Social Justice Advocates Handbook: A Guide to Gender Understanding

30+ Examples of Masculine Dude (“Bro”) Privilege

by Sam Killermann · 31 comments

in Op-Ed,Privilege Lists

It's Pronounced Metrosexual

I’ve written a few privilege lists, several of which are about privileged identities I possess. They are serious articles that provide a couple hundred examples of systemic oppression (in the US and elsewhere). This article is not that.

I ask that you please humor me as I take a moment to address the many privileges I don’t have access to, due to my gender expression/ metrosexuality. Also, please note that this list is equal parts true and funny-because-it’s-true (think of it like that expression “I’m just kidding, but seriously.”), but not meant to stand against the other privilege lists. It’s more of an autobiographical reflection on my metrosexuality — a lot of things that came up as I was writing my forthcoming book about gender — presented in a familiar way. Now, in true privilege list format…

Following is a list of privileges granted to masculine dudes (i.e., a “bro”) based on their bro-ness. Odds are, if you’re a bro, you don’t realize you have exclusive access to these things, and bro about your day unbroknownst to the brovantages you broceive.

Get my book!
If you’re a masculine dude…

  1. You have never thought you dated someone for several weeks, only to find out that the whole time she thought you were just her “Gay Bee-Eff-Eff!”
  2. And that has definitely never happened twice. In the same semester. Your first year of college.
  3. When confronting a girl you thought you dated by saying, “But we made out!” you’ve never had to attempt to make sense of the onion-of-layered-confusion response, “I just thought that’s what all gay people did.” Actually, you’ve never had to do the first part, so moot point.
  4. You don’t consider and reconsider your sock choice before a first date, debating wearing what seems right to you (teal argyle to complement your salmon pants) or what is least likely to result in your date deciding you’re too femme or gay (white socks with grey shoes — try not to vomit).
  5. Similarly, you never feel pressured to tone down your gender expression in your clothing choices. And you definitely don’t have a personal rule that “only the top OR the bottom can be feminine” (not counting shoes and accessories, of course) (also, not that ”top” and “bottom”).
  6. If you’re straight, you can reasonably assume that people will correctly assume your sexuality, and don’t find yourself constantly having to “come out” as straight.
  7. If you’re straight, you’ve never had someone argue with you (or attempt to “correct” you) when you tell them your sexuality (“No, I think the word you’re looking for is ‘queer’, son.”).
  8. If you’re straight, you’ve never had to deal with the awkwardness of being set-up on a surprise date with someone-you-know’s gay friend.
  9. You don’t have a monthly ”hair product” budget. And you definitely never find yourself raising the debt ceiling on your monthly ”hair product” budget.
  10. You feel comfortable wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt as an “outfit,” instead of considering that to be what you wear while coordinating an outfit.
  11. You’ve never felt the need to say the phrase “coordinating an outfit.”
  12. You generally receive clothing as gifts that you could actually see yourself wearing.
  13. It’s easy to find “men’s” clothing that aligns with your style/wants, and fits in a comfortable way.
  14. It’s easy for you to choose an outfit for an event based on the dress code (e.g., formal = suit and tie; business casual = khakis and polo), and you don’t have to ask a series of clarifying questions (e.g., “how onboard are we with light scarves?”) to avoid offending the host.
  15. It’s also easy to find men in movies and television shows whose gender expression and sexuality align with yours, and who aren’t just the butt-end of a joke (admittedly, this is getting much easier in the past couple years than it was when I was growing up — thanks R. Gos!).
  16. You have genuinely wondered, from a position of true ignorance, “why do women wear high heels if they are so uncomfortable?”
  17. Accordingly, you’ve never worn pants that were so tight you called them “Yoko” because they broke up “the band.”
  18. “Grooming” is getting your hair cut once a month, and occasionally shaving, not a daily, multi-tool, elaborate science.
  19. You likely don’t feel the need to own any of the following: tweezers, blackhead extractor, nail file, conditioner, mousse, blowdryer, facial moisturizer.
  20. “Facial moisturizer” is a punchline to a “that’s what she said” joke, not a nail-biting cliffhanging thought you can’t get out of your head as you consider what you may have forgotten to pack while on a flight to perform in Phoenix.
  21. You’re not constantly aware/sensitive to how you smell. Though, to be frank, everyone else is (stinko).
  22. People don’t assume they can ask you to help them go shopping, and force you to either acknowledge their stereotyping of you or lie on principle and pretend you won’t love that.
  23. You never find yourself pretending to be interested in sports you don’t care about, which leads to awkward conversations where you are weighing in on things you know nothing about, but have developed a vague-but-specific method of conversing that keeps you under cover (albeit stressfully so): “Yeah, they’re looking pretty good this year, at least compared to previous years and/or other teams that play sport in this arena.”
  24. Get my book!
    You can wear a sports jersey without people thinking you’re being ironic.
  25. People are never so surprised when it turns out you’re actually good at sports that they start to question their sobriety.
  26. When people realize you own a hammer (or other tools), they don’t assume they were part of some Village People-esque halloween costume, but instead assume you know how to use them to, you know, hammer stuff.
  27. Similarly, people aren’t surprised when you’re into any “bro” stuff (e.g., beer, video games, science, wearing socks with sandals).
  28. You never have to translate the words that pop into your head (e.g., “cute cardigan”) into brocceptable terminology before saying them (e.g., “solid sweater”).
  29. You’ve never been beaten up because of your gender expression. Though, in seriousness, it’s likely that the pressures of bro-ness led to some of my (and my metro brethren’s) many adolescent beatings, and some of the aggressors were just as afflicted by gender role pressures as I was.
  30. Similarly serious, you never feel pressured to participate in objectifying, borderline misogynistic conversations about women that make you uncomfortable, for fear of people questioning your manhood if you don’t.
  31. People don’t laugh when you describe yourself as a “real man,” thinking it’s a joke, because EVERYTHING IS AN EFFING JOKE TO SOME PEOPLE!
  32. Other metrosexual guys out there, feel free to share more examples in the comments below (:

