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I Have Brothers

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"You see, it's because of her mean older brothers that she is immune to all manners of toilet nastiness. It's really sort of a gift, like playing the violin. Or dancing. Or playing the violin and dancing while Isabella's brothers fart at you."
Jamie Kelly, Dear Dumb Diary #8, "It's Not My Fault I Know Everything"

The tendency to justify characters displaying characteristics such as personality traits or skills outside traditional gender norms as being the result of having a number of (usually older) siblings of the opposite gender. For example, masculine female characters like The Lad-ette or Tomboy referring to their male siblings as the explanation as to how they got to be the way they are, or a Passionate Sports Girl being taught the sport by her brothers. While the name is gender specific, this is a unisex trope and covers instances of male characters justifying their interest in, knowledge of, or skill at doing traditionally feminine things such as fashion or cooking, or generally being In Touch with His Feminine Side.

If a girl is tough because she grew up with brothers who bullied her or otherwise fought with her, this trope overlaps with Had to Be Sharp.

See also Raised by Dudes when the character's testosterone-laden upbringing becomes an impediment in polite society, and Resentful Outnumbered Sibling when the character dislikes being outnumbered gender-wise.


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  • In one car commercial, this trope is shown in the way to empathize with someone. A father notices that his daughter feels left out of her brothers' activities, but he cheers her up by explaining that he can understand how she feels, as he had grown up being outnumbered by four sisters.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Bokura no Hentai:
    • Inverted with Wholesome Crossdresser Satoshi. He has several older sisters and borrows their clothes. Even after he stops crossdressing due to hitting puberty he is still In Touch with His Feminine Side and quite flamboyant.
    • Hacchi was a tomboy in elementary because she had brothers. She eventually underwent a Girliness Upgrade after her male friends stopped playing with her.
  • Crossplay Love: Otaku x Punk: Both Hanae and Shuumei have sisters who are aware of their crossdressing, and even help them with makeup sometimes.
  • In Digimon Fusion, Akari says that she's always playing shooting games with her brother, to explain how she managed to destroy a fleet of living aircraft carriers with missiles from a boarded craft.
  • Extreme variation in the second sound stage of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS while Alto and Lucino discuss their families:
    Alto: Mmm? [My family comprises of my] elder brother, elder brother, me and my little brother.
    Lucino: That's it then!
    Alto: Eh? Eh?
    Lucino: Perhaps it is due to this family situation that is why, before the age of seven, you thought that you were a boy!
    Alto: Ah! How did you know that!?
  • Hikaru Shidou from Magic Knight Rayearth has three older brothers, who work at their dad's kendo dojo. She's really good with a sword, and it also explains why she uses the masculine pronoun "boku".
  • Touma Minami is the resident Bifauxnen and Ore Onna in Minami-ke. Guess how many Aloof Big Brothers it took to make her thus?
  • Gender-flipped in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, where Quatre's family consists of his father and twenty-nine sisters, possibly explaining his gentle nature. Of course, if you lived with 29 women, you'd learn to put the seat down real quick, too.
  • Otomen: Juta Tachibana has ten little sisters and is an author writing under a penname to support them.
  • Yor in Spy X Family invokes this by claiming that she learned how to fight from her brother. Yuri is seven years younger than her, and she's lying to cover up how she's a Professional Killer; a woman learning self-defense from her brother is less suspicious than one who learned all on her own. Rather ironically, Yuri works with the Secret Police, so anyone who tried to investigate Yor's claim would most likely end up running into a wall. A prison cell wall.
  • Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches: When Yamada has to get into Kotori Moegi's good graces to figure out what her witch power is, he sees her obsession with dolls and decides to bring his own yakisoba bread doll to play with her. He notes that it was easy for him to figure this out because his younger sister Tatsumi used to make him play with her dolls.
  • An inversion is subverted in You and Me. Chizuru thought Shun was feminine because he came from an all-girl family however Shun has two sisters and a younger brother.
  • This trope and its genderflipped version form the plot of the short manga You're My Girlfriend: The female lead grew up surrounded by older brothers, whereas the male lead was more-or-less groomed by his older sisters.

    Comic Books 
  • Scarlet, in the G.I. Joe comic books, learned to be so good at martial arts because of her five older brothers, who were all instructors at her father's karate school.
  • In The Order (2007), Kate Kildare attributes her success in public-relations management to the fact that she had nine brothers growing up, which meant that she had to learn to stand up for herself.
  • Sensation Comics: Bobby Strong will sometimes resort to explaining she's gone on safari and gone hunting with her older brothers as an explanation for why she's a viable candidate for adventurous outings if her own abilities and explanation of her skills isn't enough to convince those in charge. This often works better for her than explaining that she has been trained in martial arts by Wonder Woman and has defeated numerous Nazis herself.
  • Hope O'Dare from Starman (DC Comics) has four brothers. She and her brothers are all cops and it's mentioned that she is the one everyone is frightened of.

