San Francisco is embarrassed about something…always. Perhaps the most consistent is their excellent disparity. Or didn’t you hear? 80 of 100 eligible women are currently in the San Francisco workforce. The total cost of chauvinistic practices nationwide? $2.1 trillion.
So chauvinism remains prominent in the workplace, including tech. Plenty of detractors signify the incohesion between corporate ideals and its actualness. Among the most evident is unequal gender representation. There are a few reasons why this element is a hot button issue.
- Gender, unlike ethnicity, has equal representation across stratas
- Chauvinism is receiving media attention is larger and larger amounts
- Female talent is gaining more prominence
- Workplaces are becoming more transparent
- Women are paid significantly less
Plenty of people like mentioning chauvinism. It makes them feel cool and edgy. Fighting it is a different story. Language, preference, negative objectification. All can easily plug into male chauvinistic practices. Laughably, these are hardly unique to the tech industry. Before going further we should take a quick look at the most prevalent chauvinistic force today: the bro.
Enter the Bro: The Nerd’s Foil
There’s money in the tech industry. Lots of money. And where there’s money there’s “bros.” Now, this definition unto itself is unclear. It does imply a sort of obliviousness that comes with being from a privileged background. Homogeneity is crucial for the bro. Ironically, homogeneity is often crucial for nerds as well. More about that later.
“Bros” either come from similar backgrounds or aspire to them. “Make money, find pussy, defend the privilege” is what most people gather from these groups. What’s ironic is that most “bros” can be sensitive to other’s needs.
They back each other up. They share. They throw down. Most are very sensitive to equanimity…but such attachment is typically ethno-tribal-gendered. Loyalty derives from following norms, not challenging them.
The exception is when “disrupting” said norms yields a return. Individual bros might not forget the slight, sure. Being wrong directly challenges their sense of narcissistic cool. Like just about everyone else, though, they will not overlook significant benefits.
Tokenization in Bro Circles
Don’t be confused by the troglodytes mobilizing with the new election. Actually, I take that back. Be confused and perturbed. But there is also little doubt the era is becoming more inclusive…or “tolerant,” depending on your own sociolinguistic leanings. Perhaps most prominent is that homogeneity, to an extent, is uncool in 21st century America.
A Quick History of Upper Crust Assimilation
The upper strata’s slow incorporation of minorities and women is common knowledge. Women, Caucasians from the wrong sections of Europe, religious minorities, homosexuals, and darker skinned ethnicities: all slowly gained acceptance throughout the 20th century. Such incorporation was initially post-Civil Rights Act.
Employment and healthcare will always be the gear from which anti-discrimination laws pivot. There are also softer forms of chauvinism. The most prominent? Social. Informal “clubs” probably have most impact on our day-to-day. For the sake of explaining the bro, though, delving into formality is important.
Country and city clubs with actual memberships make the greatest point. After all, bros spawn there. Just as with politics and professional employment, women and minorities slowly percolated throughout the black-tie scene of Manhattan and elsewhere. Predominantly male and Anglo-Saxon clubs suddenly began accepting a sole female member, as well one from each ethnic minority. These people were the initial “tokens.” Without them the club would have to (legally) disband into something more nebulous.
Bros continue this…proud tradition. Quantitative assessments are more lenient. Most bro circles accept all ethnic or religious minorities. What’s most important is a similar mentality. Competitiveness and self-entitlement fuels the stereotypical bro’s heart.
Women in Bro Culture
Understanding how bros perceive women requires delving into their typical social-sexual development. For many this will be generic and storybook. However, so are most of bro’s lives. In fact, this is often the biggest hurdle many have with empathy.
Like any true coming of age tale, romance is the first force that shakes up chauvinistic expectations. Bros learn to be more tolerant and compartmentalize what they express. Voicing needs and desires becomes less frequent, voicing concerns more so.
Formals (anything planned) are where most bros first enter the fray. The more daring of them will find young women before the event: pliancy and willingness are both virtues. More open-minded and mature bros, meanwhile, typically have girlfriends who also attend. Candidness really depends on each cluster. There is “guy talk, “girl talk,” and “date talk.” How much overlap forms “date talk” depends on outlook as much as mentality.
More tolerant circles welcome women into the fold. This is largely dependent on either similar mentality or objectification. Never doubt a bro’s willingness to include a female based off looks alone. Does this imply a greater tolerance of their viewpoints? Yes and no. Like everyone else, a bro’s open mindedness depends on socialization.
