are completely and utterly objectified,  having cars running down their backs and tiny stop signs implanted near their nether regions. Also, they cover themselves up a few times as though not actually comfortable with this whole arrangement. Thicke jabbing one of them in the ass with a needle is an act of straight-up violence, as though “getting it” from him is a drug (You’re supposed to drug the girl BEFORE you bang her, bro! [joke]). Altogether, this video sexualizes/”positivizes” inequality in the same way that 99% of modern society’s art and ideology reflect it.

Really, I think it obscures feminist unity (to borrow MacKinnon’s phrase) for feminists to embrace this video and kind of music while advocating for equality in society. Inequality is perpetuated by this kind of song. Period. There are no two ways about it. One of the main clusterfucks in feminism today (and for 30+ years) has been between those that want inequality to end and those that want women to do whatever feels right in bed/in the home/wherever, and for sex to be fun. To put it very coarsely, the problem the latter group makes is conflating inequality with fun, as though sex can’t be fun with true 100% consent and without access to violence. Like, if a woman has a violent fantasy, should she be “granted” it (so to speak) or should her fantasy be, not necessarily condemned by feminists, but labeled in any way as “part of the problem,” a reflection of the internalization of sexism? Hmm. Should she be called mentally ill, wrong, or mixed-up because of it, as women have been getting called for the last million years about every independent thought they might have? The answer to that is no, she shouldn’t. Shouldn’t, then, a man be allowed to engage in violent fantasies upon women? Should he be allowed to view women as targets of violence? Again, the answer is pretty much no. To the overall question, I don’t know, fully. I generally fall on the side of equality, though, and would rather have inequality rooted out. If that means “Archer” goes off the air, so be it.

Why is it so taboo to have naked men in ads and videos and shit? It’s because men control the world and don’t want to look at male genitalia (a very large percentage of them anyway). Additionally, women want to know what pleases men (what men want to look at), and so naked women in ads are also directed towards how women should behave and look in society. By this metric, this video is beyond unacceptable; it’s downright STATUS QUO.

Again, this does relate to Bro Culture because such songs as “Blurred Lines” reflect the idea that women actually secretly WANT to have sex, but only the man is making the decision to actually “do it.” Also known as patriarchy. Sure, in our society, women wanting sex and being sexual beings is taboo, as I mention above. So it is important to depict female sexuality in a positive light as a thing that actually exists. But it is not the MAN’s job to awaken her urge or to validate it or give her permission for it. That’s not equal. The women in this video don’t look like they “want” it; they look uncomfortable, as I said.

This song seems to be a pop success; I can only imagine that a large percentage of its listeners are female. Sorry if I’m repeating myself, but when women embrace this kind of song, it is like giving permission to men to reflect its values, to seek out the “blurred lines” where consent is an unsexy distraction, and by opposing, end them. It also reinforces the idea in women’s heads that sexuality is out of their control, purely existing in the domain of strong, affluent (in the bank or in behavior) men.

In this way, most every song is political in nature. Anyone who says, “it’s just a song” in order to dismiss my concerns is in denial that such ideas and values have any effect on him/her, believing in true individualistic American fashion that our value systems are self-manifested.

But this….is the subject….of another entry….for another time…

What Makes You Madder: “Sloppy sluts” or Drone Warfare?

Okay, the title might seem a little….something, but there is a concrete point to this. Do you spend time being angry or contemptuous or indignant that some girl a) won’t “put out,” b) did at one point “put out” to you but now “puts out” to someone else, or c) seems to “put out” to everyone, regardless of whether or not you are included in that “list”?

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This image is highly judgmental and indignant. By the way.

Okay, now, how much time do you spend angry, irritated, upset, et cetera about current event-type shtuff, say, Drone Warfare? In case you don’t know, drone warfare refers to the use of unmanned military aircraft mostly by the US along with other nations to ostensibly fight terrorism in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, often leading to numerous unaccounted-for civilian deaths.

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source: avaaz.org

drone approval ratings

source: avaaz.org

Here’s a link about “double-tap” drone strikes, where the drone shoots a bunch of people, and then comes back to shoot those who come out to help the people who’ve just been shot. This shit is real.

