Hey Bro – you’re being insensitive
November 11, 2013 5:08 PM   Subscribe

 
Given my own attempts at friendly intervention on other matters, like someone being loud on the street past midnight, I'm a little skeptical that this doesn't derail into a bro punch in the nose.
posted by dhartung at 5:15 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd have bothered to read past the first few sentences if this piece didn't insist on framing itself around using 'Bro' as a gendered pejorative.

If you want me to care when you call me out for being insensitive, don't call me 'bro'.

Oh, am I tone policing? People who call people out for insensitivity and tone policing at the same time are all assholes. If you object to me saying that, I say to you: stop tone policing!

In all sincerity, and without sarcasm: When are leftists going to learn that when they insert a little snark or identity-based hostility into an attempt to call privileged people out for bad behavior, they dramatically increase the likelihood it won't be heard.

Privileged people have the privilege to react to being called out aggressively by rolling their eyes and continuing to run the world. Appeals to their empathy work a lot better when the self-serving, self-building snark is removed from the confrontation altogether.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:20 PM on November 11, 2013 [32 favorites]


Don't faze me, bro!
posted by localroger at 5:23 PM on November 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Right out of the gate, huh?

I'd have bothered to read past the first few sentences if

This is textbook threadshitting.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:24 PM on November 11, 2013 [106 favorites]


Calling someone bro is a perjorative now?

Man, all my bros are gonna be pissed ...
posted by kyrademon at 5:25 PM on November 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


there's some tension between the conceit (speaking to "bros" at their level) and the language. Viz!

Hey Bro... You are simply absent the configuration of social senses that would have otherwise averted this confrontation.
posted by jpe at 5:26 PM on November 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


If you want me to care when you call me out for being insensitive, don't call me 'bro'.

Then this post ain't for you.

As a person who makes a living in tech and in San Francisco and seriously does not identify with "bro" in any way I really appreciate the post. This dude is trying to put a difficult topic into terms people in his life will understand, or provide a template for others in similar situations. I applaud this.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:26 PM on November 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


Presumably the dialogue isn't meant to be a panacea, but it seems unlikely to do much when there's a poisonous subtext to the bad behavior. Given that we assume of others what we know of ourselves, it seems worth thinking about how such a conversation is actually likely to unfold.

...hi, my name is Belarius and I use hyperlinks to avoid having to explain myself in detail.
posted by belarius at 5:27 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Love how you explicitly exclude female readership, bro.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:30 PM on November 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch, what the fuck are you talking about?

Bro is meant as a friendly term here, implying a desire to show true comradery and understand the "insensitive" bro as a human being, not just a foe.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:30 PM on November 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


That's cool, bro. Now ask me if I care, bro.
posted by Decani at 5:31 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, whatever, ladies call each other bro all the time.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:31 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Holy fucking shit. One second it's "boo hoo you're being so mean to meee!!! Listen to me, understand me!!! I swear I'll pay attention to your identity politics then!" and then someone writes a relatively chill, sensitive treatise on this stuff using a mildly mildly tongue-in-cheek epithet and well never mind I guess those people weren't going to listen in the first place.

RTFA.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:33 PM on November 11, 2013 [32 favorites]


If you want me to care when you call me out for being insensitive, don't call me 'bro'.

The height of snobby fucking annoying privilege. I'd rather be called bro than hear the above come out of my mouth any day.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:33 PM on November 11, 2013 [23 favorites]


If this is meant as a Bro to Bro conversation, it's all good.

And I actually did read the whole thing. Totally smart reasonable things to say, but if a stranger came up to me and started saying this, using 'bro' sarcastically, as often happens in leftist circles, I wouldn't put up with that kind of passive aggression for very long.

And this is coming from somebody who has close friends of more than two genders who he refers to as "bro". It's really just about expecting call outs about insensitivity to be done sensitively. Anything less is total hypocrisy.

I'd rather get yelled for being a prick than be passive aggressively lectured for being insensitive. Maybe it's just 'cause I'm from New York.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:34 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


No see, *Brah* is the pejorative. "Bro" is the term of endearment, but only amongst fellow bros.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:35 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The height of snobby fucking annoying privilege. I'd rather be called bro than hear the above come out of my mouth any day.

No. 'Bro' is often used as a sarcastic slight, directed at masculine men. We have no more obligation to tolerate that than anyone else has an obligation to tolerate any similar behavior directed at their identity.

In no way does it equate to a wide variety of slurs or slights that target less privileged identities. That doesn't mean it isn't icky nor does it mean I have to put up with it.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:39 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was assuming this piece was directed at people who would use the word bro as a term of endearment. It is, to me, a term that can be used both ways, much like our "mate"; but I see this to be trying to address the respectful side.
posted by solarion at 5:44 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


You don't have to do anything apart from eat, shit, and pay your taxes. If you want to relate with people who don't share your prejudices, dismissing all they have to say because of one of the words in it is a bad strategy.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:45 PM on November 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


posted by Broa Horza Gobuchul

Aha!
posted by Sphinx at 5:45 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]



In all sincerity, and without sarcasm: When are leftists going to learn that when they insert a little snark or identity-based hostility into an attempt to call privileged people out for bad behavior, they dramatically increase the likelihood it won't be heard.

Yeah. This exactly.

In no sincerity, and with sarcasm:
#tumblrjustice
posted by graphnerd at 5:47 PM on November 11, 2013


I mean, really, if I got it wrong, and this is meant as a bro-to-bro conversation, then right the fuck on, more power to this, excellent advice, excellent modeling of a good peer call-out.

I read it the way I read it because I've seen way too many Bay Area radicals who are not masculine men use 'Bro' as a slight, and in plenty of instances as a slight against strangers that they're prematurely designating 'dude-bros' based solely on superficial characteristics.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:48 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had overlooked the part about bro being an epithet used by leftists when they address masculine men. Jeez. Until I found that out I was feeling all warm and fuzzy toward the writer. Now I just feel, well, masculinized or something.

Anyhow, I totally can understand how San Francisco can be a religion.
posted by mule98J at 5:49 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've never been around any radicals but I been around a lot of drunk bros so I kept picturing some drunken meathead shouting "Sup Bro?" before taking a swing at me.

Fortunately I was able to mentally substituted the word "Man". After I read it as "Hey man. We gotta talk." my fight or flight instincts calmed down and I was able to read it without clenching my fists.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:51 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I may have mentioned this elsewhere on the blue, but I think "direct" confrontation on such issues can often just make people defensive, and wind up having no effect. I support efforts at non-confrontational confrontation, even if they use the word "bro".
posted by uosuaq at 5:51 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


No. 'Bro' is often used as a sarcastic slight, directed at masculine men. We have no more obligation to tolerate that than anyone else has an obligation to tolerate any similar behavior directed at their identity.

Sorry I went off on you like that, and I am well aware of the perjorative meanings of "bro," but just as many words have a variety of in-group and out-group meanings, so does this one. And there is no way I can read that whole piece and still think at the end that "bro" was mean perjoratively. It can be used in friendly and nonfriendly ways.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:52 PM on November 11, 2013


I mean, really, if I got it wrong, and this is meant as a bro-to-bro conversation,

There are various cues in the piece that indicate the speaker is close with the intended recipient. They are mostly elided, so the piece is generalized.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:52 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can't threadshit if a thread already is shit.
posted by Ghost Mode at 5:53 PM on November 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


I wish I'd read this a few months ago...I made an insensitive joke, and apologized for it, but the part of "that's it, you're done" would have saved me a lot of grief.
posted by Chuffy at 5:54 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bro is not really an epithet toward "masculine men" so much as an epithet toward recreational date-rapists. Like douche, but moreso.

It's not so great for addressing a general audience.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:54 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry I went off on you like that...

Totally cool. If I re-envision the piece as my actual brother speaking, or as me speaking to any of my bros, it's resonant and smart, and actually the sort of thing I've said to bros here and there.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:55 PM on November 11, 2013 [7 favorites]




Fortunately I was able to mentally substituted the word "Man". After I read it as "Hey man. We gotta talk." my fight or flight instincts calmed down and I was able to read it without clenching my fists.

Yeah, this was maybe written for a particular subset of young guys/girls who use the word "bro" ironically but not perjoratively (see, girls calling other girls "bro," geeky guys who are decidedly not muscular manly-men using "bro," &c.) Basically it's like the word "dude" now, used to have kind of musclehead/stoner connotations but has now evolved into just an epithet people like to throw around for fun.

If you don't like it more power to you but I think this piece is actually very useful in terms of saying that it's OK to feel ashamed if you say something unintentionally sexist/whatever and that all you really have to do is say "hey sorry I did that, I get it," and people can move on. It helps the person who unknowingly hurt someone and the person who was hurt.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:55 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Relevant to bro discourse
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:57 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bro is not really an epithet toward "masculine men" so much as an epithet toward recreational date-rapists.

I get that you might see it that way. I'm a masculine, white cis man who looks like a cop. I get negative 'bros' a lot from people who have no idea how invisibly un-bro-ey I am.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:58 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my experience, when people make a call-out like this, about a third of the time, they're the sort of person who really needs the exact same call-out made on themselves (i.e. hey, try to understand that what you're doing is offending other people, and it's not okay just because they're different to you and you feel that you're in the right).

It still means that about two-thirds of the time it's a good call, I just have to be careful not to be that one third.
posted by surenoproblem at 5:58 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now can we get back to the good part of this? Sorry for the knee jerk distraction.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:59 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honestly, there is a decently sized contingent of people online for whom there appears to be LITERALLY NO WAY to frame a "proper" discussion around privilege. They will always be shifting the goalposts. I vote for not really caring about their needs in this respect.
posted by threeants at 5:59 PM on November 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


I'm a masculine, white cis man who looks like a cop.

Macho, macho man...
posted by Sys Rq at 5:59 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hey, "Person," doesn't capture the sincerity or implied closeness. If you're pissing all over the article because of the use of "Bro" then you're missing the point. Do we have a casual word in the English language that encompasses people in a non-gender specific way?
posted by Chuffy at 6:00 PM on November 11, 2013


No but really, how do I get someone I know to read this and understand it?
Can there be an introductory "Bro, you need to read this shit. Just read it." thing?

This part resonated with me:
It’s not fucking fair. And it’s not fucking stopping.

Now, I know you’ve been there. Everyone has been pinned against the wall by something that feels completely unjust. That’s a special kind of rage. It burns pure and white, then leaves you cold and emptied out.

What if that kept happening?

posted by bleep at 6:01 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I agree with every point made in the link.

The problem is that snark and sanctimony isn't persuasion. It's preaching to the choir.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 6:01 PM on November 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


What part of this is snark? It seems like an honest attempt to get someone to understand that they shouldn't hurt others because everyone knows what it's like to be hurt and no one likes it.
posted by bleep at 6:02 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


'Macho, macho man...'
Indeed, I never said 'Hetero', did I, sys rq?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:03 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm old so I am used to unironic bros. Whatever, It isn't like he is about to start calling me a pussy because I won't have a shot of tequila. FWIW I always agree with these privilege articles, this one I'm just like "I don't care what you say I'm not wearing cargo shorts".
posted by Ad hominem at 6:06 PM on November 11, 2013


"Bro" isn't a thing where I'm from, in either a positive or negative way. So it's interesting to me to see that a term exists that can cause privileged men to feel the sting of being labelled or misidentified. I can't think of another word that could make a straight white man feel defensive and wounded in the way I feel when I hear certain words related to women. I'm not saying that's a good thing per se, and I do agree we should all stay away from words that cause offense, even if we personally find them mild or tongue in cheek (be the change etc). But it's still interesting.

Overall I thought the article was quite gentle in tone, more "hey friend" than "hey douche" (which is also not a word here. Thankfully.)
posted by billiebee at 6:06 PM on November 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


I definitely read this as a bro talking to one of his bros, because bros call bros on their shit. That's, like, a fundamental part of being bros, bro.

I read this as like "a guide for bros who need to call out their bros for being insensitive without shutting them down or making them get defensive". As a script it obviously leaves something to be desired -- real-life conversations, especially call-outs, are rarely that one-sided and calm -- but as a set of guidelines (presented as a sort of parable in the Socratic form) for how to effectively address common defensive tactics that your bro might employ when you have to call him out on this kind of shit, I think it reads pretty well.

It's context-specific (and bro-specific, though it works as well for lady bros as for dude bros) and doesn't cover every situation or every person or every gambit, but I don't see that it was meant to or why it should try to do any of those things. It's OK to just do a decent job addressing part of a problem in a way that is somewhat humorous and fun to read, and that's what I think this piece accomplishes.
posted by Scientist at 6:11 PM on November 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


I find the intensely disappointed look working wonders in forcing introspection.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:14 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you want me to care when you call me out for being insensitive, don't call me 'bro'.

I'm not your "bro", Friend.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:16 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Today I learned that "bro" is a pejorative used by "leftists" (who are not masculine) when they are adressing masculine manly-men.
posted by rocket88 at 6:17 PM on November 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


If not this way, then how?

I have a very close relative (bro?) who tends to say sexist, bigoted, homophobic things. And my tactic was to say, every time, that that made me uncomfortable, or it wasn't OK. He wrote me a few weeks ago to say that it's not OK to tell another adult that what he says makes you feel uncomfortable. I haven't bothered to reply to him since. My silence is now causing Family Issues.

How to even begin?
posted by mochapickle at 6:19 PM on November 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


It really is incredibly important to find useful scripts to model how privileged people can call each other out in a meaningful and progress oriented way.

People with privilege can easily get to a level of privilege denial where they can't hear anybody but their peers. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. For practical purposes, scripts like the one in this link are essential, and currently all too rare.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:22 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"He wrote me a few weeks ago to say that it's not OK to tell another adult that what he says makes you feel uncomfortable."

Ug. I have no idea. Insensitivity is one thing. Outright bigotry is a whole other ball park.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:24 PM on November 11, 2013


You know, i get the feeling that there's a certain fairly large subset of people who were just aching for there being something impeachable in here. Bro is a really thin excuse and a weak pretext to pull down your pants and shit on this, but it's cheap and easy.

