The Sexist

That’s Housing Discrimination, Broheim

A recent Craigslist advertisement for a vacant Mount Pleasant bedroom—“$770 1 Bedroom in a 6Br, 3 story Bro Palace-America”—has been making its way around the Internets. The ad, which was posted earlier this month (it's since been removed), seeks a "bro of epic broportions" to join a couple an unknown quantity of bros who "like to party hard and bang chicks even harder" in taking up residence in this "Temple to Broseidon."

In honor of my former colleague and housing guru Ruth Samuelson, I thought I'd detail all the possible ways this self-described "brahacracy" could be violating fair housing laws, which require that no roommate-seeker show “a limitation to the ordinary reader." In other words, broheim can't reveal a preference based on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or education level. How does this ad discriminate? Let me count the ways:

Gender: 3,856 Urban Dictionary users agree: The term "bro" refers exclusively to men. Those who don't qualify as the most bro-y of bros (or "a complete brohemouth") are instructed to not even proceed in reading the ad:

WARNING: If you are not a complete Brohemouth, do not read this ad. The awesome of this house will make your face melt like Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Sexual orientation: The bro in question must be down to "bang chicks"—and hard!

The bros in this house like to party hard and bang chicks even harder.

Nationality: The ad expresses distaste for both Russian and Chinese culture:

If you hate China and Russia winning any Olympic medal and shed a bro-tear when Phelps won his 8th gold medal, join the club.

. . . and a preference for American:

RamBros love America.

Age:  While bros of every generation could have "recently banged a chick born in the 90’s," the ad implies a preference for bros who routinely couple with women of this age group:

Having recently banged a chick born in the 90’s is a plus. If it was doggy and you didn’t call her ever again…BRO-FIVE!

Surely, there must be many more facets of bro discrimination hidden in this bad boy. Submit your finds in the comments.

Photo via JoelZimmer, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • Mrs. D

    A roommate-seeker may express a preference for a roommate of the same gender, and sexual orientation is not a federally-protected characteristic. Analysis of federal fair housing laws fail.

  • Ben

    In fairness, the last time I was apartment-hunting, I saw many ads saying "female preferred" or "female only".

    Granted, this ad is crass and juvenile, but after reading the whole thing - particularly the references to "affliction t-shirts" and "multiple blenders for protein shakes" - I'm pretty sure the whole thing's a joke.

  • Meegs

    I think the ad must be a joke, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were real. Either way, I think people looking for roommates can specify any type of roommate they want. Including douchebros. I'd rather they all live in one place though, so I know where to avoid! Then again, I was born in the 70s, so I must be safe.

  • TT

    Yeah, I mean, it's either a joke or some dumb fratboy shit (in either case, who cares), but are you really saying you don't think people should be able to express a gender preference for a potential roommate?

  • former staffer

    Bro, you've been sued. :)

    Bro. :(

  • Phil Mayer

    I frequently see ads that prefer or allow only females. Once again the female supremacist double standard.

  • Charlie

    Federal Fair Housing legislation covers dwellings with 4 or more units. I think DC laws (which would include sexual orientation provisions not in the federal law) use the same number. Since they are talking about 2 "Bros" seeking a third, but it is a six bedroom house, I am not sure how the law would apply.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Charlie, I wrote that a "couple of bros" were looking for a roommate, but looking back on the post there was no indication of how many bros currently reside in the 6-bedroom home. I've corrected the post.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    I'm sorry, I meant 6 bedroom Bro Palace-America

  • Jess

    It's amazing how these armchair housing law experts are unable to click a link to see what the real housing law experts say. Yes, this is discriminatory. Doesn't mean people don't do it -- people do all sorts of discriminatory bullshit -- but the fact that you saw some other ads that were also discriminatory doesn't actually change the law or mean much of anything, really. If you need more information, the link is provided in this very article!

  • kza

    I recently saw an ad that was for lesbians only. I think that's fair.

  • Mrs. D

    Actually, Jess, not a single housing law expert was linked in this blog. All that was linked were other bloggers and an Urban Dictionary link. But if you want links, here they are:

    http://www.justice.gov/crt/housing/title8.php - the Fair Housing Act itself. This shows that sexual orientation is not a federally protected characteristic. It also outlines the exceptions for owners of fewer than 4 properties, and buildings with fewer than 4 units. Although this exemption only applies to selection, not advertising, which is why there's:

    http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/sect804achtenberg.pdf Guidance directly from HUD noting the SHARED HOUSING EXCEPTION, outlined here: http://www.fairhousingadvocates.com/advertising.pdf , here: http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/dporweb/fho_advertising.cfm ; and in Craigslist's own explanation of federal fair housing law: http://www.craigslist.org/about/FHA .