So, does this make you mad? The Obama campaign has been using drone warfare to wage secretive, undeclared wars in these and other countries, resulting in the deaths of numerous civilians, NGO workers, aid workers, and journalists. For more information, visit this PBS.org primer. If this doesn’t make you all that mad because we’re fighting our enemies over there and some civilian casualties are inevitable and the “cost of war,” does that mean you’d be cool if “they” had drones and used them in your town to defend themselves and “accidentally” killed your entire family, giving them literally no chance to defend themselves “on the battleground”? Would that be fine? Acceptable?

I hope not.

Okay, so why this seeming tangent? The point is, there are ACTUAL injustices and horrors in the world other than how much a girl has sex. In fact, there’s a term for being openly indignant and contemptuous of such girls, and the term is:

That's right. Slut-Shaming.

That’s right. Slut-Shaming.

In general, slut-shaming refers to people (not just men) making other people (generally used in reference to women) feel bad about themselves or impugning their reputations for deciding that they like sex and who they have sex with. Women who choose to sexualize themselves, (see earlier post, ____), rather than allowing others to do so are often called “slut,” “whore,” “skank,” and other terms, because a woman who takes charge of her own sexuality is seen as not normal. According to traditional gender roles, only men are allowed to “provide” women with a sexual identity, since without men to take care of and fulfill, women would have no purpose. This is why some real pricky guys will use  “lesbo” or “dyke” to insult women who don’t show interest in them; because if “she’s not into you, bro,” (i.e. if SHE chooses who has she sex with) she must be different or weird (lesbianism only being “weird,” of course, according to our heteronormative culture) and therefore has no purpose. If you do this, you have a serious problem, by the way.

So, find something else to be mad about besides a woman who enjoys sex. There are plenty of awful and unfair things in this country and in this world: sexismracism, homophobia, imperialism, high deportation rates, high unemployment, global warming, Monsanto being able to sell untested genetically modified food, the list goes on. Additionally, assume women who enjoy sex enjoy it for what THEY get out of it, not for what they can provide you. Sex is not all about you, bro. It’s a two-way street. If it wasn’t, masturbating would be enough.

And one final note on women using the word “slut” about themselves, e.g. “SlutWalks,” et cetera: this type of social movement is called reappropriation. The purpose of it is to “claim” the word for their own in describing themselves as women who enjoy sex and own their own sexuality, removing the word’s shameful connotations. It does NOT give you the right to use it. Why? Because “slut” has been used by men to hurt women for many many years. That’s pretty much the only way a man can use it, due to its meaning and purpose. Imagine if you were tired of being called a “dick” to mean something bad, and you decided that you were going to use “dick” to describe yourself in a positive context. When you call yourself a “dick,” you know what you mean by it. When anyone else calls you “dick,” or “dickbag,” “dickweed,” et cetera, though, they are trying to label you based on what the word means what it means to the rest of society: something probably negative. Reappropriating words denies people the “right” to label and judge you with a word; rather, you label yourself, and reject societal judgments.

Slut Walk Boston

Notice the writing on the stomach. These women are proud to control their own bodies.

Long story short: If the idea of women who don’t NEED men (of course, they might still WANT and CHOOSE men, voluntarily, if they feel like it) to feel good about themselves bothers you more than Drone Warfare, again I’d say you’ve REALLY got a problem, bro. But that’s what I’m here for.

The Internality of Bro-ness

Here is a clip of Jerry Seinfeld talking about candy as a child. Exchange the word “candy” with “girls” and up the age a few years.

This is not unlike what it feels like to be a bro. Am I right?

Books, films, TV shows, and other media have also been dedicated to exploring what it’s like to be a guy (whereas the female experience has historically been marginalized. A fine example of bro-thinking, which is gross and offensive to some women I have met, is the short story “A&P” by John Updike). One thing most of us can all agree on as human beings is that sex is important and desired. In our heteronormative society (one in which heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships are considered normal, while non-heterosexuality and its manifestations are considered abnormal), “sex” is depicted in the form of what are often called “hot girls.”

We see “hot girls” everywhere we look: in movies, on TV, in books, on the internet, in cartoons, in video games, at sporting events, on magazine covers, on billboards. Breasts, buttocks, midriffs, crotches, lower backs, and even faces are depicted as purely sexual objects (what’s called “sexualization“), often separated from the rest of the women in a technique called fragmentation.

guycarmagbed

Desire. Embodied. Except that you can’t own a woman.

