The word “bro” has been around for a while now. Yet despite its longevity, there is no universally accepted definition the term. Are bros chill guys who just wanna have fun, or obnoxious dudes who can’t string a sentence together? Must they play lacrosse? Is membership in a fraternity required to be considered a bro?
This week, two residents of Washington, D.C. (possibly these guys?) offered their attempt to define the term.
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Not all that long ago, an American statesman of considerable influence wrote an opinion piece for this very publication, about a political issue that directly affects women. It was perhaps the finest example of mansplaining ever published.
This election season, the idea of “mansplaining”—explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman—has exploded into mainstream political commentary. Hugo Schwyzer over at Jezebel noted its growth in September, writing that it has “moved beyond the feminist blogosphere.” And, sure enough, these days pretty much every time a male politician opens his mouth about so-called women’s issues he is dubbed, like so or like so, a mansplainer.
But the article in question wasn’t written this year. Its author was Lyman Abbott, a prominent New England theologian, and it appeared in the Sept. 1903 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.
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Not only do we 2012 women fail at being 1950s wives, we fail even more spectacularly at being 1950s husbands. In the Mad Men era, the archetypal dad came home; put down his briefcase; received pipe, Manhattan, roast beef, potatoes, key-lime pie; and was—apparently—content. By contrast, dwelling in a grayscale midlife purgatory of grinding Pilates and ever-shifting diets (Atkins? Zone? South Beach?), if we breadwinning women were handed a Manhattan at the end of the day, we’d be likely to burst into tears and wail, “What’s THIS? What’s IN this? Why are you UNDERMINING me?!” We 21st-century female monsters are used to fussy bistros featuring spa cuisine and quinoa and dressing on the side. These husband-cooks whom Mundy lauds, however, want to make us some risotto (too carby) even while we are curled up in the fetal position, sucking in our ever-present potbellies (which the 1950s Dad didn’t worry about), dreaming desperately of a Manwich.
My own culinary moment of truth came on a recent day of frustrating business calls and frustrating writing, plus an hour-long installation of a complex new HP all-in-one printer thingy while roasting a chicken while struggling to fix our enigmatic dishwasher, after which I sat down to dinner with my male partner—who had just cheerfully returned from the outside world—with one candle (I couldn’t find the other). I made the mistake of asking “How was your day?” and he made the mistake of responding, and as I watched his mouth move, I felt my trigger finger twitch and thought those awful words only a woman who needs a man neither to support her nor to be a father to her children can think: How long until I vote you off the island?
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