Welcome to part two of my rather frivolous look at the phenomenon of straight women writing adoringly about platonic or not-so-platonic male romance a.k.a. Bromance.

In my effort to track down its meaning, I wanted to look at its mirror image i.e. straight men writing adoringly about platonic or not-so-platonic female romantic friendship. So first of all, I googled to find out what name it might have picked up in pop culture. What, I asked innocently, is ‘female equivalent of bromance’? What came up was lesbo, lesbianism, homance, womance, chickmance. Personally, I liked Womance. That’s clever. That’s why it’s at the top of the page.

But could I think of an example of it in literature? I racked my brains. I googled it and came up with long lists of literary female bonding. They were almost all written by women.

I could find plenty of examples of men writing about ‘women in relation to men’ – sometimes in sensitive, insightful ways; sometimes, alas, in derogatory, objectifying and demeaning ways. Check out this hilarious page at www.mcsweeneys.net to show you how it works (if you didn’t already know).

But the fact is, I could not find anything which treated of a female friendship with the kind of serious regard, let alone the romantic homage, that happens the other way round. I know men tend not to write romance anyway, not in anything like the quantity that women write it … but I thought there must be something! I was looking for sweeping, deep, satisfying, written by a male about heroic female friendship – even if only one example.

I deliberately excused myself from searching ‘men writing about lesbians’, of course. I couldn’t think of a way to phrase it without opening the gates of hell. Anyway, I didn’t, you know, want to repeat what happened when my daughter’s cello string broke and I needed to source a new one and typed the word G-String into the search bar.

So I was disappointed – but not surprised – to realise that male writers do not coo and gurgle and puppify and squee about female friendships. In fact, they’re not really interesting for them. There are no spin-offs and prequels or sequels – no hopeful rewrites of ‘Emma’ from the point of view of Harriet, along the lines of Rohase Piercy’s ‘My Dearest Holmes’.

Disclaimer: If you think I’m tending to man-hating here, please note, I’m simply looking at a cultural phenomenon; and in fact I do love, admire and dote on countless male writers – I just want to put that in here, in case you think I just don’t like men – I do. I do love my sons!

Right, now we’ve got that out of the way. So. The question was begged, if men don’t write what could be styled ‘Womance’, how DO they write about just any old female friendship, the kind that happens when the male characters aren’t there and female characters aren’t discussing the hero? A memory surfaced of the creepy Miss Wade in ‘Little Dorrit’ who persuaded the orphan, Tattycoram, to run away with her.

And that was it – out of all those years studying Eng Lit and stuff. I am ashamed that I can’t think of anything else, and I know it shows I just haven’t read enough of the right books. Educate me, please. If you can think of anything, please suggest it in the comments below – promise I’ll read it.

Perhaps it is not in the printed word, thought I. Are we to look at ‘The Killing of Sister George’? That was a farce by Frank Markus, which became a film. The on-screen version entailed a more heavy-handed portrayal than he’d intended of the relationship between the two protagonists. They were clearly lesbian, but presented with creepy music and dysfunctional behaviour. (Incidentally, if you look up the original film poster, they managed to get a naked female form into Susannah York’s hair, didn’t they? But I digress.)

Are there more in Tellyland?– Cagney and Lacey, Rosemary and Thyme, Birds of a Fevver, Scott and Bailey (don’t ask me, I don’t watch TV). When I checked, incidentally, to see who did write those scripts, they were three-quarters female. Perhaps we can add Calamity Jane and Katie Brown singing ‘A Woman’s Touch’ and tidying up their little cabin? OK, I’ve stopped being serious now. But, sadly, I think that’s about as near as it gets.

So why DON’T males take the same interest in Womance as females do in Bromance? Is it simply that most Romance (as the genre is understood these days) is written by women? Or is it that the male 20% of mid-teen authors contributing their slashfic to the internet do not need to explore their feelings for the opposite sex in quite the protected, sane and safe online playground that their female teen equivalents do? In other words, could it be that the boys don’t feel quite so terrified of the girls?

Now, here I will just mention that that study on ‘Bromance’ I quoted from in Part 1 of this little series said that the chaps don’t feel as ‘judged’ by their boy friends, which is why they feel comfortable and cuddly with each other. Because of this fear of judgement, they prefer not to reveal the entirety of their experience to their girl friends or girlfriends.
I will just pop in a little quote from Wiki here: ‘Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”’

On that rather sombre note, I will leave you till next time, when I’ll be asking myself questions about the nature of Romance.