In an effort to understand why men’s friendships are less intimate than women’s, psychologist Niobe Way interviewed boys about their friendships in each year of high school. She found that younger boys spoke eloquently about their love for and dependence on their male friends. In fact, research shows that boys are just as likely as girls to disclose personal feelings to their same-sex friends and they are just as talented at being able to sense their friends’ emotional states.
But, at about age 15 to 16 — right at the same age that the suicide rate of boys increases to four times the rate of girls — boys start reporting that they don’t have friends and don’t need them.
There's a lot to unpack here. The article goes on to explain that this age is also the same time that boys begin to transition into fully "becoming men," and holy shit is there a lot of baggage that appears to go along with this:
- An increased suicide rate
- A demand to separate the self from one's emotions
- A demand to be everything that is NOT feminine:
During these years, young men are learning what it means to be a “real man.” The #1 rule: avoid everything feminine.
So men are pressed — from the time they’re very young — to disassociate from everything feminine. This imperative is incredibly limiting for them. Paradoxically, it makes men feel good because of a social agreement that masculine things are better than feminine things, but it’s not the same thing as freedom. It’s restrictive and dehumanizing. It’s oppression all dressed up as awesomeness. And it is part of why men have a hard time being friends.
I didn't know what to call this when I was growing up in high school in New York City, but I do recall feeling strongly that it was a Giant Pile of Bullshit™. I was lucky; I went to a self-selecting "nerdy" high school in which kids of every gender were encouraged to simply be who they wanted to be and excel at whatever they were good at, roles be damned. That didn't mean this force was gone, but it was somewhat muted. We all looked out for each other because most of us knew what it felt like to be shit on for being different.
There's a lot of bullshit in the comments on the Salon article (I know, SHOCKER) about attempted "sissification of men." To me it is sort of obvious that what the author is talking about is that this coming-of-age process we subject men to results in an encouragement of incompleteness in the way they engage with other people — especially other men. Of course "typical male bonding" is healthy; so is actually communicating about emotions and not trying your damnedest to be an unflappable robot.
This study just flashed a great big red light in my head as being a perfect example of how patriarchal garbage really harms men. The funny thing is, you never see the MRA trolls that come in here or comment on Jez complain about this sort of thing. How strange.