The Taming of the Brew: Coexisting with Bro-Bros

Bros: you can’t live with ’em, you can’t live (in a world) without ’em.  Bros are ubiquitous, solicitous and sometimes-duplicitous.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “bro”, allow me/this awesome G.Q. article on bro-ism to define the modern “bro” (or “bro-bro”):

Originally from the Middle English (“I knowe ynogh, on even and a-browe“— G. Chaucer); evolved during the ’60s as ‘brother’, used by African-Americans to indicate a shared history of struggle. Now used a lot by white guys to indicate a shared history of that time you puked at White Castle.”

As someone who attended an all boys Catholic (Jesuit) High School, one might say that I’m an informal expert on all things “bro-bro”.  I use the term “bro-bro” to demonstrate a heightened version of the ordinary bro.  Bro-bros are the most exaggerated, macho males in the game. They are the human peacocks and they like to fluff their feathers whenever they can.

Playing high school football for four years straight (even though I wasn’t, ha), one thing I learned early on about bro-bro culture is that bro-bros love sticking together in groups. Pack mentalities aren’t just a psychology of the animal kingdom: bro-bros love to pack up and roam about the world, drawing strength in numbers.

Another thing I learned about bros-bros is that they love showing off-frequently exerting their hegemonic masculinity.  “In gender studies, hegemonic masculinity refers to the belief in the existence of a culturally normative ideal of male behavior. Hegemonic masculinity posits that society strongly encourages men to embody this kind of masculinity.”

In plain (feminist) speak, “this kind of masculinity” refers to flamboyant showcases of being a stereotypical male – brutish, misogynistic, powerful. Hegemonic masculinity is a bootleg way of explaining why dudes have competitions about how many beers they can drink at once, or why dudes always want bigger biceps (me included) or who can win in a fight, etc. These are active cues of a tangible hegemonic masculinity.

Furthermore, hegemonic masculinity is said to be marked by a tendency for the male to dominate other males and subordinate females. In terms of bro-bro culture, bro-bros are always trying to showcase their hegemonic masculinity by exhibiting that they are the alpha, rendering other males or females the beta. This basic form of peacocking is often where bro-bros exhibit their messiest, most overtly misogynistic manners.

Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend (that’s an unofficial St. Bro-Bro holiday) in Las Vegas, I witnessed this type IRL hegemonic masculinity in the form of something deeply offensive and violating. And it’s inspired me to write this post (hence the Intro to Psychology of Bro-Bro 101 class held above).

Things started innocently enough. At a Vegas resort hotel, I was seated by the pool with my two lady friends-sipping on some extra large margaritas. Our waitress, this lovely girl from the midwest, “Katie” (not her real name), couldn’t have been nicer. She was distinctive in her fresh faced kindness and her charming personality. Part of Katie’s job was to walk around the pool-serving cocktails in this skimpy red string bikini, which left very little to the imagination (her outfit was very Vide0-Vixen-Chic).

Seated directly across from us were a group of bro-bros of the worst kind. These bro-bros were of the cliche, unoriginal, tattoo-around-the-bicep variety with sad, desperate, horny attitudes. Since Katie’s job was to serve as many cocktails as possible, I noticed a lot of faux-flirtation happening between her and the bro-bros. In essence, she was trying to secure a large tip, and I had to respect a sista for trying to earn her Benjamins.

Throughout the day, the bro-bros would hoot and holler at Katie, and she graciously smiled and took it all in stride; again – I’m sure she was thinking about securing that tip. Katie had about as good an attitude as any girl could have wearing a tiny red-string bikini, serving alcohol to demanding, loud, sweaty bro-bros in Vegas. Actually, Katie was a SAINT – the “Patron Saint of Dignity While Serving Cocktails in a Skimpy Bikini.”

Conversely, the group of bro-bros seated across from me and my friends were not saints. When the “accident” (as the bro-bros called it) first happened, I couldn’t believe my eyes. And I couldn’t believe these bro-bros had the unbridled audacity to commit an act as heinous as they did, but it’s Vegas, right? And what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right? Well, not anymore.

As Katie was serving the bro-bros their drinks, she took a seat down on one of the bro-bro’s recliners, and as she was getting up, this bro-bro did the unthinkable: he pulled the string on the bottom half of Katie’s red string bikini, which caused her entire bottom half to drop on the floor (while she was holding a tray of drinks, mind you), exposing her lady nether regions and buttocks to the entire pool.

Immediately, Katie crouched down to the ground-screaming, frantically trying find something to shield her exposed lady parts with, and none of the bro-bros flinched. For the first 30 seconds, my friends and I sat there completely dumbfounded, shocked and horrified, not believing what we were seeing.