These images are a large part of how we determine what is “hot” and what is not hot. Secondarily, we see variations on “hotness” in real life, girls who may possess some “hot” attributes: at school, at work, the cute cashier at the pharmacy, the city girls walking down the street in fashionable jeans, walking around all over the place. A guy understands early on that he may not obtain that ideal “hotness” as it is depicted in movies and magazines right off the bat. But he can work up to it. All he needs to do is get his foot in the door.

And women are this door. That’s how we’re taught to see them; sex is something we want, and women have it (I forget where I’m borrowing this idea from but when I find out, I’ll post a citation). And as long as we start somewhere, and overcome that whole virginity issue, we have a chance to SOMEDAY achieve Angelina Jolie-level hotness. It’s a reflection of the same pursuit-of-happiness thing like the one in the Constitution. And think how happy that will make us! We’ve wanted it our whole lives; how could it not?

We’re reminded, or we remind ourselves, that the human race is dependent on the urge to procreate as a justification to objectify women this way (backhandedly making it seem healthy), yet we men are also taught not to want kids, because kids mean commitment and loss of independence. So we are told to want to fuck a lot, with no consequences.

With this logic, women possess both the most desirable thing on earth (sex) and the most undesirable thing (motherhood). How are we supposed to see women as complete, consistent human beings with this ridiculous contradiction spinning away in our heads? We must divest ourselves of it; it’s the single greatest cause of objectification. Is a woman truly no more than a thing to be fucked and run away from?

The answer is no. The urge to judge a woman based on her looks must be placed under control in order to curb any manifestation of this flawed mentality. The “male gaze,” as it is sometimes called, is a judging gaze in which her value is being assessed based on her looks. Therefore, if she is not seen, she has no value.

NO! SHE HAS VALUE BEFORE YOU SEE HER! SHE HAS IDEAS, DREAMS, INSIGHTS, KNOWLEDGE, POWER! You don’t know her. You don’t know anything about her, except that she is human. Think of it this way: her sexy curves might be turning your brain to jello, but she doesn’t know anything about you either. Maybe she’s judging you as an ogler, a pig, a scumbag, a creep who can’t keep his eyes to himself. But women are so often made to feel dependent on men for their own identities, not to mention financially. So men, then, also possess the most desirable thing to women (security), and the least desirable thing (no respect as a human being). DOES THIS DESCRIPTION SUM YOU UP? IS THIS ACCEPTABLE TO YOU?

No. It shouldn’t be. You don’t know her, she doesn’t know you. Remember that, and keep your eyes to yourself. Keep your tongue, your whistle, your comments, et cetera, to yourself. She is more than an object, and you are more than a subject.

Additionally, she might very well be judging you on your looks, too, but in a country where “one in 4 college-aged women report experiences that meet the legal definitions of rape or attempted rape” (source: Dr Kathleen Young) you have a lot less chance of getting sexually assaulted for it. So, from one bro to another, back off with that argument.

Real Quick: What to do When…

I should first note that I haven’t done all of the things or methods I’m writing about. I’m trying to come up with effective ways to deal with Bro Culture for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s. When I come up with a possible approach, I’ll try it myself at the next opportunity and tell ya’ll how it turns out. I’m no master of undermining Bro Culture just yet; I only just discovered it!

SO, a common situation that faces men is illustrated in this exchange from the movie “Get Him To the Greek.” Aldous, an oversexed rock star played by Russell Brand, sees an attractive woman at a party and expresses his feelings regarding her to his manager, Aaron (Jonah Hill).

Aldous Aldous Open QuoteI would grind that, I would ride the sh*t out of her.Close Quote
Aaron Aaron Open QuoteYeah, I would kiss her face.Close Quote

Thanks to www.showmefunny.co.uk

Aaron, who has a steady girlfriend and is a basically upstanding guy (if occasionally also a clueless bro, as in the “are you on your period?” moment earlier in the film; a cheap Apatow-esque laugh), replies by agreeing with the girl’s attractiveness but rhetorically (meaning in what he actually says) disagreeing with the extent to which Aldous regards her as a sexual object. Even though it’s meant to be funny (and it is), Aaron is demonstrating a certain courage; he respects women more than Aldous, and is willing to contradict him. Sure, he starts with saying “Yeah,” as though in agreement. Ideally, he would have said, “No, I don’t see women that way, Aldous. I might kiss her face, if given consent to do so.” But this is a comedy film, not “about” men straightening out other men about respecting women (what movie IS about that? Like ever? We need one of those!).

