Beware of the Brocialist


Beware of the Brocialist

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

Matt Damon has been a having a bad week.

As a man accused of killing a 2004 New York Times investigation of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, he may have pissed off a few people. But then he went ahead and played the all-too-predictive daughter card saying, “As the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night,” and pissed off everyone. But Twitter user Spookpants Cher went for him with what is perhaps my favourite tweet of all time: Matt Damon: I have 4 daughters which means I have… *counting aloud on fingers* 4 respect for women.

Matt Damon is joined by good friend and fellow progressive, Ben Affleck, who in a hilarious statement said he was “angry and saddened” at the Weinstein allegations, when in fact, actress Rose McGowan tweeted angrily that he knew all along about the producer’s behaviour. Affleck landed with more egg on his face when news surfaced that he’d groped actress Hilarie Burton and make-up artist Annamarie Tendler in the past.

Damon and Affleck are the real-life illustrations of a phenomenon Vice noticed last year – the rise of the “brocialist”, i.e., woke dudebros who claim progressive politics but are assholes to women. These are men who will argue with you about America being the root of all human suffering – or closer home, how the Indian government crushes the back of rightful Adivasi rebellions – but will think nothing of objectifying, harassing, abusing, belittling, or ghosting women. You know, the woke-boy tech salesman who moonlights as a DJ, is widely travelled, and still says that “Virat Kolhi isn’t performing because he’s distracted by Anushka”? Yeah, that guy.

Once I became aware of the term, I saw brocialists everywhere. They were my uncles, my cousins, my granduncles, and my father even. Gents who told people that they eat meat even though they are Brahmin and talk liberal politics, but still tell me to find a job at a prestigious newspaper and wait to get married to start a freelance career. Because then a regular job would take away the time for “household duties”, unlike freelance which would allow me to “prioritise the right thing”.

I might have dismissed it as an “uncle” thing, until I realised brocialists aren’t restricted by age. A Twitter fight taught me that.

If you aren’t looking, it’s easy to miss that brocialists practise a much more subtle form of sexism, couched by a constant PR campaign about being one of the “good guys”

In August 2017, when the micro-blogging platform was outraging about the Amy Schumer-Chris Rock equal pay issue, I noticed a stand-up comedian tweeting about how Schumer wasn’t in the same league as Rock and Chappelle, that Schumer didn’t create a market for herself and wasn’t as funny as Russell Peters. This was a man who announced on a regular basis that he was a feminist and prided himself on doing comic routines about “hard-hitting” social issues like marital rape, Syria, and terrorism. I asked him what was wrong with Schumer asking for more money. WokeComedianBro berated me for not knowing comedy and said that it wasn’t a gender issue – except, it was clear to me that he thought that women who demand power are “crazy bitches”, overstepping boundaries.

Naturally, this blew into a full-on dangal with the comedian’s dudebro friends and support-ers attacking me. Two months later, the same WokeComedianBro tried to shame another male comedian for not being as feminist as him.

I’m amazed at the way men can find ways to take a political posture that questions their priv-ilege, and then turn it into a status symbol. This is the hallmark of a brocialist, who, as Boris-senko writes, is “a guy so in love with his own progressiveness or radicalness he is con-vinced he can do no wrong.”

If you aren’t looking, it’s easy to miss that brocialists practise a much more subtle form of sexism, couched by a constant PR campaign about being one of the “good guys”. You some-times end up swallowing their spiel, because deep down, you are just grateful that it’s not the full-blown assault of sexism that you’re used to. Folks like director Nagraj Manjule, who gave us the stunning, feminist Sairat, and said things like “I want a break from this male-dominated world. I want a woman now to build the world or mess it up,” even as he was ac-cused of domestic abuse by his wife.

Another trait of the brocialist is to confound and gaslight the women around him. A close friend’s long-time partner, who plays in a rock band considers himself progressive and fem-inist. And yet, every time the two fight, she tells me how “dismissive he is” and how anything she says is “too dumb”. In the past, he’s labelled her “mentally challenged”, “an attention-seeking cunt”, and the “whiny girlfriend” who will always be a “bitch”. And while he is at it, he’ll make her feel like an idiot for objecting to the litany of abuse.

This is the hideous default vocabulary supposedly liberal men go for. Even the most famous woman author in the world is not impervious to it. JK Rowling tweeted in June about self-professed liberals, whose “mask slips every time a woman displeases them” and they “reach immediately for crude and humiliating words.” Just like my friend’s partner.

It’s why men like Weinstein have been an open secret in Hollywood. Because he talked the good talk about art and books and raised funds for Hilary Clinton and made movies for a female audience. Because he was so convincing that his politics was the right sort, that the women he attacked were left wondering, “what is wrong with me?” Because if everyone you spoke to told you that’s just not Harvey, then it must be you who is f**ked up, right?

As for me, I have come to realise that I’d rather have to deal with an outright sexist than a brocialist. I’d rather have a Twitter user with an egg DP tell me that women aren’t cut out for physical labour, than be called a “feminazi” by someone who cares for Syria and writes a moving post about all the “brave women” on his FB on Women’s Day. It’s simpler that way. At least there are no masks waiting to slip off.