Illustration by Megan Bender.

Redefine the codes

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Changing the unspoken rules of human decency.

Today’s political and social climate is bringing exposure and discussion to the way that men treat women and even the way that they treat each other. A small and possibly forgotten aspect of patriarchy in society is the infamous bro-code. Though there’s not a set list of what this code is made up of, the rules are often widely defined and understood.

This male version of friendship etiquette is dead or at least dying. However, bro code is still alive in some ways, but hopefully not thriving. After witnessing a recent claim of broken bro code, it seemed necessary to ensure men and women are not still using unspoken codes as excuse to live their lives.

The bro code, though prevalent for some time, has made a name for itself as the guiding principles upon which Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother lives his life. Though sometimes considered a satire of what men are, Stinson still ends up the favorite on the show. There’s even a feeble website depicting a short HIMYM rendition of the bro code.

In some ways the bro code exists as respect between men. Men invoke these unspoken rules to cover anything from bathroom etiquette to dating. The most basic of these unspoken rules is “bro’s before ho’s” which ties into the fact that as a bro, you should never date your best friend’s ex or put a woman before your bro.

Referring to the women in these scenarios as ho’s is problematic enough.

Another rule is the idea that a bro’s sister is off limits, but his cousin is not. Also present in the code is the idea that if a bro is chasing a woman, that woman is also untouchable by his friends.

The one thing missing from all of this is asking the woman what she wants, thinks or feels in relation to these bros deciding her romantic fate.

Women are not exempt from having unspoken rules or societal expectations amongst each other. Some of them align with the bro code, like not dating the ex of your friends or asking for permission to date someone related to or close to someone else.

It’s true an unspoken girl code exists to counteract the bro code. And it is also true that these codes end up staking claim on others while skipping the idea that one should communicate their feelings with their friends and potential lovers. These codes create shame and guilt designed to stake claim on people while protecting the pride of those whose relationships didn’t work out.

Having open and honest communication with each other about feelings and respect is a much better way to handle decency between people. Honesty is better than perpetuating unspoken societal codes designed to put each other down and claim ownership over others.

The bro code is alive. The girl code is alive, too. But both of them deserve to be left behind and redefined.

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