Additions from readers:

  • “You don’t ever have to worry if your v neck is too low, because chances are the only v necks you own are undershirts.” (from Zak, my actual brother! :))
  • “You’ve never had to move your family to a bigger apartment so that you could have your own closet and bathroom.”

P.S. Hope you didn’t take that too seriously and it was fun for both of us.
P.P.S. That’s what my first college “girlfriend” told me after we “broke up.”

Written by Sam Killermann

Sam is a writer and performer who uses those skills as an ally to advance progress in the realms of LGBT equality and social justice. He tours the country speaking to college students about stereotypes, prejudice, and oppression, and writes for this site when he's at home in Austin, TX.

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  • Zak

    You don’t ever have to worry if your v neck is too low, because chances are the only v necks you own are undershirts

    • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

      Love it, Zak! I’ll add it. :)

  • Kek

    As a not-very-feminine female, I apparently have a LOT of bro privilege. Questions, though:

    1)What the hell is a blackhead extractor?

    2) what is wrong with wearing socks and sandals?

    That being said, the only change you’d have to make to portion on clothing choices and seeing “people like you” on TV about me is to swap the gender. Somewhere in my inbox, there is a long e-mail conversation with my high school principal on what does and does not constitute acceptable prom attire (hint: I’m forced to wear a dress).

    • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

      Hi Kek,

      Funny how that works, right? Love it.

      1. It’s a wonderful device that you can use to remove nastiness from your pores to prevent pimples. It’s painful to use, but a good hurt.

      2. Eh… :)

      I went to prom dressed like a cowboy (as a joke, my high school was much more hip hop than country), wearing pants so tight they looked like they were painted on.

      I guess we are just gender-bizarro versions of one another :)

  • Thalida

    You don’t have to deal with people asking you when you’re going to come out and how they’ll “support” you though anything.

  • Selvi Malar

    I have to disagree with #30: I’d argue that “bro-type” men are more insecure about their masculinity and feel that participating in misogynistic conversations makes them more masculine, whereas metrosexual guys understand that they don’t have to bow down to social expectations of manliness. In that way, I’d say that it’s better being metrosexual because there’s less fear of breaking down gender barriers. Of course, I’m looking at this from the opposite perspective; I’m a more tomboyish girl. But that’s the nice thing about being gender-non-conforming: less pressure to conform!

    • Reynbowz

      As someone who has been, long ago, a non-gender conforming closetcase, as well as someone who has a plethora of metro straight male friends: the pressure is still on. Guys are expected to conform to stressful degrees. Being male has its privileges, but freedom of gender expression is not one of them.

    • Positively Negative

      Why is it that only uh… non-conforming men and women talk about how insecure masculine men must be (and they simply must be! right?). I mean, masculine men seem to be quite content in their masculinity. It is only others that whine about it. Face it baby you cant resist their charms, how many metrosexual men have you stuck with then? What does your boyfriend look like?

      • Ryokhael

        My physically male fiance is a transgender female, so, to borrow some troglodytic terminology I suspect you of using regularly, ‘suck it.’

