What Exactly Is Bropropriating? Here Are 7 Examples

Men have been stealing or getting credit for women’s ideas literally since the dawn of time. Men were assumed to have created paleolithic cave paintings until 2013, when anthropologists discovered they were most likely made by women.

Men either actively taking or being given assumed credit for women’s ideas and work is not a new phenomenon, but it wasn’t until recently that we finally had words to describe these specific behaviors.

Jessica Bennett, author of Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace, defines bropropriating as, “taking a woman’s idea and taking credit for it.”

Of course, stealing ideas and credit takes place outside the context of men stealing from women. Men steal from men. Women steal from women. But the specific act of men claiming credit for women’s ideas occurs on a cultural rather than just an individual basis, leaving women with historically less credit and acclaim for their achievements than men.

Bropropriating has long term effects not just on an individual woman’s career, but on how we understand women’s accomplishments throughout history.

So what does bropropriating look like in practice? Here are 7 examples.

The Double Helix

Most people, when asked about the discovery of DNA (if they still remember this from science class) would mention James Watson and Francis Crick. The name that is frequently glossed over in this story or left out entirely is Rosalind Franklin, whose own work on DNA was stolen by another scientist and given to Franklin’s competitors, Watson and Crick, without her permission.

Franklin had captured an image of DNA which was critical to Watson and Crick’s understanding of the double helix structure. Watson and Crick buried Franklin’s efforts in the footnotes of their Nobel Prize-winning Nature article. Franklin ultimately died of cancer four years before Watson and Crick won the Prize. It took them 40 years to publicly admit that Franklin’s work had been critical to their ultimate success.

Hound Dog


Hound Dog became one of Elvis Presley’s earliest hits. It spent 11 weeks at number one and is probably still one of the songs he is best known for. But Hound Dog wasn’t written for Elvis Presley. He wasn’t even the first to make it a hit.

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote the song for Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, whose version topped the R&B charts in 1953.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls it “the most illustrative example of the white appropriation of African-American music.”

Big-Eyed Waifs


Painter Margaret Keane created “the big-eyed waifs,” pieces of art which were very popular in the 1960s. She signed the paintings with the name of her husband, Walter Keane, because he convinced her she’d make more money that way.

The couple later divorced and despite alleged threats that her ex would kill her if she ever told the truth about the paintings, Margaret finally did just that in 1970.

Eventually, in 1986, she took him to court over the issue. For Exhibit 22, Margaret sat in front of the jurors and painted a big-eyed waif in under an hour.

“Hepeating”


One common type of bropropriating that every woman has probably experienced at some point is called “hepeating.” If you’ve ever been in a meeting or worked in a group setting, shared an idea that was ignored, only to have that same idea repeated by a man and recieved with applause, you’ve been hepeated. Or, if you’re the one repeating the idea, you’re guilty of hepeating.

Hepeating is a specific form of bropropriating that usually occurs at work and unlike some of the examples, the repetition of the idea doesn’t occur decades later but right there in the moment and still no one takes notice.

The term hepeating first became popular in September, when Nicole Gugliucci, an astronomer and professor, shared the word on Twitter, finally giving us all a word to describe an experience we’ve endured for eternity.


This problem is everywhere, even in the White House. Women in the Obama administration noticed this problem and banded together to make sure their contributions were heard. They used a tactic called “amplification.” When one woman would voice and idea or opinion, the other women in the room would repeat it and give credit to the originator. In this way, everyone had to acknowledge their ideas and men didn’t have the opportunity to steal them.

Monopoly

monopoly-lizzie-magie

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Charles Darrow first played Monopoly at a friend’s house 30 years after the game was invented by left-wing feminist Lizzie Magie. And yet even more than one hundred years later, even Hasbro still denies Magie’s involvement and credits Darrow with the game’s conception.

Magie wanted to create a board game which would serve as a way to communicate her progressive political views. Magie spent years perfecting her idea and eventually secured a patent for The Landlord’s Game. She published the game, which grew in popularity until three decades later, it was played by Charles Darrow who asked his friend for a copy of the rules who brought it to Parker Brothers.

Darrow sold the game to Parker Brothers, now owned by Hasbro, earning him millions. Magie received only $500 from Parker Brothers for her idea.

The Tanking of Obamacare Repeal

Remember (one of the times) when the entire nation was in a panic about the possible Obamacare repeal? And John McCain swooped in at the last minute, straight from brain surgery, to save us all from the certain death and demise that awaited us should the repeal pass? Dramatic as that may have been, McCain does not deserve all the credit for blocking the Obamacare repeal.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who were frozen out of the GOP’s initial repeal planning, listened to their constituents and the many, many activists, most of them women, writing post cards and calling in to voice their concerns about the repeal.

Collins’ and Murkowski’s votes may not have been as dramatic as McCain’s, but they were just as essential.

The Law of Parity


Despite disproving a law of physics, Chien-Shiung Wu never received the Nobel Prize for her work.

Wu was recruited by Columbia University to work on the Manhattan Project. Afterward, physicists Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang asked her to help them disprove law of conservation of parity. The law stated, “two physical systems—like atoms—that were mirror images would behave in identical ways.”

The law had been accepted for 30 years, but Wu’s experiments using a radioactive form of cobalt overturned the law. Yang and Lee won the Nobel Prize in 1957 for Wu’s discovery.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

93 comments

Past Member
Past Member 10 days ago

ty

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heather g
heather g14 days ago

There are many who have no shame in lying

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Mike R
Mike R17 days ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R17 days ago

Thanks

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natasha p
Past Member 18 days ago

ty

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Jim V
Jim V21 days ago

thank you

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Jim V
Jim V21 days ago

thank you

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Jerome S
Jerome S21 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Jerome S
Jerome S21 days ago

thanks for sharing

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KimJ M
KimJ M23 days ago

TFS

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