I feel like this could have been passed through a committee of people and it would end up being watered down until it wasn't asking anyone to do anything, nor telling them. Simply making really passive take it or leave it suggestions.

Ignoring someone for calling you a bro is pretty much what the entire concept of a tone argument was created to address. If you can't read through this and have that click in your mind then this was intended for you a lot more than a lot of other people.
posted by emptythought at 6:25 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm an overeducated, relatively wealthy white woman who is consciously working to be less of an asshole to people who aren't overeducated, relatively wealthy white people. I found this a useful summary of the mental steps I should be going through when I get defensive about being an asshole to, etc.

Of course, I'm not in a position to be upset by "Bro".
posted by gingerest at 6:27 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think the shitting/countershitting has actually passed parity at this point. I, for one, am past my initial shudder at "bro".
posted by Ad hominem at 6:28 PM on November 11, 2013


I'd rather get yelled for being a prick than be passive aggressively lectured for being insensitive. Maybe it's just 'cause I'm from New York.

Ugh. New Yorkers, please stop this, I implore you. "Hey, what can I say? I'm from New York" is used as if it were a legitimate defense to being an asshole. Not saying all New Yorkers are assholes, but if you use your New Yorker-ness itself as a defense against any and all criticism, it's a real dick move. It's a bullshit way to not own up to bad behavior, and the rest of us see right through it.
posted by zardoz at 6:30 PM on November 11, 2013 [27 favorites]


I think it is incredibly interesting that people who would, in other contexts, get incredibly angry about the way political correctness 'dulls' language and is anti-creative, and so on, are also viciously angry and dismissive if a piece they disagree on uses one fucking word they don't agree with and apply their own meaning to. This isn't 'well bitch is what we call awesome ladies' where there is a clear and constant negative social meaning - bro is actually used non-ironically and non-subversively to refer to friends.

Of course, in my social context, bro is for your actual brothers mostly. Dude would be the preferred nomenclature in the context, or mate. Probably mate, but dude is more often used to connote some sort of social transgression and mate can ramp that up into fisticuffs.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:32 PM on November 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is a decent genericization of Jay Smooth's very good How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist.
Remember the difference between the What They Did Conversation and the What They Are Conversation.
posted by ignignokt at 6:38 PM on November 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's cool, bro. Now ask me if I care, bro.

This is actually addressed in the article. The upshot is that if you're being an asshole and you really don't care that you're being an asshole, you shouldn't be surprised when people ask you to leave their party, or office, or internet community.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:39 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


No lies here. I said to my friend at work "Bro, that is not cool" when he floated blackface for his halloween costume.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:39 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nothing like a passive aggressive blog post admonishing people for saying something they personally don't approve of to really attract the "go fuck yourself".
posted by hellslinger at 6:40 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Hey, what can I say? I'm from New York" is used as if it were a legitimate defense to being an asshole.

or, you know, just please say what you mean, not some roundabout script that theoretically skirts my sensitivities but ends up being condescending and annoying
posted by philip-random at 6:41 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


C'mon. "Bro" is quite obviously a performative noun meant to distinguish the writer from the type of person who might be caught saying something insensitive, then arguing about it. In previous eras, when the oppressors du jour were rich bankers or whatever, a piece like this might've been addressed to "sir" or "Mr. So and So" but in the era of brogrammers and dongles and mansplaining, etc. we get "bro".

And that's really the thing about these silly pieces. They are - overwhelmingly - written by privileged people as a means of social positioning. "Yes, I have good opinions about Privilege," they say. "These bros do not." Of course, everyone makes sure to disclaim their own privilege. But the preachy, condescending tone tells the tale - these things are about demonstrating how great the author is (and, by extension, how great his readers are for agreeing with it).

"Don't be an asshole" doesn't make for a great tumblr post and attaboys on Twitter, I guess.
posted by downing street memo at 6:44 PM on November 11, 2013 [31 favorites]


Yeah. I generally think of my New Yorkishness as more about an intolerance for passive aggression, not as support for actual aggression.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:44 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I had to talk to an employee a few months ago about inappropriate comments he had made that upset another employee. The conversation unfolded very much along the lines in the dialogue, i.e. lots of denial and deflection, much of it borne of frustration and fear that this was going to result in disciplinary action even though I had assured him it would not. As the author suggests, the key to a satisfactory resolution lay in avoiding escalation while remaining firm and clear about the impact of his behaviour on others.

As for the "bro" thing...have people really lost the inability to translate between mildly differing conversational styles? In the situation I described above, neither I (an English Canadian in my late 40s) nor my employee (a French Canadian in his late 50s) are the "yo, bro, woah" types, yet I had no problem recognizing what the author was suggesting might be an effective approach to handling a delicate situation.
posted by senor biggles at 6:48 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


So people get all bent out of shape when someone without privilege calls them on something they said or did, and they also get all bent out of shape when someone who shares their privilege calls them out.

There's apparently no way to do this right. How nice.
posted by rtha at 6:48 PM on November 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


Be more fucking inclusive. Less bro, more sib.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:52 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's apparently no way to do this right. How nice..


You're exactly right, and it's intended that way. The whole "privilege" subtext for any argument is just a way for someone to undermine another's opinion and place their own higher.
posted by hellslinger at 6:53 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


hellslinger: The whole "privilege" subtext for any argument is just a way for someone to undermine another's opinion and place their own higher.

what
posted by tzikeh at 6:56 PM on November 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


The whole "tone argument" thing is eternally frustrating. Of course the tone of an argument doesn't affect it's underlying facts. But it totally effects an argument's efficacy, it's ability to propagate and become popular.

Tone is incredibly critical when it comes to winning hearts and minds, winning legislative battles, winning elections. I guess it makes sense that most of the people I hear complaining about tone policing are politically minded, but often uninterested in conventional politics. If you don't pay attention to tone, you lose at conventional politics, pretty much guaranteed.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:58 PM on November 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


The whole "privilege" subtext for any argument is just a way for someone to undermine another's opinion and place their own higher.

So how would you suggest addressing the issues that an argument about privilege is intended to get at? Or do you not think there are issues to be addressed?
posted by asterix at 6:58 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you don't pay attention to tone, you lose at conventional politics, pretty much guaranteed.

This never seems to be true for conservatives in American politics, only for liberals/progressives. Curious.
posted by asterix at 7:00 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm gonna echo that

what
posted by rtha at 7:01 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


this thread is a trap. i needed it, for my collection. i had all the standard bad comments individually but i needed them all in one place. this was the last thing. i'm sorry.
posted by a birds at 7:01 PM on November 11, 2013 [53 favorites]


This never seems to be true for conservatives in American politics, only for liberals/progressives. Curious.

The exception to the rule is when one's side already has overwhelming dominance. Gun laws and anti-discrimination laws in ultra-left constituencies, for instance, are often touted with incredibly aggressive rhetoric. Preaching to the choir is the exception to the rule.

Oh yeah, and triple echo the WHAT.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:03 PM on November 11, 2013


argument about privilege is intended to get at?

I believe that privilege is just another axis for posturing among debaters, if you will. All someone has to do to remove credibility from a person's argument is to say that he is privileged because it implies that person lacks the required experienced or understanding, but in a way that doesn't actually make that risky accusation (because what if the person's logic doesn't actually require privilege?). It also flatter's the accuser's point of view as being enlightened, as though they're aware of this "axis" and others do not.
posted by hellslinger at 7:04 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


hellslinger: I believe that privilege is just another axis for posturing among debaters, if you will.

I won't.

I think you'll find most of us won't, frankly.
posted by tzikeh at 7:06 PM on November 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


rtha: of course not. Criticisms of this piece (which, incidentally, provide no supporting textual evidence) are not intended to inform, elucidate or look at the fundamental rhetorical and and social underpinnings of thise piece. Rather, they serve two purposes. First, they function as a signal that the critic disagrees with the perceived motives of the author, which are inauthentic. - see " quite obviously a performative noun meant to distinguish the writer" and "snark and sanctimony." In this way they are performative - that is, the most important information is not the meaning of the critique itself, but rather the existence of any critique at all, by which the critic can signal various aspects of himself - see "Now ask me if I care, bro" - to the audience, here in this thread.
Secondly, and more importantly, these "functionless" critiques (by which I mean, they fail at even addressing the piece as it stands - see the references to "tumblr" ) serve to take up space in this thread. They are a form of shouting down, and help to fragment discourse, distract from the content of the work, and shape the conversational space into one which is hostile to the message in the piece.
While these end-states are probably not intentional, these methods are no less effective.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:06 PM on November 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


I believe that privilege is just another axis for posturing among debaters, if you will.

So you don't think that there's any underlying truth to the notion of privilege? Everyone's starting from the same baseline and no one has any systematic advantages?
posted by asterix at 7:06 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you'll find most of us won't, frankly.

I know you won't, which is why the accusation of privilege as a way to undermine another's opinion is flung about so freely around here.
posted by hellslinger at 7:07 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't understand what happened in here but what can I say, I'm from New York.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:07 PM on November 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Tone is incredibly critical when it comes to winning hearts and minds, winning legislative battles, winning elections. I guess it makes sense that most of the people I hear complaining about tone policing are politically minded, but often uninterested in conventional politics. If you don't pay attention to tone, you lose at conventional politics, pretty much guaranteed.

It's a good thing MetaFilter runs political campaigns, then. Can't wait to vote #1 quidnunc kid.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:09 PM on November 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


What is this "too privileged to check my privilege" garbage? Knock it off! Go check out your privilege, damnit!
posted by oceanjesse at 7:09 PM on November 11, 2013


Cool thread, bro.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:09 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Privilege" is a great way to silence a debate, I know that much. It's the Godwin's law of the 2010's.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:10 PM on November 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Bros need to be coddled. Brocoddling.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:10 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


so much ill will.
posted by blue t-shirt at 7:10 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The exception to the rule is when one's side already has overwhelming dominance. Gun laws and anti-discrimination laws in ultra-left constituencies, for instance, are often touted with incredibly aggressive rhetoric. Preaching to the choir is the exception to the rule.

I don't understand this as a response to my comment. (Or rather, I can kinda sorta make sense of it as a response if you only look at the last 15 or so years of American political history. I don't understand it at all if you go back to the '60s or even earlier.)
posted by asterix at 7:11 PM on November 11, 2013


"Privilege" is a great way to silence a debate, I know that much.

This assumes that anyone who's gonna get shut down by a claim of privilege actually gives a shit about having a debate.
posted by asterix at 7:12 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The fact that arguments about privilege can sometimes be played as trump cards is not a reason to dismiss the overwhelming number of situations where privilege is a huge factor in how the world stays as fucked up as it is.

I don't see anything wrong with being called out about privilege, doing some serious introspection and coming back and saying "you know, this time I really don't think it was about privilege". But if we're honest with ourselves, that probably won't happen more than once in a blue moon.

The only way privilege silences a debate is if either party is unwilling to have a two-way discussion about it that acknowledges differences of degree. "Privilege is just your way to win an argument" and "You're privileged, so you're just wrong" are simplistic reductions of how these things go off the rails, but they're pretty representative reductions. And the former derails things WAY more often.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:14 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


say that he is privileged because it implies that person lacks the required experienced or understanding,

Personally, I've never had trouble getting past "implying" and right to "you are talking out of your ass because you lack the experience and understanding, which is a function of your privilege. Dude."

Since I moved to California, I now use "dude" I ironically, which is kind of weird but I'm used to it.
posted by rtha at 7:21 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


This assumes that anyone who's gonna get shut down by a claim of privilege actually gives a shit about having a debate.

I guess so. "Privilege" doesn't give me any more information, though, and it seems like an extremely relative way of framing something. But then that's just according to my definition of the word: you having a different definition (the right definition, even) for it could be considered, by me, to be "privilege" on your part. Is having a different childhood or a different set of metaphysical rules a "privilege"? If I'm male, do I still have male privilege if I am standing before the firing squad in N. Korea? If I'm white, is my white privilege going to be any use to me if I stumble into a previously-unknown Amazonian tribe? It just strikes me as such a meaningless term.

(Glad I actually proofread my post for a change because I am apparently really terrible at spelling "privilege".)
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:21 PM on November 11, 2013


[A few comments deleted. Let's maybe try to bring this thread back onto the rails? And please don't do the thing of "I'm going to say something I think someone stupid would say", people can't tell if you're joking and it makes discussion hard for no benefit.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:22 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


At the risk of being redundant w/r/t downing street memo above, this is so grating because it seems to be written solely to attract kudos from the like-minded, rather than actually convincing anyone.

It's annoying not because it's wrong in its substance, but because it's so ineffective in its tactics. The only purposes that it serves are self-congratulations and circle-wankery.

Who is this going to convince? Almost certainly not the addressed Bro.
posted by graphnerd at 7:23 PM on November 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Couldn't this all be summed up with "You were being insensitive and that bothered me so much I do not wish to interact with you anymore. Goodbye."

Not particularly cute, not particularly aggressive, but then again it's actually a real attempt at communication.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:24 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who is this going to convince? Almost certainly not the addressed Bro.

This gets back to what I was saying above. What actually *would* convince the addressed Bro?
posted by asterix at 7:25 PM on November 11, 2013


This is a new genre called sibling fiction. Sib fic'
posted by oceanjesse at 7:25 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, R.A. Wilson was banging the drum about privilege in 1975. Plenty of time for people to get worked about the word, and yet they didn't until very recently. Of course, he was specifically referring to government instituted economic privileges.
posted by topynate at 7:26 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


This gets back to what I was saying above. What actually *would* convince the addressed Bro?

Fair point. But passive-aggressive tumblring is only going to alienate people, is what I'm trying to say.
posted by graphnerd at 7:27 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Couldn't this all be summed up with "You were being insensitive and that bothered me so much I do not wish to interact with you anymore. Goodbye."

