Male Studies Prof Romanticizes Menstruation

Men’s rights activists descended upon the New York Academy of Medicine last week for the Second Annual Conference on Male Studies, to discuss exactly what plagues the modern man. Their unsurprising conclusion: feminism.

The men’s rights movement has been the subject of more attention in recent years, as male unemployment persists. The concerns it raises are not without merit; the financial crisis has indeed hit men harder than women and the gender discrepancy in higher education becomes more pronounced with each passing year. But, as we’ve explored before, these men’s rights activists too often blame their favorite scapegoat—feminists—for economic and social hardship.

According to Jonathan Liu of the New York Observer, this conference was no different. Hosted by Guy Garcia, a journalist and former AOL executive, it featured a series of six “scholars” who provided a bit of statistical evidence coupled with a heavy dose of paranoid conjecture. Among the highlights was Garcia blaming male unemployment on working mothers.

Mr. Garcia’s greatest hit came some time later, an off-the-cuff theory on the scandal of male underemployment. “As we all know,” he said, “when boys are growing up, the way teenage males define themselves is against their mothers. They want to be not-Mom. So what do you think happens when Mom works?”

Later, Garcia argued that if the current sociological trends continue, men will become violent. “We know what happens when men have no hope,” Liu reports Garcia as saying. “They turn to violence.”

In another lecture, Michael Gilbert (author of The Disposable Male and a researcher at USC), lamented that society no longer limits sports and coming-of-age celebrations to boys. After all, girls get to menstruate— what need do they have for other rites of passage?

Even couched in faux-academia, the argument sounds ridiculous:

[Boys’] bodies don’t move to lunar rhythms—menstrual cycles. Jewish boys will not get a sweet 16. They won’t be given away in marriage—which is a bride-centered ceremony—behind a mysterious veil. Jewish husbands will not get pregnant, they will not go through the tunnel of birth, they will not suckle infants at their breast. All these powerful, recurring, female-affirming passages aren’t available to males.

Garcia, Gilbert and the other attendees (mercifully only 40, Liu estimates) highlight exactly what’s wrong with the men’s rights movement: it’s willfully blind critique of feminism. As GMPM contributor Amanda Marcotte points out here and elsewhere, most of their problems could in fact be solved with more feminism.

Take the concerns brought forth at this conference. The concern that teenage boys won’t be able to identify as men if their mothers work? If we don’t define manhood as superiority over dependent females, but in other ways, both the teenage boy and his mother get their needs met. Concern that men can’t compete economically as more of the American economy becomes service-oriented? Dismantle the social stigma against men doing nurturing work like teaching and nursing, and men will be able to take those jobs. Concerned that men die younger than women? If we adopted a feminist worldview where men don’t have to prove themselves with violence or poor health habits, that disparity would mostly disappear.

Thankfully, some men recognize that true gender equality benefits everyone. Just three days before the Conference on Male Studies convened in New York, NOMAS, a pro-feminist men’s organization, hosted its 36th National Conference on Men and Masculinity. Rather than whining about being victimized by feminism, this conference discussed gender roles, violence prevention, LGBT issues, and abuses of social power. The juxtaposition between the two symposiums underlines the central failure of men’s rights movement; they refuse to recognize that gender parity—and the erosion of gendered cultural imperatives—is key to achieving their goals.

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About Sam McCann

Sam McCann is a junior journalism major at Ithaca College who just discovered a field that pays even less than reporting: English. He promptly added it to his course load and now accepts donations. Email him here.

Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    Prof. Gilbert:
    You know the menstrual cycle has no connection to the moon, right?

    Mr. McCann:
    I don’t know if you’re in charge of the headline and subheading and illustration for the article, but they were very different from the content of the article text. I’ve observed this a lot on this blog, that the catchy, attention-grabbing link is very different from what the article actually says. Is this an editorial issue or a reporter issue?

    • I think it’s to initially capture attention, lol. But it is true. The MRAs are really romanticizing menstruation. It’s not bad for me, but my best friend found she had to go to the emergency room one time because hers was so bad.

