(As told to Mayukh Majumdar)

Chandler and Joey, F.R.I.E.N.D.S, the ‘90s. It’s fictional, guys, and so is the bro code that pop culture has so conveniently convinced us of. I don’t mean the code is unreal, but the meaning of the bro code that is depicted, surely is. The bro code, so to speak, is what exists between the closest of friends. I’ll be frank, I couldn’t give two shits about some third dude, and how he’s behaving in the relationships in his life, and I’m not going to adhere to any bro code to keep him “safe”, in that sense. This bro code, like many other things, grows and evolves in your social circles. My bro code with my closest friends has evolved from what it meant when we were in school. Over the last decade or so, things that we consider as caring for someone, have undergone a bit of a change.

Let’s look at the most obvious expression of what essentially defines the bro code — someone is cheating on his partner — and being a ‘bro’ means knowing about it, and keeping his secret safe. Does that happen still? Maybe. But I’d like to believe that for the better part of the past decade, the meaning of confiding in a friend or what constitutes as friendship, has considerably changed. If one of my friends was going through something like this, I would want to talk to him and help him. The bro code has evolved to being there for your friend, and helping them find a way, whether it means finding a way to heal in the relationship, or finding a way to end it if he’s not happen. “Arrey, I’m not going to rat on you” is not part of my bro code, personally, and I’ll stay out of it. Another important aspect of this supposed bro code is the way men talk about women. On social media and in the public eye, the way men speak about women has certainly changed. Even in private spaces, to an extent, but the percentage of regression in conversation among men about women does exist. This idea of “locker room talk” is disgusting. Many men, in their core, know that this is wrong, and don’t even want to engage in this.

There’s nothing against appreciating a woman’s beauty, but complete respect is warranted. The bro code has also been influenced by woke culture but it comes with its own trappings because woke culture, to a large extent, is performative. We’re ready to dig up tweets from years ago and cancel people who might have, in the past, said something based in the reality they were inhabiting then, but we’ll let all the main shit pass by us. To be honest, all this boy’s locker room conversation is a distraction from the darker stuff happening. That, in itself, is reason enough to question if things are really evolving at the core, or if it’s just the facade. The bro code language can also be problematic. Using phrases like “bros before hoes”, when what they’re literally trying to say is put your friends before your girlfriend. In school, stuff like that has been said. Personally, when I’m in the presence of people where you’re expected to stick to a bro code just because everyone is speaking about women a certain way, I’m not comfortable. I’m someone who is very much in touch with my feminine side, and that has always made me uncomfortable around my male friends when the conversation takes a degrading turn.

The bro code is actually a very small symptom of a much larger problem of patriarchy and misogyny. It comes from a world of male ego and male domination and “Oh we men have to stick together and dominate women”. This is the way the world had functioned for centuries. Less than a month ago, I was approached with an offer by a person who had a #MeToo accusation against him and I flatly refused. I discussed this with my friends (my bros), and they supported my decision because I don’t want to be someone empowering someone who has such serious allegations against him. These are the kind of bros I’ve surrounded myself with. If I can speak for myself and my friends, the bro code has definitely evolved. If I had to give five commandments of the bro code, it would be this — to make sure that your bros are taking care of their health, to make sure that your bros are being true to their hearts, that your bros are being good to their family, that your bros do not harm the environment, and that they are kind to animals. These are essentially more important bro code rules that have evolved with time, for the longer run, and definitely more helpful than a short-term ”Yaar, meri biwi ko mat batana”.

Arjun Mathur is an actor who has starred in films and web-series like Luck by Chance, Made in Heaven
and Brij Mohan Amar Rahe. He’s constantly used his platform to voice out social injustices.