"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?!

Category: Academic Underpinnings

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.


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.


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.



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?