      • “The MRAs are really romanticizing menstruation. ”

        Citations please? It isn’t the MRAs who obsess about menstruation.

    • I only disagree with your reference that the menstrual cycle has nothing to do with the moon. There is plenty of evidence and documentation that states otherwise. Cycles are cycles and everything is everything. To discount this connection is to discount women…and science…and mythology…and archaeology…and women’s history….and spirituality and …Have I missed anything?

      • wellokaythen says:

        Leslie,

        I should have been more specific in my reference to the moon. Yes, certainly people for thousands of years have associated the menstrual cycle with the moon. The lengths of the lunar cycle and (on average) the menstrual cycle are close to each other, so the coincidence is notable. The moon makes a great symbol for the menstrual cycle, no doubt about it. Art and religion have made this association for a long time, no question. I would never deny the long history of people associating the two together, just as I would never deny that people have told thousands of different stories about how the universe came to exist. I would never pretend that myths don’t exist. That would be stupid of me.

        Does that mean that the moon’s revolution around the earth really does make menstrual cycles that length? Not necessarily. Not all traditional wisdom is in fact accurate just because it is old. If there is a supernatural connection with the moon, how would one test that theory? I’m not sure where the falsifiability requirement can be met. If it’s this undefined thing called spirituality, one could just as easily say that the menstrual cycle causes the moon’s cycle, that it’s women’s collective power that control the movements of the moon.

        But, in the interest of rational discussion I am prepared to accept that I could be wrong. Maybe I had a knee-jerk reaction because I hate green cheese, which some people say is what the moon is made out of. What scientific study has determined that the two things really are physically linked?

        From what I understand, because of environmental factors, the average length of the menstrual cycle has in fact changed a little over time and from place to place. Not to mention the fact that it varies from woman to woman and (apparently, though this could be a myth, too) is affected by other women. It seems like there are much closer, more direct influences than the celestial ones.

  2. Thankfully, some men recognize that true gender equality benefits everyone. Just three days before the Conference on Male Studies convened in New York, NOMAS, a pro-feminist men’s organization.

    So in other words if it,s for the movement of feminists then thats ok but if men decide to raise their voices and do what the feminists once did then thats bad.
    yep this site really is a part of ms magazine is’nt it.
    because all i can see is how anti-men this site really is hust makes me sick.

    • I think what’s really being said is that we don’t have to take away from women for men to solve some of the social issues they face. And men clearly do face social issues. Men and women can co-exsist equally with the same oppurtunities and it doesn’t mean that that has to hurt the other or take away from the other.

      Currently, it seems like MRA want women to get back in the kitchen and other 1950s women roles. Instead of blaming women for the gains they made, why don’t we focus on what can realistically be done now to give men help in the social areas they are lagging behind in, without making it come at the cost of pushing women back in roles they might not want. I never hear proactive plans from MRAs. I just hear alot of complaining about how much feminism destoried everything.

      One part of the article mentioned that if a mother works, her son won’t because he doesn’t want to be anything like his mother. I really think that’s absolutely ridicious. One, because women worked in other decades too. One difference between recent decades and previous is that women are now able to hold more prestegious positions. And these positions enable them to contribute to the family. What man is going to complain if his wife’s salary helps support the family? How many men today could support their family on their own anyway? Many women *have* to work to help with the family. I never heard a child condemn a parent for working and saying that they weren’t going to work because of all those years growing up their parent worked.

  3. Citing NOMAS as credible compared to male studies is hilarious.

  4. This mrm writer is predicting violence too h ttp://www.avoiceformen.com/2011/04/15/so-its-open-war-now/#comments

    Thing about equality dogmas, they always seem to result in a closed, oppressive police state that operates under the threat of violence. If the system could push average men into a revolution, it could just invoke martial law and its done.

  5. “Men’s rights activists descended upon the New York Academy of Medicine last week…”

    This makes it sound like an army when, in fact, it was merely 40 members of the lunatic fringe gathered to swap conspiracy theories. Are these guys way out there? If the quotes are any indication it sure as hell seems like it. Should they be taken seriously? I don’t think so.

