The term brogrammer really rubs me the wrong way—especially because I'm seeing it crop up more and more, and it's not being used solely in jest. After months of wrestling with why the term bugs me, I thought I'd share my ideas to spur some discussion about the subject.
If I were asked for some of the words that come to mind when someone uses the term brogrammer, my responses are terms such as frat boy, poser, fake, trying-too-hard, and a host of other negative terms. Strangely enough, I'm not really sure why the term evokes such negative emotions.
Although I have strong opinions about what being a programmer means to me, I'm not the kind of person who needs to force my perceptions on others as a means of self-validation. Stated differently, I don't need developers to adhere to a stereotype for me to take them seriously. Accordingly, one of the things I've enjoyed about working with so many developers throughout the years has been the diversity of interests, passions, insights, likes and dislikes, and personalities that I've encountered among these different individuals.
I've also always enjoyed being around people who don't take themselves too seriously. Maybe the term brogrammer isn't a big deal and it's simply a light-hearted term that rubs me the wrong way. But I'm being really honest when I say that the first term that pops into my head when I hear the word brogrammer is the word douchebag. That's because I can't help thinking about the type of self-absorbed "bros" that are featured in vapid and no-talent television programs such as Jersey Shore. In other words, the term brogrammer reminds me of people whose lifestyles, to me, seem completely orthogonal to everything that I hold dear about being a developer.
Brogramming and Sexism?
Another thing that completely bugs me about the term brogrammer is that it's increasingly being used to link programming and sexism—especially by media outlets. Although programming is still overwhelmingly a male domain, I completely balk at the notion of using the term brogrammer to describe the maleness of our industry because I just don't think it's an apt fit.
Thankfully, Gina Tripani took the term brogrammer to task by pointing out that although she primarily sees this term being used as a joke (I keep seeing the term being used in more and more serious situations), it does provide some benefits in helping female developers avoid environments that might foster a "boys club" mentality among employees. However, I have to admit that I took exception with part of her argument: I believe these same warning signs apply equally to me as a male. Stated differently, if a company is actively looking for "brogrammers" to "crush code," then they've signaled to me that they're not a place that I want to work. I can't take the company seriously no matter what they might have going for them.
Brogrammer Screams Vapid High School
In the end, I'm pretty sure that one reason why the term brogrammer rubs me the wrong way is because it carries too many associations in my mind with party-hard frat boys whose best years of their lives were high school and college. Whenever I think of high school and social status, I can't help but remember that I was a nerd in high school. Although it makes sense to think that I might be bugged by the term brogrammer because of my own past experiences, I suspect that my baggage isn't the issue thanks to a fantastic essay by venture capitalist and legendary programmer, Paul Graham.
In his essay "Why Nerds are Unpopular," Paul posits that nerds are unpopular because they don't care enough about social status to actually give up intellectual pursuits or other passions so that they can focus on becoming cool or popular. Consequently, when I hear the term brogrammer, I can't help but fear some sort of influx of people with the wrong priorities or a lack of dedication. Although I definitely don't think you need to be a nerd or social misfit to be a developer, I can't help but get cranky when developers don't take their responsibilities seriously. I guess what ultimately makes me cranky enough about the term brogrammer is that I wish the term would never have been invented and would just go away.