It was only Katie’s shrill screams that brought us back into reality. Pulling the string on her red bikini bottom was the most egregiously, inexcusably awful, violating thing these bro-bros could have done to this poor girl (apart from full-on assaulting her). Katie was just trying to do her job, and none of us knew what to do or how to handle this. It was just absolutely shocking.

After 30 seconds, one of the bro-bros eventually handed Katie a towel, and after wrapping herself with the towel, Katie got up, slapped the bro-bro in the chest, called him an “a**hole” and ran away crying. Almost instantaneously, hotel security came out to assess the situation, and my friends and I were expecting them to forcibly, physically escort all of the bro-bros away one by one, but that didn’t happen.

Instead, the leader of the bro-bros – this smug, ubiquitously freckled red-headed dude tried to explain his friend’s side of the story to security. And my friends and I sat there thinking, “What could he possibly have to say? The dude pulled down her bathing suit bottom in front of a bunch of people. Does he really think he is going to get away with that?” And in fact, that bro-bro did! What struck me right away was how remarkably innocent they all acted, exhibiting no signs of remorse.

It was literally like watching some bad, cliche, patriarchal performance art piece about disrespecting women, but it wasn’t a joke or theoretical or abstract – it was reality. Undeterred, this haughty bro-bro tried to plead innocence to hotel security, but fortunately, security saw through his charade and eventually escorted him and all his bro-bro friends out of the hotel.

As they walked by, my friends and I openly showed our disdain for their disgusting behavior. Pondering what could have possessed this bro-bro to be so childish and violating- the idea of hegemonic masculinity randomly popped up into my brain- probably out of the knowledge reservoir of a Gender and Society class I took in my sophomore year of college.

In their article “Violence Against Women: What Accounts for Men’s Hostile Attitudes Toward Women? The Influence of Hegemonic Male Role Norms and Masculine Gender Role Stress,” scholars Kathryn E. Gallagher and Dominic J. Parrott assert that certain men feel an inherent “hostility toward women,”  which causes them to act out in aggressive ways.

I don’t believe that it’s simple enough to trace someone’s bad behavior to a rigid gender concept, as there are plenty of upstanding, traditionally manly gentlemen in the world who wouldn’t dream of behaving in such a gross manner. And not all bro-bros are bad, either; it’s just hard to differentiate sometimes.

Nonetheless, it’s interesting to consider the structural underlying motivations. According to Gallagher and Parrott: “Men who adhere to hegemonic masculine gender role guidelines [AKA bro-bros] expect others (e.g., women) to submit to these roles, as well.” Even my own hegemonic masculinity felt guilty that I didn’t valiantly jump up immediately and punch all of them in the heads (next time).

I wonder if this bro-bro thought Katie would giggle and jump into his lap and seduce him? Could he have imagined that somehow Katie would have not been humiliated by his aggressive violation and then swooned over him? I realize that I’m combining one man’s actions into a collective group action, but it was interesting how none of the bro-bros did anything to help her (other than hand her a towel). I suppose there was an unspoken code of loyalty amongst the bro-bros.

After sorting herself out, Katie resumed working. When she returned to close out our tab, we greeted Katie with a smile and a “way to handle that with class and dignity” affirmation, and we all remarked how impressed we were that Katie was able to return back to work so quickly after being humiliated and degraded so publicly.

Remarkably, Katie seemed calm and centered and uplifted after the whole ordeal. Despite her initial humiliation, Katie found her inner Oprah and rose above the situation. In a world of (sometimes) aggressive bro-bros, it’s important to maintain your strength, dignity and composure even when faced with the adversity of an aggressive, brew-inspired hegemonic masculinity. This piece is dedicated to the legacy of Katie- a tough lady who didn’t let a bro-bro bring her down.

  • Maggie Voorhees

    I love every bit of this post. Thanks for writing it!

  • Kendall De Jong

    Very much enjoyed reading this. Thank you! Also, I truly hope karma pays a visit to these ‘gentlemen’…

  • Paul Fernandez

    Interesting. Another perspective might be that by frequenting an establishment where Katie has to wear a bikini to serve drinks, you might be considered to be part of the problem.

  • Edward Hansen

    Actually, it was a pool at a “Vegas resort hotel,” not a strip club, and Katie should be allowed to wear a bikini to CHURCH if she wants and not have to deal with someone touching/groping her.

  • Sherry Mayumi Kuroda

    Oooooh you have ANY idea what I would give to find out what resort this is? I live and work in Vegas, and see similar situations on the regular but because specifically the security did nothing. Oh I want to shame them. Oh I want them to squirm, give Katie a promotion, and then end up closing out of bad press. Okay I’m opening a club too but that shit would not just not fly, but it would bury itself beak deep in the earth.