    But it’s 40 people. In writing about the event in this way, you’re doing what the MRA folk are often criticized for doing, which is taking the extremists on the opposing side and using their viewpoints as the norm. I don’t think it’s right when they do it, and I don’t think it’s helpful for McCann to do it either.

    Again, not all feminists are forward-thinking progressives and not all MRAs are women-blaming nutjobs. I’ll go to my grave believing the moderates in each group actually have far more in common in terms of beliefs and objectives than either side cares to admit.

    • If only those moderates would speak up more and stop letting the extremists take the spotlight.

      • “The only “spot-light” that extremist mras have is the artificial one that’s created by feminists…”

        I’d have to agree with this….the reputation that mrm gets in mainstream is NOT what the mrm is actually about

        • It also goes to show that they are not interested in addressing the issues mentions by the men’s rights movement. Nothing stops them from challenging questionable statements AND tackling MRA concerns.

  6. According to Jonathan Liu of the New York Observer, this conference was no different.

    Unfortunately, Liu’s article is incredibly biased. At no point does he take the conference or the issues mentioned there seriously. One must wonder what comments he chose to ignore in favor of ones he could take out of context and exploit.

    Hosted by Guy Garcia, a journalist and former AOL executive, it featured a series of six “scholars” who provided a bit of statistical evidence coupled with a heavy dose of paranoid conjecture.

    According to Male Studies’ website, Dr. Marianne Legato, Tom Mortenson, Gordon E. Finley, PhD, and Dr. Paul Nathanson, PhD are legitimate academic scholars. Michael Gilbert is a senior fellow. Matthew Willcox was the only non-academic, so your scare-quotes are inaccurate, misleading, and dishonest, and should be removed.

    Just three days before the Conference on Male Studies convened in New York, NOMAS, a pro-feminist men’s organization, hosted its 36th National Conference on Men and Masculinity. Rather than whining about being victimized by feminism, this conference discussed gender roles, violence prevention, LGBT issues, and abuses of social power.

    In other words, NOMAS held a conference where they whined about how evil men are and how bad things never happen to men. None of the topics discussed at their conference addressed actual problems that men and boys face. They did not discuss issues like depression, suicide, physical and sexual violence against males, boys’ education problems, fathers’ issues, divorce, unemployment, or the broader violence against males in our society from the male perspective. Those are things that actually effect men. Instead, NOMAS only discussed those issues as they impacted women or the gay community. That does not help men at all.

    The juxtaposition between the two symposiums underlines the central failure of men’s rights movement; they refuse to recognize that gender parity—and the erosion of gendered cultural imperatives—is key to achieving their goals.

    That is not their position. Their position is that men often face gender disparity, and that a great deal of that comes from feminist policies and attitudes. I understand that the hyperbolic “they want to eat your babies” and “they’s crazy” claims appeal to GMPM’s feminist readership. I also understand that addressing issues that actually affect men — like divorce, abuse, education, unemployment, and socially-accepted misandry — runs counter to the intentions and goals of GMPM. However, those are the issues that the men’s rights movement seeks to address. You do not need to like them or even agree with them, but do not misrepresent their positions just because your politics do not coincide with theirs.

    • Gender roles and LGBT issues ARE men’s issues. Gender roles place high expectations on men, restricting them to certain attitudes, behaviors, careers, and beliefs. I’d say gender roles are a root cause of violence, unemployment, depression, fatherhood, and suicide. Millions are men ARE GBT–and so is the violence perpetuated on that community.

      If Gilbert wants in on the “rite of passage” that is menstruation, he can have mine. I’d be more than happy to be rid of the cramps and save all that cash on pads, tampons, and pain relievers. Or anybody who wants it, really. Any takers?

      • Gender roles and LGBT issues ARE men’s issues.

        While some men are gay, bisexual, or transgender, the majority of men are not, so focusing on GBLT issues does not address the problems most men face. Gender roles present problems for men, however, the way they impact men is different from how feminists explain it. Most men do want to fulfill the roles society asks them to. The problems lie in the severity of the demands, not the demands themselves. We need to address these issues from a male, non-feminist perspective. The latter is necessary because feminism is a partisan, biased ideology. You can no more understand the male experience by viewing it through a feminist lens than you can understand the Middle Eastern experience by viewing it through a Christian lens. We must address these issues from a neutral position if we want to help boys and men.

