“”The fuckboy doth protest too much, methinks.
|—Queen Gertrude on RationalWiki brogressives|
Like most such bits of jargon, it is irritatingly vague. It would appear to mean a "ciswhite het" male (a "bro")[notes 1] who alleges he supports social justice causes and concerns but when push comes to shove, is actually opposed to any action that would put even the smallest damper on his privileges.
Attempts at definition
Laura Jensen, writing at Slant, describes the "brogressive" in these terms:
“”The Brogressive loves Reddit, but hates Tumblr because it is "too whiney." The Brogressive #FeelsTheBern, but wrote an angry Facebook status about the #BlackLivesMatter protestors for "interrupting" Bernie Sanders in Seattle. The Brogressive is the college student-turned overly serious D.C. intern, who will politely clap when Senator Elizabeth Warren talks about equal pay for equal work, but is alarmingly quick to defend rapists, asking questions about false accusations. The Brogressive is all defensive wonk talk and no action, because at the end of the day, he does not need to work towards justice, since he already benefits from systems of power.[notes 2]
Apparently, allowing a presidential candidate to speak to the people who came to hear him is an opinion beyond the pale of reasonable discourse. So are certain preferences in social media. And to suggest that some people accused of a crime might not in fact be guilty is always rape apology. His greatest sin may be not being wholly on board with the privilege doctrine, because he "already benefits from systems of power".
Most importantly, this person is not an ally on issues where he agrees with the social justice agenda, but only a mere paper tiger, "all talk and no action", and overcautious. Despite his willingness to sign off on some political causes, he is "frustrating and hurtful" and, of course, "your new worst enemy".
Writing for The Guardian, Brigit Delaney paints the following picture:
“”Brogressives are a product of a society that has largely absorbed the language, norms and behaviours of “political correctness”. In this sense, Latham may not fit the bill entirely – he’s never been particularly political correct, after all – but he’s got brogressive DNA.
What was once progressive has been absorbed into the mainstream. It’s not cool to be the person that doesn’t support marriage equality, or thinks that women should be paid less for the same work as men, or that Australia wasn’t invaded by Europeans. You’ll get shouted down on social media if you hold those views. So the brogressive goes with that flow – but something in him refuses to budge.
For Delaney as well, the brogressive's sins are more verbal and symbolic, or matters of taste, rather than political:
- Active on social media, changing his profile picture to rainbow colours in support of marriage equality and other progressive causes but still describes bad things as “so gay”.
- Blames “political correctness gone mad” for not being able to tell rape jokes during his stand up comedy set.
- Leaves the office early to take care of his children but says he has to go home to “babysit”.
We're not allowed to call babysitting "babysitting" any more?
Dianna E. Anderson paints a similar picture. Brogressives, according to her, can be found at anti-war and Occupy Wall Street rallies, where they pretend to support the causes. (Notice how easily he blends in at progressive rallies like Occupy and anti-war protests.) But apparently his presence there is a pretext masking his inner selfishness:
“”You will find the Brogressive discussing things with others of his kind - things like the NSA and Wikileaks. Often, they will spend hours on Reddit discussing drone policy – but only insofar as drones serve to remind people of the Real Problems With American Foreign Policy. Sometimes, The Brogressive will describe himself as "socially liberal, but fiscally conservative." This is mainly because he would really, really like marijuana legalized.
“”The natural enemy of the Brogressive is the Intersectional Feminist. When the two come in conflict, the Brogressive retreats into his protective cave of White Male Privilege, accusing the Intersectional Feminist of being a distraction to the True Progressive Cause (which is, of course, getting Julian Assange out of Sweden so he can get away from those pesky rape charges). [notes 3]
Anderson suggests that this "brogressive" possesses an even more significant flaw: "He thinks Seth McFarlane is funny."[notes 4] Her issue, again, is that by not agreeing with each item on her checklist, he becomes "annoying".
