Gatekeeping in Male friendships

There is a special variant of male friendship that grows in rural or suburban India.

Patriarchy reigns supreme in rural India and boys grow up without much female companionship other than their caregivers and immediate family. Everything boys do outside the household, inevitably ends up taking place in all-boy groups.

It is on these grounds that a very deep, trustworthy form of male friendship breeds, one which has a necessary softness and intimacy at its core. It’s no surprise then that the male friendship is held sacred by boys growing up in rural India until it’s not.

The period of adolescence is the first one to dirty these sacred waters. As puberty demands romantic intimacy, many boys shed old skin, make new friends and slowly retie their intimate ties from a male to a female. This is the exact juncture where I believe young boys get masculinity upside down. They are experiencing their first loss of a trustworthy partner and in absence of real guidance, patriarchy teaches them to blame the other gender. It’s in this moment that they subscribe to the bro-culture, chastising and gatekeeping anyone who displays effeminate and empathetic behavior as feminine and weak.

Losing a trusted friend is a brutal experience. I get it. I have been in those shoes when a dear friend severs ties due to a newfound romantic partner. But subscribing to macho masculinity to heal from the loss is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Gatekeeping friends to be a bro and to not be empathetic has massive disadvantages, not just individually but to our culture at large.