  • TT

    Jess - is that true? It would make sense to me that if you are the property owner, you can't discriminate when deciding who to rent to. But as someone seeking a roommate, you can't request certain characteristics in someone you are voluntarily choosing to live with? Not even gender? That doesn't seem right. And if it is, I gotta say, that's a pretty stupid law.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Well, the D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in housing. Even though we don't know all the conditions of this rental, I think it's fair to take a standard of what constitutes discrimination in D.C. in general and apply it to this example. Admittedly, D.C.'s standards for discrimination are some of the strictest in the nation. Also, many, many, many violations of the Human Rights Act occur around the city (particularly in housing) without anyone ever giving a half of a shit. This was just a particularly egregious example, which specified that renters be male, aggressive in their heterosexuality, sufficiently American, and certainly not Chinese. It may also be a joke! But it appears that we are well past joking in this comments thread.

    So, the D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits:

    "To make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to a transaction, or proposed transaction, in real property, or financing relating thereto, which notice, statement, or advertisement unlawfully indicates or
    attempts unlawfully to indicate any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, family responsibilities, disability, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, or place of residence or business, of any individual."

    That's what I'm going on here.

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    I suppose then that one would find this ad equally objectionable given that the law states that a person cannot indicate a preference for sex or sexual orientation.

    As others noted, I have seen numerous adverts stating "female-only." If one is only going to complain about adverts for male-only roommates, it makes one's argument completely and ironically hypocritical.

  • TT

    Yeah, but Amanda, they're residents looking for a compatible roommate. It's not a landlord demanding certain demographic characteristics from a lessee. I think the spirit of the law is to prevent landlords from discriminatory leasing, and if the letter of the law prevents people from seeking compatible roommates (which I'm still not sure it does), then that's a mistake. Honestly, regardless of the assholes who posted this ad, I've never heard of anyone having a problem with men seeking a male roommate or women seeking a female roommate.

  • Mrs. D

    I agree that this ad has several FHA violations in it, and possibly more HRA violations, but, again, the HRA doesn't apply to owner-occupied homes and small multi-unit buildings occupied by the owner or the owner's family members:

    § 2-1402.24. Exceptions.
    (a) Nothing in this chapter is to be construed to apply to the rental or leasing of housing accommodations in a building in which the owner, or members of his family occupy one of the living units and in which there are, or the owner
    intends that there be, accommodations for not more than:
    (1) Four families, and only with respect to a prospective tenant, not related to the owner-occupant, with whom the owner-occupant anticipates the necessity of sharing a kitchen or bathroom; or
    (2) Two families living independently of each other.
    (b) Nothing contained in the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed to permit any rental or occupancy otherwise prohibited by any statute, or by any regulation previously enacted and not repealed herein.
    (c) Nothing in this chapter shall apply to the sale or rental of a single-family home sold or rented by an owner if:
    (1) The owner does not own more than 3 single-family homes at any one time; or own any interest in, or has owned or reserved on his behalf, under any express or voluntary agreement, title to any right to all or a portion of the proceeds from the sale or rental of more than 3 single-family homes at any one time. This exemption shall apply only to one sale within a 24-month period of the sale of any single-family home by a private owner not residing in that home at the time of the sale or who was not the most recent resident of that home prior to the sale.
    (2) The home was sold or rented without:
    (A) The use of the sales or rental facilities or services of a real estate broker, agent, or salesperson, or of the facilities or services of any person in the business of selling or renting dwellings, or of any employee or agent, or sales person; and
    (B) Without the publication, posting or mailing, after notice, of any advertisement in violation of § 2-1402.21(a)(5).

    http://ohr.dc.gov/ohr/frames.asp?doc=/ohr/lib/ohr/pro_acts_of_discrimination.pdf

    Only difference is that, in this case, the exception ALSO applies to advertising, as advertising is included in the superceeding section of the regulation that these exceptions apply to (actually the part you quoted). While the regulations specifically apply to "owners" not "roommates," roommates renting a house or apartment and seeking another roommate can be considered to have the authority to make the lease, insofar as their responsibilities for advertising go, where they are not otherwise specifically mentioned.

    Listen, I have no problem with bringing up how often the FHA and HRA are violated. However, to do so half-cocked and without even reading crucial sections of the legislation/regulations covering its application does more harm than good. Note the comment about the double-standard.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Toysoldier,

    You're right! That ad is not legal. But if I dedicated my blog to defending the civil rights of young, white, heterosexual American dudes, what would the Men's Rights blogs have left to talk about?

    I'm here all week.

    But anyway, since I am aware of your particular passions, check out this piece in which I defend this exact set of people against discrimination based on the D.C. Human Rights Act:

    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2009/01/28/young-man-theres-a-place-you-cant-go/

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    @Mrs. D

    I've read all the literature you've suggested, and I think we just disagree in our interpretation of these laws. Judges and juries may have differing interpretations of them as well. For example, I don't agree with you that the D.C. Human Rights Act should be interpreted to mean that if a roommate posts an ad, he or she is necessarily placed in the "owner-occupied" exception category.

    The Craigslist run-down on the federal laws reads: "Although the prohibition on discriminatory advertising applies to roommate and shared housing situations, federal Fair Housing laws do not cover the basis of decisions made by landowners who own less than four units, and live in one of the units." Here, roommates are specifically established as a separate category from live-in owners, and I'd make the same distinction in the local case.