    Comic Strips 
  • Big Nate: Vain straight-A student Gina reveals herself to be a hidden beast at hockey and tells Nate it's because she has four older brothers.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Averted but alluded to where the young Wrench Wench, Audrey, mentions that her dad didn't have any sons (just her and her older sister). Audrey's dad needed someone to follow in his footsteps as a mechanic, so Audrey was the one who chose to become a mechanic. Her sister, on the other hand, ended up taking up a career in boxing — Audrey had mentioned that her dad was also really into boxing, and he wanted one of his daughters to take up something related to that.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 100 Girls: Arlene has a very competitive streak and boyish outfit. She blames it on being the only girl on a family with seven brothers.
  • In Change of Habit, Carpenter asks Michelle how she can play touch football so well.
    Michelle: I have five brothers.
    Carpenter: They taught you to play?
    Michelle: No, I taught them to play!
  • The reason Natalie in the Charlie's Angels (2000) movie is so tough is because she has five older brothers who are in law enforcement/special forces/the FBI/etc.
  • Just One of the Guys: Inverted when Terry (who is disguised as a boy) falsely claims to have sisters to explain how "he" knows a trick to fix an earring.
  • In My Cousin Vinny, this was how Vinny's fiancĂ©, Lisa (who works as a hairstylist), knew virtually everything there is to know about anything related to cars. Lisa explains that her family runs an auto repair business and that her dad, her uncles, and her brothers all worked as mechanics — before becoming a hairstylist, Lisa herself worked as a mechanic to help out with her family's business.
  • In the Police Academy movies, Tackleberry's new girlfriend is as tough as he is, because her brother and father 'joke around' by hitting each other as hard as they can.
  • This is why Vivian from Pretty Woman knows so much about cars.
  • In the film Race to Witch Mountain, the female alien expert beats up a soldier and then offers this explanation.
  • Van Wilder: "My brothers play hockey. For the Rangers."