Stronger Together, and Seriously More Obnoxious
“Bros” may not be as extreme, but their closeted tendencies belie the same practices as a mob or masculine cult. The most famous fraternity is none other than the KKK. Their beliefs may be different, but bros adhere to the same internal and external patterns.
While laughably inaccurate, Le Bon’s The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind comes to mind. The guide to crowd psychology influenced plenty of early 20th leaders, including Moussalli and Hitler. In it, Le Bon details how groups of people reach accord, decide action, collect, disperse, etc. He also demonstrates an absolute fear of “the crowd.” Perhaps most interestingly, though, is his emphasis on numbers. The more people, the less likely members voice dissent. They are also more likely to act on consensus, lose their sense of individuality, target minorities, etc.
The very same can be said of bros. Individually, most are open-minded and willing to correct presumptions. Sure, once they return to the bro “crowd” they may vent or entrench stupid beliefs. All in all, though, it is majority rules. Bros require the shelter of homogeneity to truly be “bros.”
Intersections between Stereotypical Bros and Geeks/Nerds/ Dorks
Bros are hardly the only masculine subtype that thrives on sameness. Old tech industry tropes still apply. Plenty of key players are socially maladjusted, have bad haircuts, etc. Homogeneity entrenches perspective regardless of subculture. Geeks, dorks, and nerds all fall into the same masculine subtypes. There is still objectification, competitiveness, and oftentimes an indifference to social causes. There is also a lot of misogyny. A lot.
Bros can be unwilling to work with women on their terms. Geeks/nerds/dorks are oftentimes incapable of it. Chauvinistic presumptions, therefore, result more from inadequacy than entitlement. This is quite damaging to women in tech. Collaborating with a placater who forgets to mention important ideas is not conducive to work. Ditto if trying to break down social barriers that said outcast has developed.
Of course, there is also the question of gender. “Bro” is undoubtedly a masculine subtype. Geek/nerd/dork, on the other hand, has masculine connotations. There are a few reasons for this.
- Interests: Science/math/sci-fi traditionally aligned with masculinity due to chauvinistic beliefs
- Culture: Portrayals of geeks/nerds/dorks typically contrast with bros while objectifying women: see Revenge of the Nerds
- Gender divide: Many geeks/dorks/nerds prefer gender homogeneity due to their own insecurities
The first two are false dichotomies. The third, meanwhile is not exclusive to male geeks/nerds/dorks. Plenty of females have those interests too. Some are more homogeneous than others: there are circles of female-exclusive groups. Much like bro culture, some join females join male-dominate groups as tokens or girlfriends. Other join groups with greater gender balance.
Bros: A Positive Force?
Bros and geeks/nerds/dorks are increasingly symbiotic. The latter create infrastructure, the former represent said infrastructure. Of the two, bros are far more moderate. They have to be. Sure, their tolerance of weird shit varies by association. “Bros before hoes” applies even if said bro is a chronic viewer of schiza-hentai or other stuff. While fictional, Mad Men helps illustrate the point with its featuring the Dream of The Fisherman’s Wife.
Stereotypically, geeks/nerds/dorks are less tolerant unless said…interest matches their own. They bond through activities and shared knowledge. Bros, meanwhile, typically bond through sharing life moments and other…yes, storybook moments. It’s no accident that bros, stereotypically, stay in contact with their school cohorts while geeks quickly shift into enthusiast/professional circles.
Which begs me to ask: is the influx of bros into tech leading to greater inclusion? While oftentimes heteronormative and chauvinistic, they also bring greater social capability and acceptance. Both, in turn, are necessary to branch out, to empathize, to assess the actual reality of a situation.
Tech was more gender disproportionate in the 20th century. No matter their personal beliefs, gurus of the era adhered to the standard. To not would risk alienating their workers or messing with, god forbid, productivity.
Profit and Inclusion are Mutual
Bros shake things up. Sure, they can be like raptors in a dance club or festival. In the office? Most have intrinsically learned that to share is to gain. Burning Man‘s popularity is a direct result of this mentality. There is plenty of oogling, and alienation, but it widens the tech industry’s perspective all the same.
Additionally, bros typically care about the bottom line. Exclusion cuts into profit margins, as TechCrunch so helpfully reminds us. $25 billion in Silicon Valley alone? That is nothing to scoff at. Stereotypically, however, geeks/nerds/dorks can live without it to keep their comfort zone. Bros? Not so much.
Images courtesy of karendesuyo and Lindsey Turner via creative commons.