Grace and I talk about lit bros all the time. Those dudes who are constantly talking over you, mansplaining feminism to you, or telling you about how much more they understand the activism and politics of literature to you. How can you tell if you're talking to a lit bro? Well, most of the time you're not talking to a lit bro - you're being spoken to ... at length. Here are some tips on how to spot a lit bro in the wild, just in case.
-Uses coded language to say that he doesn’t read books by women. “I mostly read Russian Lit.” "Sure, I read books by women. I really love Ayn Rand." "I only read the classics. I can't help it if the canon of great literature is mostly work by men."
-Strongly identifies with Bukowski, Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Burroughs, Franzen, Knausgaard, or any number of other dudes who unironically write about how hard it is to be a white guy in a world that doesn’t understand their tortured genius.
- Couches feminist ideals as a way to get laid. Will bemoan the injustice of the wage gap and then offer to split the dinner bill because he doesn't want you to feel obligated to put out. Might whisper in what he considers a "sexy voice" that he read Our Bodies, Ourselves to become a better lover.
-Constantly talks over you or disregards your opinion of classics because you couldn't possibly relate to men like Hemingway; and Foucault.
-Hidden behind all of his carefully arranged shelf of classics are well worn copies of Tucker Max, Neil Strauss, and a bunch of pick-up artist instruction manuals.
-Is present in a bookstore or library while wearing any of the following: soul patch, porkpie hat, bolo tie, tweed jacket, or pocket square.
-Hasn't read a book by a woman written in the last 100 years and may disregard contemporary women writers as "chick lit". Also, discounts any potential merits of "chick lit" because it's not literary enough for the likes of a highbrow fella like himself.
IF ANY OF THIS IS RESONATING, IT'S POSSIBLE THAT YOU MIGHT BE OR KNOW A LIT BRO. THERE'S HELP. RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE.
The first step is admitting you have a problem. That you've been socialized by a patriarchal society to believe that the voices of marginalized people are not as important as those of (often dead) straight, white, cis dudes.
Next, you need to examine the relationships you have with women. Are you having two sided conversations? Are you hearing what the other person is saying? Or are you, perchance, waiting until it's your turn to spout another needlessly lengthy diatribe about how underrated Bret Easton Ellis is? Because maybe now would be a good time to zip it and ask genuinely for book suggestions. And ... y'know, listen.
Declare a moratorium on reading books by white dudes for a while. Push your boundaries and read books by women, people of color, queer folks, people with disabilities - anything to reflect life experiences that you might not relate to. It will actually make you a more empathetic person. It will deepen your well of experience and broaden your humanity. I promise.
Examine your motives. Why is feminism important to you? Write about it. Write about it in a genuine way that allows you to admit where you've fucked up and can do better. (We can all do better, actually.) Write thank you letters to the women in your life and ask them what their favorite books are. And then read those books and talk about them with an open mind.
Think about the space you take up. Not just physically - in conversation as well. Because you've been granted a fair amount of privilege, you might not think about how important it is to be heard and to feel safe. Listen more than you talk and think about how the things you say affect other people.
Advocate for people who aren't part of the conversation. This is one of the best ways you can use your privilege. When you hear other people dismiss an author or a work they don't relate to, challenge other bros to look at why they were uncomfortable with it.
"We can dismantle the patriarchy from within, Frodo. Then there will be women in The Shire again."