  • The Animorphs series gives us Estrid, an Andalite theoretical physicist who happens to be very, very good at tail-fighting because she learned from her brother - a renowned exhibition fighter. Unusual in that her gender isn't the (main) reason for Ax's surprise, her lack of combat experience (and the sheer skill she exhibits) is.
  • In Georgette Heyer's Arabella, the hero notices the heroine using boxing cant and thinks to himself, "So, the little Tallant had brothers." (She's been trying to make him believe she's an heiress.)
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Barrayar this is how Droushnakovi acquired the skill and ambition to become (apparently) the only female bodyguard on the planet.
  • In Beka Cooper, Beka's friend Ersken once comments that a man flirting with Beka is good looking. Paraphrased — "Don't look at me, Beka. Well, do look at me, but not like that. I have four sisters. If I didn't know what made mots(girls) curl their toes, I'd have to have had my head in the river for seventeen years."
  • The Berenstain Bears: In her debut book The Berenstain Bears and the Female Fullback, Bertha Broom explains that she learned football from her older brothers. Unfortunately, it takes a lot more than that before Mr. Grizzmeyer will even consider letting her on the team.
  • Parodied in the Dear Dumb Diary books. "She has brothers" — specifically "mean older brothers" — is basically Jamie's excuse for why her best friend is an Ax-Crazy Manipulative Bastard. In over a dozen books, the actual evidence presented in this direction is: 1) Said brothers may have once lined up and farted in Jamie's direction, and 2) one brother has a room so filthy and personal habits so unhygienic that the sight demands Brain Bleach in multiple females. The evidence that Isabella is a pure sociopath is much greater, and continual.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Played with in one case where Ginny's Quidditch skills are related to her six Quidditch-obsessed older brothers—because they never let her play with them. This resulted in her sneaking out with their brooms and secretly practicing on her own. Her brothers were very surprised.
    • In the final book, Harry also notes that having six older brothers probably explains Ginny's toughness.
    • One Tumblr post posits that each of Ginny's brothers has qualities that could make them a target for bullying, so Ginny toughened up from an early age to protect them rather than vice versa.
      Yeah, Bill has long hair and wears jewelry, Charlie is a recluse with dozens of animals, Percy is a huge nerd, Fred and George have a reputation as bad kids, Ron has a huge inferiority complex, and I wasn't going to let anyone give them any shit for any of that.
  • In Hover Car Racer, Jason's mechanic, Sally McDuff, learned about hover cars from her eight older brothers.
  • Journey to Chaos: Nolien explains that his ability to give fashionable haircuts comes from his younger sister. She found it more convenient to burst into his room than make an appointment at a salon.
  • Life with Boys: The female protagonist is a teenage girl living with three brothers, her father, and no female role figure (except when her paternal grandmother visits). She's even on the wrestling team.
  • Subverted in the H. Beam Piper novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen with Princess Rylla: blonde, beautiful, and a hard-riding cavalry officer who loads her pistols with a heavier-than-usual charge.
    "The gods," Chartiphon explained, "did not give our Prince a son ... so our little Rylla must be as a son to her father."
  • Malory Towers:
    • Alicia has three brothers, and her Brutal Honesty and mischievous tendencies seem to come from their influence.
    • Bill (short for Wilhelmina) has seven brothers and no sisters, and because of this she is easily the biggest tomboy of the school, and has almost no feminine traits.
  • In Meg Cabot's The Mediator series, Jesse helps Suze bandage her blisters from new shoes (the walking home on asphalt in a California heat wave probably didn't help either). When she asks how he knows what to do, his response is (paraphrased): "I grew up with three sisters. I know a thing or two about new shoes."
  • Subverted in the Mercy Thompson series, in that Mercy attributes her assertiveness (and how!) to the fact that she grew up with werewolves, not the fact that most of them were male. Also, her skills as an auto mechanic come from being trained by a fae later in her youth, not from a childhood among males.
  • Katarina from My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! had two older brothers in her original life, which led to her current tomboyish personality.
  • N.E.R.D.S.: It's implied that the wrestling-loving tomboy Matilda's personality and interests are related to her six older brothers.
  • In Terry Pratchett's
    • Equal Rites — "It was true that the girl spent more time climbing trees and running around shouting than little girls normally did, but a girl with four older brothers still at home can be excused a lot of things."
    • Slight variation in Monstrous Regiment, where Polly gets her ability to imitate boys from her family's owning a pub.
    • Not a skill, but Juliet in Unseen Academicals dismisses Glenda's dismay that she knows what tonkers look like by reminding her friend that she's seen her brothers bathing.
  • In Septimus Heap, the narrator gives this as one reason why Jenna (grew up as the only girl in a family with six sons) is able to easily overpower Boy 412 (a Child Soldier) in a fight, although it's noted that their relative physical conditions (they're the same age, but Jenna is in good shape while Boy 412 is very weak because of the harsh Young Army lifestyle, plus having barely survived freezing to death earlier) also played a role.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Despite being a highborn girl, Arya's tomboyish pursuits (exploring, swordfighting, horseback riding) are encouraged by her father Ned and older brother Jon.
  • The titular heroine of Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss series of mysteries has two (or possibly three) older brothers, and is the only girl in the family. She frequently uses this to explain away her disinterest in "feminine" clothes and values, and her ability to hold her own in an unarmed fight, though the fact that she and said brothers grew up on a working farm is at least as significant in this regard.
  • The main character of superhero novel Wearing the Cape, Astra, gets a superpower set that's very physical-fight oriented. When she asks her mentor why she got that set, he points out there's evidence that powers often react to a person's attitude and personality. Since she has several older brothers, and learned to fight because of their teasing, she ended up with a "fight back" outlook, as opposed to a "run away " or "defend yourself" outlook.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Acapulco: Despite not being particularly experienced at dating himself, Memo gives Maximo a lot of advice regarding girls' feelings because he grew up watching his multiple older sisters' romantic travails.
  • Played with in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In the first episode, it's explained that Amy Santiago grew up with seven brothers, explaining her hyper-competitive, perfectionist streak. On the other hand, Badass Biker Rosa Diaz pointedly does not have a backstory explaining how tough she is — she's just naturally hardcore. In Amy's case, this actually gets deconstructed, as simply having brothers didn't lead to her having very tomboyish interests or behaviour (rather, she's a huge nerd who's idea of home decorating is very feminine and grandmother-like), but as her parents would encourage competitiveness among their children, she developed her competitive streak due to that.
  • One of Echo's imprints in Dollhouse who was not intended for combat showed off gun skills and explained them by saying she had "four brothers." (cocks guns) "None of them Democrats."
  • Drake & Josh: It's in the aptly named "Girl Power." Drake's "Date of the Week," a girl named Lucy, briefly fights off some bullying jocks by throwing one of them into a table. When Josh questions where Lucy learned to fight like that, Lucy replies with, "I grew up with five older brothers. It was either learn how to fight or get held down and burped on."
  • Played somewhat straight, but with an added dimension, on Eureka: kick-ass ex-Army Ranger Deputy Jo Lupo is all about such "manly" things as guns and beating people up (and only reads girly magazines when she thinks no one's looking). They didn't trot out the brothers excuse until the second season episode "Noche de Suenos," when she confessed that she used to want to be a dancer, but growing up with no mother and three brothers, she had to "learn to survive" and gave up on the dancing thing.
  • Jo from The Facts of Life is a major aversion. She's the resident Lad-ette auto mechanic who grew up an only child with a single mother.
  • Lady Felecia in Father Brown, which is used to explain her having a number of unladylike skills. In the Cricket Episode "The Last Man'', she is sent in to bat in a Down to the Last Play moment and scores a six off the final ball to win the match. She then explains that her four brothers used to use her to practice their bowling, and she became an adept batsman in the process.
  • Daphne Moon on Frasier: "You don't grow up with eight brothers and not learn a thing or two about engines. Or the importance of being first in the shower." She also attributes her first aid skills to her brothers being Football Hooligans and having to patch them up after fights.
  • Full House: Becky takes over for Jesse announcing a charity hockey game. Noticing Jesse's surprise that she knows what she's doing (which he certainly didn't), she mentions growing up with "5 hockey-crazed brothers."
  • A one-off character on House, interviewing for an open position on House's team, explains why she hasn't stormed out offended: "I have four brothers. Keep your hands to yourself, and I can take anything that comes out of your mouth."
  • How to Rock: Stevie Baskara often refers to having four brothers—which attributes to how tough and tomboyish she is.
  • In Kyle XY, Josh first runs into Andy when she's hiding in the boys' restroom playing online games (the boys' restroom has better Wi-Fi reception than the girls', apparently). When Josh freaks out about a girl being in the boys' restroom, she replies "Oh, relax. I have brothers."
  • In the Law & Order episode "Girlfriends," Rey Curtis recognizes an item of lingerie as "the same label Madonna wears," explaining that he "lives with four women."
  • Life with Boys: Protagonist Tess Harper has three brothers—including a twin. While still feminine, this probably attributes to her being on the wrestling team. Her widowed father is also the gym teacher too.
  • Parodied on Little Britain, where Emily Howard (a lady!) is walking past and a man, seeing as it's incredibly obvious that Emily's a man, calls "her" over to ask if "she" can fix his van. Emily insists she can't fix it as it's not a very lady-ish thing to do, but she eventually caves in and explains what's wrong in great detail, fixing it entirely. Her justification? "Growing up with four brothers, I was always going to be a bit of a tomboy!"
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In Murdoch Au Naturel, after shooting Murdoch's assailant, One-Shot Character Irene says that her brothers taught her how to shoot when Murdoch compliments her aim. Said brothers (the Posthumous Character Rooster Brothers) were Wild West outlaws.
  • NCIS. Rookie agent Ellie Bishop easily disarms and subdues a guy twice her size, surprising the team, who were rushing to rescue her. She shrugs off their astonishment. "I have three older brothers."
  • Side Hustle: Co-lead Lex has a big family consisting of multiple younger siblings—to the point that in one episode, the other co-lead Presley has to fight her way through them just to get to her room.
  • On a Two and a Half Men episode, Alan warns Rose about the intensity of Jake's farts after he lets one rip, to which Rose remarks that she's used to it considering that she's got two older brothers—though even she's horrified by the smell of Jake's once it hits.

