A new word, “Bromance”, has crept into our gender behavior lexicon. Defined as a healthy, secure friendship between two heterosexual guys, usually single guys, although many times a bromance continues even when one of the guys in a relationship with a women. Bromances are also called “man crushes” because of the level of affection the guys feel for each other. As an illustration, a man who may enjoy spending time together with another man more than with a female significant other would be told he has a bromance going on.
My concern is with the notion that we need an alternative to using the word friendship when referring to a close/intimate non-sexual relationship between men. I have a close male friend. We have are both heterosexual and have been friends for 60 years. We have shared the ups and downs of our respective life’s journeys – marriages, divorces, deaths, career success and failures. Although geographically separated we speak at least once a week on the telephone and usually see each other in person once a year. I would label the relationship as intimate in that we admit our vulnerabilities to each other without fear of being judged or shamed. Yet when asked about my relationship with him I do not need to say anything other than that he is my best friend. Calling it a bromance is unnecessary and somehow personally offensive. Is describing close friendships among men as bromances or man crushes a means to avoid the appearance of being gay? My suspicion is that the need for the new labels underscores the struggle men have with the concept of intimacy. A confluence of LBGT political correctness and the difficulty men have in forming intimate relationships in our modern culture have created the need for men to invent the artificial construct of bromance. Historically, there are numerous examples of men in relationship with one another, even using the word love, that have nothing to do with sexual attraction. (In a previous post I discuss the issue of male intimacy in the context of men and gangs). In a way characterizing relationships as bromances is an inverted form of homophobia. If I describe my relationship with another man as a bromance I am attempting to avoid the appearance that I am gay. The focus on LBGT rights have inadvertently led to the need for hyper labeling our sexual orientation. True tolerance of differences in our sexual preferences would obviate the need for men having to publically declare and self label that we are straight, gay, bi-sexual, or bromantic. A closing thought, how come we do not need to create a word like “sismance” for women who have a non-sexual intimate relationship?
I guess I have been a bit naive about how some men have reacted to the many challenges of redefining masculinity in our current society. Although I have been blogging on the subject for quite some time and am conversant with the mainstream masculinity literature I was frankly unaware of the “neo masculinity” movement with its chief protagonist Roosh Valizadeh’s organization Return of Kings. A recent article in my local newspaper about the cancellation of a recent Return of Kings rally led me do some research. What I discovered was incredibly disturbing. On the Return of Kings website I found these statements:
“Patriarchy does have its flaws in locking in roles for males and females who are outliers, but it was undoubtedly a superior societal system that catered to the innate abilities of the sexes and provided them with roles that not only furthered their own abilities and interests but civilization as a whole.”
“I personally see little need for a man to work with women, go to school with them, or even maintain asexual relationships with them, especially with women who don’t give him sexual access to her friends. While there are many problems in modern society that are difficult to solve, excising needless social interaction with females outside of sexual relationships is an easy one to fix. Choose to spend your free time with men so your masculinity remains strong and steady.”
These quotes are just a small sample of the content on the Return of Kings website but I believe accurately reflect the thinking of the so called neo masculinity mind set. I understand that the concept of redefining masculinity is difficult to grasp and that many men are struggling with how to appropriately express their masculinity without being labeled as a misogynist . Neo masculinity is not the answer. One might simply dismiss reverting to primitive cave man type stereotypes as purely comical. However if we do, we miss the harm that this divisive point of view does to helping men come to terms with their masculinity in a more thoughtful and reasonable way. As I have previously written I do not believe we have to be gender neutral to achieve gender equality. Simply ignoring gender differences or pretending that they will somehow evaporate over time will not help the majority of men, particularly those in the young adult cohort who are uncertain about their role as men in society. Neither neo masculinity nor strict gender neutrality are the answers. Instead we need to stress the best of masculinity and how it can be expressed that is of benefit to both men and women. The archived posts on this blog are intended to give concrete examples of what the best of masculinity looks like.