Last weekend, I was sitting in a friend’s dorm and on her wall was the popular Barstool flag. After looking at it a second time, the flag had a slight, but very significant difference; her flag, which typically reads “Saturdays are for the boys,” had a paper question mark taped to the end of it. It got me questioning the household name I hear about so often, and the “bro” culture that surrounds it. I would be lying if I said I didn't follow Barstool on Instagram, or that I never laughed at any of their posts, and I would say the same is true for most of my male friends here at BC.
Yet, despite the wide exposure to this particular view of male college students that we've all had, I think very few people have actually stopped to think about what this could mean for society as a whole. Barstool is one of the main avenues through which “bro culture” is portrayed online, but there is more to the site than just funny videos and cool flag designs. The larger societal issue is that the majority of the company’s content centers around elevating men above women. Most people pass this off as simply a joke, all in good fun. But after some thought, I think it's evident that Barstool is just scratching the surface of a deeper, uglier environment of sexism.
Barstool’s social media posts and their online store extends far beyond simply appreciating “hanging with the boys.” It presents a toxic masculinity that puts down women so that men can enjoy feeling like a “bro.” Whether it is videos of girls falling so men can feel smarter or pictures of attractive girls for men to ogle, it degrades women for the sake of male entertainment. Barstool takes male superiority to the extreme and has created a company that reached success based on the exploitation of women, a large and historically oppressed group.
In addition to the main Barstool [Instagram] account filled with apparel and videos, Barstool’s secondary account, Barstool Smoke Show, is an example of blatant objectification of women. Whereas on their main account, there would be a slight attempt to hide the misogyny behind jokes, Smoke Show exists solely to post host photographs for guys to judge and either approve or disapprove the appearance of random girls the account chooses to showcase. The objectification of women in this account specifically is reflective on the company as a whole; the typical “bro” that Barstool portrays and tries to create gets justification, and men may even feel pressured to objectify women through this system of rating.
This sexism that Barstool fosters has not gone unnoticed. Recently in the news, Barstool Sports has taken heat for its controversial nature. 'Barstool Van Talk' was cancelled after Barstool founder, Dave Portnoy, used severely offensive language against a female ESPN host. Portnoy said that Sam Ponder’s number one job as an NFL show host was to “make men hard,” among other sexist and vulgar comments. The personality of its founder, as well as the content associated with Barstool, gives a pretty clear indication that this is not a healthy culture to be imposing on the world, and on the minds of young men and women.
After Boston College’s short Barstool fame earlier this year from a BC Superfan, it has become even more important to address how as a school we view this bro culture. The videos and photographs that the company puts out are often funny, and are not going away anytime soon, but are we really ready to accept the direct misogyny that they are offering? Should we really be buying shirts and putting flags up all over campus that support them? Maybe it is time we toned down the “bro culture” at Boston College, and focused more on the message we should send to female students here—they do not deserve to be objectified or looked down upon because a male-dominant company portrays it as being okay.
Barstool itself is not the biggest concern when it comes to sexism within our culture, and is not the only instigator of sexism. Office discrimination, sexual assault rates, and the wage gap are prevalent issues that would rank high above an offensive Instagram account. Still, it is a good case study on how readily our society is willing to accept, and even glorify, the mistreatment of women. It is indicative of a bigger issue in our society; men are still treated with more respect than women. There is an entire company making money and enjoying widespread popularity, for mocking an entire gender and then selling merchandise to showcase it. There is something wrong with that, and personally, I would like to see more question marks at the end of those flags.