        I’d say gender roles are a root cause of violence, unemployment, depression, fatherhood, and suicide.

        That is unlikely. A host of factors cause the above problems, particularly depression, violence, and suicide.

        Millions are men ARE GBT–and so is the violence perpetuated on that community.

        Violence is not homosexual, bisexual, transgender, or heterosexual. If you meant that men commit the majority of violence against that community, that may be true. However, that has nothing to do with most men since most men do not hurt other people. Men are not collectively responsible for the actions of other men anymore than women are collectively responsible for the women who abuse children.

        If Gilbert wants in on the “rite of passage” that is menstruation, he can have mine.

        It is easy to mock Gilbert’s comment, but his broader point is true. Our society no longer provides any rites of passage for boys. Our society judges womanhood by a female’s period, yet hitting puberty does not make a boy a man in our society. Manhood is based around social validation, and the absence of rites of passage creates a void. Boys lack mentors to teach them how to be men, and they lack social validation that tells them they achieved manhood. When boys attempt to fill the gap themselves, they get chastised for refusing to grow up. By providing boys with rites of passage, we can resolve some of the problems boys face as they become adults. That was Gilbert’s point.

        • Jesus, I had my period when I was 11. Did that make me a women? No. Was there fanfare? Not unless you count a trip to CVS.

          FFS. Get a grip.

          • No one said anything about fanfare. It is about social recognition. Menstruation designates a girl’s first step into womanhood.

            • I think the real problem lies in the fact that men feel they need to have their manhood validated in the first place. Why is this? Why do they feel they need to have a rite of passage to declare manhood? I would not say menstruating is a rite of passage at all. A rite of passage is a ritual event. For an American woman, menstruating is not a ritual event. It is not celebrated, it is not lauded. It just is. In other countries, like countries in Africa, a female’s menstruation is celebrated and lauded as a passage to womanhood in some villages. That IS a rite of passage, but for this article to claim menstruating is overall a rite of passage is a silly thing. We do not get social recognition into womanhood for menstruating, because most of the time, society doesn’t even know nor care that you’re menstruating, unless that blood shows up on your pants or skirt. You’ll get recognized that you’re menstruating by your mother, but overall, society doesn’t give a rat’s ass.

              Basically, my whole problem with this is woman don’t expect a rite of passage into womanhood, but for some reason, men always do, and I just don’t understand that. This suggests a lack of confidence in overall manhood if men feel they need to have society validate whether or not they are men. Should this not be up to the individual? Shouldn’t men be teaching other men (boys, particularly) that being a man is up to the individual and not for society to validate it? I mean, maybe that’s what you’re trying to get at, that it should be up to the individual male, but then you almost seem to agree with Gilbert’s point that boys need rites of passage. They don’t need them. What they need to be taught is no one can validate their manhood but them, the individual.

              Women don’t have them. American women have never really had them. Again, to say menstruating is a rite of passage for women is to completely misinterpret what a rite of passage actually entails. A rite of passage menstruation is not.

            • I also question this because, really, there is nothing special about menstruating. All women do it. There is nothing to prove one’s womanhood with; yet, when men expect rites of passage, they want something to prove their manhood, something that only they, the individual can do, that not every man can. Every woman, for the most part, menstruates. Not all women do, but they aren’t any less of a woman for not being able to do so, and society doesn’t view a woman has any less because she can’t menstruate. Menstruating is biological, and there is nothing to prove that a woman is a woman. Do you get what I’m trying to say? Women don’t feel the need to prove their womanhood through challenges, but men do.

            • I guess I also find it an egotistical thing, too, that men expect some sort of recognition for manhood, but women don’t expect any recognition for womanhood at all. We don’t expect recognition when we menstruate–and we don’t receive any recognition, far as I’m concerned.

            • I guess I also find it an egotistical thing, too, that men expect some sort of recognition for manhood,
              Its a response to the burdens put on us.

