Tag Archives: men

Answering the questions of patriarchy, masculinity, and femininity

A few questions were posed in regards to my last post on patriarchy and rites of passage. I think they deserve a post of their own.

Why is it so important to have rites of passage other than that is what we have always done?

Isn’t that sticking to tradition?

I think the question is whether we still have rites of passage and if the traditions that we have now work as these rites… I really do think that we have lost some things in our present culture. Mostly in regards to roles and responsibilities and recognition from the men of the community (or women, if you are talking about women). Robert Bly has some really good things to say about this in Iron John.

The father working away from home. The father coming home and presenting his spent self (tired, moody, “dinner and the news” dad). He eats, watches the news, and goes to bed. Then gets up and does it over again. This, of course, is not across the boards, by any means. We have gotten more individualistic, though, in how we as a community defines when we became a man.

What about circumcision both male and female?

This is surely not a rite of passage anymore and I don’t know that it every really was. For men, it was a sign of the covenant with the Jews… and then became about hygene.preference.etc. From what I know, female circumcision, practiced in Africa, may actually be more a rite of passage than for the men… at least one that is still remaining within cultures. I don’t really want to get into that here.

What about “first” communion?

Could probably be a rite of passage for some, but I would ask the question what purpose does it serve in general society… or amongst the community? For me and many other evangelicals, I would say it is more about the parents than the children.

Do you mean rites, like the Order of the Arrow in Boy Scouts, killing your first deer and eating the heart? Smoking a cigar, drinking a beer? Could you give an example of a rite of passage you think is necessary?

I would say that these could be considered rites of passage if they involved the greater male community and gave the men responsibility and honor in the culture. If it is about pleasure or individualistic, I don’t think they count. Vision questing was a rite of passage in many cultures.

How much influence does your community have on who you become?

A LOT!! Or at least it should. If it doesn’t, I think we become lost in individualism.

Is “our” patriarchy really blessed?

That was more of a sarcasm than an actual feeling. I feel that our patriarchy is much less than what it could be. With an effort to honor the masculine AND the feminine, we wouldn’t be as frustrated about patriarchy as many are.

Perhaps we need a “persons rite of passage” event??

I don’t think you can have rites of passage events with men and women together. Too many loaded emotions. You need women guiding the women and men guiding the men. You get mixed genders together and things get way too complicated.

I am curious to know Nate, what things you see as exclusively masculine and as exclusively feminine? You state “Women traditionally did not have rites of passage… at least there is not as much of a need for them. They have more physical transitions into womanhood.” I would challenge this view as being patriarchal and outdated. Reformed Judaism added the Bat Mitzvah, but Orthodox Jews still do not do it since girls/women do not lead in worship in these synagogs

I need to devote a whole post to this one! What things are feminine and masculine. Again, I would say, read David Deida. He’s got it down.


Rites of Passage and our blessed patriarchy

Been having a conversation with a friend lately in regards to men’s rites of passage and patriarchy and what I am doing through bridgeWORKS. The conversation goes as follows…


Help me understand more about the male rites of passage as you understand them. i looked on Richard Rohr’s website… is that what you are working with?

I like what he has to say. how will this change some of the patriarchy that is so much part of evangelical christianity?

My response:

Thanks for the note. Hmmm… rites of passage… the historic traditions of local communities that help men make the transition from boyhood to manhood. i suppose it varies based on the tradition… but much of it involves the release of the son from the care of the father and mother to the care of the male elders of the “village.” There is a recognition of place in the society. Fathers cannot do all the raising of a man. there is too much unrealistic expectation. In our western world, the majority of fathers are not all that present. It has to do with the sons not seeing their fathers working or working alongside them… in this situation rites of passage are even more important.

Women traditionally did not have rites of passage… at least there is not as much of a need for them. They have more physical transitions into womanhood.

I am not sure how this will affect the patriarchy problem. I am a believer in men and women coming to a more firm grasp on their masculinity and femininity (all of us experiencing both… sometimes men preferring the feminine and women preferring the masculine… either is ok), but not finding some equal balance in the middle. The most dynamic relationship is when there is a polarity between the two. Patriarchy is a problem when men become stubborn and don’t listen to the women voices. There needs to be room to hear the masculine AND feminine voice. Problems arise, however, when the women who fight for a voice simply express the masculine voice. The grasping or pursuit of power and control is really a masculine thing. Not something that is restricted to men, but definitely a masculine thing. So I am not necessarily trying to find a different way to look at the patriarchy as I am trying to help men be better men… more willing to pay very close attention to the feminine voices. If this happens, patriarchy will be changed. Check out David Deida’s stuff. Read Way of the Superior man or Blue Truth. This is what i’m talking about.

Thanks for the questions.