qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men.
"handsome, muscled, and driven, he's a prime example of masculinity"
virility, manliness, maleness, vigour, strength, muscularity, ruggedness, toughness, robustness
Masculinity is the new dirty word
Often preceded by the lovely “Toxic”
Personally, I hate this term : “Toxic masculinity’, not because it doesn’t exist, but because it’s become this carpet bombing term that is thrown at all versions of masculinity, good , bad and indifferent.
Yes, there are toxic or warped expressions of masculinity, Just as there are toxic and warped expressions of femininity.
But that doesn’t mean that every man is toxic, and that every expression of masculinity is bad. In fact, I would argue that embracing and exploring our masculinity is essential for us if we are to remain balanced and sane.
And don’t get me wrong, I understand and empathise with people that have been victimised for whatever reason, its shit. There’s no place for it in this modern western society.
This world that we live in now is very complicated, and people of all genders and creeds find it hard to define themselves and how they will express themselves to the world, and I suppose that is the price of a world with limitless choice and limitless information. A world where traditional knowledge is scorned and ridiculed as archaic and limiting.
But we need to have more respect for traditional knowledge, ancestral knowledge, Information was gathered and passed down through the ages because it was IMPORTANT, perhaps essential for the betterment of the species as a whole.
One of these ancient wisdoms is rites of passage for young men.
someone long ago, realised that young men, when left untethered, become dangerous and unpredictable.
Gather those boys in a group, and through natural competitive drive, before long they will be getting up to the most outrageous shit imaginable.
That is the nature of the young chimp, full of testosterone, one thing on his mind : rising above his peers. Being the big dog, the alpha chimp. Craving the respect and the acknowledgment of the troop.
But it’s all play, at this stage of the game, these are still adolescent fantasies, and in a fantasy you can live out all of the glory without having the cost attached. It is role play.
However, there is a point where this starts to become dangerous. When the young boys body starts to become the body of a man, when real power starts to manifest itself, we have a boys mind in the body of a man. And this can go horribly wrong if it is not addressed.
If this toxic masculinity exists on a large scale, it is in the young man. Power without experience or wisdom.
In ancient societies, they realised that this energy had to be moulded and converted into something less reckless and more real, something that allowed these young tearaways to integrate into the tribe and become functioning members of a community.
Rites of passage were the methods that they used.
A rite of passage is a trial. No, more like a road of trials, that a boy must pass through in order to become a man. It was usually both physical and mental, and generally involved the youth having to demonstrate their courage and spirit, their ability to see a task through to the end despite pain, and hardship. It seems barbaric to a certain extend, but ancient cultures understood that somewhere in the trial, within the midst of the pain and the confusion, that the young warrior would have to take a deep look into their own soul and face the demons that lay there in wait. All of the accumulated ancestral demons, their familial demons passed on from parents and their personal demons.
The trials had to be real enough, and hard enough, that the persons flaws and weaknesses would burst through whether they liked it or not, that all of their masks would fall away and their true nature would be revealed for all to see. A humbling experience, and a growing experience.
Now, in modern society, we see these practices as barbaric or outdated so we no longer practise rites of passage in the traditional sense. We do have coming of age ceremonies such as communion and other religious coming of age ceremonies but the lack of real challenge makes these practices mostly benign and useless. At least for the process of self development and cultural integration.
Personally, I was lucky enough to have several “rites of passage” that served somewhat to scratch the itch of that need to be tested as a young man. One was the 10 year journey to a black belt in a martial art. The process of progressing through the belt system and gradually taking on responsibility, culminating in a very intense testing phase, was a genuine rite of passage, it revealed my inner character, it humbled me, and is still to this day is one of the most memorable and meaningful things that I have done.
It changed me as a man and it gave me something to latch onto, to identify with. It gave me a code of ethics and morals to abide by.
The second was military training. 8 months, very intense, designed to break you down and rebuild you.
Although the military training was a real test and i did learn a shit ton about myself and other people from it, ultimately I would class it as a “faux” rite of passage because it doesn’t really prepare you for living in the real world, it grooms you to operate within the confines of the military, which is actually a completely fucked up system that has no real resemblance to actual life. (that’s why people are institutionalised coming out of the military, just like prison). They use the imprinted need that young men have to want to be tested in a rite of passage to actually create a robot, an automaton that simply does what he is told, there is no space for growth or introspection. They remove one mask and replace it with another. So for that reason I actually class military training as a damaging process for all but the most headstrong of young men. And it is something that I personally had to struggle with when I left the military after 12 years. I would say that it had a major part to play in my emotional constipation that has been so hard to overcome.
The third was going to the amazon and taking part in a month long plant medicine retreat. Which, as i have talked about on many occasions, was a completely life changing experience for me and without doubt was a true rite of passage. My ego was smashed and i was forced to rebuild myself from the ground up.
So my belief is that rites of passage were a very, very important process for our young men to go through, where they were tested and they had to dig deep and demonstrate their character both to themselves and to their society to show that they had what it took to be a man within the tribe and take responsibility.
Without rights of passage, boys never become men. And we are left with overgrown children that have never matured beyond the dick measuring, “trying to be the man” phase.
Teenagers in men’s bodies.
Men who pursue power and status at the cost of everything else,
Men who’s only system of self value is to chase power and try rise above others at all costs.
And you know what ?!
It’s not their fault, they have been given no road map to follow, they have been given no incentive to move away from this way of thinking. The men that have that insane drive to succeed will just hammer it, 80 hours a week, no matter what game you put them in, and the game that they have been shown, the path to success for them is to simply make as much cash as possible and climb the corporate ladder at all costs.
And only the ones who happen to stumble across the scant few rites of passage that exist will start that journey.
We…..society as a whole, men, women, everyone are responsible for it. Just as responsible as we are for creating equal opportunities and rights for oppressed or marginalised people. If we don’t provide guidance for our young men, show them the path to wisdom and growth, then all we will be left with is overgrown man-boys and we have only ourselves to blame.
So how about : rather than branding all men and expressions of masculinity as toxic, we provide guidance on how to be a man, how to wield the power and responsibility that comes with being a man. How about we take a long look at ourselves and try to be better examples of what men should be. Embrace the courageous, the heroic attitude, dig deep inside and be proud of our power, but never use it in a negative way.
Boys will be boys
Men will be Men
The sooner we realise that trying to suppress male expression will simply make everything worse.
Let’s think of ways that we can provide real, meaningful rights of passage that make boys want to take responsibility and become shining examples of men.
Warriors for good. Tested in battle. Humble, honest, courageous.
This autumn I will be running a series of 4 events designed to provide a true rite of passage for men.
Places will be limited.
It won’t be easy
The work will be deep
Drop me a mail if that sounds like something you are drawn to.
Would love to hear your thoughts on rites of passage if you have any.
Peace and love baby !