Please read the article. It doesn't end with the end of the friendship.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:27 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Privilege" always seemed like a terrible term to me. Yes, there are problems that some people face that other people don't even have to think about, and people are generally awful at imagining what it's like to be in someone else's shoes. But I've been called "privileged" on the internet and the main effect was to get me all "what are you talking about, you don't know me, I grew up in poverty, I'm not white, screw you and your sanctimonious preachy ass, aren't you an enlightened wizard with all the right opinions." I have no recollection of what the debate was about but I clearly remember being pissed off.
posted by leopard at 7:28 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


But passive-aggressive tumblring is only going to alienate people, is what I'm trying to say.

Well apparently it doesn't alienate all the people who reblog those passive-aggressive tumblrs!
posted by asterix at 7:29 PM on November 11, 2013


Well apparently it doesn't alienate all the people who reblog those passive-aggressive tumblrs!

I'm honestly not sure if that's in jest...
posted by graphnerd at 7:30 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


What actually *would* convince the addressed Bro?

How about. "Woah there," or "Hey, can you do me a favor, Bro? Can you cool it with _said_phrase_ as a favor to me? Thanks."

Most people, even if you know they take a bit too much amusement out of offensive stuff, will respond well to friendly "bro-ish" or chummy sort of talk especially if you don't make a scene or talk down to him. Bros appreciate respect. And you aren't going to change his mind about what he thinks is funny, so don't even try.
posted by hellslinger at 7:31 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


do I still have male privilege if I am standing before the firing squad in N. Korea? If I'm white, is my white privilege going to be any use to me if I stumble into a previously-unknown Amazonian tribe?

Are these things very likely to happen to you, though? I mean it's an example of privilege to only imagine outlandish examples (discovering a tribe?) where your historical societal advantage would not be to your benefit. For people without that advantage, everyday life is a pretty good example of it.
posted by sweetkid at 7:32 PM on November 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


"Privilege" just means you have a set of conditions that make life easier because people treat you better because they take you more seriously, listen to you more, give you the benefit of the doubt, etc. Pieces like this are necessary because people of privilege often respond better to people who share that privilege calling them on marginalizing, insensitive bullshit.

I find it hilarious in a laugh-so-you-don't-cry way that this gets a "oh but it's PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE" response (with a side of tumblr-hate, natch), since every other time there's a post on these issues there's a few dozen whiny posts about how it's too aggressive.
posted by NoraReed at 7:32 PM on November 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


If I'm male, do I still have male privilege if I am standing before the firing squad in N. Korea? If I'm white, is my white privilege going to be any use to me if I stumble into a previously-unknown Amazonian tribe?

Yes, there are limits to the usefulness of the concept of, specifically, white male privilege. But a) virtually all concepts have limits to their usefulness, and I'm not entirely convinced by your hypotheticals that these are meaningful ones and b) it certainly seems possible to me that the notion of privilege might be useful in analyzing those situations.

Oh and also c) last I checked, we were neither living in North Korea nor members of a previously-unknown Amazonian tribe. (Although I guess on the Internet no one knows you're a member of a previously-unknown Amazonian tribe.)
posted by asterix at 7:32 PM on November 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Most people, even if you know they take a bit too much amusement out of offensive stuff, will respond well to friendly "bro-ish" or chummy sort of talk especially if you don't make a scene or talk down to him.

I would dearly love this to be the case. IME it isn't.
posted by asterix at 7:36 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


This all seems so contrived right now. Are we reading about a person's experiences here, or are we talking about what words need to mean? Like damn bro, I'm tryin to think about this privilege thing, brah! I'm doing the right thing! I'm fuckin e v o l v i n g!
posted by oceanjesse at 7:37 PM on November 11, 2013


This gets back to what I was saying above. What actually *would* convince the addressed Bro?

Maybe this means I'm not actually a bro, but honestly, I'm extremely privileged and the most effective privilege checks I've ever gotten have been gently and sincerely delivered appeals to my empathy. Being told I was a dick by someone who's treating me with respect and using a compassionate voice hurts way more and thus makes way more of an impact.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:38 PM on November 11, 2013


I find it interesting that some people have assumed this piece is intended as a workable script. I saw it more as a fantasy conversation where the protagonist pulled off a best-of-all-possible-worlds conversation about privilege with a stereotypical "bro". I definitely didn't understand it to be strictly didactic.
posted by threeants at 7:41 PM on November 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I would dearly love this to be the case. IME it isn't.

The only times I've seen this not work is when someone get's called out in a group of people and the word "racist" or "bigot" is used to describe the person or what he said.

I've said this before, but if you want to start a fist fight with a wealthy white liberal, call him a bigot.
posted by hellslinger at 7:41 PM on November 11, 2013


Privilege is not binary. I feel like I say this in these discussions. I guess it bears repeating. It is something that you may have in some contexts but not others.

It's also not something you get to have a lot of control over. And I swear to god you won't die when you acknowledge areas in which you have privilege.

On preview: not actually directed at MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch!
posted by rtha at 7:42 PM on November 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Re "white privilege" and North Korea specifically, anyone who is curious about this should read the graphic novel Pyongyang by Guy Delisle. One of the most interesting things about it is that, yes, even in North Korea, the author/narrator has white privilege.

Specifically, in a North Korean context, he has privilege as a foreigner and an outsider. And this privilege manifests itself in much more black and white ways than it ever does in the West. There are restaurants he can eat in that his North Korean coworkers are not welcome in. Monuments he can visit that his North Korean friends are not permitted to travel to.

A major theme of the book deals with Guy coming to understand his place in North Korea as a (white, Western) foreigner.

So, nope, if you, as a white guy, traveled to North Korea, you wouldn't be thrown in front of a firing squad at all, but in fact would have literal privileges that the average North Korean does not. And it would be openly spelled out that this is the case.
posted by Sara C. at 7:43 PM on November 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


Privilege is not binary. I feel like I say this in these discussions. I guess it bears repeating. It is something that you may have in some contexts but not others.

Yeah, despite the language used, "having" privilege is sort of a misnomer. It's really something you wield (consciously or, as often as not, otherwise). "Having" privilege isn't like having cancer, or having a leg. It's like having anger or knowledge or kindness.
posted by threeants at 7:45 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw it as a fantasy conversation too. That's probably my beef with it, actually.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:46 PM on November 11, 2013


The only times I've seen this not work is when someone get's called out in a group of people and the word "racist" or "bigot" is used to describe the person or what he said.

You do realize that this is, like, an absolute textbook example of privilege in action, right? You have to handle the offending party with kid gloves, otherwise you'll completely alienate them. Meanwhile to the extent the offended party is upset or alienated you're criticizing them for it!
posted by asterix at 7:47 PM on November 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


I DO think "bro" should be lower cased here.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:47 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


otherwise you'll completely alienate them.

Or, it's a textbook example of dealing with people in an effective way. Privilege or not, you still have to treat people with respect, and being a self-righteous dick to your coworker/classmate/whatever is a poor way to handle it.

Meanwhile to the extent the offended party is upset or alienated you're criticizing them for it!

Wrong. Humiliating and condescending one person in the name of justice for another in a social context is not justice, it's taking sides in a fight. Now you have 2 pissed off polarized people and instead of resolving the situation And for what, just to validate your own morality in front of an audience?
posted by hellslinger at 7:57 PM on November 11, 2013


This post is not on Tumblr, FWIW.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:01 PM on November 11, 2013


The whole "you have to treat someone with respect even when they're treating you like dogshit" is something that's constantly used to police marginalized people and something I've seen in every thread about privilege in every place on the internet*.

And I don't think it matters whether things are on Tumblr. Fans of misogyny, racism, and other kinds of bigotry really like Tumblr because it gives them someone to blame for ruining their fun by calling them on their shit. It's the "get off my lawn" for a fun new set of tech-savvy 21st century bigots.

*without a fat blue bird as a mascot
posted by NoraReed at 8:04 PM on November 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yeah, not so long ago it was livejournal that got all the sneering aimed at "SJW"s.
posted by rtha at 8:07 PM on November 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


This whole thread is a crucial conversation. And derailed at the second comment. As far as I'm concerned, there are a thousand scenarios as to why and how this piece got written - without some context, it seems pointless to assume that the author is doing anything other than offering a way for people to point out that somebody has been insensitive. Change the word "bro" to somebody's name: Hey Mark – you’re being insensitive.

I get the concern people in this thread have, as I read through Campos' other posts: he's a liberal, educated, with a lot of potential for making buckets of cash. Get your hate on, right?

Nothing good ever happens after you hear the words, “Can we talk?” or “I need to talk to you about something.” At that moment, you know you’re about to have a crucial conversation.

Start with heart. Ask yourself what you really want and what’s at stake.

Learn to look. Always be asking yourself whether the conversation is defensive or a dialogue. If you or the other party strays into defensiveness, simply say “I think we’ve moved away from dialogue” or “I’m sorry, I’ve been trying to force my ideas on you.”

Make it safe. Another way to deal with defensiveness in difficult conversations is to create a comfortable situation by apologizing, asking a question that shows interest in others’ views or even taking a time out.

Master your story. Focus on what happened that made you feel a certain way. Think through your emotions and then choose the appropriate way to respond.

State your path. Share your facts and conclusions so that the other party can see where you are coming from.

Explore others’ paths. Find out what the other person is thinking. Make sure that you understand each other and look for areas of agreement.

Move to action. Come to a consensus about what will happen. Document who will do what by when and settle on a way to follow up.

posted by ashbury at 8:08 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I checked out the rest of the blog. Seems like a cool guy, he was lead iOS developer at Hipmunk before his current gig at levelmoney and Al Gore actually tweeted about his iOS app. I guess he can call me bro.

I kinda feel bad that I take him more seriously because we have software development in common though.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:09 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Take him more seriously is probably a bad way to put that.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:10 PM on November 11, 2013


A lot of these kinds of posts irritate me. For instance, that one about the "misadronist" nursery rhymes rubbed me wrong. This one does not. I can see how someone might feel that the constant bro-ing is condescending, but I think that anyone who actually felt insulted missed the point and got the tone wrong. Frankly, I found it very refreshing to hear someone counseling against offensive speech without being a self-righteous scold. This is exactly the sort of message that I'm apt to listen to. I'm not sure if it would land well with the sort of people who actually constantly call each other "bro" without irony, but then again, maybe it would.
posted by Edgewise at 8:10 PM on November 11, 2013


I kinda feel bad that I take him more seriously because we have software development in common though.

Well...isn't that the point of his speaking at bro-level? He's addressing people who consider themselves like him, in my view.
posted by sweetkid at 8:11 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Criticisms of this piece (which, incidentally, provide no supporting textual evidence) are not intended to inform, elucidate or look at the fundamental rhetorical and and social underpinnings of thise piece. Rather, they serve two purposes. First, they function as a signal that the critic disagrees with the perceived motives of the author, which are inauthentic. - see " quite obviously a performative noun meant to distinguish the writer" and "snark and sanctimony." In this way they are performative - that is, the most important information is not the meaning of the critique itself, but rather the existence of any critique at all, by which the critic can signal various aspects of himself - see "Now ask me if I care, bro" - to the audience, here in this thread. Secondly, and more importantly, these "functionless" critiques (by which I mean, they fail at even addressing the piece as it stands - see the references to "tumblr" ) serve to take up space in this thread. They are a form of shouting down, and help to fragment discourse, distract from the content of the work, and shape the conversational space into one which is hostile to the message in the piece.

Since you mentioned my post specifically, I'd be happy to elaborate as to why I think the link would would fail to persuade anyone of anything. I'll try to be less, uh, perfomative.

It's smug: "You’ve discovered a whole new slice of the human condition you know absolutely nothing about."

The tone is extremely patronizing: "Your speech has, upon exiting your mouth, interacted with other human systems and generated output uniquely meaningful to those systems. If these humans are part of your community, you will be affected by the results of your words."

And, of course, there's the repeated, unnecessary, uses of the word 'bro'. Not trying to restart that derail, by the way, just pointing out that I think people are objecting less to the word itself and more to way the author seems to be wielding it like a blunt instrument.

So my argument, simply stated, is that I don't think that you can insult people into agreeing with you. I agree with every point the author is trying to make, but he's definitely preaching to the choir here.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 8:12 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I feel so stereotyped, bros. Can someone give me a brohug?
posted by Broseph at 8:14 PM on November 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


And I don't think it matters whether things are on Tumblr. Fans of misogyny, racism, and other kinds of bigotry really like Tumblr because it gives them someone to blame for ruining their fun by calling them on their shit. It's the "get off my lawn" for a fun new set of tech-savvy 21st century bigots.

I can't help but feel that this comment is directed towards me personally. So I'll respond by again asking who this post is supposed to convince.

And maybe that's not the intent. Maybe it is Just A Post. But absent any context, the condescending second-person framing really does come across as passive aggressive. And it really does seem like preaching to the choir.

And most of all, it does conform to the (admittedly very broad-strokes) criticism I have of tumblr SJ, which is that it's too often geared towards patting backs rather than actually changing minds.
posted by graphnerd at 8:24 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The whole "you have to treat someone with respect even when they're treating you like dogshit" is something that's constantly used to police marginalized people and something I've seen in every thread about privilege in every place on the internet*.

I should say I was speaking from the role of a person of, achem, "privilege" in a situation, say a boss or supervisor or someone who wants to intervene who isn't the offended party. If you're the offended person, by all means, tell the offender where to stick it, assuming you don't mind the consequences (I never do). I assume the OP article was about this 3rd party person of privilege perspective.

And, there are respectful ways of telling people to cut their shit without being passive aggressive.

Assuming this is from the 3rd party perspective, consider this: how well do YOU respond when people point out you did something wrong and then talk down to you in order to correct you? How about when it's in a group of your peers?
posted by hellslinger at 8:25 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well...isn't that the point of his speaking at bro-level? He's addressing people who consider themselves like him, in my view.

Yeah, and it isn't like I disagreed until I found out he was a successful developer.

I'd like to think I would be his bro even if he wasn't a software developer.

I need to expand my circle of bros.