    Video Games 
  • Special Agent Ava in Counter-Strike is said, in her character information, to be a case of this as well.
  • The manual for Final Fantasy XII explains that Penelo's martial prowess comes from training from her elder brothers who served in the Dalmascan military.
  • In Growing Up, Wendy's rebellious nature comes from having many brothers. They often invite her to watch R-rated horror movies when their parents aren't looking.
  • In I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, Anemone's strong passion for sports comes from having many brothers, one of whom is the coach of the sportsball team.
  • Kim Wu in the reboot of Killer Instinct has two older brothers, which probably helps explain her spunky attitude and willingness to brawl with monsters, aliens, and the like.
  • In League of Legends, Irelia the Blade Dancer specifies aloud that she built up the instinct to fight from having four siblings — despite the semantic choice, her actual biography only covers her as having brothers.
  • According to Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, Claire Redfield's brother did give her some basic training.
  • Team Fortress 2 has a rare same-gender sibling example. The Scout gained his speed from being the youngest of eight brothers: He had to train himself to run fast because it was the only way he could get to a fight before the others beat everybody up first!
  • In Tokimeki Memorial 4, Itsuki Maeda lives within a family made only of men (father and brothers), who are all mechanics. As such, she has skills and hobbies percieved as masculine such as playing soccer, and being able to fiddle motorbikes and cars. That doesn't prevent her for having a cute feminine side, though.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • RWBY: In a gender-flipped example, when Jaune reveals he can dance, he attributes his skills to the fact that he has seven sisters.
    • RWBY Chibi: In the comedy spin-off, Jaune saves himself and his friends from their kidnapper by making himself so annoying that she lets them go just to spare herself the torture of having to deal with him. He attributes this talent for being so annoying to his sisters.