    For the record, I'm not personally endorsing any of these laws. Being able to state a preference for your roommate's sex makes sense to me, but it can also facilitate discrimination against transgender people. Just sayin'.

  • Mrs. D

    I agree that in the federal law, roommates are separate from homeowners. However, the DC law does not mention anything specifically about roommates. Here's my full analysis. First, we don't know that the broheims aren't the owners of the property, so the owner exception may apply to them. If not, they may be acting at the direction of the landlord to find a new roommate, and the small owner or owner occupied exemption may apply to the landlord. (In this case the landlord "caused" the ad to be placed). If none of these are the case, I would argue that, as a tenant with a lease, they have control over the property for the term of that lease and are acting as if they are the owner-occupiers. This goes double if they sublease, as the agreement is them with them and not the landlord.

    Let's try a different situation and see if that helps. You have some religious belief that you can't live with unrelated males. If the law forces you to take all comers when looking for a roommate, including males, then the law discriminates against your religious beliefs in favor of the prospective roommate's gender. That type of double-speak is not permissible in anti-discrimination statutes, and is the basis for the limited exceptions to the fair housing laws. As much as I like gay people, I can see this exception being extended to sexual orientation if that ever becomes federal law. Indeed, I think that is why the DC law is written the way it is, granting a blanket exemption from all anti-discrimination clauses, because the federal law picks up the slack on everything but sex, sexual orientation, and physical appearance.

    As for transgendered people, the law did not forsee that. In a court, I imagine that the analysis would focus on the legally-defined sex, that which is listed on the complaintant's birth certificate, but it would definitely be a tricky case.

    I agree there's a lot of discrimination out there, and much of that is legally impermissible. However, when you stretch the statutes beyond their bounds, which your analysis does in this case, legally speaking, you end up discriminating against someone else's legally protected status in many cases, and that's also wrong.

    But I still stridently agree that the ad displays a preference for race, ethnicity, and age, which are all impermissible.

  • WTF!

    Is anyone else creeped out by their desire to only "bang" woman under 20? I am.

  • reeves

    Feminist blog = men bad, women good. We get it. Frankly your tone is why most men cant take feminists seriously as partners to fight for equal rights when we are constantly being maligned by feminists. After so much, you just start to tune feminists out. And this is coming from a liberal dem !!

  • NZ

    The advertisement is showing more than a preference for men, its language is limiting those who should reply to men. Ads saying male or female preferred identify a preference, but do not limit those individuals who would be considered to that paticular sex.

  • greg

    Snore. You write about the most meaningless shit imaginable.

  • Jeff

    Man, find something else to write about. What a waste of time.

  • Skipper

    Memo to City Paper:

    Fire Amanda Hess as the Housing Blog writer and hire Mrs. D.

    @Amanda: Did you actually talk to any housing law experts, the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate, the DC Office of Human Rights, or the Dept of Housing and Community Development? It seems like your original post used the weaselly phrase "may violate", yet your responses to Mrs. D point-by-point rebuttal of your pseudo-legal arguments show a very limited understanding of either federal fair housing laws or DC rental housing laws.

    And the whole "we'll just have to agree to disagree" is simply bullshit. Your legal analysis was demolished by Mrs. D. There's no "agree to disagree" wiggle room. Either your legal analysis is correct or it's not.

    And, given Mrs. D's rather substantial rebuttals, I think Mrs. D has pretty easily shown that you don't know what you're talking about and, if you're pretending to offer pseudo-legal opinions, you should be prepared to be called out on it if you haven't done any basic research on the issue, other than a cursory Google search.

    There's a ton of legal resources out there that could answer your question in 5-10 minutes. If you didn't take a few moments to call any of them since you posted this and received a fairly strong rebuttal, you had a journalistic duty to do some after-the-fact due diligence research.

  • dentarthurdent

    It was a joke. And a good one. Get over it.

  • Azalea

    " But if I dedicated my blog to defending the civil rights of young, white, heterosexual American dudes, what would the Men’s Rights blogs have left to talk about?"

    This is why no one will take you seriously.

  • Sarah

    Maybe it was a Kaspar Hauser Craiglist posting.

    http://kasperhauser.com/khraigslist

  • DCAV8R

    Fair Housing starts with an owner that has 4 or more units (no pun intended). If you are a single owner, you can discriminate all you want-- Even here in DC.

  • Gwenyth

    Important bit:

    Shared Housing Exemption -- If you are advertising a shared housing unit, in which tenants will be sharing a bathroom, kitchen, or other common area, you may express a preference based upon sex only.

    So, asking for females only, or bros only, is fair game. And I'm kinda glad it is. Printing a discriminatory preference based on age or sexual orientation is not though. So both this piece(debatably), and the piece for the 'lesbian-only' house(more obviously), are illegal.

    Legal or no, it is godawful.

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