I'll give you a brohug Broseph
posted by Ad hominem at 8:25 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, nope, if you, as a white guy, traveled to North Korea, you wouldn't be thrown in front of a firing squad at all, but in fact would have literal privileges that the average North Korean does not. And it would be openly spelled out that this is the case.

Is it right to use the word "privilege" here? While technically accurate, it can lead to the misunderstanding that white privilege in the US has anything whatsoever to do with what you're talking about. Is there any value to grouping these things under the same umbrella? I think asterix had the right idea when he argued that the original point - the fact that white privilege won't get you out of a date with a North Korean firing squad - is sort of besides the point, because nobody said that being white makes you Emperor of the World.

Personally, there's something about how the word "privilege" has crept into conversation that rubs me wrong. It's probably for the same reason that it feel so right to some people - because it suggests sort of a Grand Unified Theory of Oppression. It serves a lot of the same role that the word "patriarchy" was meant to serve, but it is admittedly a lot less confusing and appropriately generalized. Still, there's something excessively Manichean about the whole project, to me. Or maybe I just chafe at the self-righteousness of people who tend to pepper their conversation with the word "privilege."
posted by Edgewise at 8:27 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Assuming this is from the 3rd party perspective, consider this: how well do YOU respond when people point out you did something wrong and then talk down to you in order to correct you? How about when it's in a group of your peers?

I lived through it. It was painful and sometimes embarrassing but I didn't die and my life was not ruined and I learned things, one of which was sometimes it's okay to just shut the fuck up and listen and deal.
posted by rtha at 8:31 PM on November 11, 2013 [26 favorites]


Is it right to use the word "privilege" here?

Yes if you read the book the things he experiences are exactly similar to how white/male/cis/whatever privilege works in the US.

I'm unclear as to how these things could possibly be different from the SJ concept of "privilege" unless someone is working very hard to granularize "privilege" to the point of meaninglessness.

Privilege is realizing that, by virtue of your status (especially status conferred by birth/random chance), you have privileges that others do not.

For example, the most palpable experience I've had of having privilege as a white woman is the day I sweet-talked my way into my (African-American) boss' hotel room after forgetting the key. When I got back to the office with whatever he'd sent me to his room to retrieve, I proudly crowed, "I am so good at just talking my way into any situation! I should be a spy or something. I will have to remember to use my powers for good, of course!" (semi-joking, but kind of not.) His reply? "Yeah, it's because you're a white girl."

Right.

Privilege.

I suppose the privilege to avoid experiencing a totalitarian regime as a foreign guest worker is not exactly the same thing as that, but it's similarly invisible, at least. And, you know, it's all about privileges you have that you don't even have to know you have in order to use them.
posted by Sara C. at 8:37 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


IMO it is not possible to get rid of the effects of privilege by changing your circumstances.

It is something you are raised with and simply becomes part of your weltanschauung. I can approach cops without fear being of treated like a suspect. I can expect reasonable service, even in high end stores, instead of immediate suspicion and disrespect. I can walk past a construction site without being catcalled. I'm not likely to be grabbed or touched on the train. There are a thousand indignations I never suffered and that will shape me no matter where I go.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:53 PM on November 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


An important message rendered silly by facile rhetoric.

A very special episode of Blossom.

An ABC Afterschool Special.

Little Darlings.

Oh well.
posted by vapidave at 8:56 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was so excited when I thought this was the footballer, but it's just some guy in tech.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:56 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a word for beanplating about whether one should or should not be offended by an attempt to stop people from offending other people? And whether or not that's ironic? And whether or not the irony is tragedy or comedy?

Because, damn.
posted by Foosnark at 9:09 PM on November 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


My point was not that privilege is about traveling to another country, and then you can "get rid of it" by going home or whatever.

Obviously one's level of privilege changes based on where they are in the world.

There are absolutely privileges that I had as a white woman traveling in India. And especially as an American white woman as opposed to an Australian, Israeli, or Russian white woman. Despite the fact that those privileges aren't relevant to me at home, they definitely continue to exist.

There are ways that I'm privileged at home in the South that don't translate to the Bronx or East LA.

As someone with an Anglo/Irish surname, pale skin, and blue eyes, I bet I'd have a very different experience in Britain than one of my best friends did who grew up there and happens to be South-Asian.

None of that detracts from the fact that I probably just paid $1000 extra for a car than I would have if I were a man. Or the fact that I wouldn't be able to drive (I don't think?) If I visited Saudi Arabia*. Or that I prefer not to walk my dog past the confines of my block after dark. Or that every day at work presents a new chance to get sexually harassed.

Privilege is a complex thing. As someone upthread says, it's not binary.

*And if I would be able to drive, as a foreign woman, there's another great example of privilege in a nutshell.
posted by Sara C. at 9:11 PM on November 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I liked this post, because I like that people are using allegories and fables to bring these discussions into the mainstream. To take the discussion further, however, the community needs to put in a little bit of effort. Effort to not get derailed by snide or snarky comments. Or by some sensed echo-chamberness (whether there or not). To not let our own anger or emotion run away with us.

And especially effort to think critically about the given hypothetical. Who is the audience? What is the speaker trying to tell the audience? I suggest that the audience here, the person the speaker is trying to persuade, is not the "bro" but the bro's bros: the observers of the discussion.

If the audience was the bro, and the goal of the speaker was to effectively change the bro's behavior, then the far better course of action is to pull that person aside and speak to them privately. If the audience is the observers and the goal is to change the bro's behavior, then let us at least acknowledge that public shaming is the primary tactic, which might not be so effective when the subject is a member of a privileged group.

However, if the audience is the observers, and the goal is to show them that they can gracefully call out someone whose speech or actions are hurtful, then this little vignette is spot on.
posted by susiswimmer at 9:17 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe this means I'm not actually a bro, but honestly, I'm extremely privileged and the most effective privilege checks I've ever gotten have been gently and sincerely delivered appeals to my empathy. Being told I was a dick by someone who's treating me with respect and using a compassionate voice hurts way more and thus makes way more of an impact.

Logically speaking, this is equivalent to saying you need somebody else to be empathetic in order to activate your own empathy abilities. And beyond this, the majority times that "somebody else" is only going to be the person you were a "dick" to, in which case such a person is unlikely to be empathetic. So I kind of see two problems with how this would work in practice, in terms of getting good feedback information.
posted by polymodus at 9:28 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whooooa, people on MetaFilter have some notions of bro-dom that are incredibly alien from the notions I myself possess.

I am, to some extent, a bro. I have many friends who are bros. We call each other bro, we often wear polo shirts and plaid shorts and sandals. We do bro things like lie around watching old Nicktoons on Netflix, do P90X together in the living room, and occasionally share bits of graphic design with one another. Different facets of bro-dom, those, but all facets of being a bro nonetheless. And I am grateful that this post exists.

It is difficult to start a conversation with my bro-ier friends about things like social justice and sensitivity and shit. Because as soon as you start that conversation, you're throwing the mood of the room out the window, and the more you try and hold your ground, the more evident it becomes that you, and you alone, are the cause of people not having a good time. At some point your attempt to say something serious itself becomes a source of humor, and then jokes start being told about how much you care about rape/transgender/feminism/whatever. (My one roommate will now say "Rory you're being awfully cis right now" as non-sequiturs in arguments as an "imitation" of things that I say when we're talking.)

I may read over these in the morning and see if they offer me any ideas as to how to handle these discussions better in the future. It is fun being a bro, as it's fun being a geek-slash-nerd and a hipster, but definitely the emphasis on chillaxing makes it hard to discuss certain things that, at this point in my life, it matters a lot (to me) to discuss.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:33 PM on November 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


Rory, that's actually sort of how I read it? Not as a direct address so much as a kind of template to use when having these discussions in real life.

I feel for Livejournal. You know its time is truly gone when it's not being lazily invoked as an excuse to ignore someone any more. It just brings home how much I miss it as a community-orientated place to have discussions away from all this horrified thisness.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:47 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I lived through it. It was painful and sometimes embarrassing but I didn't die and my life was not ruined and I learned things, one of which was sometimes it's okay to just shut the fuck up and listen and deal.

This.

The actual scripted conversation in the FPP, Socratic though it may be, didn't do much for me, but presumably it reflected the author's experiences or situations that other readers can connect to. As a script, if it works for someone, then it has served a purpose and was worth it.

But the criticisms in this thread, however, illustrated privilege in a really stark way. It's easy to see how to derail discussions here, and less easy to see how to avoid that.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:49 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


My context for being called bro isn't positive. It's the brogrammer, it's 'cool story, bro', it's 'come at me, bro', it's 'bros icing bros', it's the mockery that guy got for saying 'don't tase me, bro!' It definitely comes with some unflattering, even insulting connotations. It's not truly an insult, but it's not a casual form of address, either. Not the way 'dude' seems to have crept over to being a gender-neutral form of address for a number of my friends, male and female.

It's the repetition of 'bro' that really emphasises that this isn't a post for me, in some ways. Sure, the careful explanation of basic concepts ('you open your mouth, words come out, and other people hear and react to them! Science!') intermingled with more intermediate ideas (privilege, etc.) means it's not targeted at most anyone here who would read it. But if someone I knew tried to tell me I was being an ass through repeated use of the word bro? It would come across less as conciliatory or friendly and more of a pointed, 'Hey, asshole.' Counter-productive, in other words.

This is, of course, not true for everyone; perhaps as a programmer the author is grouped with lots of brogrammers, and so it's stripped of the connotations it carries with me. The same, I'm sure, with other folks here, where bro is an innocuous term. But you call me bro, or a bro, and you'll get my hackles up.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:50 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


It definitely comes with some unflattering, even insulting connotations. It's not truly an insult, but it's not a casual form of address, either.

Welcome to every single day of being female.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 PM on November 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


Welcome to every single day of being female.

Exactly. Now imagine someone calling you out and calling you "Hon" or even "toots" throughout. How long would you listen?

And yes, I'm aware of all the social justice theory that tells us that "hon" and "bro" are not the same because one is directed at a privileged class and the other isn't.

That's true when we're talking about sociological theory and constructs. When it's one human being talking to another, the emotional reactions the two forms of address potentially elicit are similar enough that they may as well be the same.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:58 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't want to be a tone policer, or make the whole thing about my feelings (especially after I've hurt someone elses'), but if I said something that was offensive to a friend of mine (a "bro") and they called me out on it in a really aggressive way by inflecting the word "bro" toward me (which I can see how people think this was doing) I'd feel doubly terrible about it. I guess a lot of people would say "good, you should feel terrible", especially the tumblr SJ crowd (because they are incredibly aggressive and vocal about these things), but I hate feeling terrible and guilty in a very sincere, put-my-head-down-in-shame sort of way. I can definitely understand the angle though.
posted by gucci mane at 10:00 PM on November 11, 2013


I read the words "tumblr sj" but somehow in my head I hear only a tuneless whistling sound.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:09 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


And yes, I'm aware of all the social justice theory that tells us that "hon" and "bro" are not the same because one is directed at a privileged class and the other isn't.

They're not the same because "hon" is a term of endearment, a term which is often used by men to afford themselves a claimed intimacy with a woman they're talking to that they haven't earned, and "bro" is a term of, at most, fraternity, and often it's not that either.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:11 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Welcome to every single day of being female.

I must have missed the part of the original article which was about how the addressed bro had offended a woman. Is this just a snarky aside, or is it intended as a grand revelatory comment, or what?
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:12 PM on November 11, 2013


Weird that so many people like calling each other 'bro.' To me it seems like a code word that honors an assholish, misogynistic form of masculinity that I abhor. Maybe I'm just too old to understand.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:18 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with susiswimmer; maybe the original post was intended for people who regularly witness their friends being insensitive, and who want to call them on it without losing the friendship. That's how I read it, anyway.

It's not so much a conversation, as it is a list of common objections to being called out, and suggested non-douchey responses to said objections. The list is probably strung together in conversation form because the author found it easier to write that way, or they thought it would flow better for readers, or something like that-- I find that easier to believe than "The author thinks this is exactly how these conversations will always go".

Presumably, whoever applies the examples in real life is expected to know whether the word "Bro" would help or hurt in that particular situation, and adapt accordingly.
posted by Zimboe Metamonkey at 10:27 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Now imagine someone calling you out and calling you "Hon"

I am ancestrally from east Texas and this is every conversation with a family matriarch calling you on your shit ever.
posted by immlass at 10:34 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm so vain, I probably think the original poster wrote this post about me.
posted by schwa at 10:35 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Welcome to every single day of being female.

Exactly. Now imagine someone calling you out and calling you "Hon" or even "toots" throughout. How long would you listen?

And yes, I'm aware of all the social justice theory that tells us that "hon" and "bro" are not the same because one is directed at a privileged class and the other isn't.

That's true when we're talking about sociological theory and constructs. When it's one human being talking to another, the emotional reactions the two forms of address potentially elicit are similar enough that they may as well be the same.


Then I would expect the person who has an emotional reaction to the term bro to react in the same civilized manner that I would if someone called me out using the term hon.

"I really appreciate the points you are making, but I'm finding it kinda offputting that you keep calling me 'hon'. It would be really great if you didn't use that term." And then follow up with an invitation to continue the discussion that references or mirrors a point they were making. Or because no one talks like that IRL, 'hey, I'm not so cool with the hon, ok, but let's keep talking'.

The idea that people who don't possess privilege have to frame things exaaaacttlly correctly in order to be heard at all is at the very heart of privilege - it's silencing.

As for 'welcome to every day of being a woman' - I interpreted it to mean that women have learned to ignore some of the littler BS to even have a hope of addressing the big BS. What you get called by people you don't even know on the regular is just background noise. (Unfortunately, but I'll go back for the little BS after I'm done with the big BS.)
posted by susiswimmer at 10:41 PM on November 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I feel for Livejournal. You know its time is truly gone when it's not being lazily invoked as an excuse to ignore someone any more. It just brings home how much I miss it as a community-orientated place to have discussions away from all this horrified thisness.

