A critique of gym bros

Gym bros, social media, and its implications

Published by Eric Gondella, Date: March 7, 2024

Social media is producing and re-producing discourses around men’s self-help and self-esteem that identify women as their enemy and deserving of mockery.

The meteoric rise of media heads like Andrew Tate, and podcasts like “FreshandFit” since 2019 are pandering to young men’s insecurities has unleashed a wave of online content (often in the form of TikToks and other short-form videos) focused on degrading women.

These ideas are marketable because they obfuscate reality and turn what should be a nuanced conversation about gendered expectations and mental health into something easier for young men to digest, because they are already socialized into it.

That, of course, is misogyny. This media is both a form of entertainment and pseudo-intellectual cultural analysis and is marking a new era of self-improvement that intertwines itself with the growing incel movement.

Tate and podcasters are of course accountable for a lot of this, but many of the foot soldiers for these online movements are groups like “gym bros.” Many of them don’t have a following that is serious or remotely competitive in social media land, so many of them don’t even fit the definitional standard of an influencer.

Truthfully, they are usually just sweaty college-age dudes wearing wife-beaters recording themselves lifting weights at their local franchise gym (membership paid for by their parents, of course). They go on to make the same three jokes about fat women while they flex or lift weights in their videos.

How does one combat this scourge of misogynistic content?

Is the answer to just let ‘em have it? Drew Afualo seems to think so. I agree.

If you don’t know, Drew Afualo is a well-known TikToker and influencer who often responds to these videos in jest, roasting the original poster in a way that you could describe as taking them down a peg.

She is the antithesis of the “When they go low, we go high” ethos that has dominated the mainstream social justice politic for a long time. One can truly appreciate her takedown of gym bros, male self-help influencers and podcasters who’ve largely grown accustomed to perpetuating online harassment against women and fat people for so long without consequences.

Afualo’s combative attitude and sharp wit is badly needed in an era of increasing online misogyny. Her politic is one that is feminist and of self-defense in an arena where the other side has no conscious.

The subjects of her videos are making terrible comments about women’s bodies that women have been hearing forever, but suddenly it’s a problem when men must hear about how they themselves don’t truly uphold the standards that they are forcing onto women and girls? Yeah, no.

Drew makes her own rebuttals, ones that often focus on physical appearance, especially as it refers to balding, receding hairlines and their short stature. Yes, these videos are humorous and insulting in nature, but also do a lot to call out the deeper problem at-hand.

She isn’t stitching unsuspecting guys and body shaming them. Social media is a two-way street, but gym bros and woman haters alike have been decrying her in droves over her content, suddenly the jokes about other’s bodies aren’t so funny to the online misogyny community.

What it comes down to is men and the willingness to change. I know most guys are not putting out these harmful videos on TikTok, but more than likely they or another man they know is repeating and internalizing misogynistic behavior all the time.

Men can change, but many do not simply because they are caught in the paradigm of their own male fragility and inability to see the bigger picture. So, guys, if you are so truly upset about what Drew says, a good place to start might be holding yourself and others accountable for misogyny in your everyday life.

If you still refuse, you condemn yourself to the same stereotype you wished Drew would stop making you feel so icky for. Just a 5-foot 7-inches woman-hating gym bro who chugs pre-workout with no emotional intelligence and a receding hairline.

“I could sit and cry and tell people why they shouldn’t say things like that. You know what they would do? They’d laugh, call me emotional, call me a woman and say, ‘That’s what you all do.’ If that [insulting them] makes me the bad guy, then so be it. Whatever makes you shut up, that’s all that I care about. I’ve told people countless times that I’m not going to be nice to you. I’ve told you if you do this, then game on.” – Drew Afualo


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