Teaching Rape: Bro Culture 101

TW discussions of rape.

An email has been circulating from a fraternity at Georgia Tech about how to “lure your rapebait” at parties. The author is giving advice to the fraternity pledges to ensure they “succeed” at parties because “some bros need a little help.” Before we even get into the really disgusting part, the idea of success for men (especially those in fraternities) is to have sex with as many women as possible, and this goal includes raping them.

The author tells the subjects that if anything goes wrong, get more alcohol. If the woman does not want to have sex, give her more to drink. She says no, changes her mind, never says yes, doesn’t comply with all of your wished, get more alcohol. It’s sickening the language used and accepted within bro culture these days. This expected behavior is a major part of what masculinity means, though it is especially obvious within the bro and frat culture.

Read more of my writings on why bro culture is problematic!

Pledges are always supposed to dance with the women; dancing is step one to bedding them, but only if they’re drinking. If one woman rejects you, move on to the next, because women are interchangeable and who they are is irrelevant to your fraternity brothers. The woman (object) of your story is not important.alcoholic frat boy

The author then tells his pledges that when a woman moves her hair behind her hair, she wants a kiss. ALWAYS. This idea is incredibly problematic because it is incredibly widespread. Teenage girls are taught to move their hair behind their ears to signal attraction. It’s subtle and does not involve any direct action, like a good woman. So now when a man see a woman doing this, he interprets it as an invitation, no matter the other circumstances or what she verbalizes.

Since women are taught to play hard-to-get, when they say “no” it’s also irrelevant. Boys learn from an early age to not take no for an answer, but instead they should interpret benign signals as meaning they should keep trying.

After the pledge decides the woman wants a kiss, he is to kiss her but not rape her (yet), because the kissing will inevitably lead to sex anyway.  “ALWAYS START WITH THE MAKING OUT!!!! NO RAPING.” Because an unwanted kiss is fine, and kissing will always lead to sex because once someone agrees to a kiss, they agree to sex.

The email talks more about alcohol and using it to lure the women, so they are incapacitated enough to agree to have sex. The email also assumes the single standard of masculinity where a man has to always want sex, be ready, and take what is owed to him. It forces men into a box where they have to act a certain way and if they don’t “succeed,” they might as well be women.

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Isn’t it Ironic?

I’m going to follow a new show and provide commentary about the episodes. I’m going to deconstruct the issues of race, class, and gender as I see them. The new show I’ve picked is Trophy Wife, which has the tagline, “The third time’s the charm.” This post will is a bit long since I need to introduce the characters so bear with me.

Third time's the charm

Third time’s the charm

The premise of the show is Kate (Malin Akerman), a “reformed party girl,” meets Pete (Bradley Whitford), a –you guessed it – highly successful lawyer, while dancing at a bar where she literally falls into his lap.Kate

Trophy wife petePete has two ex-wives, both of whom are portrayed as less likable than Kate, who is, I suppose,  “the charm.” Diane (Marcia Gay Harden) is Pete’s first wife, with whom he had two children, Warren and Hillary, twin 15-year-olds. Diane is a surgeon as well as an Olympic medal-winning athlete, and her success must preclude her from being likable, as with all successful women portrayed on tv. She is a cold character who does not appear to like Kate all that much; I suppose we’re to interpret this as jealousy, since Kate has the real prize.

Pete’s second wife is much less scary and threatening, as she is portrayed as a flake and a hippie. Jackie (Michaela Watkins) and Pete have one son together, Bert, who they adopted. Jackie does not seem to have a profession, and her day is overloaded when she discovers a new food co-op, something that is more important that taking care of her child. Her character is there to make Kate seem more earnest and adult-like, though I think it’s a toss-up. Jackie is yet another character that is used to dismiss care about one’s health and spirituality outside of mainstream religion. She is a joke to be laughed at, not a real person.trohpy wife jackietrohpy wife diane 2013-09-30 at 10.55.57 AM

Suggesting that Kate is somehow reformed, one might expect that she had personal issues to deal with, but the show’s use of the word “reformed” is a stand in for “married,” or let’s say “kept.”

Trophy Wife shows us that being single and dancing at a bar is cause for concern, but not for the reasons you might expect.

Using the word reform might mean that she has a problem with alcohol abuse. If this is the case, the show does not seem to concern as Kate downs an entire water bottle of vodka to protect her stepdaughter, Hillary, from getting in trouble with her mother. Kate then must get a ride home with Diane, where we see Kate, drunk, in the back seat of her husband’s ex-wife’s car, looking as much like a teenager as the actual teenagers in the car. This scene reinforces the cold, adult role that Diane plays, in extreme contrast to Kate’s fun and likable one. When Kate’s drunkenness is discovered, Hillary’s mother, Diane, understands Kate’s actions and the family considers what she did to have been a noble effort. The only way Kate can be a mother figure is to drink?

None of the show’s characters are very well developed, and it’s just another show where the only thing the man brings to the table is money and stability, and the woman only brings looks.

The show’s producers are calling the title ironic, but I guess I’m still waiting for the punch line.