Still, I think it’s a useful example of What to do When a man tries to rope you into a sexist sentiment: be honest, and even more forthright than Aaron.

The Purpose of Male Privilege is to Undermine Bro Culture

Premise 2: The True Purpose of Male Privilege is to Undermine Bro Culture.

Male privilege” refers to the ways in which our society is designed and organized largely BY men to favor men. (Although it may constitute a separate Premise, this is a concept I will discuss and support in more detail later. For more information now, and a few views challenging it, click on this Wikipedia link). In many men, it engenders a practically innate sense of being “right” and “normal,” a mentality of “I can do no wrong!” and the entitlement that naturally goes with such a mentality. Generally put, we expect respect and all that society has to offer: employment, income, possessions, independence, and of course, a woman to go with it.

Vending-Machine_0

This is an actual advertisement. Yup, that’s a woman-vending machine.

It is easy for feminist women, no matter how smart, well-meaning, or eloquent, to come off as condescending or even offensive to such socially privileged and intellectually contextless men when trying to address or correct their objectionable behavior. This has the potential to alienate men even further from the idea that a “smart woman” is a good thing. Additionally, men see women perpetrating what appears to be the same behavior (women rendering judgment upon each other in the form of “bitch” and “slut,” dressing in revealing clothing as though to self-objectify for male pleasure, expecting men to pay for things and hold doors for them; in other words, fulfilling the female gender role), and feel justified in treating and relating to women as women treat each other and ostensibly as women want to be treated.

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This confuses us, and we err on the side of objectification because it’s hotter and easier. Which is not an acceptable reason, by the way.

The historical societal definition of a woman–dependent, needy, weak, vain, overly emotional, unintelligent–represents the exact opposite of what men are taught to regard as respectable. Men often seek out such women who appear to reflect societal ideas of femininity as a means of reinforcing our own sense of manliness. In doing so, we limit our exposure to alternate ideas of “womanhood,” i.e. women who demand and deserve respect simply for being human, not in exchange for fulfilling some perceived societal role or another. Such roles can include “putting out” for his pleasure, knowing how to cook and clean and actively enjoying it, dressing attractively, looking to him for protection or financial security (again, reinforcing his own sense of masculinity is central to this transactional concept of a relationship), being obedient and respectful to him by default, et cetera. Men are prone to reject women who do not fulfill these expectations.

Of course, there are some people in this world who do not deserve our respect, whether because they are selfish, destructive, ignorant, or just basically unpleasant. But I only can know that they don’t deserve my respect from having interacted with them, learning about them, and deducing that they take more from my life than they add. Therefore, all people of all genders deserve some measure of automatic, assumed respect as human beings. As men, we possess the means by which to “properly” relate this concept to other men. Our privilege in society gives us the presumed authority to do so. Men tend to trust other men more as equals. The challenge is in making meaningful and enduring change, which is dependent on maintaining credibility among one’s peers. (If this sad reality upsets you, I don’t blame you. I would like more than anything else to scream these truths at ignorant men and have them be learned, absorbed, and acted upon immediately. Unfortunately, I’m not a screamer; I’m an explainer. I think society needs both, personally. Clinging to one or the other as the only solution is ideological i.e. not realistic.)

As bell hooks describes in hooks–seduced by violence no more, many women accept gender roles based on objectification, power dynamic, and non-emotionality as normal, acceptable, and desirable. Sometimes, such women see men who activize feminist ideas as less manly or stimulating, frustrating the man’s effort to be a “feminist.” This represents the female’s role in reinforcing societal expectations placed on men, exemplified within Bro Culture. It is important for us, as men, to also confront this challenge; a person who demands disrespect in a relationship demands, in a way, that we disrespect ourselves. A person who doesn’t respect him or herself generally doesn’t warrant respect from others, not to say that this person doesn’t DESERVE it, but he or she definitely doesn’t ASK for it. If you’re reading this blog, I assume you WANT to respect yourself, and be respected. Long story short: you have to give it, to get it.

iloveme

Premise 1: The Nature of Bro-ness

Note: these are my beliefs that I aim to present as just that: beliefs, not facts, that I will support with logical reasoning and, where applicable, citations.

