Stickin' it to the man since 1927.
The Bro Code screened as part of Women’s History Month event
By Natalie Beale
The Bro Code: How Contemporary Culture Creates Sexist Men was screened last week as part of Women’s History Month, followed by a discussion led by Professors Kristen Williams and Valerie Sperling.
The producers, the Media Education Foundation, targets young men in high school and college, trying to raise awareness about gendered codes in culture and media. To an extent it works, but the screening at Clark was, by a huge margin, mostly attended by women.
The documentary is split into “steps” which outline the ways society constructs sexist men. “Step one” highlights movies and music videos which encourage men to be active, controlling, and feel entitled to material goods and attractive, though passive, women.
“Step two” looks at how porn teaches boys and men to disrespect women.
“Step three” illustrates how society trivializes sexual assult. These sections of the documentary are thoroughly depressing, but do not reveal anything new. Everyone is aware of the media culture, although most of the time it becomes background noise.
The film acknowledges that young men recognize their misogyny and revel in it, giving an example of a shocking email circled by a Kappa Sigma ‘bro’ from University of Southern California, that called women “targets.”
Perhaps more shocking is the ‘blogosphere’ reaction defending the email, with comments such as “f*ck, I’ve sent out much dirtier misogynistic shit than this…” and “Frat bro’s are misogynistic, misogyny is funny, deal with it…”
If young men and students are aware of what guys are doing and what the culture is, then it would be more useful for the documentary to offer solutions to a pervasive problem, rather than outline what boys and men already know.
The final “step” explores the media stereotypes of young men as either flabby nerds or butch alpha-males who control the ‘cult’ of manhood. One male audience member expressed the feeling that this is unrealistic and leaves out ‘middle’ guys, for whom the ‘bro code’ does not apply.
The result of men trying to fit into unrealistic masculine binaries, and being terrified of being thought of as weak or feminine, has a sobering result. Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, and gay teenagers are three times more likely to commit suicide than other teenagers. This is the effect of strict gender guidelines and the stigma of ‘femininity’ in males.
At this stage of the documentary, a more in depth analysis of this area would have been useful, but instead it finishes quite abruptly.
Filmmaker Thomas Keith makes a comment about how men teach their sons differently, and how this creates hope for a more equal society. One of the main criticisms from the audience was the hurried finish, and the film’s focus on shock value rather than constructive suggestions.
The ‘parent solution’ was criticized, stemming from the film’s suggestion that parental guidance would prevent boys from believing media stereotypes on gender.
However, parents grew up in the same culture, and can perpetuate stereotypes as much as movies, television and music videos do. It was pointed out that children do not buy their own clothes, so girls dressed in pink or shirts with inappropriately sexual slogans were bought by the parents who dressed them.
Just putting the issue in the hands of parents is not a satisfying conclusion. Despite these flaws, the documentary seems to be a valuable way of getting students to more closely examine what the media is suggesting about men and women, and if shown to a high school class, it could do some good.
One professor present expressed the desire to show it to all her classes. We may know that harmful gender stereotypes exist, but this documentary encourages you to identify them and avoid them, even if it fails to offer any satisfying solutions to the extensive problem.