LJ has the better format for serious, drawn-out discussions like this. It's difficult to track multiple conversation threads in one MeFi post, even harder on Tumblr with the reblog notes and tags.

I do appreciate the effectiveness of pictures and infographics on Tumblr with regard to promoting social justice, though. Tumblr is the better platform for promotion, while LJ remains the place for conversation (if only people hadn't left).
posted by fatehunter at 11:11 PM on November 11, 2013


I should probably elaborate on that comment of mine...

I've known Danilo for a while, we're both in the same industry in the same town. I think Danilo might have written his post (at least partly) in response to a long running twitter conversation he and I (and others) had yesterday.

The conversation was centred around this article on Medium that talks about the privilege exhibited by (or shown to) students attending an Entrepreneurship class at a summer camp at Stanford university.

I found the article to be extremely dismissive of its subject, a 16 year old kid trying to better himself by attending a summer camp. The central argument of the article is that the lesson the kid learnt: "ask for forgiveness, not permission" is something that only white middle class men benefit from. The article ended by stating that '“don’t ask for permission” is a dangerously rapey lesson to teach young men'.

I called the article utter tripe on twitter and long story short: this turned into a huge twitter flamewar involving myself, Danilo and various other parties. Not surprising: twitter is an awful medium for this kind of thing.

While there is certainly privilege in Silicon Valley, I felt that pointing out a specific kid benefits from privilege isn't helpful or constructive. The author focused on one 16 year old, deconstructing his experience at the camp. The author obviously didn't do any research about the summer camp or the classes but used this kid's journal of his experience as the sole source for the article. Was the kid representative of the class? Who knows?

On top of that I found the author's line about "don’t ask for permission" being rapey to be incredibly offensive and self-serving to the author. The original source of the actual quote "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission" is Rear Admiral Grace Hopper - one of the pioneers of software engineer, and one of the most respected female computer programmers of all time. This famous quotation is often used in the software industry and is often shorthand for an attitude of getting shit done. To call it "Dangerous rapey" was an insult to Grace Hopper and an insult to the intelligence of everyone who can understand the context in which it was originally being used.
posted by schwa at 11:18 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't live in a place where people use the word "bro", so my entire sense of the meaning of the word comes, basically, from MetaFilter. So I always took calling someone "bro" to be pretty much the equivalent of calling them "frat boy" or "date rapist". Rory Marinich's comment was a bit of a revelation that there are normal, decent people out there who use the word "bro". I honestly had no idea.

On a different tack, it's also kinda fun to imagine the conversation being about the guy using the word "bro":
Hey, dude. We gotta talk.
You were being kinda insensitive just there when you called me "bro". But it’s all good – we can totally get through this. It’s gonna be fine.
Before we get to the part where it’s fine, though, I want to address the objections I see queuing behind your eyes. Let’s roll.
But I didn’t mean "bro" like that!
That’s cool. I understand that. I believe you because I don’t think you would intentionally make someone that uncomfortable.
The point is, though, you did make someone uncomfortable. Without knowing why. Nothing more is meant by “insensitivity.” You are simply absent the configuration of social senses that would have otherwise averted this confrontation.
This is not a value judgment. This is just the human condition. Everyone’s set up just a little differently.
posted by Bugbread at 1:14 AM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Re: schwa: It seems the kid attended an EPGY class. Although the EPGY program kids are housed with undergraduate RA's, the people teaching the classes usually have little or nothing to do with actual Stanford faculty. That seems to be a more salient point against the medium article: it has nothing to do with the many many many many brogrammers and such that exist at Stanford. I suppose a thing that might be said is that EPGY is spiffy and probably increased the 16-year-old's chance that he might actually get into Stanford from 7% to like 9%, a priori to a posteriori given just that evidence. So not too terribly representative of Stanford.

I have actually found the set of brogrammers at Stanford to not have a terribly large intersection with the set of people who spam the business student association lists looking for technical people. This is because the brogrammers don't have much of a problem being employees and therefore having time to party occasionally. It seems to me that the alternative for these bros would have been something that really has no benefit to living human beings, such as investment banking, so I can't fault them too much. I am an Asian man, so you may feel free to discount my word however much you wish.

One pernicious attitude I have found with respect to people's attitudes about civil rights movements like gender or race is that they think that there exists a possible teleology. That is, there can be a progression towards a clearly-defined goal, so people will say, "I thought this battle had been fought 30 years ago!" or something of that nature, when someone does something awful. A progression towards a clearly-defined goal is only possible when the goals are clear. In some domains, in some respects, the goals are clear, but in other domains, not so much. In either case, it will actually be inevitable for young people to go over the top of old trenches over and over again. I think this may be a pernicious effect of many Marxist institutions, which, while contributing much in the way of insight regarding historical materialism and such, espouse a teleological view of history. Ancient Egypt had pretty good gender relations, is what I'm saying.
posted by curuinor at 2:11 AM on November 12, 2013


One pernicious attitude I have found with respect to people's attitudes about civil rights movements like gender or race is that they think that there exists a possible teleology. That is, there can be a progression towards a clearly-defined goal, so people will say, "I thought this battle had been fought 30 years ago!" or something of that nature, when someone does something awful. A progression towards a clearly-defined goal is only possible when the goals are clear. In some domains, in some respects, the goals are clear, but in other domains, not so much. In either case, it will actually be inevitable for young people to go over the top of old trenches over and over again. I think this may be a pernicious effect of many Marxist institutions, which, while contributing much in the way of insight regarding historical materialism and such, espouse a teleological view of history. Ancient Egypt had pretty good gender relations, is what I'm saying.

I may be misreading but it looks like you're trying to criticize Marxists for retaining any socially relatable sense of purpose/agency/ambition/effort while being consistent with their macro theories. Is there a particular author or major work you take issue with?

As to your example, there's nothing teleological about complaints of the form "This is the 21st century, why is there still X-ism?" That is the exasperated language of frustration, and has to be understood as such.

There are interesting issues pertaining to teleological worldviews versus Marxist critique, but it is kind of necessary to tease through the associated philosophical problems, before using such a theory to suggest that broad swathes of progressives may currently be perniciously lying to themselves. E.g., if you want to say the "It Gets Better" campaign is a big lie, I don't have a problem with that.
posted by polymodus at 4:01 AM on November 12, 2013


I agree with susiswimmer; maybe the original post was intended for people who regularly witness their friends being insensitive, and who want to call them on it without losing the friendship. That's how I read it, anyway.

That's exactly what it was about, and it was patently obvious to me from reading it that that's what it was about and I'm baffled as to why anyone thinks differently.

But it does seem to be a Metafilter tradition to get all hung up on the words people use when they're talking and totally overlook the message. I mean, I've seen a couple comments in here from people who clearly did get the point of the article and flat-out said something to the effect that they don't care if they offend people - and no one's said a damn thing about that because everyone's too hung up on on whether calling people "bro" gives them a sad.

Unreal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on November 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


This thread reminds me why I love MetaFilter... teleological arguments and a link to a funny Comedy Central clip, all relevant to the topic. Yes, we may get hung up on words at times, but we use them better than any other discussion-place on the web.
posted by blendor at 6:40 AM on November 12, 2013


Bros, broheems, and brohirrim, there sure is a lot of bromoaning in this thread.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:43 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's called broaning.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:13 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and another thing:

Exactly. Now imagine someone calling you out and calling you "Hon" or even "toots" throughout. How long would you listen?

A hell of a lot longer than I'd listen to someone calling me things like "slut" or "bitch" or "whore", or making jokes about how my gender negated my intelligence or my sexual function was the only thing I was good for.

That's the kind of thing this story is written to address. "Bro" and "hon" are probably equitable, but "slut" is a hell of a lot worse. And that's a problem a lot of us face regularly, so I'm really not all that sympathetic to people who get their feelings hurt by "bro" right now, frankly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 AM on November 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm really not all that sympathetic to people who get their feelings hurt by "bro" right now, frankly.

It's not that it hurts our feelings, it's that it hurts his message. This is something that should reach as many eyeballs as possible (including non-"bro" eyeballs -- female eyeballs, even), but by addressing his audience -- whom he is presumably trying to win over -- in such an obnoxious way, he's rendered the entire enterprise moot.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:50 AM on November 12, 2013


This is something that should reach as many eyeballs as possible (including non-"bro" eyeballs -- female eyeballs, even), but by addressing his audience -- whom he is presumably trying to win over -- in such an obnoxious way, he's rendered the entire enterprise moot.

So you're saying that this audience is so sensitive that merely the use of the word "bro" is going to give them the vapors? I'm not so sure about that, especially since - as a lot of people have said in here - lots of people don't take "bro" in a bad way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:57 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


People who will weep crocodile tears over "bro" are probably unreachable with any request to be more pleasant people, no matter how obsequiously phrased. I'm confused as to why most of the thread was spent on them.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:01 AM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's called broaning

No, "broaning" is just general moaning, by bros as in "When Mike woke up the next morning, he laid in bed and broaned. The night before had not been kind to him, bro." "Bromoaning" OTOH is moaning by bros about bro stuff, as in "Impertinently addressed by its author, Chad bromoaned the fate that had led him to this Tumblr page."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:06 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not so sure about that, especially since - as a lot of people have said in here - lots of people don't take "bro" in a bad way.

And lots do.

That's all I'm saying.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:06 AM on November 12, 2013


But it does seem to be a Metafilter tradition to

...do that?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:07 AM on November 12, 2013


Brotching?
posted by billiebee at 8:10 AM on November 12, 2013


[Folks, maybe loudly proclaiming whose feelings you don't care about is a sort of ungreat way to have a conversation here?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sometimes, though there are people you just can't convince, and that all the civil discourse in the world won't help...

The whole focus on 'bro' when women, POC, poor folks, non-hetero folks, etc... get called much more offensive things has reached the point where rejecting the premise that we should all respect the bros by not calling them bros is perfectly appropriate.

It brings to mind a conversation I had with a guy who was complaining about getting hit on by cougars. It was horrible! It was terrible! They were all over the place and he could not get rid of them! I finally got annoyed and realized that all of the civilized discourse I had been using up to that point hadn't made a dent. And I said: "so you're telling me that you lack a basic skill set that pretty much every 15 year old girl in this country has?"
posted by susiswimmer at 8:42 AM on November 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


> Go check out your privilege, damnit!

Always check it at the door when I come in here, along with my hat.
posted by jfuller at 9:00 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


That conversation never goes on for that long...
posted by judson at 9:03 AM on November 12, 2013


Womanly leftists, please don't call me "bro."
It hurts me more than you could ever know.
If not for that, I'd gladly join your side -
not as an ally, though, but as a guide.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:21 AM on November 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


"I don't like to examine my behaviors, or anything that might admonish me to do so, so let's nitpick words and hypothetical 'offended bros' so I don't have to do that. Ah, there we go."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:22 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The whole focus on 'bro' when women, POC, poor folks, non-hetero folks, etc... get called much more offensive things has reached the point where rejecting the premise that we should all respect the bros by not calling them bros is perfectly appropriate.

I know it sticks in the throat, and the "be nice to me or I won't listen to you" argument is beyond frustrating. But the most frustrating thing is that it's true - they won't listen. I detest the use of the word "bitch" even in some kind of "reclaiming" sense (hey, let's find good words instead of reclaiming shit ones, yeah?). So if my whole "please don't call us that" argument is totally negated by "well you call us 'Bro'", then I feel like I need to not use that and willingly hand over ammunition. Even though they are not the same for eleventy million reasons, it's an immediate out for someone who wants one. (And, to be fair, I'll never be a man so I can't for certain say what one feels on hearing it, and I can't truly claim to know if someone is genuinely offended or just playing a game.) It's a pain in the arse to have to maintain the high ground when you want to get down and dirty, but it feels to me like that's just one of the (many) hard parts of the struggle. Harder than it looks. Worth it.
posted by billiebee at 9:23 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is just such a classic radicals vs. reasonables trope.

First there's some radical dogma, delivered with a bit of condescension and self-building snark, but with an underlying message that if presented less self-righteously, almost anybody would agree with.

Then the snark and condescension gets called out and the conversation rapidly devolves because the typical radical reaction to being told they're being snarky and self-righteous is to use their "tone policing" dogma to essentially say "we get to be jerks because we're the good guys".

Never mind that the same radical american political clique happily tone polices anybody they disagree with.

Fundamentally, all this really does is limit this size of the far left. It's a very simple organizing principle, actually: you can get a modest number of loyal followers by relying on anger and self-righteousness as a bonding tool, but once it hits a critical mass all that negative energy turns inward too, the narcissism of small differences takes over, and the potential for growth ends at that point.

What's singularly frustrating about this is that I agree with the underlying principles of 95% of what the radical social justice activists want, I just think some of the theory is pathologically simplistic, and I disagree with some of the methods. But 95% isn't good enough for me to qualify as an "ally" because in this context "ally" actually means "drone" or "pawn". ("Ally" never originally meant 'one who follows unquestioningly', folks.)

Where does that leave me and anyone else who doesn't want to drink the Flavor-aid? If we want to get anything done, we're often stuck working with Democrats, and they suck even more.

Fuckit. Ima go take pretty photographs instead.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:35 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's nothing radlcal, "far left" or Kool aidy about the ideas in the article at all.
posted by sweetkid at 9:42 AM on November 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


No. There's plenty radical and far left about the tone of it, and about all the dogmatic responses in this thread to people who questioned the tone of it.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:45 AM on November 12, 2013


Would you mind quoting the parts you consider radical and far left?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:47 AM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


and about all the dogmatic responses in this thread to people who questioned the tone of it.

You derailed this thread out of the gate with a big rant about the article which you said, at the tme, you didn't read. I think that affected the tenor of this thread more than anything that was in the article in the first place.
posted by jessamyn at 9:49 AM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


The whole focus on 'bro' when women, POC, poor folks, non-hetero folks, etc... get called much more offensive things has reached the point where rejecting the premise that we should all respect the bros by not calling them bros is perfectly appropriate.