Premise 1: The Nature of Bro-ness

A central factor to the perpetuation of rape culture (the proposition that our culture consciously or unconsciously accepts and/or enables and/or encourages, or at least doesn’t discourage, i.e. normalizes, rape) is the prevalence of “Bro Culture” among young men: what is good for one “bro” is good for another, and if it isn’t, then there is something wrong with that “other.” Recognition of the existence of a phenomenon is dependent on the “bro’s” judgment, and the phenomenon is incomplete until it has been judged as such. Therefore, if that phenomenon is another person, the acknowledgement of her/his existence is based on her/his becoming an object of judgment. 

The central phenomenon being judged in the purview of Bro Culture is, of course, members of the female gender, and the central criteria of the judgment is sexual desirability. The female is only recognized within the context of this judgment, regardless of whether the judgment is positive or negative.

The “bro” that makes the initial judgment–“that girl’s hot,” for example–often then awaits validation of that judgment from another “bro,” in the form of agreement–“hell yeah, bro, I’d hit that.” Hence the objectification proceeds through three cycles: that of the initial subject male onto the object female, then from the subject male onto an object male “bro” (for agreement), and lastly from that object male onto the object female, the act of which transforms this “bro’s” position from object to subject and asserts his equality with the initial subject male.

Such seeking-out of agreement is the manner by which Bro Culture forms some collective understanding of what is desirable or undesirable. However, it is not adherence to this understanding that maintains one’s acceptance within Bro Culture, but rather to the understanding that women are incomplete and unrecognizable without being judged. All “bros” are expected to conform to this understanding, or potentially face alienation by one’s peers.

Conformity to Bro Culture is itself a form of self-objectification and necessarily perpetuates objectification as an ideology. Bro Culture, then, serves as a “safe space” for that ideology, manifesting itself in sexism, male chauvinism and concomitants of rape culture whereby alterity of the object male (during the second cycle of objectification) may result from challenges to that ideology. If a male refuses to objectify the woman and render some form of judgment to her–“hot,” “fat,” “sloppy,” “fuckable,” or whatever other adjectives are deemed applicable–he risks demotion of his social status: from Bro-hood, and implicit equality within the culture, to a bitch/pussy/girl/et cetera, and implicit inferiority and untrustworthiness.

This shifts the meaning of the term “bro,” which is of course a derivation of “brother,” from the descriptor of a biological, mutual, qualitatively equal relationship (actual siblinghood is not a matter of degree; you either are siblings or you aren’t) to that of a non-mutual and subsequently unequal relationship between Bros (subjects) and non-Bros (objects), i.e. females. Despite the fact that most “bros” are not actually brothers, the imagined sense of familial relations rarely extends to females because the culture itself is dependent on maintaining female status as objects. The female has even less chance of becoming a subject simply because the word “bro” by definition refers to a male, and no feminine equivalent exists in common usage that implies the same sense of equality.

In this context, Bro-ness is the opposite of biological: chosen or interpellated, and capable of being changed, retracted, and even rejected, like any other subject-position.

The question is, how?

The First Post!

I am starting this blog as my final project in my Writing Women Safe course at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ, which is a course dedicated to preventing violence against women through writing and activism.

SHE COULD BE YOUR SISTER BRO will be a collection of ideas and methods for young men, like myself, to undermine what I call Bro Culture from within, without having to “lose face,” become alienated, or lose credibility among our peers. It will give men a way to think for themselves, to not commit verbal acts that they know to be mean and wrong, to not objectify women and themselves in the process, and to grow beyond the limited and narrow expectations that society has laid out for us.

It will not make men into “feminists” necessarily, but it will allow men to avoid perpetuating the inequality between men and women that serves only to undermine everyone’s self-esteem, and limit our agency (and all the premises that I posit will be discussed; nothing will be taken for granted). It will describe how we objectify and hurt ourselves by hurting others, and help us to instead find ways to feel good about ourselves by finding solidarity with others, instead of at their expense. Lastly, it will strengthen our critical thinking about the world around us, and allow us to add to it, rather than simply participate in it.

The first few posts after this one will contain all of the academic underpinnings (as required by the assignment), and then it’ll get a little easier. If you have any questions or comments, leave a comment or email me.