  • Sherry Mayumi Kuroda

    Hey and seriously — if she’s that much of a class act getting disrespected by her employer, we can get her a gig within at least this summer season. Which will have tips, bottle bonuses, and clothing that stays generally on. s.kuroda at gmail dot com if you got her info, srsly: send her our way. =D

    Sherry, Chief Operating Officer, Delirium Entertainment

    • Anonymous

      Linds Posted on my only thought on the color sehcme is Jesus loves His enemies? swell pics, bro very swell. (ps- you should feel special. your blog is pretty much the only one i ever check regularly.)

  • Paul Fernandez

    Sure, she should be *allowed* to wear a bikini wherever. That’s not the issue. The issue is a culture which is sexualised to such an extent that resort hotel staff are expected to wear bikinis “that leave little to the imagination” which puts young, sexually attractive women (were there many middle-aged women doing that job, I wonder? or overweight ones?) into those roles presumably to attract both bro-bros and the more detached observers of both genders who nonetheless did little themselves (apparently) to rescue her from the assault (if you’re not part of the solution …), and which sees no harm in parading women around in “Video-Vixen-Chic”. I’m not quite clear – I don’t class myself as an expert – but that means you were saying she looked like an actress from a low-budget porn film, is that right? Staff at the resorts in Florida don’t generally wear such clothes, so it’s hardly a simple case of what is practical.

    Nothing justifies the unpleasant behaviour you saw, but whilst you object to bro-bros, you don’t have a problem with a hotel resort that dresses its staff up as sex objects for the titillation of its clients, and you apparently only considered yourself an observer of, not a participant in, this event. Different analyses are possible.

  • Edward Hansen

    To me-it’s not logical to argue address the mass-cultural notion of this, because we live in a systematic patriarchy (America), which enforces this. Unless you live/exist somewhere outside of this systematic patriarchy, it’s not possible to disengage from this type of cultural norm i.e. a pool waitress wearing a bikini (at a pool) in Vegas.

    Now-I believe that if “Katie” wants to work at a pool and wear a bikini while serving drinks-that is her absolute prerogative, and I’m fine with that. My intent on this post was to make a comment as an observer (I was paralyzed by shock truthfully and expected hotel security to take care of this situation faster) using a gendered perspective i.e. a group of men displaying stereotypical hegemonic masculine behavior.

    It’s obvious that Katie independently elected to take on this type of job-knowing that she would be dressed in a bikini, and again-neither she nor I had any issues with that. Again, she is allowed to participate in this-in full control of her person.

    I took issue with the bro-bros collectively trying to humiliate her-first with the 1 pulling down her bathing suit bottom, and secondly-with all of them not taking responsibility for it. In fact, my friends and I went to hotel management to discuss what we saw and report the long indecisiveness of the security, since that was in fact-their job (to protect a hotel employee).

    Although we all do live in a culture which is highly sexualised, I didn’t feel that there was an oppressive coercion forcing Katie to do this type of job. I just didn’t want to see her being victimized by a group of drunken men-just because she was in a bikini. That’s all.

  • Edward Hansen

    @Paul-I definitely see your point of view though, so I don’t mean to come off like I don’t. You are in fact right-different analyses are possible.
    @Sherry-I will see if I can find some of her contact info and email you!

  • Mary Frances Shutes

    I don’t care if your a 25 year old at a Vegas bar or a 50 year old working at a diner, customers should NEVER touch a sever like that. Period. Good for Katie for pulling it together.

    I hope the uniform gets an upgrade so things like that don’t happen again. My Aunt used to sew my cousins swimsuits so the strings couldn’t come undone.

  • Rae Ghun

    Oh this just put my hairs on end. I want to throttle one of those “bro-bros” who are nothing but….bleep bleep bleepin bleep bleep who can bleep bleep bleep bottle up their bleep and be sent on a fast train with turbo busters to hell. I applaud Katie. I applaud her loud and strong for having such dignity. I believe if I were her, after screaming I’d have wailed on him and security would’ve had to pull ME off.

  • Caroline Jeffery

    some people are into bro-bros. this is a perfect example of “why i am not.” whens someone shows such disrespect for another person, how am i supposed to believe they’ll show any greater amount of respect for me?

    • Caroline Jeffery

      no thank you.

  • Ximena Chavez

    As Kendall said, I hope karma visits them soon.

  • Anonymous

    – Joey and Karen-The pictures are Beautiful! Our faoivrtes (just from the blog alone are): the veil shot, the first dance shot, and the shots where Blake and I are cracking up. Because he is so funny, he always has me and my parents in stitches, and the shot of us in front of the temple. Oh, and the cake cutting shot too. I coming up with too many faoivrtes, I like alot of them.Thank you for everything,Blake and Lauren Bowen

  • Anonymous

    w1V1RA goukrstilwik

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