We've covered at length the ways in which traditionally "male" fields and products (like pens!) are targeted at women: we ladies, weeping flowers that we are, are often offered a sanitized, delicate — often pink — version of a traditionally male product. The reverse situation is just as telling: when traditionally "female" activities or goods are marketed at men, they often receive a new, masculinized name — either from those responsible for shilling the product, or they get a cute slang portMANteau (did everyone see what I did there).
The slang term is often, maybe even always, either a play on "bro" or "man." Sometimes, when we are feeling really lazy but still fiending to uphold some senseless gender stereotypes, we'll just give up and replace the first letter of the feminine word with "m". Murse! It's man + purse! Because purses are leather satchels invented for carrying around tampons, lipstick, and tissues (to cry into when you see a baby or think about The Notebook), the sentence "Brad, that's very bold of you to wear a purse" makes absolutely no semantic sense. What?! Since when does Brad not identify as a male? "Brad, that's very bold of you to wear a murse." Oh, ok. Phew. Gotcha.
Generally, the message is that it's acceptable for a man to do a a stereotypically "female" thing, but only once that woman-thing is repurposed as a means of bolstering his own masculinity — either through being reframed as something that increases his strength and manliness, or through a semi-ironic attitude of "I'm so manly, I can pull this woman thing off."
The former attitude is really evident in Broga, which The Frisky wrote about yesterday. Its founders lament that yoga is unpopular with men because it "has primarily been marketed to middle-age housewives." Men are "going to be self conscious wakling in to a room filled with women who are dressed perfectly in Lululemon," thus the need for Broga, which adds push-ups and squats to the centuries-old practice. The latter attitude is evident in campaigns like Bros Icing Bros and also in rhetoric surrounding male grooming practices: manscaping, et. al., are okay as long as we (kind of jokingly) acknowledge that they're distinct, male versions of that weirdo female thing.
It's important to note that this way of framing traditionally gendered activities isn't entirely bad; on the contrary, it has the potential to chip away at a dogmatic, rigid view of masculinity. Bro'ing women's products and arenas of life is a bit subversive. It allows a degree of flexibility within popular conceptions of How A Man Should Be. In addition, it can be useful, even eye-opening and perspective-changing — which I think is the case with the Bro-Choice movement. However — again — it sucks that dominant culture likes to frame "women's interests" as so distinct from "men's interests" that we feel the need to add a masculine suffix to a word in order to have cross over in certain areas. I PROMISE that we will not all turn into eunuchs if men start buying Greek yogurt.
So, without further ado, here's a brief list of Bro'ed Women Things That Exist and Will Probably One Day Exist
- Bromance — because we need a special word, and specific tropes, to address male friendship.
- Bronuts: Cronuts for men. Similarly, broissants.
- Brostmodern literature. Shirking the modernist tradition of writing long stream-of-consciousness passages about periods.
- Nail brolish. Whatever, your cuticles look pretty sick.
- Bro..unch. Brounch. Man-mosas for the table, pls.
The point being: gender neutrality isn't a phantom terror stalking the streets that will attach, like a vampire, onto every pair of heterosexual testes and suckle away everyone's virility. It's perfectly fine for a man to want to do yoga or have nice eyebrows, just like it's perfectly fine for a woman to be interested in what we perceive as "male" stuff, like cars or wearing a cool sports-themed baseball hat. The divide is arbitrary because it's made up. Everyone calm down. Do some yoga, if that helps.
Image via Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock and Brogurt.