              We don’t expect recognition when we menstruate–and we don’t receive any recognition, far as I’m concerned.
              But in the event that a woman doesn’t mensturate (or are infertile in general) she is often regarded as not being a “real woman”.

            • Well, lucky for you, we don’t live in a world where people wonder where all the “real women” have gone. We don’t have people constantly telling other people to “woman up” or claiming that femininity is toxic.

              Is it really any wonder that boys are confused on when they become “real men” if the title can be stripped away by anybody who doesnt feel like you’re living up to their standards?

            • In this society, the onset of menstruation is about all it takes for a girl to be considered a woman. No wonder there’s no need for recognition – there’s nothing to recognize.

              Young women who accomplish somnething, rather than just passively experiencing a pre-set body change – graduating from college, completing basic Training or getting a miltary commission – expect and deserve formal, public recognition.

              And that is what peole are saying here – socially becoming a man is not like socially becoming a woman. It is not passice like menarche, and it is not well-defined like menarche. So it’s a double-bind – some accomplishment or achievement is required, and society refuses to specify what that is.

            • I think the real problem lies in the fact that men feel they need to have their manhood validated in the first place. Why is this? Why do they feel they need to have a rite of passage to declare manhood?
              Two reasons. One, people like to be validated by their peer groups. Two, manhood is defined by the external, i.e. through what males do. That is why no one considers a jobless adult male who lives with his parents a man. So it is important for men, both for their individual identities and the social status, to have their manhood validated.

              A rite of passage is a ritual event.

              Not all ritual events are communal events. Marriage proposals are ritual events, however, most of them occur privately between two people. What defines a ritual are the things that are done and passed on to the next generation, not how many people participate in it.

              Shouldn’t men be teaching other men (boys, particularly) that being a man is up to the individual and not for society to validate it? I mean, maybe that’s what you’re trying to get at, that it should be up to the individual male, but then you almost seem to agree with Gilbert’s point that boys need rites of passage.

              I do agree with Gilbert’s point that boys need rites of passage because they mark an individual’s transition from boyhood to manhood, and they are integral of part of a male validating his own manhood. Rites of passage mark an achievement, and they are just as necessary to boys as receiving a diploma is for students. The act is a symbol for the meaning behind it, which is that these new men possess the qualities and character of the men they look up to. Someone needs to tell young men that because there is no other way for them to know it.

              Women don’t feel the need to prove their womanhood through challenges, but men do.

              Womanhood does not get challenged in the same way manhood does, nor is it externally mandated the way manhood is.

      • ” I’d say gender roles are a root cause of violence, unemployment, depression, fatherhood, and suicide”

        Perhaps, but we as men deserve the chance to study these things for ourselves, and come to our own conclusions without having to have feminist dogma shoved down our throats. Feminism isn’t gospel truth, and the fact that so many react so negatively to having any of their “truths” questioned is pretty telling actually. Truth that cant stand up to scrutiny… isn’t.

    • Jacobtk….in my head I’ve TU’d you 10 million times, regrettably, only one will show up here. Thank you

  7. Just three days before the Conference on Male Studies convened in New York, NOMAS, a pro-feminist men’s organization, hosted its 36th National Conference on Men and Masculinity.
    Is this the same NOMAS that likens father’s rights groups the plague, generalizes them all as male supremicists, recommends against court ordered mental heath treatment for abusive men, and as far as I can tell totally ignores heterosexual male abuse victims? In short NOMAS pretty much translates into, “Everyone will be better off if just put all of our efforts into the damage that men do and ignore the damage done to them. Unless the damage done to them affects women, which will then make it a priority.”

    • It is also the same NOMAS that claims men cannot be victims of domestic violence, states on its site under its Position Statements “Are there instances in which men are physically dominated and assaulted by their female partners? This does occur, often when a man has become weakened by a factor such as illness, injury, or old age. Even in these circumstances abuse by a woman is unusual and when it does occur, it is most often motivated by self defense, fighting back and other protections. Even in these instances, the language “battered husbands” is not useful especially in light of the thousands and even millions of women known to have suffered or been murdered at the hands of a male abuser.” It is also the same NOMAS that does not recognize boys and men as legitimate rape victims. So it is not exactly an unbiased, pro-male organization.