    Web Comics 
  • Played with in this Girl Genius strip. Violetta does display surprising knowledge in a field that she's expected to be ignorant of, and justifies it by pointing out "I spent practically my whole life with [male cousin] Tarvek!" The thing is, the field is high fashion — Tarvek has been well-demonstrated to be The Fashionista.
  • Silvia from Gold Coin Comics has two older brothers, and she tries to be like them by studying Time Magic.
  • Nay's more nerdy habits in Khaos Komix are explained with this.
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things uses the "I have sisters" variant of this trope to explain Ganondorf's elaborate hair designs. A reference to the fact that he's The One Guy in the otherwise female Gerudo race in several of the games.
  • Breya from Schlock Mercenary uses this to justify beating her black-belt martial arts instructor. Kevyn then uses "I'm one of her brothers." to justify doing exactly the same thing. (And then Schlock volunteers to pretend to be one of the brothers... Fortunately we don't get to see what happens.)
  • Shelly of Wapsi Square had seven older brothers, and her mother died when she was around ten, so she was the only female around for much of her childhood. At present she is really tough, and worked as a mechanic for a while before she switched to being a personal trainer and kickboxing instructor.

    Web Original 
"No, I don't know how to fight. I was only ever taught how to de-escalate situations with healthy communication and emotional validation."

    Western Animation  
  • Male version: On Camp Lazlo, Raj plans Lumpus and Jane's wedding because "I have 17 older sisters. I think I know a thing or two about weddings."
  • A non-sibling variant in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Mac and Frankie have called in to a radio show to win tickets to a new movie, but first they have to guess what romantic comedy the lead actor starred in. Mac immediately says, "Daffodil Days!" In response to Frankie's confused stare, he says his mom likes it.
  • On Gravity Falls, Wendy's tomboyish nature probably comes from having three younger brothers, no visible mother and Manly Dan for a father.
  • Also Louie's mother's ability at baseball in Life with Louie.
  • Played with in The Loud House: Lincoln Loud, the lead character, is the middle child and only son in a family of eleven kids, and while he does have typical boyish interests like comic books and video games, most of the "feminine" things that he knows about are related to things that his sisters are interested in (such as Lola's interest in beauty pageants leading Lincoln to know which types of fabric are harder to clean than others), are practical (such as being able to cook) and learning to be kind and sensitive (as shown in "One of the Boys"). However, as shown in "Lincoln Loud: Girl Guru", just because Lincoln has a bunch of sisters, it doesn't automatically make him a "girl expert."
    • Also in "One of the Boys," we briefly see an alternate universe where Lincoln's female counterpart, Linka, presumably plays this trope straight (though Linka only appears for about a minute or so).
  • In Recess, Spinelli's Lad Ette personality can be at least partly explained by the fact that she has two older brothers, although they never appear onscreen. Her brother Joey taught her how to fix car engines, which comes in handy when the school bus breaks down in "Operation: Field Trip," while her brother Vito was the original owner of her Boots of Toughness.
  • Lor from The Weekenders has at least a dozen brothers (she's not sure exactly how many) and no sisters. She's enthusiastic about sports and very athletic.
  • A woman in Winnetoons credits her Bar Brawling skills to growing up on a farm "with six brothers."

    Real Life 
  • Studies of the behavioral effects of sex hormones have shown that female rats born to otherwise all-male litters tend to exhibit masculine behaviors, such as urine-marking and mounting to display dominance. Androgens from their numerous male siblings appear to have seeped over within the uterus, influencing the female pups' brain development.
  • Murasaki Shikibu (author of The Tale of Genji) learned how to write kanji (back then, men wrote in kanji while women were restricted to hiragana) by observing her brother's lessons.
  • Kate Beckinsale grew up with four older stepbrothers she was close to, which likely led to her tendency to play Action Girl characters. According to a few interviews, years of getting wedgies from them has made her react fast.

Alternative Title(s): I Have Sisters