      • Alan

        I’m sure no one has a problem with REAL masculine men, but there are a lot of pretenders out there. You know, the ones who feel the need to insult others for not being “masculine” enough, or the ones who say arrogant things like “face it baby you cant resist their charms” and other such nonsense. Basically, anyone who thinks their masculine but puts others down for their gender expression or thinks they are god’s gift to women. Those are the ones who don’t really seem to be secure with themselves. If they were then why put others down, and why make such over-inflated statements about their attractiveness?

  • http://twitter.com/NoGood_man Mario Rivero Avilés

    As a bisexual guy I have a lot of those privileges :D
    I had to google many expression up there. It was a fun read.

  • grimm

    Not having problems that you have is not a privilege.Like ,is it a privilige not to have acne?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ellen.hagerman.99 Ellen Hagerman

    I have a policy of not deciding anyone’s sexual orientation until they tell it to me, which is annoying because pretty much 100% of non-masculine guys I know have proven gay, and then I am made to feel naive for thinking they could be anything else.

    And though I do have a sense that you’re stereotyping just a little, I also have the sense that there is a lot of ignorance and a lot of priviledge. Good read, all in all.

  • supernerdytimes

    I feel like some of these aren’t really “privilege” because people who don’t fit into the “masculine dude box” are choosing to have a “hair product budget” or “coordinate an outfit” (#9-11)

  • Matching socks and pants

    You can go to the laundromat without the little old lady next to you shaking her head as she looks at what you’re putting in the washer.

  • c

    if you’re queer, no one ever tells you that you give everyone else in the community a “bad name” just by existing, or that you’re inferior to other queer people. if you’re trans*, no one tells you that you would never “pass” and refuse to recognise you as a guy because you “don’t look like a guy” and therefore you’re obviously not a “real man”.

  • fox

    You don’t have people yelling at you when they walk by or calling you disgusting and weird because of your gender expression.

  • Ivan

    wtf is this shit? I was expecting you tearing down masculine dudes and laughing. This just sound like your own list of fails.
    I cut my own hair bitch. With an ax that murdered your ancestors.

  • Raymond Barrett

    I think I had trouble really getting this because I don’t fall completely into either group. Strangers assume I’m a ‘masculine’ guy because of how I look, but I’d rather be reading a book or learning to cook a new dish, than playing football or working on a car. And at my age, I don’t even pretend to care.

    If they want to make an issue out of me not being able to work on my own car, I will simply point out that I was too busy learning to work on myself, and understand my fellow human beings. Sorry I didn’t get around to learning how to put a new transmission (or whatever) in my car.

    (A terrible stereotype, anyway. If the typical guy knows so much about cars, then why do professional mechanics exist in every town, and make a decent living at what they do? My dad worked on his car all the time. Funny how it always needed something else fixed.)

  • Hetero Butch

    What’s the female version of “metrosexual”? I’m a hetero woman who fits the above description almost completely. I can never find women’s clothes that are masculine enough, I trim my hair every once in a while and then just wash it and let it dry on its own, I would sooner say “solid sweater” than “cute cardigan,” etc. Is there a word for me? Thanks, good blog.

    • Ryokhael

      I think the word ‘butch’ would apply. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to say you’d been assumed to be lesbian in the past. That tends to happen when women like us don’t look/act/speak ‘womanly enough.’

  • AnnaHart

    #2 and #17 made me laugh. 2 was actually sad and I felt for you. But also, it was pretty funny the way you put it. and 17 was just awesome.

  • T.

    I just wanna point out to fellow readers that indeed, some of these really *aren’t* genuine “privileges” and I’m ready to bet on Sam well knowing that. It’s that thing, wotsit, humor; and batter for the things that really, really are privileges.

    Anyways, it was fun for *me* ;)

  • You need help and fast

    A stereotype is merely a generalization which is usually accurate that people use to judge their environment. All of us judge everything we encounter. We need to, it is basic, unconscious, and for a lot of things just a survival skill. I am not talking about cavemen and hunters, just surviving in a social environment. Various cues clue us in to the interest and availability of the other sex. Both men and women respond to different cues, since they basically have different goals when it comes to sexuality. While women may be quite voracious in their sexual expression, this does not mean that they approach situations like a man at all. Similarly, it does not mean that they are attracted to what a man thinks they should be attracted to, because it is oh so cute and oh so sensitive and oh so caring. It takes a lot of nerve for a guy like you to underhandedly whine about how women reject you by taking it out on the masculine men that you despise. That, for some reason you cant fathom, because they are oh-so-neanderthal, women are still attracted to them over you. To think you have built a career on this insecurity. I can only hope it is all a sham and you are not really this broken and disturbed. Seriously, express yourself however you wish, but dont start acting all surprised (and offended! As if you have a right to be offended in that situation!) when people take cues for what they mean.

