Bro Talk, Wall Street, and the Arts

Earlier this month, the New York Times published an instructive opinion piece by Sam Polk entitled “How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down.” In the piece, Mr. Polk discusses how men often bond through a culture of hyper-masculinity and objectifying women, and how hard it can be for men on the “in-group” to recognize this objectification and actively fight against it.

For Mr. Polk, the realization that he had to speak out about the objectification of women in his field as a Wall Street broker came when he learned he was to have a daughter. As he says, “My daughter would soon enter a world not just of unequal pay and unequal opportunity, but one in which almost 20 percent of women are raped, and a quarter of girls are sexually abused… If you think that this violence has nothing to do with bro talk, you’re wrong. When we dehumanize people in conversation, we give permission for them to be degraded in other ways as well.”

Dehumanization and objectification of women occur not only on Wall Street and places of business, but in the arts as well. As Maura Reilly points out in her astute piece, Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Sexism, “Sexism is still so insidiously woven into the institutional fabric, language, and logic of the mainstream art world that it often goes undetected.”

As Mr. Polk points out in his piece, this is not just an issue for women, but an issue for all of us, men and women alike, particularly those of us with daughters. We need men to take a pro-active stance against objectification in order to make the world a better place for our children.

Men can, and do, often get involved in the fight against gender bias in the arts. For more information on how men can be allies in the fight against sexism, check out our Men’s Engagement page of the website. There you will find stories of how men are helping in the fight against inequality, within and outside the arts.

Together, we can all fight for women’s equality in every facet of our lives, whether it be on Wall Street or at the local theater. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to our daughters who must live in the world that we shape.