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Stop Letting the Word “Bro” Oppress You

GQ believes that it’s time to stop using the word “bro” and, more specifically, the various portmanteaus it’s spawned of late — from the reasonably well known likes of “bromance” to ridiculous new constructions like (shudder) “broga.” (That’s yoga for bros, not some sort of Swedish spa treatment.) This call for an end to “bro” and its ilk is indeed 100% necessary, but not just because the word and its mutant offspring are suddenly ubiquitous and kinda annoying.

It’s a funny thing, the rise of the word “bro.” As far as anyone can tell, it started life as a pejorative description of tiresome frat dudes, rooted in their chronic overuse of the word “bro” in addressing one another. Pretty quickly, however, the bros in question reclaimed the word for themselves, and it duly evolved into something that was neither pejorative nor especially complimentary — it’s just a word that describes its subject. And from there stemmed an entire, ahem, brocabulary, one that either described suitably masculine pastimes, or served to legitimize those pastimes that weren’t suitably masculine but in which bros might like to partake anyway.

The interesting thing about this is that the people who tend to invent such words are… well, bros. Or it was certainly them at first, anyway. The idea of “bromance,” which is basically where all this silliness started, ties into the same well of masculine insecurity as “no homo” — they both exist to legitimize deep male friendship by preemptively addressing any implication that it might extend into homosexuality. The only difference really is that whereas “no homo” does this explicitly, “bromance” does it with irony — we can joke about being in a romance because, hey, it’s not like we’re gay or anything, right?!

Still, it’s a manifestation of the weird Judeo-Christian strictures on male sexuality and gender roles that men feel like this needs to be made explicit. So it goes with the other manifestations of “bro” that seem to keep appearing — “brogurt” (because yogurt is for girls, y’see), “brostalgia” (because only homos have fond memories of doing fun things with their friends), etc. I’m not entirely sure I believe that “broga” is actually a thing, but if it is, the implication is clear: yoga is for girls and girlie men, and bros need their own hyper-masculine version.

In this respect, the whole bro phenomenon is less innocent than it might appear, because ultimately, it serves to reinforce tired and destructive gender roles. I mean, shit, I go to yoga, and I enjoy it. I don’t need some sort of specialized broga to make it OK for me to do something that less insecure men have been doing for literally millennia. This isn’t to say that I don’t feel the same societal pressures as any other male; it’s just that if you back yourself into a corner of needing a bro-ified version of pretty much any pursuit that isn’t football or beer pong, you shut yourself off from a whole lot of culture.

It’s a shame that we live in an age where at least a significant minority of men are insecure enough to subscribe to this sort of thing, but it’s not surprising, because for all that we’ve made significant strides in evolving beyond traditional ways of looking at gender, there’s still a ways to go. We’re still a society hidebound by traditional notions of what a man or woman should or shouldn’t be, and for all that plenty of attention focuses on the way this affects females — and rightly so — it’s also relevant to men.

Lots has been written in third-wave feminism about how the patriarchy isn’t only oppressive to females; ideas like Patricia Hill Collins’ matrix of domination explore how it also discriminates along lines of sexuality, race, religion, and socioeconomic class. But it also oppresses the very people whose interests it exists to perpetuate: straight white men. Clearly, neither the manner nor degree of this repression is in any way comparable to the more overt means of destructiveness it visits upon its underclasses, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

The fact that it was bros who embraced bro-dom as a phenomenon rather demonstrates this — the strictures of traditional masculinity are ones that its subjects embrace willingly, because the alternative is suddenly losing your status as one of the chosen few. You can see this in everything from Steubenville to the sort of dickheadry that prevails at any bar on any given Friday night: show the slightest sign of weakness or deviation from the norm and all of a sudden, it’s you who’s on the outside, a bro of the bros no longer.

Ultimately, the very existence of the bro as an archetype only serves to demonstrate that traditional gender roles are beneficial to precisely no one — the sooner we cast off the idea of being constrained by externally applied notions of what our gender dictates we should or shouldn’t be, the better for everyone. So for the love of god, throw away your brogurt, stop worrying about whether your newest hobby might somehow undermine your masculinity, and start living. There’s a whole world out there.

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