      • This this this a thousand times THIS.

        The moment NOMAS wrote those words they silenced hudreds of male victims and denied their experiences. They excused abusers and rapists aike. They told millions of men “what happens to you doesn’t matter, because women have it worse, and women’s needs are vastly more important than yoiur own. Always.”

        They sold men out to curry favor with their female leash-holders.

      • wellokaythen says:

        Jacobtk’s quote of NOMAS: “Are there instances in which men are physically dominated and assaulted by their female partners? This does occur, often when a man has become weakened by a factor such as illness, injury, or old age. Even in these circumstances abuse by a woman is unusual and when it does occur, it is most often motivated by self defense, fighting back and other protections. Even in these instances, the language “battered husbands” is not useful especially in light of the thousands and even millions of women known to have suffered or been murdered at the hands of a male abuser.”

        If that’s the NOMAS position, it’s just silly just in terms of logic. Even if one ignores the evidence that men and boys can be victims or survivors of abuse at the hands of women, just think about what it would mean if we assume that men are never victims and women are never perpetrators. Theoretically, all men who abuse their male partners are not doing anything wrong, because men are not victims. All women who abuse their female partners are not doing anything wrong, because women are not perpetrators.

        If someone is being beaten on the street, should the police check to see the gender of the two people first before they take action? If homicide detectives come across a bloody crime scene, should they get the DNA on the blood spatter first before they determine if a crime has happened?

        I’m not sure how NOMAS really minimizes the possibility of “battered husbands” by suggesting it usually happens when the man is physically more vulnerable. What does that say about a perpetrator that he/she only victimizes weakened people? Assaulting someone who is especially vulnerable makes that aggravated assault, which is a worse crime, so carries a stiffer penalty. That makes female battery against men actually sound worse.

        Finally, maybe woman-on-man violence is far rarer than man-on-woman violence. Let’s just say that it is for the sake of argument. That’s quite a leap from there to say that because it’s rarer it really doesn’t deserve any serious attention. It’s a big leap from there to saying that a man who claims to be abused is probably lying. That’s like saying that hospitals can ignore people who come in with bizarre symptoms of really rare diseases. After all, how many people really suffer from bubonic plague these days? That black swelling on the guy’s neck is probably fake, and besides there are lots of sick women who need care.

  8. I’m Michael Gilbert and, if nothing else, I take credit for instigating an interesting discussion on these pages regarding the role rites of passage play in young lives.

    Asked to address the recent, much maligned NYC convocation on the subject of the current muddled state of gender affairs, I struggled with the brief time limit and decided I could best do justice to this big issue by describing the sometimes perilous journey boys set out upon, through male youth, on their way to contemporary adulthood.

    Some big steps along that pathway for boys used to include exclusive male passages (there, I said it, and I feel better already). They have mostly now been eliminated or de-gendered; I used the example of the Bar Mitzvah, a classic male initiatory rite which, among all but Orthodox Jews, has now been replicated for females. It has thus lost its male-confirming value. It’s what happens when you’re Jewish and you turn thirteen.

    But these male passages are (I should say “were”) there to compensate boys and young males for the things that don’t happen to them – the many, powerful, often recurring passages girls and young women experience.

    Adolescent male bodies do not go through a dramatic transformation signaling a female’s life-giving capacities. Males don’t get monthly reminders of this. They don’t get a Sweet Sixteen or get given away at bride-centered weddings behind a mysterious veil. Young men don’t get pregnant, give birth, or suckle infants at their breast. (They do get a light hit of oxytocin but it’s a faint shadow of the cuddly high a new mother experiences.)

    I didn’t romanticize any of these physical female passages; I know menstruation can be crummy but, whether you think males are deprived or spared of the less pleasant aspects of female biology, it’s impossible to argue that these aren’t powerful affirmations of gender, of femaleness.

    Boys need to graduate to manhood, they need places to grow up and cross over. Perhaps one of the reasons so many seem to remain boys into their thirties has something to do with the fact that we’ve removed these critical signposts.