Michael Darer is more succinct in his definition for the Huffington Post:
“”What is a Brogressive? I'm glad you asked. The Brogressive is a privileged individual (most often a white, straight, cis male) who outwardly claims to support progressive causes, but insists on doing so without challenging their own comfort or ideas.
The nerve of this fellow! He says that he supports progressive causes, but like most people, he has a comfort zone he prefers to stay inside! Darer also accuses the 'brogressive' of insufficient zeal or an excess of caution in the causes he chooses to support. The underlying idea appears to be that his cishet maleness gives him a lived experience that doesn't match what he's supposed to say:
“”It’s the guy who says he supports gay marriage, but really doesn’t like how “they” need to be so “in-your-face” about it. It’s the guy who claims to be opposed to domestic violence, but can’t address the issue in his work without laying heavy blame on the victim. It’s the television writer who says they oppose transphobia, but also perpetuate the stereotype of transwomen out to deceive straight men.
This writer, too, holds up Seth MacFarlane, famous chiefly for The Family Guy and Ted, as the canonical brogressive.[notes 5] MacFarlane has in fact been a vocal supporter of gay rights, and has been recognized as such by The Advocate, among others. Darer judges the comedian for his use of colorful language and imagery and mocking play with stereotypes, accusing him of stomping where he should be treading tippy-toe:
“”MacFarlane ranted: “Why is it that Johnny Spaghetti Stain in fucking Georgia can knock a woman up, legally be married to her, and then beat the shit out of her, but these two intelligent, sophisticated writers who have been together for 20 years can’t get married?”
Okay, multiple things here. First, this “radical” expression of support is founded on stereotypes, both of the impoverished (they are violent, unintelligent, animalistic, dirty, uncultured) and of the homonormative idea of the modern gay man (smart, artistic, urbane). Neither of these caricatures says anything about the experience of gay Americans. Furthermore, MacFarlane’s weird invocation and marginalization of domestic violence feels deeply off-putting.
Wiktionary, the only online dictionary yet to feature the word, defines brogressive simply as pejorative slang meaning "a male progressive who downplays women's issues or displays a macho or patriarchal attitude." Among its sources, it cites a column by David Atkins, who paints a markedly different picture from the "intersectional feminists." He suggests instead that the term is exclusive to the online slacktivist Left:
“” Election work and party involvement is increasingly seen as the unhip, uncool, morally compromised province of social climbers and “brogressives” not truly committed to the supposedly “real work” of social justice engagement by non-electoral means.
Points to ponder
Examining the "brogressive" concept reveals odd insights into the mentality of people who would use the term. We're left wondering: If real world politics involves persuading lots of people to support your goals, whether in the streets or in the polls, how does this concept help with that aim?
Also, what did Seth MacFarlane ever do to them?
- The low man on the intersectional totem pole.
- Wow, a web page from the future!
- For what it's worth Julian Assange is not in Sweden. He fears going to Sweden, not so much for rape charges (dropped as of 2017), but rather for fear of being extradited to the United States, where he would likely face the Chelsea Manning treatment or worse.
- Can such things be?
- As far as animated family sitcoms go, The Family Guy lacks the essential humanity of Mike Judge's King of the Hill. But no one will call Mike Judge a "brogressive".
- Jensen, Laura. Meet The Brogressive, Your New Worst Enemy. Slant. Aug 22, 2104. (Warning: Poe's Law in action!)
- Brigid Delaney, He says he's progressive but is he really a 'brogressive'? , The Guardian, Apr. 5, 2016.
- Dianna E. Anderson, Anatomy of a Brogressive, July 30, 2013 (Warning: Poe's Law in action!)
- Darer, Michael. Ted 2, Seth MacFarlane, and the Age of the Brogressive. July 7, 2015. (Warning: Poe's Law in action!)
- Brandon Voss, Big Gay Following: Seth MacFarlane, The Advocate.
- Atkins, David. The Left’s Failure to Enact Gun Control Exposes Its Tactical Weakness. Washington Monthly, Oct. 3, 2015.}}