What is a bogan?
A bogan is an Australian redneck. More or less.
The easiest way to explain what bogans are, to Americans, is that bogans are the Australian equivalent to rednecks. On the other side of that coin, if you want to describe what a “redneck” is to an Australian you can simply tell them that rednecks are the American equivalent to bogans. Sure, there’s some nuance between “redneck” and “bogan” that inevitably gets lost in translation across the Pacific Ocean, but we’re talking in very broad brush strokes here.
The Cambridge Dictionary definition of bogan
If you want to know what bogans are, the official definition of “bogan,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is “an insulting word for a person whose way of dressing, speaking, and behaving is thought to show their lack of education and low social class.”
The definition of “redneck,” also by Cambridge, is “a poor white person without education, especially one living in the countryside in the southern U.S., who has prejudiced (= unfair and unreasonable) ideas and beliefs. This word is usually considered offensive.”
Wikipedia explains what bogans are
Wikipedia’s entry for “bogan” expands on simple definitions of what bogans are by explaining that “bogan” is
[…] Australian and New Zealand slang for a person whose speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour are considered unrefined or unsophisticated…Some features regularly associated with the bogan stereotype include residing in the outer working class suburbs of larger cities, having teeth that have not had dental care due to cost, having an anti-authoritarian or jingoistic stance, as well as being interested in classic rock music, hoon-driving (think “Fast and Furious” – ed) and excessive alcohol consumption…[Bogans] may refuse to conform to middle-class standards of taste, dietary habits, leisure activities, styles of dress and ways of speaking, and might be looked down upon […] due to preconceived perceptions and biases which can often exacerbate the hardships faced by disadvantaged people.
For the word “redneck” Wikipedia also gives a broader explanation:
Redneck is a derogatory term chiefly, but not exclusively, applied to white Americans perceived to be crass and unsophisticated, closely associated with rural whites of the Southern United States. Its usage is similar in meaning to cracker (especially regarding Texas, Georgia, and Florida), hillbilly (especially regarding Appalachia and the Ozarks), and white trash (but without the last term’s suggestions of immorality) […] People from the white South sometimes jocularly call themselves “rednecks” as insider humor.
How are Australia’s bogans the same as America’s rednecks?
If you noticed, both of the definitions for rednecks and bogans emphasize class differences, using multiple ways to paint a group of people negatively by another group of people. For years, “redneck” was a fiercely classist word that was used to mock a group of people who fell outside of “respectable” American society. Redneck men were (and still are) historically pitted against various “others,” but mostly against non-whites by the “elites,” in order to keep the middle and lower classes suspicious of, and busy fighting among, each other. “The [CONVENIENT ENEMY OF THE DAY] is coming to take away your jobs, your women, your income, your benefits, and destroy your family/country/way of life!” the powerful would say, laughing all the way to the bank.
Rednecks and bogans are stereotyped as typically mullet sportin’, torn flannel wearin’, hard drinkin’, classic rockin’, trailer trashin’, train wreckin‘ simple, unsophisticated, uncultured, and boorish folk who are always on the fringes of acceptable society.
Historically, bogans and rednecks have been laughed at and easily dismissed as coarse buffoons.
For the most part, we Americans have embraced our working-class, marginalized, and misunderstood brethren. Jeff Foxworthy, known for his “you might be a redneck” jokes, became the best-selling comedy recording artist of all time. Are there racist rednecks? Absolutely, however, there are also rednecks who have long known the system is rigged against them regardless of race, because they understand how racism and sexism are used against them in a broader class struggle. The differences are really just nitpicking across oceans.
Is “bogan” offensive?
It depends. Do you feel that “redneck” an offensive word? Here’s something to think about. Even if the words themselves are rooted in classism they’re also words embraced by the same people they’re intended to be weaponized against. Bogans and rednecks (it’s a link to a t-shirt. Want one?) are loud, proud, fiercely independent, very anti-authoritarian, and above all they are survivors within societies where, to paraphrase George Carlin, the upper-class uses their existence to scare the shit out of the middle-class.
Soooooo, does America have bogans?
Yes! Absolutely. Without a doubt, The United States of America is full of bogans.