By Nikita Agarwal
I have a friend who believes she has reached permanent brozone.
She decided this some months ago, after a guy she liked turned to her in the middle of a movie they were watching, and said, “Tum na, ladki nahi ho. It’s so chill with you, I don’t even have to try.”
Now the guy says he was well-meaning. “I mean, agar ladki hoti, I’d put in some effort you know? I’d feel some pressure and all that,” he had said, when she asked him what he meant. My friend says she was so annoyed she told him to leave behind the pizza they had ordered and go home. Then she ate the whole pizza by herself and felt like no wonder she’d reached the brozone. Again.
Girliyapa’s new video on brozoning has meant the world to this friend. She was hooked right from the moment she heard their definition of brozone, “a category of woman who displays qualities of a man”. That’s not all. The video goes on to talk about the three categories women fall under — the babe, for whom dudes show off on their bikes, the desi ladki who guys take home to meet their mothers, and the tomboy who drives the bike herself, hence damaging the guy’s inflated, manly ego. And so tomboys were always brozoned.
And who’s the example of a perfect ladki? According to Girliyapa, it’s Tina (played by Rani Mukherjee) from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Tina, the video describes, was the perfect woman: she was babe with a hint of desi simply because she hadn’t forgotten how to sing India’s national anthem after all her years abroad. Or perhaps, you must be like author Gillian Flynn’s third straightjacket in Gone Girl, where you are neither bro nor girly, because you are the ‘Cool Girl’. As my colleague says, ‘Cool Girls’ are “hot like girls are supposed to be, but also burping like boys can”.
In the days after Girliyapa’s video went up, there have been long fights on their Facebook page because nobody can tell if the video is a straight-faced satire on brozoning or if it’s an endorsement. Some women are furious, particularly at the nonchalant line, “You can just stop being yourself”, while others on social media (mostly men), are telling everyone (mostly women) to ‘lighten up’. Another well-meaning guy has politely told Girliyapa that they’ve got it all wrong, because guys love girls who are like them, because they’re not fake.
Does this confusion in responses to Girliyapa’s video have to do with the confusion surrounding the term brozone itself? In movies, this no-love-for-tomboy-women problem is usually solved by a mandatory feminine makeover. This is a familiar story — remember Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and that ridiculous scene in which a transformed Anjali (straight long hair, sanskaari types) is playing basketball in a sari and Rahul distracts her by pulling off her pallu from her waist, where she’d neatly tucked it in? And in Main Hoon Na, where a rebellious Amrita Rao had to transform into a pink salwar-wearing desi ladki. Because they are the kind of women men apparently want to be with.
Maybe this is why Girliyapa’s video instantly got my friend’s attention, it seemed like she could relate to it.
In school, this friend and I would spend a lot of our time with the boys in our class. Anyone could instantly recognise our ‘type’ — we had short hair, we participated in relay races, we were both sports captains, and played kabbaddi very enthusiastically.
We were tomboys. We were both Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’s Anjali when she beat Rahul in basketball and called him a loser, and we gave off the vibe that we didn’t care how we looked, because we had other things going for us. Including climbing a steep rock in school that we were told no other girl had climbed at 13, and scraping our knees quite badly in the process. Even then, we were such guys, because we didn’t cry. We were ‘cool.’
Back in school, we were both told by different people that what we’d never have going for us was a real love life. As if it wasn’t enough that we never understood why, now we had to wonder why our love lives would never be real. By the time I got to college, I heard that you were in the brozone if you could send ugly selfies to a guy you liked, even though movies and songs tell us that you’ll only find ‘real’ love with your best friend, the one who knows everything about you and sees you in your holey pajamas. Like Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’, where huge glasses-wearing ‘brofriend’ Swift croons: “she wears high heels, I wear sneakers… You belong with me”. She sings this to her, friend who is also a boy she likes, that the other girl (hot cheerleader Swift) is not right for him and that he belongs with her. The bro.
What would Girliyapa have to say about friendzone, brozone’s counterpart? Would they succeed in being sarcastic on what men complain about when they feel rejected by women, or would they make it sound like it was the woman’s fault? The last time I told a friend of mine I wasn’t into him, I heard enough rumours come back to me, because apparently the only reason I could possibly have rejected such a nice guy was that I was the ‘scandalous’ kind that wanted an open relationship or nothing at all.
The one obvious connection here between the two largely unnecessary terms brozoning and friendzoning is that we all know who is usually blamed. “If you were a girl, I’d have to put in an effort,” my friend was told, and then rejected for not being ‘girly’ enough. “She just wants sex,” I was told, when I didn’t want to be with a guy. Clearly then the lesson here is that one needs to find a balance — one can’t hangout too much with the boys and be one of them (tomboy), or be too candy floss feminine. According to a lot of popular culture, desi ladki is where it’s at. Meanwhile some of us continue with the lessons learnt at 13, pre-viral videos, we only want to be left in peace to win basketball and climb pointy rocks.
Co-published with Firstpost.