Chick Beer: Sexism Goes to the Liquor Store

chick beer (rev)

Sexism in advertising is nothing new, yet I still find myself taken aback every time I see “Skinny Girl” alcohol. Lately, I have seen many different manifestations of sexist alcohol branding, and it’s  pretty difficult to stomach… and I’m not just talking about the hangover.

Chick Beer was the one that inspired the search, though it wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered this labeling. Chick Beer was found at a gas station somewhere in Wisconsin. It’s labeled as “premium light beer,” and we’re instructed to, “Witness the chickness.”

I’m not sure what the company meant by this slogan, and I have to wonder if the copy is written for the potential consumers or for people who are buying this beer for women. I’m curious as to the demographic who most often purchases this beer, but I have a hunch that a lot of men buy this for women, and probably many who are not old enough to purchase it themselves. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but I can’t imagine what sort of “chickness” I would be witnessing as I consume premium light beer.

Mad Housewife

Chick Beer seems to be reclaiming beer, but I have trouble seeing how making something pink and degrading does much for equality.  Their first line says, “the world of beer is dominated by men.” I see that perhaps this campaign is trying to take back this particular realm of drinking; maybe it gives some women an opportunity to expand their horizons, but overwhelmingly, it creates another dichotomy to show that women are lesser than men. The intentions here might have been good, but the results are tired.

Then we have Mad Housewife wine, which is a fun one. Are we supposed to assume that this is mother’s new little helper? Women need this wine to keep their uteruses from making them do something crazy, like having their own thoughts.

Their website is fun, and full of confusing pictures; is she from the American Dream 1950s or is she a modern, cook-from-scratch hipster? It’s hard to tell. We know for sure that she loves cooking with her Kitchen Aid (okay, who doesn’t?) and when she stands in front of that school bus in her sensible chic outfit you know she’s being a good mom. But what does this have to do with drinking? Boy, I hope this wine keeps me from getting too hysterical!

Mad Housewife websiteI am going to continue to document this branding whenever I see it.  Of course, I cannot capture all of it, and I have so far just starting with the names that stand out the most, not to say there aren’t many other forms of this branding that I’m neglecting. For now, I won’t touch the advertising campaigns and I’ll instead stick with the labels themselves.  I’ve also made a point to not search for these images because there is a lot of potential here for future posts.

Keep an eye out for more sexist alcohol branding!

Dude is so Wasted: Drinking to Reinforce Masculinity and Bro Culture

Bros Get Wasted; Girls Get Tipsy: Why Boozy Talk Matters, posted on NPR on July 10, 2013,  discusses a recent publication in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, picks apart the ways in which men and women in college are described while intoxicated. I was unable to access the full text of the article, so I am relying on NPR’s analysis and Alcoholism’s abstract for my insights.

A-little-TipsyNPR’s article begins by discussing the problem of students’ perceptions of other students’ drinking habits.  People tend to assume that everyone else is drinking more than they are – people tend to also assume the same about sex.  The article opens up for a discussion of the way people perceive levels of intoxication for men and women separately. The study in Alcoholism, “Gender Differences in Natural Language Factors of Subjective Intoxication in College Students: An Experimental Vignette Study” had 145 participants and examined the terms they used to describe the drunkenness of students.

Participants in the study read scenarios in which the characters were described in varying levels of intoxication. The student participants were asked to describe the character. Students overwhelmingly underestimated moderate drinking, quite possibly because students assume their peers are drinking much more than they are. Students also were far more likely to use words such as  “tipsy, buzzed, light-headed,” when describing even the most intoxicated woman. When describing men, on the other hand, students used, unsurprisingly, more harsh and strong words, such as “plastered” and “obliterated.”

Bro Party

The leader of the study, Ash Levitt, says that the “trashed and wasted” view of drinking men have leads to sometimes deadly consequences. When students assume everyone drinks more than them, and that men must drink significantly more than women, it creates a competition that inevitably ends badly.

The study concludes that college students are putting themselves at great risk, and highlights the threats to men. Studies such as these illustrate just one of many downsides to the singular view of masculinity we have. Men become much more likely to over-indulge if they feel their manhood, their sense of self, depends on them acting out and becoming belligerent. One commenter on NPR’s website mentioned the effect this has on consent for women – the commenter noted that if women are always described as “tipsy” than they can always be faulted for assault and rape.

I believe this is just another way that society perpetuates the dichotomy where men should not be held accountable for their actions but women are always in control. This viewpoint is an easy way to explain victim blaming and the “boys will be boys” attitude that gives men the freedom to avoid responsibility.

Bros Drinking

The type of behavior perpetuated by college drinking culture is a dangerous one for everyone. Students police each other to ensure their peers are in near-constant drinking contests, whether outright or implicitly. Creating this competition forces people to go far beyond their personal limits, and as the pressure is more intense for men to prove their masculinity, it makes them even more vulnerable to harm.  I took a screenshot of the google image search, “bros drinking,” and the first row of pictures shows men hypermasculinizing themselves and each other while drinking copious amounts of alcohol.