The term 'bromance' infuriates me.
Unfamiliar with the term? Well, according to the ever-reliable Urban Dictionary, a bromance can be described as: "The relationship between two straight guys. They enjoy each others company and even though they may constantly joke about being gay they are not." Eloquently put, right?
Well, this idea surrounds us. I encounter similar feelings whenever I scroll through Facebook. It's not long before I come across a post saying "tag that friend who you are practically gay with!" Or, "tag one of your mates who would drop his soap in the shower!" In these cases, there is an evident, and almost urgent, reassurance of heterosexuality. "It's okay, though, man. We're both straight! No homo!"
As a child, I was taught that showing vulnerability, expressing emotion or sharing a bond with another male went against the masculine ideal. I learnt that the thought of two males in a close relationship had to be humiliated and justified within society in order for masculinity to be maintained.
Some may argue that the term 'bromance' enables males to justify a closeness that they'd normally feel unable to express. Others may say that it's better than nothing. Ah, the good ol' bromance. The intense bond between men. The supposed source of masculine pride and humour. Harmless banter, right?
In a society where women value the bonds between each other, why doesn't the same apply for men? Why have we created a society in which males fear closeness and intimacy with one another? Why does the act of being vulnerable and comforting towards another man need to be labelled and humoured in order to avoid homosexual assumptions? In fact, why does this notion of a 'bromance' even exist in the first place? Australian men shouldn't feel the need to justify, and subsequently trivialise, their bonds with other men, but they do.
There is a pressure among men to achieve 'ideal masculinity', and I contend that this is ultimately a force of oppression. We are teaching young boys that emotion is not okay. This mentality extends into adulthood, perpetuating a culture in which these men are unable to talk and anxiety is created. It's no secret that suicide is the leading cause of death among young men.
And this is why I am frustrated. We have the recent #ItsOKToTalk viral campaign saying that it's okay for men to show emotion, but I'm also seeing Facebook posts asking users to "tag one of your mates who would drop his soap in the shower". The messages are contradictory.
We have phrases such as "be a man", "toughen up" and "don't cry like a baby", but then we are surprised by the number of men who attempt suicide.
The viral campaign is a good start, but it will take more than a viral fad to eradicate the toxic levels of masculinity that underpin our societal framework and infiltrate the minds of our young boys. A viral campaign can't hide the fact that we continue to teach young boys that emotion is, in fact, not okay.
We have phrases such as "be a man", "toughen up" and "don't cry like a baby", but then we are surprised by the number of men who attempt suicide. It's confronting, yes, but it's true.
We need to start dissecting our daily vernacular. We need to create a discourse in order to understand why words such as 'bromance' are damaging to the minds of boys in terms of their relationship prospects and emotional maturity.
We need to think about why boys are continuing to grow up feeling void of, or unable to express, emotion. We need to think about why boys are scared of feminine and non-heterosexual identities.
There is a fear, among boys and men, that 'ideal masculinity' will never be obtained. The fear is palpable and phrases such as 'bromance' only serve to perpetuate it. We're not building men up to be stronger, we're making them fractured and fragile. Two males shouldn't feel the need to justify their friendships with one another.
So, reach out and value your friendships without needing to joke about it. Ask your friends how they are feeling -- you'd be surprised by the difference you could make. Let's teach boys and men that they can share emotion, and value their relationships with others, without having to justify it with humour.