"Bernie Bros" are feeling the Bern this week amid allegations of sexism. At a New Hampshire rally on Sunday, Bill Clinton—without explicitly ever saying the term "Bernie Bro"—admonished their actions in no uncertain terms. He talked about the way female writers who have defended Hillary Clinton publically online "have been subject to vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane often, not to mention sexist, to repeat." Bill might as well have called “shenanigans” on the whole Bernie Bro movement. Meanwhile, detractors were calling shenanigans on the whole Bill Clinton opening his mouth to talk about sexism thing, considering Bill has a problematic history with sexism himself.
If you’re wondering exactly what a “Bernie Bro” is, it's time to get acquainted with one of the most divisive support groups of the primaries this side of Donald Trump’s USA Freedom Kids. With Team Hillary on the offensive, Bernie Bros have become something of a political pawn—a shockingly convenient way for Hillary to draw attention to gender dysphoria in modern America. A more cynical pundit/conspiracy theorist might even be willing to theorize that Bernie Bros are a Team Hillary creation, so perfectly have they exposed the relentless trolling of vocal women in public spaces and enhanced the feminist discussion. And if it weren’t for those Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright gaffes, where it was suggested that women support Bernie to meet "boys" and that women who don't support Hillary belong in "hell", that theory might even hold water.
Here’s everything you need to know to get up to speed with Bernie Bros.
1.. BERNIE BROS AREN’T ALL BAD
Bernie Bros were first identified by The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer in October 2015, before the group became synonymous with sexism. To wit: If you’ve ever seen an episode of South Park, Bernie Bros are a lot like the character PC Principal. They're essentially bro-y dudes who support Bernie Sanders and are hell bent on enforcing politically correct ideals while at the same time lacking any kind of basic understanding of intersectionality or empathy for the experience of others. They wear a lot of J. Crew, probably. Bernie Bros are a bundle of contradictions. Basically, Bernie Bros are just annoying but benign PC police with misplaced good intentions, trying to mansplain minority issues to minorities. You know, just a bunch of boys doing regular boy things.
2.. BUT SOME BERNIE BROS HAVE 'BERNHAVED' VERY BADLY
Recently, Bernie Bros have been accused of sexism and trolling, which seems like par for the course when an organized group of privileged white guys mobilize (hello, #GamerGate). Most visible on social media, these Bernie Bros have become aggressive, targeting Hillary supporters—specifically female—and going straight for the vulva. TV critic Emily Nassbaum was targeted by Bernie Bros after Tweeting her support for Hillary, with gendered slurs like “bitch” and “psycho” being Tweeted at her by the Bros. Writer Sandy Doyle faced similar attacks, and she wrote on Tumblr, "I am now the subject of blog posts labeling me “the most extreme opponent of the Bernie Army” (yes, it's an army now) and various gross-out pictures of pig testicles. There have been, I'd estimate, a little over 100 messages on Twitter today alone." It seems that Bernie Bros may have Berned the memo on progressivism.
OKCupid profiles. Vox's Dara Lind articulates this as a perpetuation of oppressive attitudes online. "Some Sanders supporters are using the same tactics of obstructionism and harassment that women and people of color have to put up with on the internet all the time. And as progressives, they are supposed to be better than that.” Basically, if you’re a minority who disagrees with a Bernie Bro, you’re going to #FeelTheBern, but not in the inspiring way that slogan is intended. Now, when we say “Bernie Bros," we don't just mean “Bernie Sanders supporters” we mean this very specific group of supporters who, let’s face it, probably still have their cell phones on their parent's family plan.
3.. BERNIE SANDERS DOES NOT LIKE BERNIE BROS
The most important thing to note about Bernie Bros is that they've been entirely disavowed by Bernie Sanders himself. In
New Hampshire on Sunday, he told NBC News “I don’t want anybody, anybody, who is engaged in sexism to support me." On the same day, in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," he called the behavior of the maligned Bernie Bros “disgusting,” saying "Look, we don’t want that crap. … We will do everything we can and I think we have tried. Look, anybody
who is supporting me that is doing the sexist things is—we don’t want them. I don’t want them. That is not what this campaign is about.” So no matter what you think of Bernie Bros, don’t equate them with the Bernie Sanders campaign. If anything, they're damaging to it. Which brings us full circle back to that conspiracy theory...