Rites of Masculinity
What are rites of masculinity?
Rites of passages are a ritualized marker of transition for both women and men. Most often, they are seen as a way to move from childhood to adulthood. For women, this might be marriage or childbirth, but the road to adult masculinity is usually more complex. Rites of masculinity specifically act as a way for young boys to prove themselves as men, usually to other men, and to show they are ready to be incorporated into an adult world.
Traditionally there have been three phases of masculinity: separation, transition and incorporation. Separation involves the removal of a boy from his community. The transition stage includes the actual rituals that a boy goes through in order to become a man. This includes participating in humiliating and degrading acts or rituals that erase one’s previous identity. Incorporation is the last stage and completes a boy’s transition into a man and welcomes him back into the community with a new identity.
While these three stages have historically been very important to any rites of passage, contemporary rituals do not necessarily fulfill all three phases. Instead, they focus on one stage, commonly the incorporation phase, in which boys are welcomed into a new community and given adult responsibilities. In other cases, boys no longer have a collective rite of passage at all, and instead rely on toxic hegemonic masculinity ideals to prove their ability to be a man.
In our blog entries we examine both historical and contemporary rites of masculinity across the world. Using historical accounts and academic articles, we contextualize transitional masculinity as framed by the participating cultures and aim to understand what their rituals look like today. Examining the effects of modernization in a variety of cultures is key to a well-rounded understanding of contemporary masculinity.