Especially since, in this scenario, the straw-bro in question probably just got done saying something worse about _____ group. I'm pretty sure that nobody is going to have this conversation with a friend whose biggest transgression is calling women hon.

There's a whole presumed back story here, a guy doesn't just appear out of nowhere and announce "Hey Bro. We gotta talk" and begin to admonish perfectly innocent guys who just happen to fit at least X number of bro stereotypes. So presumably, the guy knows the person he was talking to, and heard what that person said. The tone of the conversation is pretty familiar so we can probably assume that they're not strangers. I don't know why anyone would read this and assume that the guy using bro repeatedly in the middle of language that goes out of its way to be non-insulting means it as an insult.

So, since we all admit there are plenty of people who aren't offended by being called bro, I think the fair thing to do is to assume that the author knows the fictitious character (who is not you) and knows that he falls in the category of folks who wouldn't in fact be insulted by being bro.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:54 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Then the snark and condescension gets called out

I would enjoy reading a detailed critique establishing that the "snark and condecension" are actually there, rather than simply being asserted.

I don't think it can be done. I think this piece is so short, so shallow - everything is on the surface, there is no subtext to analyze. Rather, I think that interpretations of this piece are driven not by the content of the work, but by what people are bringing with them. Some people are reading this thinking that addressing someone as "Bro" is the same as calling that person a "date rapist." Other people are from a context in which they use "Bro" all the time.

MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch, you yourself said that your interpretation of this piece is driven by the use of "Bro" by people who are not the writer, in places that are not this piece, at times other than now.

Our interpretations are of course driven by our own experiences, but in this thread, no negative interpretation has been yet supported by the text, and every negative interpretation derives mostly or wholly from what the audience brought in with them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:00 AM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


the most frustrating thing is that it's true - they won't listen.

So what?

You can lead a bro to water but you can't make him do keg stands.

I mean in all seriousness, we cannot MAKE people get this stuff. There are a lot of people who are bigots, and are fine being bigots, and it's not in their interest to stop being bigots. It doesn't matter whether we call them bro or what tone we use.
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 AM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


There's plenty radical and far left about the tone of it

They aren't nationalizing industry or collectivizing the kulaks, bro.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:31 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would enjoy reading a detailed critique establishing that the "snark and condecension" are actually there....interpretations of this piece are driven not by the content of the work, but by what people are bringing with them

Like anything else. These are things that are going to be viewed subjectively, so peoples' reactions to it are a pretty good indicator. If people are reacting to it as if it's snarky and condescending, then they are detecting snarkiness and condescension for whatever reason. It's not an objective thing, and I don't think we're talking about a specific incident here. It's not like there's a disagreement about the very idea that someone could say something insensitive/racist/sexist/whatever and that you can address them about it. But if a bunch of people that aren't even the target of this piece are detecting snarkiness and condescension, maybe that's a good indication of how this could potentially go if you try out this approach for reals. Though I'm not clear if this guy is advocating this approach or if this is something else entirely.
posted by Hoopo at 11:06 AM on November 12, 2013


I'd be interested to read a draft of a document like this that wouldn't be interpreted as condescending by at least some of its target audience. I suspect such a feat is impossible.

They're not willing to pay attention and will find any reason to justify ignoring the message.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:15 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of people who are bigots, and are fine being bigots, and it's not in their interest to stop being bigots.

Agree.

It doesn't matter whether we call them bro or what tone we use.

Disagree. If my words or my tone give them an excuse to be bigoted - "you call me X so why shouldn't I call you Y?" - then it matters to me that I'm giving their bigotry some kind of twisted justification in their own heads. I personally don't want to give them any excuse for dismissing arguments; if they don't listen it's all on their bigotry and nothing else.

They're not willing to pay attention and will find any reason to justify ignoring the message.

Totally, but I'm damn sure not helping them out.
posted by billiebee at 11:21 AM on November 12, 2013


This gets back to what I was saying above. What actually *would* convince the addressed Bro?

"Hey, man, that really bothers me when you say it. As a friend, can you try not to do it anymore?"

"Uh, whoa, sorry. Yeah, sure."

is how these conversations usually go. I think when you introduce the "And privilege", it is only really useful in activist circles.
posted by corb at 11:30 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the whole point of having a conversation like this is that you are trying to suggest that someone has the wrong idea about something, or hasn't thought something they said through. There's literally no way to say that without risking making the other person defensive, because even if you use the gentlest tone possible, people don't like to admit the possibility that they've been thoughtless or careless. (On preview, I can absolutely see even corb's gentle example above being thrown right back in Person A's face - because the mere suggestion of wrongdoing is enough of an ego blow that people get reactively angry about it.)

To be clear, I certainly don't think this means we should then be gratuitously inflammatory or hostile, either, I just think it means that it is never going to be possible to make these types of criticisms in a way that is guaranteed never to cause anyone any mental discomfort.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:38 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the whole point of having a conversation like this is that you are trying to suggest that someone has the wrong idea about something, or hasn't thought something they said through. There's literally no way to say that without risking making the other person defensive, because even if you use the gentlest tone possible, people don't like to admit the possibility that they've been thoughtless or careless.

Is that the whole point? I think that's the difference, though. Is the point getting someone to admit they've been wrong, or is the point getting them to stop? The former is, you're right, going to risk making the other person defensive. The latter is not. And there are honestly reasons to like or dislike both.

"Hey, I don't like it, can you not do it for me?" is more effective at getting people to immediately stop, because you're not saying that someone has the wrong idea about something or hasn't thought it through. You're asking someone to do something in the future, while making no judgments about the past. You're speaking as though they might not have known and would not be expected to know - in the same way that you'd say, "Hey, I appreciate you cooking for me, but actually I have nut allergies." They're not wrong for cooking for you with nuts - but if they did again after you'd mentioned it, they would be.

"Bros" in particular - at least the male comradeship that gives rise to the word - do things for their friends just because their friends ask them to. They don't have to understand. It doesn't have to make sense. It's a loyalty thing, rather than a "human decency" thing.
posted by corb at 11:47 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


In my entirely personal opinion, "privilege" has gotten a little buzzwordy.

I generally try to bypass the term and go straight for "you know, you can treat that like a joke because you're a white male," and then see what happens after that. Usually I get one of two reactions: "oh, bullshit", which can be countered with "No, really, let's break it down a little. Bear with me, I'm your friend, I'm not trying to get all up in your shit here", or "wait, wat", which also allows me to start a conversation about "here's why I'm saying that, let me logic the hell out of you".

I've generally found that using terms to classify people that I want to have a conversation with more or less immediately derails the conversation, because people don't like being classified. "You're doing this because you're..." gets right up peoples' noses, and it becomes all about the manifold ways they are ABSOLUTELY NOT a member of X group.

"You've got privilege" just invites refutation in the form of all the times that privilege has NOT worked for that person. "You can say this because you're a white male" seems to work better because it names a huge thing that we all know about but rarely discuss. I mean, people aren't stupid: they KNOW that POC get treated differently by the institutions of society. They see it every day.

It's a hell of a lot easier to get into the headspace of "damn, I've got some fucked-up attitudes" when the person you're talking to starts with "I'm your friend, and I just want to point out that what you said is kind of fucked up, even though I know you're a good guy".

Everyone knows how to handle loud, obnoxious, confrontational fuckwits. That's easy. What's harder than shit is navigating the deep and shifting waters of telling someone you like, maybe even love, that they're being kind of an asshole. The loud, obnoxious, confrontational fuckwit, you can discard. You can go scorched-earth, because fuck them, right?

The people that you love, you love. You want to keep them around. So you have to find a way to bring them along with you, and find the right path together, instead of against.
posted by scrump at 11:58 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


corb, I'm not so sure. I think even asking someone to stop doing something for no reason is going to rub some people the wrong way, because there's a buried implication that they've hurt or wronged you or behaved inappropriately. And even if you don't give a reason, you still open yourself up to the response that you're being oversensitive, or a prude, or holding suspiciously "PC" sympathies. After all, loyalty is a double-edged sword, and asking someone to change their behavior for you in a way that just coincidentally happens to conform with a more "PC" sensibility may make it seem like you're trying to smuggle in values from outside the group, which again, puts people on the defensive.

I really don't think there's a win-win scenario here, at least not in the short term when we're talking about people's immediate reactions. Speaking from personal experience on both sides, the scenario where both people ultimately win is when Person B above has a chance to cool off and think about what Person A said outside of their own immediate reaction - maybe over the course of months or even years.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:02 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Hey, man, that really bothers me when you say it. As a friend, can you try not to do it anymore?"

"Uh, whoa, sorry. Yeah, sure."

is how these conversations usually go.


Not in my experience. If you want to see proof to the opposite - just look at this thread. I mean, hell, we had one person respond upthread by saying "ask me if I care".

The reason the original post included all of those "but they should stop being so sensitive" interjections is because those are things people do say in this conversation.

If "whoa, sorry, I'll stop" really was the way these conversations went, we wouldn't need to make posts like this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:22 PM on November 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


If your goal is to help someone see the possibly unintended offensiveness of their actions or words and become a better, more socially enlightened person...well, then you're going to have to accept up-front that it's extremely difficult and you'll probably fail 19 times out of 20.
But if your goal is to have a fight with the offender, that's easy, and you'll probably have a much, much higher success rate.
posted by rocket88 at 12:29 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If my words or my tone give them an excuse to be bigoted

I refuse to entertain any framework where my tone, as a liberal, "excuses" someone else's bigotry. Because I, like, didn't ask them to stop being so racist nicely enough.

One thing I've learned being from the south and having racist homophobic twit relatives is that it really has nothing to do with your tone.

They're just bigots.
posted by Sara C. at 12:40 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sara C.: "One thing I've learned being from the south and having racist homophobic twit relatives is that it really has nothing to do with your tone."

I've learned exactly the same thing talking to TERFs. I've tried every trick in the book, including being so unbelievably polite and friendly that there was no pretext to delete my pro-trans comments on /r/feminisms.

Doesn't work.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:42 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


FWIW most of these conversations I've had which have actually worked have not ended with "OK, I'll stop." Usually they end with defensiveness or an eyeroll. But then you notice the person stops doing it on their own.

Very few people are likely to be all "Oh, I'm being racist? Yeah, probably. Sorry!" Lots of people, however, will gradually internalize the message over time. Which is fine by me. I don't really need the conversational cookie of "You were right! I'm the worst!" I just need them to get it.
posted by Sara C. at 12:43 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The linked page doesn't say anything about privilege. It doesn't say anything about why the script-prompting behavior was insensitive. It talks about being a "*BLANK*-ist".

Now, sure, it seems to me that Campos is writing about racism and sexism and heterosexism and etc etc etc. But he hasn't tuned his arguments toward those things at all.

If Campos's arguments are reasonable arguments, they apply just as much to complaints that his own writing is insensitive.
posted by nathan v at 1:03 PM on November 12, 2013


The linked page doesn't say anything about privilege.

and yet here we are talking about it, because the straw social-justice-warriors who yell at people who breathe on Tumblr for having "alive/not-made-of-straw privilege" are just so temptingly incendiary
posted by en forme de poire at 1:07 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I stuff mine with potpourri so at least they smell good.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:09 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sara C.: "I refuse to entertain any framework where my tone, as a liberal, "excuses" someone else's bigotry. Because I, like, didn't ask them to stop being so racist nicely enough."

Okay, this is a one particular thread in the conversation I just don't understand (and maybe I'm misreading you, Sara C, in which case I apologize).

This is an article about how to convince people who have said something bigoted to not say that kind of thing, by talking to them nicely about it.

And there are some people who are saying, "but it's not talking nicely about it, it's insulting them with an epithet/condescending to them". There is disagreement about this point, and it totally makes sense.

But there are some people saying "This a good article, and fuck the bigots if they're offended, I'm not going to stoop to asking them nicely to stop being bigots." But the article is all about doing just that. If the idea of having to talk nicely to bigots to get them to change their mind is so repellent, it would seem that the argument would be:
"This article sucks, because fuck the bigots if they're offended, I'm not going to stoop to asking them nicely to stop being bigots"
but instead is being defended as
"This article's great, and fuck the bigots if they're offended, I'm not going to stoop to asking them nicely to stop being bigots"
I don't get that.
posted by Bugbread at 1:20 PM on November 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


and yet here we are talking about it, because the straw social-justice-warriors who yell at people who breathe on Tumblr for having "alive/not-made-of-straw privilege" are just so temptingly incendiary

That is, for sure, a beautiful sentence. However, I don't think it's a fair characterization of the people you're disagreeing with-- at the very least, you'll grant, it's not literally true. Which makes me wonder about the reproductive habits of strawpeople. It seems each begets another.

The real reason why we're having the discussion about privilege isn't because somebody wanted to complain about identity politics. If it had nothing to do with the linked page, this article would have been deleted from Metafilter long ago. It's because the page linked is intended in that spirit. It's because these conversations ("hey you were insensitive") always happen in that context.
posted by nathan v at 1:36 PM on November 12, 2013


And there are some people who are saying, "but it's not talking nicely about it, it's insulting them with an epithet/condescending to them". There is disagreement about this point, and it totally makes sense.

This is the side of things I'm coming down on.

I think the article is fine.

I think the people getting bent out of shape about the use of "bro", and the people kowtowing to that by suggesting that this article is bad because it's not gentle enough with the bigots, are being absurd.

I mean, seriously, if a politely worded blog entry from a fellow bro isn't enough, who cares? Some people are just bigots. If they're so desperate not to get it, or not to change their behavior for the benefit of others whether they entirely get it or not, screw them.

At a certain point, we have to stop absolving bigoted people, and let them shoulder at least some of the consequences of their behavior.
posted by Sara C. at 1:40 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: "I think the people getting bent out of shape about the use of "bro", and the people kowtowing to that by suggesting that this article is bad because it's not gentle enough with the bigots, are being absurd. "

I'm kinda still not following you, though. Are you saying that bro isn't at all insulting/condescending, and people are getting bent into shape because they don't know what it means? (Note: I went firmly into that camp until this thread, and Rory's comment in particular) Because that would make sense.
Or are you saying that bro is perhaps really mildly insulting/condescending, but fuck bigots who get offended? Because that would make no sense.
posted by Bugbread at 1:44 PM on November 12, 2013


This is an article about how to convince people who have said something bigoted to not say that kind of thing, by talking to them nicely about it.

