The “brocialist” is generally a good leftist. His heart is probably in the right place. But he has a gigantic blind spot when it comes to women, one that is both political (he is not sensitive to feminist concerns) and personal (he can be a pig).
Often, brocialism manifests at left-wing powwows. Someone raises a feminist grievance. The brocialist instructs her that she is distracted from the paramount issue, namely class. And the condescension is usually obvious. Sarah Jaffe, a prominent left-wing journalist, has been there. “Brocialists,” she explains, are “guys who are so enamored of their own radicalness or progressiveness or whateverness that they are convinced they can do no wrong.”
The word entered the discourse two years ago via an environmental-studies graduate student named Benjamin Silverman (“Of course a guy takes credit for the term,” says Jaffe) who felt that some in a heated left-wing Reddit thread were not sufficiently reckoning with Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s rape accusations—a stance they “justified,” says Silverman, “as being not as important as class.” The word owes a debt to the neologism “manarchist” and is a close cousin to “brogressive.” “Brocialist” and “brogressive” are both species of the very popular genus “portmanbro,” terms that incorporate “bro” to mock a certain dumb-jock swagger. Like most jokes, portmanbros began as larks—“brodown,” “bromance”—but can now be a bit more pointedly political.
The problem brocialism diagnoses is not new. “Misogyny within the left has historically inspired women’s rights movements,” feminist intellectual Susan Faludi told me. The nineteenth-century abolitionist movement marginalized women. Suffragism followed. Many dashing dudes of the 1960s New Left refused to cede the prerogatives they enjoyed over their female counterparts—who became second-wave feminist leaders. So, who knows what good today’s brocialists might provoke?
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic.
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