Today I learnt: Bropriating And How It Robs Women Of Their Due Recognition
Women have often complained about their ideas not being given importance, in comparison to men who express the same ideas and get recognised for it. What women are then protesting against in such cases is the phenomenon playfully dubbed as bropriating. Now bropriating or bropropriating is a neologism in English formed by the combination of the prefix bro (used in this context simply to refer to a male figure) and propriating (from the word appropriating, or appropriation). Within the scope of feminism, Bropriating refers to situations, mostly professional, in which a man appropriates an idea that a woman came up with and acts as if it were his, taking the credit for himself. The term “repeating” (the combination of he+repeating) is also used as a synonym for Bropriating.
A classic form of bropriating comes preceded by the interruption of a woman’s speech by a man (the so-called maninterrupting) who then repeats it as if it were his own. Another usual form of Bropriating is the silence after a woman proposes something (for example, at a meeting) and, shortly afterwards, the same is proposed by a man and then is received as a great idea.
Bropriating in History
Jessica Bennet, the first gender editor for The New York Times and a former columnist at Time, is accredited for coining the term. Her article How Not to Be Maninterrupted in Meetings, published in the Time magazine in January 2015 used the term bropropriating for the first time. There, she wrote that the authorship of both expressions is, in fact, that of her friends.
Having one’s own ideas stolen often leads to professional stagnation, lack of motivation to work and even creative block. Historically, several important inventions and discoveries made by women were and still are, credited to men. The discovery of the double helix structure of the DNA that is accredited to Watson and Creek (as we all have read in school textbooks) was reportedly done by the British chemist Rosalind Franklin. It is said that when the duo saw Franklin’s groundbreaking image of the DNA, they published it under their name with only a passing reference to her contributions. As a result, in perpetuity, it was their names which became associated with the double helix structure and the Nobel Prize they received for the discovery, while Franklin’s name stood forgotten.
Another historic example is Candace Pert whose discovery in neuroscience was stolen by her professor Dr Solomon Snyder. Pert, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, discovered the receptor that allows opiates to lock into the brain. This game-changing neuroscience revelation was so important that it led to an award—sadly not for her. It was Snyder who was recognised by the board. In fact, when Pert wrote a letter of protest to the award committee overlooking her contributions, Dr Snyder told her in response, “That’s the way the game is played.”
How To Avoid It
Jessica Bennet, the woman behind the term, writes in her book Feminist Fight Club, “I don’t think [Bropriaters] even realize they’re doing it. This is deeply ingrained bias and years of culture that have long taught men to speak up and loud and with authority and [women] to listen when they do so”. Bennet suggests that an increase in the number of women in the room, who can also back each other up, would make sure that women are heard the first time around. Another way can be that both men and women keep a lookout for the moments when a women’s idea does not get the reaction it deserves. They can reiterate and endorse the idea, giving credit where it is due if another person ‘steals’ the idea.
An instance every workplace can learn from is the strategy adopted by the women on the advisory team of Barack Obama, the former President of the United States. This group of women, frustrated with the frequent interruptions and appropriations of their ideas by their male colleagues created a technique to counter it. Called ‘amplification’, the strategy consisted of a woman repeating and giving credit to ideas proposed by another woman at the very moment they happened, forcing the men around her to recognise what was being said and preventing them from claiming authorship. The result? More engaged women—and more good ideas! Now that is precisely what we need more of.
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own