What we mean when we talk about Bros
In light of a slew of recent articles published in The Middlebury Campus (the first by Nathan Weil ’15, with two thoughtful and insightful responses by Day Williams ’15 and Bree Baccaglini ’15), I’ve decided to write a piece analyzing and questioning the power and use of the term “Bro” at Middlebury College and the implications of these uses. It should be noted that this article is not in direct response to any of the articles previously mentioned–I think that all of the articles are great in their own ways for the conversations that they have started.
I’ll start this off by creating a working definition for the word “Bro” as it is colloquially used at Middlebury College. This definition, though obviously relying on stereotypes, would have to include the following elements: racial/social/economic elitism, misogyny, affiliations with sports teams, heavy drinking, dorm damage, homophobia, close-mindedness. Whether or not these things are true for every person labeled as a “bro” on this campus is not what’s important about this definition. What is important is that this is how bros are perceived; therefore, the naming of someone as a bro is not an innocent action and is one that is incredibly loaded and significant.
For the record, I am not a Bro. I am not an advocate for Bros, I do not go to their parties, do not have traditional “Bro” friends and I have spent a lot of time at Middlebury criticizing them in ways that are constructive and ways that are decidedly not constructive. I’ve sipped from the strong, enticing bro-hate Kool-aid and liked what I found—an easy scapegoat for any signs of inequity I saw at the school. The guy who yelled faggot at me and my friends as we walked home from a party? Probably a stupid Bro. The guy in my English class who said something racist? An ignorant Bro. Bro, Bro, Bro—you get the point. The bro culture is like this huge, nebulous void into which I can cast all of my frustrations, all of my doubts about the kind of school I decided to attend.
But this is not okay. In fact, this is very problematic. Because bro-hate is stupid and unproductive and you can tell that it’s stupid and unproductive because of how easy it is. Blame it on a Bro and nobody challenges what you’re saying. Blame it on a Bro and you can make yourself feel better because you’ve created an “other,” you’ve drawn a line in the sand between a liberal, accepting us and a socially conservative ignorant them. Easy as pie. But the drawing of a line (either physically or verbally) is not you taking action or working toward a solution. It is you being lazy and giving up. It is you participating in and perpetuating the great myth of the bro. It is you blaming them without taking a moment to reflect on yourself, without pausing to think about your own prejudice.
And this is not to say that all bros are actually warm and fuzzy individuals with intense passions for Marriage Equality and Barbra Streisand flicks. Because some of them suck real hard like in ways that make me uncomfortable and furious and ashamed of this institution. But there are also Booth Room activists and liberals who suck and make me just as ashamed with the ways in which they assign blame for everything at this school to Bros. Because true inclusivity begins at the point in which we stop all of this polarization and start moving forward in a way that challenges each individual to check and acknowledge their privilege and biases at the door.
I think that the articles written thus far in The Middlebury Campus have provided us with a valuable space in which we might all begin a dialogue about what feminism, inclusivity and equity look like at this school. I hope that we can engage one another in respectful ways and look past the terms assigned to us by others or ourselves in order to work toward creating a community that is open and welcome to all.