Intimate female relationships are absolutely central to the lives of countless women, and yet there has never been a point where we have felt the need to assert our own femininity by faux-mocking our sexualities with a term like ‘bromance’.

It saddens me that male friendships seem so tightly bounded by toxic ideas of masculinity. A ‘bromance’ is just an actual, real friendship, and the fact men have had to separate this off and give it a title just shows that they are limiting themselves in regards to the depth of friendships, in order to remain heteronormative. Meanwhile, female friendships thrive to conversely boundless levels; in all my different female circles, there isn’t a thing we couldn’t ask of each other. Going to the toilet together? Absolute given. Popping a spot on her bum? Big ask, but I’m there. Sitting with her in silence and letting her cry? Don’t even need to ask.

With women, our relationships tend to be so intimate that most communication is wordless; you know what kind of friend she needs that day without having to ask. Maybe it’s growing up with two sisters, but I honestly don’t know how I’d survive without such female circles; they don’t just take care of our emotional wellbeing, they enable us to thrive.

Maybe this is a huge part of the issue of the degradation of young men’s mental health to the point that suicide kills at least three times as many men as it does women inany given age group. Not only because men are given a hugely different emotional education to women, in which they are discouraged to open-up, or be emotional in any other way than anger – think of how differently the phrase “let it all out” could be seen if said to a man, rather than a woman – but because they lack the networks of support that women have. The masculine norms that men are raised to adhere to complicate their future relationships, in that their need to uphold masculine ideals distances them from the potential of theintimate circles thatwomen have. Without these networks, men are isolated from a position in which they coulddiscusstheir emotions, not only because they are socialised to repress them, but because they do not have the spaces where such expression could thrive.

It’s high time society started to encourage the kinds of supportive male friendships that reflect our girl-power girl-gangs, instead of immediately relating them to sexual intimacy in the form of the‘no homo’ bromance. Alternatively, perhaps society could stop de-masculinising homosexuality to the point where men use it to mock themselves, and justify their ‘feminine’ intimate friendships. Maybe we just need to accept the importance of support networks and emotional expression, regardless of gender.