Brogamats, Brogurt, and the Silly Ways We Market Products to Men
It seems there’s a new addition to list of products marketed to men using the word “bro:” the Brogamat. Launched this year, the brand Brogamat makes yoga mats featuring fun graphics in an attempt to entice men to practice yoga. Products in the collection include mats and mat bags made to resemble a quiver of arrows, a burrito and a log — for the Lumberjack brogis among us. Oh, and according to the official website, they’re “long, extra thick, and grippy as hell” to cater to presumably taller, heavier, and sweatier male practitioners.
I'm all for injecting fun into what can be an overly serious practice (not to mention an unspoken competition to find the craziest Lululemon tights), but it's time to stop using the word "bro" or other when marketing products to men — it's akin to painting something pink in order to make it appeal to women. Are our preferences really that gendered? Are we really that gullible? This approach has been rampant in the last few years. For instance, in 2009, two bros popularized the word "Broga" when they began a yoga company of that name offering a range of "brograms" for budding brogis. According to their site, Broga instructors avoid using the traditional Sanskrit names for poses and add functional fitness exercises (like push-ups) into traditional yoga sequences. (Clearly men are too hard-core for standard yoga. Never mind that yoga was created by and practiced exclusively by men for centuries, lest women distract them from their goal of spiritual enlightenment.)
Beyond the use of the word "bro" is the use of masculine packaging to convince men that they aren't using the same razor, shampoo, or food product as women (god forbid). Late last year, Powerful Yogurt hit the shelves, a brand of Greek yogurt claiming to cater to the "active male lifestyle" and packaged in black containers bearing an eerie resemblance to tubs of protein powder. Powerful Yogurt contains the same percentage of protein as a typical tub of Greek yogurt, but thanks to its larger packaging it can claim to be high in protein. (If the cartoon biceps on their infographic don't convince you of this, the muscular men in their adverts surely will). It promises to fuel men for anything: "whether [they're] preparing for the Olympics, a pick-up game with the neighbors, or [their] first foray into an active lifestyle." The product was swiftly dubbed "brogurt" by numerous media outlets. That's right, apparently men need their own brand of fermented milk products, too.
Today, you can even by a copy of On The Bro'd at your nearest Barnes and Noble, a comic retelling of Jack Kerouac's iconic travel narrative, On The Road, written entirely in bro-speak. While I appreciate the use of the word “bro” as a fun marketing strategy, Its implications for notions of masculinity and femininity are problematic. The prefix "bro" is used as a qualifier; it's a means of legitimizing certain foods, products, and pursuits as sufficiently masculine. God forbid a man eat yogurt or practice yoga without a disclaimer or a special yoga mat that attests to his rugged manliness or penchant for burritos. The need to cloak products in manly language recalls the ads for Dr Pepper 10 with it's 10 "manly" calories and the Charles Barkley "Lose like a man" campaign for Weight Watchers. The fact that the word "bro" is attached to stereotypically female products and pursuits (like yogurt, yoga, and dieting) thereby derides femininity and reinforces a gender binary. This act suggests women are too weak and inathletic to require protein-filled yogurt or yoga with extra push-ups.
So, by all means, buy a burrito-inspired yoga mat in a thicker foam. (I probably will). But let’s not call them “broga mats.”