May 30, 2017
What is a bromance?
According to a recent study that looked at undergraduate students, a bromance is a close non-sexual friendship marked by intimacy, love and openness. It’s a relationship that is free from judgment and ultimately one that defies cultural prescriptions of masculinity that preclude men from being vulnerable and sharing intimate details of their life.
Are they becoming more common?
Yes! And it’s a good thing. We see that men who acknowledge having had a bromance acknowledge the many benefits:
- The opportunity to divulge vulnerabilities without social ridicule.
- Increased social support (which is positively correlated with more positive physical and mental health outcomes & longevity).
- Feelings of brotherhood and family-like ties.
- Opportunities to discuss topics that were previously off-limits.
And bromances aren’t only good for men. Researchers believe that close, honest relationships with men may reduce misogyny and homophobia while improving romantic relationships (regardless of gender). If men spend their whole lives being told they’re not allowed to cry, they’re not supposed to express negative emotions and they can’t show weakness, how are they supposed to have intimate long-terms relationships (with women and people of all genders)? Unlearning the suppression of emotional expression is no easy task. You can’t simply ‘turn on’ emotional expression when you transition into a romantic relationship.
Why do we love a bromance?
When we think of Obama-Biden, Damon-Affleck, Clooney-Pitt, we get a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie. We also see an element of care and softness which is rare in a culture that prioritizes male aggression, dominance, and competition.
Is the term sexist? Can’t men just have relationships with other men without having to call it something special?
I don’t think the term itself is sexist, but it’s a reflection of a sexist culture in which men are not supposed to desire intimacy and express vulnerability. There will be people who are critical of the term, bromance. They might suggest that it’s just a friendship or a relationship and we shouldn’t delineate it along gender lines and I agree — in part. However, if the term, bromance, makes more intimate and meaningful relationships more accessible to men, then I’m eager to embrace it. Hopefully, gender role will one day be fluid enough that we won’t need these gender-specific terms, but I believe that their usage helps to move us toward gender fluidity.