What Makes an Authentic 'Bro'? - Authenticity Week


By Dane Feldman

Photo courtesy of Jeff Nelson.

When it comes to the definition of a “bro,” many would agree that the term really only covers one type of guy. But after reminiscing a bit about my college experiences and assessing the great body of literature the internet can provide on the subject, I’ve come to realize that there are all kinds of bros. Like everyone else, bros are vulnerable to stereotyping and, often, those who stereotype bros are just a bit too quick to judge.

With that said however, the stereotype does hold true in some cases. Bros typically love to drink and they love to party. Some smoke weed on the lawn at Dave Matthews Band concerts. Others would rather see a Darius Rucker show or even Mac Miller. They occasionally show up to class in sweatpants and they’re the ones with the “Freshman Daughter Drop-Off” sign in front of their rundown houses on move in day.

It’s also assumed that an authentic bro has trouble accepting his feminine side. He can be merely overtly masculine or jockeying amongst his peers for the title of alpha male in the ways that he asserts his dominance. He’s competitive, especially when it comes to beer pong and flip cup. He likes to be the one to “crush” the most Natural Ices without getting completely shitfaced before his fellow bros.

On the surface, bros seem to be unable to think outside the box. They wear ill-fitting polo shirts and jeans to bars and they order crappy beer (no, not PBR). They’re often not the type to speak up in class and usually appear to not be paying attention at all.

Yet somehow, some of them wind up on Wall Street with degrees in economics or accounting or at universities with degrees in civil engineering. Yes, real live frat bros can be engineers, but it’s possible that their suits are as ill-fitting as their polos once were. This is not to say that all bros are intelligent, but neither is the rest of America

BuzzFeed’s Kevin Tang wrote “27 Broiest Books That Bros Like To Read” and he mentioned that there are many types of bros, but what unites them is “male overconfidence.” Tang’s article boasts a large info-graphic chart explaining what kinds of books high-brow bros read and what kinds mild bros read. Even though his chart does list a fair amount of popular books for men, Tang still stereotypes bros a bit. It’s hard to believe, but even some of the broiest of bros haven’t read Fight Club or don’t know much about Barney Stinson and his playbook. Women read these books too (even I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell). Who hasn’t read The Great Gatsby or at least something by Ayn Rand?

Bros like Barney Stinson are united in one main trait: they are oversexed and slightly sexist womanizers, but (spoiler-alert) even Stinson falls in love and settles down (and with a woman who holds her own, nonetheless). Tang’s chart suggests that some bros don’t read books by female others at all. This is probably true, but not all bros are sexist. Some frat guys get excited about social events simply because they like being among the so-called “fairer sex,” while others are only interested in copulation.

So where does all of this stereotyping come from? Well, a lot of it is curated on the internet in the form of sites like BroBible.com, where bros can find all things fantasy sports, Victoria’s Secret models, and wild hook-up stories. But for all the popular sites like Bro Bible and BarstoolSports.com, there are also tons of parody sites, like Know Your Meme and My Life Is Bro, that poke fun at the quintessential bro. Perhaps there’s even more of that than there is actual bro presence on the internet.

Yet, for all of the on-the-surface stereotyping going on within the walls of the World Wide Web and in every day life, most of us ignore what it really is about the stereotype that makes these bros so easy to detect.

NPR delves into that a bit when questioning whether or not race plays a role in what makes a guy a bro. The answer, regardless of how racist it is or isn’t, is mostly yes. Bros are stereotypically white, middle-class males. Bros who aren’t white generally exhibit “white” behavior, yet some do say both race and gender don’t play a role.

If race doesn’t play a role, then that opens up the idea of a bro even further. If bros aren’t typically middle-class white males and they don’t necessarily come from one region or attend one school then who are we to say that they’re all the same? If bros can be women, too, then where do we even get off saying that all bros are sexist and afraid of strong women?

What really makes an authentic bro? Honestly, it’s hard to say. Of course, there are some guys who fake it on all levels of bro-hood, but there are some truths to Tang’s scale. Thankfully, he admits that there is, in fact, a scale of bro intensity. The same goes for NPR’s Venn Diagram. But, with these charts in mind, aren’t we all at least a little bit bro-y?