    No matter what meaning you want to pretend them to have.

    • Alan

      Maybe we can’t help but stereotype or generalize things, but that doesn’t make it okay or mean that stereotypes are right, even most of the time. Secondly, you might want to check your reading comprehension. The writer does not despise masculine men, This article was meant in a joking, satirical way, maybe you should practice picking up cues for things like that. And someone being effeminate or caring about their appearance does not mean they are gay. Someone being really masculine doesn’t mean they are straight. If people hold these stereotypes and believe them then clearly that is their own problem to overcome, and he has every right to be offended for being judged based on such an inaccurate stereotype. You’re the one who needs help if you think stereotypes are mostly accurate or that the author of this article meant it in anything but a tongue-in-cheek manner.

  • Keith

    1. If she doesn’t know you’re sexually interested in her, that’s nothing to do with masculinity. That’s to do with you not showing her you’re interested in her. That’s creepy.
    9. What, you don’t think it’s masculine to care about your hair? That’s rather discriminatory.
    10. Again, you’re saying that it’s not masculine to care about clothes? Almost every guy on the planet cares how they look. Just because they don’t like teal coloured pants or worry about socks doesn’t mean they don’t care about being presentable.
    12. It’s a well known truth that most guys hate the clothes the gf’s or bf’s buy them. People have different tastes. It has nothing to do with being masculine or not.
    14. No host who isn’t a complete douchebag is going to be offended by what you’re wearing. Stop being insecure.
    18, 19, 20. It may surprise you to know, but it’s not un-masculine to shower, shave, pluck the mono, and shave the bollocks. Most guys have some type of routine for taking care of themselves. Again, has nothing to do with masculinity.
    20. Every guy I know uses moisturiser. Even the rugby playing army guys. You must be living in the 50s.
    30. Are you kidding? I feel this pressure all the time. I choose to actually call people out on it. Plenty of “masculine” guys have gfs, sisters, wives, mothers who they don’t like to see oppressed. There is genuine pressure there sometimes to engage in misogynistic conversation but the guys who say “hey, that’s not right” are generally pretty well respected.

  • Rewi Stirrat

    From reading this list, I conclude that I am “masculine” because I’ve never dated or made out with a girl without her knowing I was into her.

    Yet apparently, that also means that I shouldn’t have good hygeine, pluck my monobrow, wear v-neck tshirts (come one, everyone knows they look better than crewneck) or use facial moisturiser. It also means that I’m smelly and don’t care what I look like.

    Honestly, I should be offended. All this list does is promote stereotypes that are already very outdated in most societies. Noone gives a crap if you use moisturiser or are interested in fashion. It doesn’t make you feminine or masculine.

    I understand the rationale behind the gender identity, biological sex, and sexuality scales. I can’t, however, see what the point in the gender expression scale is.

  • Equality works both ways

    “You’ve never been beaten up because of your gender expression”

    That’s exactly what happens…
    Being beaten up seems to be an important part of the bro-ly gender expression. You get beaten up for your gender expression either way, in one case it’s a socially enforced “punishment” of sorts and in the other case its a socially enforced “right of passage” of sorts. I’ve never been beaten up for not being manly enough but I’ve certainly been beaten up because “He’s just one of the guys, it’s no big deal”

    I’d also like to point out that (from my limited perspective) there is alot of pressure to be a “real man” or a “proper woman” while there seems to be little or no pressure to be a “respectable gender-fluid individual”. There are expectations that come with maintaining your biological gender expression, while rejecting these concepts provides you with a blank slate.
    To grossly oversimplify, because I identify as male I am expected to protect those whom identify as female. If I were female, trans or homosexual, I would not have that expectation. Nor would I be expected to be mechanically minded or financially successful or physically competent or emotionally stable or (let’s face it) even polite and civil.
    I wouldn’t have to “be a man” if I wasn’t a man.

  • dulce89

    Recently I was extremely low on money and debts were eating me from all sides! That was UNTIL I decided to make money on the internet. I went to surveymoneymaker dot net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and surely I’ve been far more able to pay my bills!! I’m so glad, I did this!! With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. – ikdz

  • Nico

    Until I read this, I had no idea I was a “bro”. I thought I was a bit metro, but clearly not. Sounds tough for you lot.

  • Jasper

    trivializing much?