FWIW, I read the piece as an effort to explain to people with whom one may already be friends or have something in common with (hence the "Hey, bro") that they said something offensive. I think it assumes a degree of already present good will and good faith. In these instances, one will, of course, try to avoid alienating the other party. That won't always be the case, though, and I think it's a little absurd and maybe even counterproductive to act as if it will be so.

Basically, like most things in life, there's a time to be nice and a time to say "piss off."
posted by octobersurprise at 1:46 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I phrased that "in that camp" part of my last comment really poorly. I didn't mean "I was in the camp that though bro isn't insulting, but people are misunderstanding the word", I meant "until this thread, and Rory's comment, I was mistakenly under the impression 'bro' was a straight-up insult".
posted by Bugbread at 1:50 PM on November 12, 2013


Well, even "shithead" and "motherfucker" can be terms of endearment in the right contexts, among the right people. "Bro" can be both affectionate and insulting. I think it started as a term of endearment among certain dudes, and then gained an insulting connotation among people outside that group. In the context of the article, it's clearly meant as a term of endearment. That's my read, anyway.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:57 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bugbread, what I'm saying is that there's a point at which we have to draw a line. I think it's definitely better to ask nicely and explain and be somewhat conciliatory (the "this behavior is racist" vs. "YOUR A RACIST" tack). I think a dialogue is better than a harangue.

But there comes a point at which tone arguments become noise. And I think my having to worry that somebody might be bothered at the expression "bro" is right about where I draw that being polite/tone argument line.

I especially dislike the notion that not wording my critique perfectly then "excuses" racism. Nope. Not holding that particular bag. Our society already goes WAY too far in excusing bigotry. The notion that, if only I had asked nicely enough, I could have magically vanished the racism, and therefore the blame is all on me, the nice liberal? Not having it.
posted by Sara C. at 2:00 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


nathan, I think if you look up at the comments towards the beginning of the thread you'll find examples of what I was talking about. I mean, the first person to even bring up the word "privilege" in this thread was not someone defending the article but someone who had such a negative reaction to the intro that they didn't even make it past the first few lines.

My point is that at some juncture the amount of bending over backwards people seem to want just becomes absurd, because any call-out, no matter how mild, friendly, and diffusely aimed, seems like it's going to trigger a rant about Tumblr/SJW scarecrows and how people are allergic to the word "privilege" -- even when as you were saying, the linked article doesn't even use it!
posted by en forme de poire at 2:09 PM on November 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I mean, the first person to even bring up the word "privilege" in this thread was not someone defending the article but someone who had such a negative reaction to the intro that they didn't even make it past the first few lines.

Commenting without reading is a shitty way to start a thread, I agree. MeanwhileLaterBackAtTheRanch later confessed to reading the entire article; I took that as meaning that the earlier statement was a bit exaggerated.

That's kind of irrelevant, though: we're not talking about this in the context of power-and-privilege because of MLBATR's statements, or of anyone that agrees with MLBATR. We'd be talking about it anyways, because that's the context. And MLBATR could easily decode that this is a p-and-p discussion without reading the entire article anyways.

My point is that at some juncture the amount of bending over backwards people seem to want just becomes absurd, because any call-out, no matter how mild, friendly, and diffusely aimed, seems like it's going to trigger a rant about Tumblr/SJW scarecrows and how people are allergic to the word "privilege" -- even when as you were saying, the linked article doesn't even use it!

And I think that's a valid point. I also think that it could be validly paraphrased as, "But they're just being too sensitive!"

And, Bro, that's the truest thing you'll say all year.
posted by nathan v at 2:30 PM on November 12, 2013


I especially dislike the notion that not wording my critique perfectly then "excuses" racism.

I'm not sure if you're referring to my comment, Sara C, but if so I think maybe you took something from it that I didn't mean. I meant that it might give the racist (or whatever) an excuse to not listen to the reasons why the -ism was wrong, and as they're going to be looking for reasons not to listen already I don't like to handily supply them with one straight out of the gate. It's only my own approach obviously, I'm not claiming to speak for anyone else or say that I'm right (or even that I stick to it all the time or in the heat of the moment - it's just an aim.)
posted by billiebee at 2:34 PM on November 12, 2013


Sara C.: "Bugbread, what I'm saying is that there's a point at which we have to draw a line."

I agree, but I see a lot of contention about if this is the place to draw that line. "Bro", like some other words, seems to be one of those words that is totally OK to some people, and offensive to others. And, like a UK person first finding out that "cunt" is not well accepted in the US, some people are having a sharp reaction to being told a word they used offends some other people. Here, however, you have the extra added layers that the people who are offended are people with lots of privilege, and that the people who the hypothetical conversation are addressing have said something bigoted. So there's a lot less willingness to avoid a potentially offensive term from people who are normally pretty good at avoiding potentially offensive terms.

Compare this to, say, the Jay Smooth video. If some bigot got offended at the Jay Smooth approach, I would say, "Fuck 'em. They're not even offended at terminology, they're just an asshole who refuses to admit any possibility that they could be wrong." That's where I'd draw the line. Not a contentious term like "bro".
posted by Bugbread at 2:57 PM on November 12, 2013


Well, sure, but Jay Smooth is setting a really high bar. It's about expressing ideas, about dialogue, about discussing diversity in experience and perspective and how to validate that. If everyone has to be Jay Smooth level in order to have that dialogue, that's a problem.

Also, I don't agree that "bro" is a contentious term and it's sort of weird that it became this huge derail into "if leftists REALLY want change they would" blah blah. That's not even to pick out anyone who focused on the word - it's always something. There's always something that's done or said wrong that just ruins it so that some people just won't listen.
posted by sweetkid at 3:05 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


sweetkid: "If everyone has to be Jay Smooth level in order to have that dialogue, that's a problem. "

Yeah, but it is a problem, that we do have. That's why Jay Smooth made the video in the first place. It wasn't "Sure, it's super easy to convince people that they've said something racist, so I'm just showing my own quirky approach for entertainment's sake," but "It's really hard to do this, so here's an approach that I think works, and I put it on YouTube because I want as many people as possible to use it." It's an instruction manual to be followed, not a work of art to be appreciated.

sweetkid: "Also, I don't agree that "bro" is a contentious term and it's sort of weird that it became this huge derail into "if leftists REALLY want change they would" blah blah."

If it's not contentious, then what's up with this derail? I would call this derail "contention".

sweetkid: "it's always something. There's always something that's done or said wrong that just ruins it so that some people just won't listen."

Ok, here, I think, is the key point: there is always something that bigots will find contentious, and use as an excuse to ignore a good argument. But here we've got a word that even people who agree with the overall message are finding problematic. That's a big difference. Draw the line where there are some people on the other side who are so entrenched they just won't listen, not where there are some people on your own side are even bothered.
posted by Bugbread at 3:17 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bro is not a contentious term.

People who say it is are being disingenuous.

The worst I've ever noticed about it is that it can be used in a sort of condescending way. And, like "hipster" or "hippie" or "frat boy", it describes a certain loosely grouped subset of people, and I can see someone disagreeing that they are a "bro" and being irked by that? Sort of like I'm irked when people call me a hipster? Except that I don't actually care that much about being dubbed a hipster, and I expect that the majority of people operating in good faith don't care that much about being dubbed a bro.

But, that is SO INCREDIBLY FAR from something like a slur. Like, seriously, if you think being called "bro" is like being called "bitch", you are living on a different planet.

And, nope, it's not at all like "C***", which is a mid-level not really offensive "mean word" (a la "asshole") in one place and completely unacceptable somewhere else.

Bro is either shorthand for "brother", or a word to describe a certain subculture or outlook of heterosexual white maleness. It is never a slur or a swear word. Period. It's just not.

If you disagree, I would like linked cited evidence that PROVES it's analogous to "c***", or even "bitch" or any racial slur within an actual specific community that really exists in real life.

Because I feel like I have a grip on Words That Are Slurs In Some Situations So Watch Out About That, and "bro" is not on that list at all.
posted by Sara C. at 3:20 PM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


people who agree with the overall message are finding problematic.

When the people who claim to support the overall message are also spouting off about "leftists" this and "leftists" that and attacks on "masculine men" then I'm gonna take their claims of support with a VERY large gain of salt.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:25 PM on November 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


Huh, according to Urban Dictionary "bro" is maybe used interchangeably with, I guess, something like "chav" or "d-bag" in Southern California.

That said, I live in Southern California and have never encountered this connotation of the word.

It could be a new thing? I don't know, I've always understood the more derogatory use of the term to be about guys who are sort of fratty and into sports and stuff. And even then, no more "derogatory" than its counterpart "hipster" or any of a number of subcultural terms that are used to label people. Wherein people object more to the label than to the term itself.
posted by Sara C. at 3:29 PM on November 12, 2013


I'm also basically 100% positive that the TFA was not using the term in its class-based sense, even if it's really true that some people use it that way.
posted by Sara C. at 3:30 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really like being called bro, I don't consider it a slur. I just don't like being called bro by strangers. Maybe that is a personal issue I have to work on. It isn't like if I don't co-sign every single word in the article I'm suddenly a bigot, I'm not saying "fuck this guy, imma go be a racist because I don't like being called bro". I'm not using it as an excuse to disregard the article. Just saying, "Yeah man, I agree but don't call me bro". The worst that will happen is I won't like the person calling me bro.

Ultimately, It isn't directed at me anyway, it is directed at his actual bros not some platonic Bro, so it doesn't even concern me. I think I may be the only one still here who objected to the word anyway.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:31 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested to read a draft of a document like this that wouldn't be interpreted as condescending by at least some of its target audience. I suspect such a feat is impossible.

Well it is constructed as an imaginary monologue where an enlightened bro can anticipate anything the other bro might say. Like Meanwhilebackattheranch, that put me off right at the beginning where he says: "Before we get to the part where it’s fine, though, I want to address the objections I see queuing behind your eyes. Let’s roll" and then launches into the laundry list. I wouldn't say that to someone and wouldn't want anyone else to speak to me that way. That means you, Aaron Sorkin.

The worst I've ever noticed about it is that it can be used in a sort of condescending way

i think that was the point that people were reacting to -- they saw it being used in a condescending way

When the people who claim to support the overall message are also spouting off about "leftists" this and "leftists" that

because that would be so uncharacteristic of us, to infight and criticize like that, we would never
posted by Hoopo at 3:31 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


And I think that's a valid point. I also think that it could be validly paraphrased as, "But they're just being too sensitive!"

Actually that's a really bad paraphrase.

The point wasn't that their sensitivity is misplaced because they find "bro" offensive, it's that they went LOOKING for that offense to be sensitive about. I mean, right out the gate. First comment, and bam rant about how sneering and snarky leftists (which btw, have you ever seen leftist NOT used as part of an rant about how awful leftist are?) because of one word that people use in all sorts of different ways, some of which are mildly mocking. A word that there's NO OTHER context in the text that it was meant as anything but a term of affection. That's a whole different kind of sensitivity than saying that the butt of a joke is sensitive because they live with constant negative messages about themselves (sort of like how bumping a bruise hurts more than it normally would), and they'd like to no longer have to be that sensitive.

I think there's reason to believe that some people would manage to find offense over something in any imaginary rephrasing of that conversation, and such any effort to please them is misguided and a waste of energy.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:35 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


soundguy99: "When the people who claim to support the overall message are also spouting off about "leftists" this and "leftists" that and attacks on "masculine men" then I'm gonna take their claims of support with a VERY large gain of salt."

I haven't tallied up the folks opposed to the use of "bro", but are all of them actually crypto-bigots who complain about "leftists" and "masculine men"? I know there were some of those, but I got the impression that there were also people genuinely opposed to bigotry who didn't like the use of "bro".
posted by Bugbread at 3:37 PM on November 12, 2013


Sara C., if you called me "bro", and I asked you not to call me that, I'd hope you'd respect that.
posted by nangar at 3:43 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's okay nangar, she said it's not offensive. See?
posted by entropicamericana at 3:45 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sara C., if you called me "bro", and I asked you not to call me that, I'd hope you'd respect that.

There's a difference between saying, as an individual, that you don't want to be called a certain word and taking offense to the use of that word in a publicly disseminated article that was not written at you, specifically. A big fucking difference.
posted by kagredon at 3:46 PM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sara C., if you called me "bro", and I asked you not to call me that, I'd hope you'd respect that.

Sure, but I'd do the same if you didn't want to be called "hippie" or "old man", as well.

Just because a person dislikes being called by a certain term doesn't make said term a slur by default.
posted by Sara C. at 3:48 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think I may be a crypto-antibro bigot. Sorry Rory, Broseph and and the other bros, I'll try to do better and stop assuming the worst about bros.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:49 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell only one person in this thread was insisting that bro was some kind of anti-masculine slur and they have since backed off this position. A lot of the other comments were about hypothetical people being hypothetically offended.

One person also objected because the FPP's author obviously just did this for a reach-around from their Twitter followers. Ironically, this comment has 29 favorites.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:50 PM on November 12, 2013


So then we're all on board with the fact that this blog post is perfectly good and OK and probably a pretty good illustration of how to talk to people about sensitive ism-related subjects?
posted by Sara C. at 3:52 PM on November 12, 2013


What I guess we can all come to an agreement on, then, is that, while well-intentioned, the approach outlined in the linked site is a failure. One group says it doesn't work because it offends the people it is aimed at, so they won't listen. Another group says that it doesn't work because no matter how inoffensively an argument is put, the people it is aimed at will find some excuse not to listen. Either way, it fails.
posted by Bugbread at 3:52 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jinx!
posted by Bugbread at 3:53 PM on November 12, 2013


it's that they went LOOKING for that offense to be sensitive about.

