I think many of us have heard of the “Bro Code” by now. If not, do brush up on the 89 articles of the rule book. Or you can simply have the first 14 articles recited to you in true dramatic fashion here by Neil Patrick Harris and Matt Kuhn, two actors from the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. (Funny quote below:)
A bro never divulges the existence of the Bro Code to a woman. It is a sacred document not to be shared with chicks for any reason. No. Not even that reason. Note: If you are a woman listening to this, first, let me apologize it was never my intention for this book to contain so much math. Secondly, I urge you to take the Bro Code for what it is: a piece of fiction meant to entertain a broad audience through the prism of stereotypical gender differences. I mean sometimes it really is like we’re from different planets. (Dry, nervous laughter) Clearly no real person could realistically believe or adhere to the vulgar rule contained within. Those boots are adorable, B T Dub. Pssst. Hey guys, ignore what I said. The Bro Code is definitely not a piece of fiction. . .”
I giggled quite a bit listening to this video and you probably will too.
The positive thing about stereotypes is that they show us how far or near our thoughts and beliefs lie in relation to them. If our convictions match the gender cliche, we feel soothed and more secure in our beliefs. And if we viscerally sense our opposition to the stereotype, then we feel somewhat enraged, but simultaneously more empowered and secure in our contrary views.
Everyone wins. Bros and hos.
When first describing the mission of this blog to friends and colleagues, I often used the word “facade” to talk about the conformist masculine disguise men in Western society are encouraged to wear. My premise is that boys and men themselves are not aware of their dutiful following of this compulsory code of behavior and posing. Similar to the way in which females are rewarded for performing the role of femininity ascribed to them by men, society, and other women to the point where they cannot tell their own identities apart from the cultural costume, males can also be blind to the their daily performances of manhood.
“One of the ways dominance functions is through being unexamined. . . We focus always on the subordinated group and not on the dominant group. And that is one of the ways that the power of dominant groups isn’t questioned–by remaining invisible. . .” -Jackson Katz, Ph.D
Jackson Katz, the filmmaker and educator behind the 1998 documentary Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis of Masculinity, attempts to lay bare the culture of toughness (impenetrability, a silent acceptance of physical and/or emotional pain, no outward expression of feeling, a cultural comfort and almost expectation of aggression, etc) that surrounds and defines men’s relationship to women, other men, and themselves.
While the pop culture references to characters in ’90s movies like Can’t Hardly Wait and Boyz in the Hood feel a bit dated, the issues that Katz discussed in 1998 are far from being just a part of our past. Katz brings our attention to the fact that when the media covers violence, there is almost never a focus on the gender of the alleged criminal. With the majority of violent crime being committed by men, there is a nefarious and detrimental effect in leaving this obvious and critical element out of the conversation.
Use of the passive voice when we talk about crimes against women tends to shift our focus off of the male perpetrators and onto female victims and survivors….the media de-genders the discussion of violence… When girls commit violence, that’s always the subject. The gendered nature of the crime is always part of the discussion. What’s happened is because violence has been gendered masculine, we think it’s unusual only when women do it. When men do it, its masculine character is so normal that it’s unremarkable. In fact, it’s invisible.
Making masculinity visible is the first step to understanding how it operates in the culture, to how manhood has been linked to dominance and control.”
Earlier this week, the noble and inspired cultural crusade that is the Good Men Project Magazine published an article on America’s continued love affair with firearms and asked leading voices on both sides of the gun control issue to contribute. Among them was Jackson Katz, with the same plea he had 13 years ago in his documentary.
“Much of what needs to happen is an honest conversation about issues related to masculinity and violence. Many people have circled around this subject, especially in terms of the intensifying debate about guns. The Tucson massacre has revived debate (for the moment) about our country’s gun laws, and the astounding power of the NRA to block commonsense regulations. . . But few, if any, voices in mainstream media have discussed the connection between guns, violence, and American ideals of manhood.
Amazingly, this connection has not been part of the mainstream coverage of Tucson or any of the rampage killings in recent years. The trouble is, you can’t change a social phenomenon until you can at least identify and name it. Each time one of these horrific acts of violence occurs, commentators and editorial writers hone in on every relevant factor they can identify—mental illness, the availability of handguns, the vitriolic tone of talk radio and cable TV—and leave out what is arguably the most important factor: gender.”
Have the guises and facades really changed since then? Or is the language that describes the entanglement of masculinity and aggression just another kind of cloak? And who does it really protect and shield? My answer: certainly not women, but also not men.
Since coming to power, Silvio Berlusconi has had his fair share of scandal. Whether it’s corruption, bribery of judges, ties to frequenting prostitutes, or alignment with the mafia, his name has come up. In the NYT’s Room for Debate column, Alexander Stille takes a look at why Italy puts up with someone who would’ve been a political casualty in American society long ago. What makes Italy different?
Italians May Not Forgive Berlusconi : New York Times