The Bro Media Trap: How To Navigate The Risks and Rewards of Dude-BloggingBy Charlie Kasov May 29th, 2014
For the freelance writer, the strength of “Bro Media,” the informal name for men’s interest blogs and magazines, can lead to valuable opportunities. Readers of dude blogs are part of advertising’s sacred 18-34-year-old male demographic—those who respond cartoonishly well to brand messaging—and advertisers want tons of content targeting that audience.
However, all of those “bro” writing opportunities start to feel like a pigeonhole. As a freelancer with two years of dude-blogging under my belt, I have no illusions that what I write will ever be considered high art. Bosses don’t pay me to write the “Five Ways To Deal While High In Public” out of the goodness of their hearts, and no one’s knocking down my door desperately trying to staple a Pulitzer to my tank top, either.
But I do enjoy writing for these blogs, and after talking to other bloggers and editors in the same field, I’ve been able to put my finger on why the risks of the Bro Media trap are overblown, while the rewards can be more than simply financial.
You are what you pitch
Writing for a men’s lifestyle site doesn’t always have to be crass or chauvinistic. Most of the time, though, it’s the same as writing for any other blog: You pitch what you’d like to write, and your editor evaluates the idea.
Sure, you could be asked to do “girl galleries”—a set of images of some celebrity or model making headlines that week, or Instagram selfies of girls striking some sort of slutty poses. These galleries are major traffic-drivers for a lot of men’s interest blogs, which they mention when hiring, so you’ll know what you’re getting into before accepting a job. However, there’s no gun to your head; you decide what you attach your byline to, and turning down a job like this won’t end your career.
I spent a few months as the weekend editor at Coed.com, where I wrote eight posts every weekend, two of which had to be “girl galleries.” I wasn’t exactly proud of that gig, but it was ample, steady money at a time when I needed both badly. How’d I deal with it? I made sure only my first name went in the byline, and when I started to burn out, I quit and spared my morals.
“Once you go bro, you never go back” isn’t a thing
As I said before, I’m not proud of my time at Coed, and though you’d think the girl galleries would have hung a larger sexist label on me when I tried to write for other sites, going deeper into the world of Bro Media doesn’t necessarily blacklist someone from mainstream work.
The trick I learned has less to do with escaping a dude-blog label and more with escaping any “too niche” label: If you feel your published content, be it for Frat Prank Digest or Gluten-Free Travel, doesn’t make your portfolio stronger, keep creating consistent content for a personal blog that showcases your strength and versatility.
Because I had other clips, I had no problem getting hired by TruTV.com, which welcomed me with non-judgmental arms. Sure, I probably wouldn’t have been able to land a job at Jezebel straight from Coed—and I wouldn’t begrudge their editors for turning me away—but if I’d really wanted to, I would have made sure to write a ton of insightful feminist critiques of the media on my own blog to give myself a realistic shot.
Dude-blogging isn’t just for dudes
Speaking of feminism, there’s a lingering misconception about the role of women in Bro Media. Back in the late nineties, there were only two female voices to be heard across our 56k modems: the fantasy-indulging bimbo who seemed like she spent most of her downtime writing sultry letters to Penthouse, and the alpha-dog who loved telling her dates she only does shots of Jaeger. Since then, however, most Bro Media outlets have begun to color the gray area in between those stereotypes with more nuanced female voices.
Tess Barker, a fellow Guy Code blogger, is one such voice, and she believes the demand exists for more variety. “There are few things as fascinating to men of any age as what women are actually thinking, and that’s content that only women can write with any real authority,” she said. While Barker would encourage potential female bloggers in Bro Media to “get real comfortable writing about boobs,” don’t confuse that with a warning to other women to watch out for a trap. In fact, she believes her experience has given her more career options because she’s proven her range as a writer.
Dude-blogging can make you a stronger writer
Male or female, the most common belief I found among my fellow dude-bloggers was that the experience can change your writing for the better, which is both professionally and personally fulfilling.
“[Writing for the Guy Code blog] has helped me find ways to write in a voice that is somewhat outside of my own point-of-view and definitely encouraged me to look outside my own personal interests when it comes to generating ideas for posts,” Barker added.
While her growth stems from forcing herself to explore a masculine perspective, I would argue male writers can grow by attempting to expand and redefine masculinity to make our gender’s disparate interests part of the capital of the men’s interest genre.
Brendan McGinley, editor of Man Cave Daily, treats the potential boorishness of his subject matter as a welcome challenge. “I believe it’s possible to enjoy the things men’s interest writing focuses on without a need to defend or apologize for them,” he said. “There’s a respectful way to admire women without objectifying them; there’s a way to celebrate beer without coming across as a lush; and there’s a way to present yourself as a fun-loving guy without seeming like an idiot who can’t ever get his act together.”
Like McGinley, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of writing in Bro Media. By all accounts, I’m not a dude-bro. I sought out and went to a liberal arts college with no Greek life, have a passing interest in sports, and most of my guy friends are tired of my “whole solidarity with women thing.”
When I write a post for a blog like Guy Code, however, I don’t try to turn myself into some frat stereotype. Rather, I’ve learned to draw on my interests that do relate to the coveted male demographic—a love of beer, action movies, and roller coasters—and write about those. I might never have thought to write about these topics otherwise, and I consider those posts some of the stronger works in my portfolio.
More importantly, I’ve been given the opportunity to voice my biggest problems with dude-bro culture directly to dudes, instead of in some echo chamber of feminism that rules the hipper parts of the blogosphere. I don’t want to be defined as a stereotypical dude blogger, but I’m proud of what I do, and there’s no reason to think others can’t handle men’s interest topics just as seriously and just as respectfully.
Image via Jack Talks Movies