This is exactly how some people look at some instances of underprivileged-class-related umbrage, btw. I bet you know that.

Campos's response (to you, and to them) is, "Acknowledging pain in a public way is no fun for anyone. It’s not done lightly and it takes some courage. These feelings aren’t there to inconvenience you."

Me quoting Campos doesn't mean I agree. I think that it can be simultaneously valid to describe someone as looking for something to be offended by and to describe them as genuinely offended. I think it's worth trying to indulge everybody, so long as it doesn't cost us very much, but it's hard to calculate things like dignity. I don't think privilege can be ignored, even from a perspective of pure self-interest. I think that racism (and similar) is a subset of cruelty and dickheadishness, and that fighting the former via some combination of the latter is pretty pointless. (Not that that's happening in force here, but that doesn't mean it never happens, and that's the context behind some people's words.)

which btw, have you ever seen leftist NOT used as part of an rant about how awful leftist are?

Yes, I have-- I am a self-identified leftist.

Take two people, and one can find an insult while the other says, "huh?" I'm not sure that either is right or wrong; I certainly don't see how one could decide which was which.
posted by nathan v at 4:01 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I guess we can all come to an agreement on, then, is that, while well-intentioned, the approach outlined in the linked site is a failure.

I wish I'd read this a few months ago...I made an insensitive joke, and apologized for it, but the part of "that's it, you're done" would have saved me a lot of grief.
posted by Chuffy at 5:54 PM on November 11


Nope, actually it seems to work just fine and the article has already accomplished its purpose.

Also, I'm surprised no one's touched on "dudebro" yet, which is like "bro" x 100.
posted by Errant at 4:04 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good point, my bad oversight.
posted by Bugbread at 4:07 PM on November 12, 2013


I haven't tallied up the folks opposed to the use of "bro", but are all of them actually crypto-bigots who complain about "leftists" and "masculine men"? I know there were some of those, but I got the impression that there were also people genuinely opposed to bigotry who didn't like the use of "bro".

Bugbread, yes, you've got a point, I was referring to specific comments, and do not mean that anyone who objects to the word "bro" is a bigot, crypto- or otherwise.

But I do think that some of the other objections to the word "bro" are assuming that the word has nothing but negative connotations. I disagree with Sara C., I think it absolutely can be used insultingly, but to just assume the essay meant the word negatively, to fail to consider that there very well might be age-groups and cultures in which "bro" can be used completely sincerely, and to then proclaim that use of the word "bro" renders said essay worse than useless and an alienating, hostile, sanctimonious attack on every potential reader is, I think, a pretty superficial objection to the essay.

In other words, maybe it's not Wrong, maybe it's just Not Aimed At You.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:10 PM on November 12, 2013


Also, I'm surprised no one's touched on "dudebro" yet, which is like "bro" x 100.

Yeah, I was kinda thinking about that as well because that is clearly an insult. I don't think anyone self identifies as a dudebro.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:13 PM on November 12, 2013


So then we're all on board with the fact that this blog post is perfectly good and OK and probably a pretty good illustration of how to talk to people about sensitive ism-related subjects?
posted by Sara C. at 5:52 PM on November 12 [+] [!]

If the person being addressed is predisposed to being sensitive. They are less the problem though. If the person being addressed loathes victims and is violent the result of that speech will likely result in violence and nothing changed.
posted by vapidave at 4:24 PM on November 12, 2013


Didn't we have this exact same argument about "cis", and end up completely re-centering a discussion of trans* stuff to talk about the feelings of people who weren't trans*?

I think maybe members of the majority who are asked to consider the feelings of the minority sometimes just care about their own feelings more.
posted by gingerest at 4:38 PM on November 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I posted a comment saying that bro doesn't have positive connotations to me. That I know that my experience of the word is subjective, but also that the connotations of being a bro are things I dislike and definitely don't identify with. Which means the article isn't aimed at me.

I also think the article is another case of a good message somewhat poorly delivered, because at points I find it goes beyond what I perceive as an intended tone of patiently explaining to a friend why they've just offended someone and should rethink what they've said and apologise, into a rather patronising examination of the steps between thinking something, saying it and other people hearing it.

But I've also read the Metatalks where various words and phrases have been hashed out, where terms like 'butthurt' and 'mouth breathing' had the way they were received by people discussed, and found that the consensus seemed to be that while people could use these words and terms if they wanted, they should be aware that other people might receive them poorly due to their own experiences. A refrain of 'I didn't know, but now I know it offends people I'll find a different word, it's no skin off my nose'-type responses was common to all these discussions.

I don't see people in this thread saying bro is pure insult, per se, just that it's not always regarded as a neutral term. I am not alone in finding it subtly denigrating, and used repeatedly or paired with dude- even moreso. Again, of course, this is my experience only, but it does mean a post or comment which presumes that I'm a bro is therefore clearly something not for me, but also doesn't make me a bigot for reading it that way.

Other failings of the article aside, if it was trying to have an application outside of the guy's personal network (which is in question, considering what schwa said about the possible reason for it) the repeated addressing of the other person as bro was a negative for getting the message out.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:40 PM on November 12, 2013


Yeah, I was kinda thinking about that as well because that is clearly an insult. I don't think anyone self identifies as a dudebro.

That is an interesting point. I think that "bro" can be read two different ways, but there's a pretty easy way to distinguish them: "bro" as address (as it's used in the FPP) can be neutral or even positive, but "bro" as concrete noun is usually pejorative. So there's a difference between "This bar is crawling with bros," and "Bro, let's get out of here and go to the place up the street instead." "Dudebro" just separates out one of the meanings into a different word.
posted by kagredon at 4:40 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


the repeated addressing of the other person as bro was a negative for getting the message out.

Yes, it may be a negative in getting the message out - to you, because you are not a person for whom "bro" is an applicable form of address.

This doesn't mean that the article itself is thoroughly worthless.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:57 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This doesn't mean that the article itself is thoroughly worthless.

Sure. In fact, I believe I expressed that sentiment, while also saying why I had other problems with it. What I was reacting to was a wealth of commentary about the innocuousness of the word bro.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:22 PM on November 12, 2013


I'm all for telling people that they're being *-ist[1] in an approachable and persuasive way, but the linked article does not provide a good example of that. While the intent is surely not to be condescending, it still comes off as condescending and lecturey.

It's goofy to get into a threadlong fight over whether "bro" is an effective term or not. When I see "bro", I read it as being like "ol' buddy ol' pal" - in other words, it's not a really good way to even hypothetically address somebody.

But hey, if the linked article helps you, then godspeed, I'm glad you liked the link and found it helpful.

Difficult Conversations and Try Making a Weaker Argument present more effective approaches, IMHO.





[1] Not to be confused with the *ist D.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:46 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Bro" is not universally recognized as an epithet or strictly as a marker of meatheaded fratboyness. It certainly carries shades of "men talking to men in a perceived space of sympathy for typically (straight) (white) (cis) male concerns/opinions" -- to me, at least. I think the author of the original piece was going for that. But "What are you gonna do about it, BRO?" is different than "That bar is full of bros" is different than "Hey, you feeling better, bro?". Given that I think I share a lot of the same cultural references as many Mefites, I'm genuinely surprised that the word as used in the article is being interpreted as largely touching just one of those usages. (The second.)

Perhaps that makes many of the author's other points even more apt?

Perhaps perhaps the author is playing, as someone said in another thread, 11-dimensional chess and is using the word ironically to illustrate his points to (straight) (white) (cis) males?

Perhaps not.

I like the idea of a "script" to help call people out in a way that doesn't alienate them, and hence is more likely to get them to reflect and empathize. On the other hand, I expect that most of my friends likely to say dumb, offensive shit are also not going to be too receptive to "Bro, you're being insensitive." Honestly I think "Bro, you need to chill with that" or even "Bro, you're being a fucking asshole" would be less threatening and better received by those folks.

But that's just for me and the people in my life I have in mind. Which I suppose ultimately means that the only script that's going to work for you is the one that you come up with yourself, based on intimacy with and sensitivity to your audience. Part of enacting the change you want to see is thinking a lot about how exactly you go about doing that. I'd like there to be a nice script that unlocks the keys to the bully's heart, but there isn't, and you have to put in that painstaking work if you want results.

So: I hope the author is/was successful using rhetoric similar to this article in his own life to enlighten some folks. I hope he knows his audience well enough to know whether or not "bro" is the appropriate word to use. There's something voyeuristic about hearing someone else enacting this sort of difficult, personal conversation; but then again he exhibited it online, so at the end of the day I'm really not sure what to think about the article or this thread.

Other than that some people really do not like being called bro.
posted by DLWM at 9:34 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


> There's a difference between saying, as an individual, that you don't want to be called a certain word and taking offense to the use of that word in a publicly disseminated article that was not written at you, specifically. A big fucking difference.

I get that the author of the article is using "bro" in friendly way. Apparently that's normal in his social circles. That doesn't bother me. I have a problem with statements made in the thread that anybody who objects to being called "bro" is automatically a racist, misogynist, homophobic asshole simply because they object to being called that. I didn't have a problem with the article.

> Sure, but I'd do the same if you didn't want to be called "hippie" or "old man", as well.

OK. If you're willing to not call me [foo] if I ask you not to call me [foo], then we're fine. (I hope "we're fine" isn't an insult in your dialect of English.)
posted by nangar at 7:12 AM on November 13, 2013


On a second read, I think the problem with the article is that it's ostensibly about having friendly, "bro" conversation, but it reads intensely artificial, and not the kind of conversation anyone who self-identified as a bro would actually engage in. So it comes off as an affectation for the sake of pretense - as a condescending fake.

I don't know anyone who uses "bro" unironically, but I do know people, and am a person myself, who uses "brother" and "sister" in conversation with very close friends. But I still got livid with rage when some organizers started trying to call everyone "brother" and "sister" to fake a connection I felt they did not have, using words I thought they had no right to. I'm not your sister, you are trying to use me and my goodwill. I'm not your bro, you are trying to appropriate a culture you don't understand.
posted by corb at 7:14 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article is built on the premise that you're having a conversation with someone you already know and are close with.

I don't know if the problem in this thread is bad faith or reading comprehension and I don't really care any more. Peace. (unless you have problem with strangers using "peace" as a parting word, in which case fill in whatever you fucking want.)
posted by kagredon at 8:51 AM on November 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


kagredon: "Peace. (unless you have problem with strangers using "peace" as a parting word, in which case fill in whatever you fucking want.)"

No, but I'm totally willing to pretend to have a problem with it so I can feel right about something.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:19 AM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


kagredon: "I don't know if the problem in this thread is bad faith or reading comprehension and I don't really care any more."

You don't need to agree with the people who dislike the article, but it's pretty shitty to essentially say, "I'm going to ignore what y'all have written and instead conclude that your explanations are all lies, and the reality is either you dislike it because you're jerks or because you're stupid."

Also, if you actually don't care, you probably wouldn't drop in at the end to insult everyone before peacing out.
posted by Bugbread at 3:39 PM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Peace. (unless you have problem with strangers using "peace" as a parting word, in which case fill in whatever you fucking want.)

You know, "if you have a problem with strangers using [foo] as a word you can fill in whatever you want" could have been a tactic others reading this article could have used.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:39 PM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


it's speech like this

Your speech has, upon exiting your mouth, interacted with other human systems and generated output uniquely meaningful to those systems.

that is a wink to the reader that this isn't suppose to be real advice(?) which made me read "bro" with the ironic, condescending meaning.

regardless, i've always wondered what CBT proponents have thought about the subject addressed in the original link. i've ready feeling good, and on the subject of the logical way to respond to something that someone says or thinks that might distress you, Burns puts the locus of responsibility on the person being offended/hurt/whatever rather than the person speaking. i'd think in the imaginary situation the essay assumes, if Burns were there, he'd talk to the person feeling offended rather than the "bro" and say things like:

"there's no rational reason his words hurt you. there just words, stimuli from the world. they only mean the meaning you give to them. so, the best way to reduce the bad feeling you have are to focus on changing the meaning you give them, because there are countless people in the world who will say hurtful things, and you'll never be able to argue against all of them. you'll never be able to control them. what you can control is how you react to them. there's no innate reason why you should react to those words that way, so don't! it's all a choice you make."
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:07 PM on November 14, 2013


which made me read "bro" with the ironic, condescending meaning.


"they only mean the meaning you give to them... there's no innate reason why you should react to those words that way, so don't!"
posted by billiebee at 6:25 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cupcake, by that logic you could say that it doesn't matter if we throw people in jail for decades without a trial because as per Buddhism, suffering is internal, not imposed by circumstances beyond one's control. This ignores that of course, mistreating other people for fun is also not particularly Buddhist. Likewise, Burns also wouldn't want the person who said something hurtful to do it on purpose without regard for the person s/he was addressing, or as billiebee pointed out, to dismiss the other person's concerns out of a defensive reaction without actually stopping to consider them.

And furthermore, while part of CBT is indeed intended to put distance between your immediate emotional response and your actions, that absolutely doesn't mean that you can't then go on and say "hey, what you said hurt me, and I'd like you not to do it anymore." Or, "hey, I don't think it's just or fair to use that word as an insult." (Made snappier as required.) Otherwise, you'd end up arguing that people should (e.g.) stay in relationships with people who routinely insult or demean them, cuz hey, it's just words, right?
posted by en forme de poire at 11:25 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


while part of CBT is indeed intended to put distance between your immediate emotional response and your actions

to clarify, i'm not talking about this aspect, so that's a red herring.

CBT tries to put distance between some stimuli you have and bad emotions. so, they, from what i understand, if their goal is to reduce suffering, they would focus on getting the person (who had hurt feelings from something someone else said) to distance the bad emotions from what they heard. and this is kind of the opposite approach, so i'm wondering what CBT advocates say about this.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:09 PM on November 16, 2013


Let me put it this way. If you get pepper thrown in your face, you will feel better if you go and wash out your eyes. That doesn't mean that the person who threw pepper in your face bears no responsibility for hurting you.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:36 AM on November 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


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