    In closing, I must admit to dismay at the press reaction when these issues are raised. It’s easy to take pot shots, to write sly, distorted and snide pieces, even bowdlerizing someone else’s glib work. It’s much harder to dig into a serious issue and present an informative, insightful rendering for the reader. The headline to the article above manages to be wrong twice for I’m not a professor, nor did I romanticize menstruation.

    Nevertheless, I’ve been heartened by the presence of a few defenders on these pages, especially the lucid observations of Jacobtk. And, since I will provide a link to the talk when it’s posted online shortly, those of you who are interested will have the opportunity to judge for yourself the quality of the reporting – and the much more important issues surrounding the muddled state of gender affairs.

    • Well this is old…really freaking old…but I really wanted to reply. If someone sees it, awesome. If not, oh well:

      Gilbert: “Adolescent male bodies do not go through a dramatic transformation signaling a female’s life-giving capacities. Males don’t get monthly reminders of this. They don’t get a Sweet Sixteen or get given away at bride-centered weddings behind a mysterious veil. Young men don’t get pregnant, give birth, or suckle infants at their breast.”

      In the west, menstruation does not signal that a girl has become a woman. It does signal that a girl is starting to become a woman. She is growing up and is no longer completely a child – she’s an adolescent. In men, the same could be said about their voice going lower. A low voice doesn’t indicate that a boy has become a man, but it’s a starting point. Their is no great fan-fare around either of these biological processes, but they both happen around the same age and they are both taken to indicate that a child is becoming an adult.

      Sweet Sixteen parties are largely not even done anymore. I didn’t know anyone who had a Sweet Sixteen. If the show My Super Sweet 16 is any indication, they seem to be most popular among the rich and gender-neutral.

      Regarding weddings: The details of the ceremony themselves are often centered around the woman. However, I don’t know many women who still use a veil. And though the organization of the ceremony often falls to the woman, the symbolism of the wedding is not centered around the woman. A wedding as a rite of passage is not gendered. Or rather, it is not only about one gender. A heterosexual wedding is a rite of passage for both the man and woman, it indicates different things for each gender. There is all sorts of tradition and ritual surrounding the man as well as the woman.

      Regarding birth: while the physical act of giving birth is restricted to women, the rite of passage surrounding becoming a parent is not. Becoming a father is seen as a transformative process. People often discuss their lives in stages, pointing to certain events as moments where their life and their identity changed. Fatherhood is one of these events (as is a wedding).

      So in conclusion, our rites of passage are largely gender-neutral, or at least we have a single rite of passage that means different things for the different genders. So no, men do not have a special men-only rite of passage. But women don’t have a special women-only rite of passage either.

    • I know, I know…it’s old and yet I’m replying yet again. I can’t help myself.

      Gilbert: “But these male passages are (I should say “were”) there to compensate boys and young males for the things that don’t happen to them – the many, powerful, often recurring passages girls and young women experience.”

      That is incorrect. Rites of passage are created for both genders as ways to indicate a shift in social status and identity. Birth is a rite of passage (not giving birth, but being born). Going to school for the first time. Graduating from school. Having sex for the first time. Moving out of your parents house. Death is another one. – all of these are moments that our society has placed great importance on. So for starters, you need to understand that most rites of passage aren’t specific to one gender. Secondly, rites of passage in the modern western world are largely downplayed. This isn’t always the case (such as a graduation), but often there is little official ritual involved.

      More importantly, though, is that even in more traditional cultures, both men AND women have rites of passage. Male rites of passage weren’t created as some sort of compensation. They were created in conjunction with female rites of passage. So let’s take your example of a Bar Mitzvah. Yes, the Bat Mitzvah is a relatively recent creation, but there are records of Jewish women being presented to the synagogue in rites of passage that date back practically to the beginning of Judaism. It wasn’t called a Bat Mitzvah, and the ritual was different….but it’s not as if women were assumed to be women because they had menstruated, but men required this whole ritual. Both men and women went through a rite of passage to become adults in the eyes of a synagogue and the community.

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