How To Combat Bro Talk

tips to combat bro talk


Jul. 21 2016, Published 3:15 a.m. ET

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By no means does bro talk live in silos – but instead in whispers, grabs, wage gaps, upspeaking, overconfidence, and most importantly, between men.

‘Bro talk’ is synonymous with Wall Street, frat parties, and the gym – however it doesn’t differ much from leering at women on the street or mansplaining either. At the end of the day, these comments, stares, and all around patterns of invasive disrespect leave women dehumanized and feeling powerless.

While women can and continue to do everything to fight back, as Sam Polk shared with us in The New York Times, it is men who have to make the ultimate changes and do the work.

Like all isms, sexism lives strongest in a power structure controlled and upheld by men. As much as some men would like to be innocent bystanders, they benefit, and enable one another to keep the bro talk going – especially with their silence.

Speaking about the foundational sexism on Wall Street – Polk outlines the constant one liners, and plays to undermine women, defining what a ‘boys club’ truly means. Built upon conformity, mentoring, and an unwillingness to stand out. “Wall Street, which is often portrayed as a swashbuckling, take-no-prisoners culture, is actually a culture of brutal conformity,” Polk shares. “Traders and bankers wear the same shirts and the same shoes, and almost never contradict their bosses.”

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Meanwhile, women have written self-help books, drafted scholarly papers, even created funny gifs to let us laugh through the pain – but we also need to continue challenging and inspiring the men close to our hearts. Challenging them to break the mold and lead their own pack, one not obsessed with dehumanizing us as women.

Because changing the world has never been a quick process, here are some tips and ideas on how we can fuel these conversations with everyone men and women alike.

Be Direct

I’m a firm believer that most bad behavior happens because no one says otherwise. For milder, less intimidating sexist remarks – especially ones that happen on the job, a simple “That’s inappropriate” or “Did you really just say that at a meeting” can usually do the trick.

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For more inspiration, check out Tamron Hall above killing it on screen while being precise, direct, and to the point when checking sexism.

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Take A Picture It Will Last Longer

Men have no boundaries when it comes to sexual harassment even when they are on the job. Often men are in uniform or company owned cars when they make crude comments, lick their lips – you know the rest. So why not take a picture and/or video?

Albeit, you should always use caution and never do so in a potentially dangerous situation (i.e. at night, no one is nearby) but it’s important we create accountability for companies to stop paying men to sexually harass women on the job. Let’s start by sending said company an email or make a phone call directly to the manger to simply ask, “Are you paying your employees to sexually harass women?”

It’s important we give management a run for their money and let them know their employee’s insecurity issues will cost them if they don’t set better standards of leadership and expectations for their male employee’s.

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Go There First

Sexist conversation usually includes a number of predictable responses to women speaking their mind or standing up from themselves, the most famous ones being “Stop getting so emotional” or “Calm down.”

However as Jennifer Dziura points out, calling out men’s escalating sexism first can make a substantial impact. Instead feed them a spoonful of their own privilege with a phrase like, “Look Tom, to be honest I think you’re getting a bit emotional. I would suggest you relax and calm down so we can all think more practically about this.”

So often women are over shadowed and discounted by men in a multitude of debates, meetings, and social discussions through their attitude, dominance, and tone. By introducing the idea that a man is not speaking practically, you reduce his credibility – in front of anyone present to see for themselves.

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Speak Up For Other Women

We watch women get ‘manterrupted’ quite often, however instead of expecting not to be, when given the opportunity, we can jump in for each other. Whether in a meeting, ordering food, or walking down the street – there is no reason we should ever turn a blind eye to another woman in need. All it takes is one sentence to bring back a conversation, give credit where credit is due, and remind men we all notice their behavior.

Put Them In The Spotlight

Men think bro talk often happens out of our view, or our scope of hearing, but this is not necessarily true. As women we can almost always sense and feel when a man turns his head or whispers a comment – maybe it’s intuition or maybe it’s the constant feeling of being preyed on.

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Watch what happens above as the reporter exposes street harassment to men directly. Their reactions speak volumes.

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Can You Repeat That?

Another great option is asking men to repeat their ‘hilarious’ comments. “What did you say? You wanted to give her something? What did you want to give her?” Add in a blank stare and just wait.

Reminding men we don’t get their ‘jokes’ whether that be from awkward social cues, silence, or a physical pause is a good opportunity to remind them how out of line / annoying / dated they’re being.

Encourage Men To Be Fearless

As we read in Polk’s essay, unfortunately much of bro talk is maintained by the bro’s that do it, and thus we’ve got to get men to stop. Men have to encourage other men to break the mold and find something better to talk about other than disrespecting and putting down women.

Nothing is for sure, but if we can begin to speak more about it, we can continue the conversation. As Jackson Katz points out below, the worst thing both men and women can do is stay silent.

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