On the brocabulary watch: brocialist

Reported on ADS-L yesterday by Garson O’Toole, a posting “A word for calling out sexism” by Ben Silverman on the Socialist Worker website on 11/12/13:

In a recent and excellent exchange between Laurie Penny and Richard Seymour on the case of Russell Brand, I was pleased to see them use the word “brocialist” in their discussion. Pleased in part because, at least to the best of my knowledge, I’m the first person to ever use the word.

Brocialist came about some two years ago in one of my many arguments on Reddit forums, a noted Internet hive of sexism and misogyny. The word “manarchist” was becoming popular as a means to describe and call out the prevalence of sexists within the anarchist community, and I felt that there was a need for an equivalent epithet for the socialist movement. So “brocialist” and “brocialism” was what I came up with.

This is “bad”, negative bro, with misogynist connotations, as opposed to “good”, positive bro, connoting male bonding. The two uses are, however, closely tied, and often manifest themselves together, as in the slogan “Bros Before Hos”, which affirms masculine solidarity while nastily putting women down as whores.

On to Michael Kimmel’s Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. Understanding the Critical Years Between 16 and 26 (2008), and in particular its chapter 3: ““Bros Before Hos”: The Guy Code”, which notes that fhe basic rules of masculinity – “the boy code” and “the guy code” – have scarcely changed at all for many decades; the first rule is that “masculinity is the relentless repudiation of the feminine” (p. 45).

And the central precept of the first rule is No Sissy Stuff!: avoid anything that might suggest homosexuality. The most wounding insult to a young man is to call him a fag(got), and “That’s so gay” is a powerful put-down among adolescent boys.

But beyond that: avoid women as friends rather than sexual conquests; avoid “feminine” interests (like the arts), avoid empathetic rather than competitive interactions (men improve one another, make one another into better men, by challenging each other agonistically), etc.

Also avoid “Mama values” (at the risk of becoming a “Mama’s boy”): cleanness, neatness, respectfulness, “proper grammar”, no “dirty talk”, etc. – including these values as policed by female partners (standing in for Mama), who are seen as “ball-busters” or “castrating bitches” when they perform this role: women as emasculating.

From p. 47 of the Kimmel book:

One of the more startling things I found when I researched the history of the idea of masculinity in America for a previous book [Manhood in America: A Cultural History (1st ed. 1995)] was that men subscribe to these ideals not because they want to impress women, let alone any inner drive or desire to test themselves against some abstract standards. They do it because they want to be positively evaluated by other men. … Masculinity is largely a “homosocial” experience: performed for, and judged by, other men.

Men in groups tend to bond through aggressive displays, and to see women as a threat to their bonds, a combination of factors that can lead to extraordinary hostility towards women, as in the 2014 Gamergate controversy, treated on this blog in a 10/26/14 posting, “doxxing”:

It seems that some traditional gamers, who are heavily male and into fiercely aggressive games, see critiques of their world by women, and the development of other types of games (especially by women), as a threat to this world and have responded with an appalling stream of misogyny directed at individual women. This bad behavior is encouraged by the ease with which people can post anonymously or pseudonomously and otherwise behave in socially irresponsible ways on the net.

And in a different social world, we get manarchists and brocialists.


3 Responses to “On the brocabulary watch: brocialist”

  1. Ben Zimmer Says:

    Wordspy dates “brocialist” back to 2006.

  2. Mike Says:

    [AMZ note to readers: very frank plain-talk discussion of sex acts coming up.]

    You know this is very interesting. I can’t deny lots of guilt and participation in this one thing you mention: “Masculinity is largely a “homosocial” experience: performed for, and judged by, other men” For me, especially fucking a guy, which I do often, is done to both impress the bottom and possess him. To fuck ever-loving shit out of him, bite his back, rub my scruff into his neck and smack his ass. I really get off when he going crazy with desire and pleasure in my arms, but I also want it to hurt a bit. Maybe more than a bit. I can’t deny that I can be a macho pig sometimes.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      A note on this: being a gay man, and fully immersed in gay sexual culture, doesn’t mean you escape the attitudes and beliefs Kimmel talks about: you might well enact them thoroughly, but in a version transformed to fit the gay male context.

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