Bromances are here, and with them, happier and healthier men
Many people fighting for feminism seem to be mistaken in their approach: they focus on women, the 'victims', and stand against men, the 'perpetrators'. But there has to be a flaw in the definition when it is assumed one whole gender has no problem due to rampant sexism. The boundaries of 'masculinity' are diminishing, and men have found their 'BFF'-equivalent: bromances are now in.
"Man up. Don't cry. Act tough. Feed your family. Show her who's boss…" Stereotypes have taken a toll on men. But amid increasing awareness and feminist movements, a new relationship has taken shape. The bromance. Unconditionally supportive, non-judgmental, all-accepting. Defying even the definition of friendship.
Stereotypes force men to be "aggressive", "dominant" and often "violent" -traits that go against basic humanity. A study by Axe found men pressured to follow stereotypes are twice as likely to feel suicidal. Even 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, who shot dead six people in 2014, said he felt "loneliness and rejection" as he couldn't find a girlfriend - an outcome of social pressure.
The decline of the "manly man" was a catalyst for the birth of the bromance. Last year, 13% of male respondents under 30 identified themselves in the middle of a 'masculinity-femininity' scale. Less than 33% felt "completely masculine". In 2015, six of 10 men at an MTV Insights Research project said they felt 'confined' by societal expectations. Perspective: seven of 10 women reported similarly.
The bromance entered the society, first on screen, then off screen. Though bromances in Hollywood go as far back as "Rush Hour" (1998) and earlier, now there's "Fast and Furious" and "21 Jump Street" (2012), focusing much more on the friendship. It's not just art; the Obama-Biden friendship and the Obama-Justin Trudeau camaraderie have been splashed all over.
To understand the bond, researchers interviewed 30 British undergrad sports students, where participants defined a bromance as "a highly close and intimate friendship, where both parties are emotionally invested in each other's well-being". Everyone said they had at least one bromance. Compared to 'friendship', a bromance allows men to shed their 'macho' image and display their real vulnerable selves. There's also non-sexual physical intimacy.
Bromances probably have had significant effects. Though men in UK and US are much likelier to commit suicide than women (up to four times likelier), young men were the least likely (in UK, the rate among men below 30 had actually decreased). In fact, a study by Stanford University concluded that bromances could act like romantic relationships in reducing stress, and even extend life.
Several global projects have contributed to the decline of 'masculinity'. The Good Men Project, Men for Change and other initiatives aim at non-gender-specific social roles. Educational institutes, including Duke University and Oregon State University, have taken steps. Canada's University of Regina has a "Masculinity Confession Booth". Even brands like Fosters (male cheerleader) and Axe (Find Your Magic) have attempted to shake things up.