Male Friendships and the Culture of Toxic Masculinity

Last week we got into a side discussion on the differences between male and female friendship. I looked into English media on the topic and quickly found a lot of complaints on what makes male-male frienship difficult. American culture is particularly hard on men IMO, but how about Taiwanese culture? How does male friendship work in Taiwan culture?

An American cultural contempt for male friendship
The contempt for male friendship is a cultural failure on an epic scale. That contempt is everywhere. The friendships between women in popular culture are the source and choicest fruit of their maturity. At the end of Frances Ha, Frances glimpses her old friend across a crowded room. "Who are you making eyes at?" somebody asks. "That's Sophie. She's my best friend." …
For men, it's just the opposite. Male friendship on any given sitcom, is a retreat into thoughtlessness, crudity. The Big Lebowski hilariously painted male friendship as an extended and colossal fuckup. The Hangover movies turned it into a series of epic degradations. But … the greatest buddy movie of them all is Dumb and Dumber. Men get together onscreen to be idiots with one another.
To mature as a female person is to mature into female friendships. To mature as a male person is to mature out of male friendships.

A transition into isolation
For [author Niobe Way], the transition from boyhood into manhood is a transition into isolation. Becoming a man means leaving behind your family and your friends and striking out on your own, and therefore growing up means shedding connections. Way's research shows that the male suicide rate correlates precisely with the loss of friendships. At age nine, the suicide rates are the same for girls and boys. Between ten and fourteen, boys are twice as likely to kill themselves. Between fifteen and nineteen, they are four times as likely. From twenty to twenty-four, five times.
But who needs research to understand the difference? Look at the women around you—your mother, your sister, your wife, or your girlfriend. How many people can they call when they have a bad day? Now, how about you? Masculine maturity is a lonely thing to possess. Maturity and despair go together for men. The splendid isolation of masculinity has emerged from so much iconography—the cowboy, the astronaut, the gangster—that almost every hero in the past fifty years has been a figure of loneliness. Current pop culture is even more extreme: It doesn't just celebrate the lonely man; it also despises men in groups. And this isolation isn't just a historical anomaly; it also runs counter to male biology. Men, every bit as much as women, are social creatures who live in a permanent state of interdependence and who require connection for basic happiness. "Men come into the world with this empathic, relational need, and they get treated as if they don't have it," Way says.

Competition and ‘not measuring up’
"One reason why boys can stick together in a way men can't is that disparities in achievement haven't begun to make themselves felt," contends Neil, a friend who had a searing "break up" over how much money should be spent on a joint event with his former Ivy League classmate and best friend of 20 years.

Other barriers to friendship
But many other men feel a loss of connection as they get older—and the sense that having more close male friendships would be valuable. Yet, it can feel like an uphill battle. Some of the common themes that emerge are:
• A subconscious sense of not “measuring up” to other men their age
• General social anxiety or lack of confidence having conversations with other men
• Worrying about not seeming manly enough if they don’t appreciate traditional “manly activities” like sports or working out

Easier to make friends with girls than guys
Meeting guys without an “in” is almost harder than meeting girls (which is tough enough as it is). I can (theoretically) go up to a girl at a bar or coffee shop and start talking to her. Maybe ask her out and start a relationship. That’s normal. For some reason, in our society, walking up to a guy and doing something similar with a friendship being the only desired outcome seems strange and bizarre.”

Male identity changing, making friendship easier
The report—based on interviews with experts and academics—showed that while men are still much less active than women in social media, they tend to focus on a tight knit core of friends. The study also showed that some of the barriers to male friendships are coming down, including the assumption that two men doing anything together must be gay, and the fading stereotype of what makes a real man.
"Male identity in general has been changing," says therapist Dr. Vivian Diller. "They can now show warmth, care about each other, and be more vulnerable without losing their maleness."

Long-term male friendship
Homeland star Mandy Patinkin is one of a few good men who have enjoyed monthly male dinners for many years. "It gave us a chosen family," says the actor. "We met through our then-young sons at a party and while guys in the other room were talking sports, we just had this amazing conversation and I said, "this is how women talk!'
The Father's Group, as they called themselves, was particularly important when one member grew ill and ultimately passed away. "After Mark died, the dinners became less regular and soon stopped altogether, unexpectedly," says Sherman. "Despite this, we are still there for each other."

Toxic Masculinity: Definition
Toxic masculinity is a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.

German slang for 'wimp' is revealing
The Germans have a group of informal compound words for "wimp" (i.e. a weak and cowardly man): Schattenparker ("one who parks their car in the shadow"), Sockenschläfer ("...sleeps with socks on"), Handschuhschneeballwerfer ("...wears gloves when making snowballs"), Warmduscher ("...uses warm water when showering") and Frauenversteher ("...understands women"). These are used in contexts that imply decisive lack of guts, but the words themselves "humorously" imply that anything less than weapons grade machismo would indicate a decisive lack of guts.


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