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The reason why should be self-evident, but unfortunately, the phrase and attitude behind it have become so culturally entrenched that many people don’t realize just how sexist it is. It is a prime example of casual misogyny; if you object to it, someone will insist it’s totally not sexist and they’re just joking.* However, joke or not, it still sends a negative message. Let’s see what Urban Dictionary has to say.

The unwritten law that your bros (male friends) should always become before hoes (female with whom you are/hoping to have a relationship with). Most used as a trump card by your bros when they feel you are becoming whipped or that your hoe is a slut and a bitch.

First, using “ho” as a stand-in for woman already sets off a red flag.** Why would you refer a significant other as a degrading term that implies she only exists for sex? One might say that it’s a defense mechanism, but the phrase is often use pre-emptively. How does one build a relationship on paranoia and suspicion?

The phrase also implies that male friends are inherently better than female friends, whether romantic or platonic. Okay, this is where I take personal issue. First off, I have gone through life with male and female friends or acquaintances, and am comfortable around people of all genders, being gender-fluid myself. I do not understand why anyone would actively choose to only surround oneself with those of the same gender and only see the opposite through romantic or sexual lenses. You’re missing out on a lot of potential friends that way.

Second, my best friend, the person I trust to always have my back through all of life’s experiences, good or bad, is female. Neither of us cared much for gender roles, we just acted as ourselves. I wouldn’t give up such a sincere friendship for anything, least of all some arbitrary, restrictive, made-up rule.

The phrase also assumes that every man (or male-born person) has a male support network, and I can tell you, that wasn’t true of me. I had plenty of negative experience with boys and men. People often talk of mean girls, but two-faced mean boys are just as prevalent (think frat culture). Many guys put on a nice front, but I was mocked when I tried to get closer to them, both behind my back and to my face. This is one reason why sincerity became my most important virtue and I’m still wary of two-faced people to this day.

In particular, my junior high school years (which I am not proud of) had me putting down girls while trying to impress boys, which was a mistake I sorely regret as the girls tended to be more cordial and friendly towards me in the long run. Even those that were rude to me were nowhere near as bad as the two-faced boys, since at least they were upfront about it (and I was genuinely an ass back then). But because I internalized “bros before hoes,” even before I heard the term directly, I was blinded to that reality. Fortunately, I learned my lesson by the time I reached grad school.

So yes, “bros before hoes” is a bullshit phrase that panders to rigid gender boundaries. Even if it’s unlikely to be banished to catchphrase purgatory, I’d like people to at least think about the implications of what they’re saying. Because aside from the obvious misogyny, I’ve gone into detail about how it hurts men too.

*Even ignoring the fact that “just a joke” tends to be an excuse, it irritates me when people say things they don’t mean. If I can’t take your insults seriously, then how can I take anything else you say seriously?

**Of course, context matters, and I do acknowledge that some people use such words as endearment terms, but that requires people to know each other well enough to understand that, and in the context of the phrase, it is definitely not meant to be endearing.