When Did You First Think of Yourself as a Man/Woman?

Posted on April 4, 2012

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Today I read a blog post mocking so-called “period parties,” which are menstruation-themed events to celebrate the transition from girlhood to womanhood (see the ‘menarche’ party pack in the top right?).

I actually used to think period parties were an awesome idea. Until I heard a few stories (I live on Salt Spring, remember?) about how embarrassing they are for the young woman at the centre of the celebration. I’m sure that some events have been more successful than others, but…

Since most of us don’t have “puberty parties”:

When is it that you were first made to feel like a man or woman?

For me, it took until the birth of my son at 23 before I felt like I had been initiated into womanhood. And I often wonder how much easier my teenage years (especially the early teens) would have been if there was some kind of ritual or ceremony that had helped me settle into my new skin as a woman. I can’t help but imagine that I would have appreciated some personal lessons about the meaning and power of womanhood – not just the anatomical bits I learned in sex ed.

Drunk man with head in urinal

Can't we do better?

Regardless of gender, it seems to me like most of our culture’s “coming of age” rituals involve binge drinking (see upper left), drivers licenses, or (unsafe) sex.

Can’t we do better?

Would it save our boys a lot of destructive self-proving behaviour (fights, vandalism, drinking, drugs) if we affirmed their strength as men in some kind of ceremonial or official capacity?

Tweens putting on lots of makeup

Read: Outraged Moms, Trashy Daughters

Would it save our girls the headache (and heartbreak) of trying to look and act like sex kittens at age 12 if we affirmed their sexuality as something powerful and sacred?

What might that look like?

The clearest (if not the best) answers I’ve seen so far are from the film Courageous, which addresses the parent’s role in facilitating coming of age. It’s a Christian flick so if you don’t partake in La Santa Bibla, please disregard the religious references and take away whatever speaks to you.

In this clip our hero asks his friends:

“When did you first think: I’m a man now?”

Here’s what the guys answer:

  • When I moved out (lame)
  • When I got my license, or a job  (extra lame)
  • When my father told me I was a man (Wow! Do fathers do this, or no?)

(Feel free to watch an extended version of the same scene on Wing Clips)

Now on to scene no 2:

When she first thought: I’m a woman now

A father from the group creates his own ceremony for acknowledging and respecting his daughter as a woman. The sentiment is amazing. Whether or not our aim is to restrict our daughters’ behaviours, have you ever seen so much treasuring and respect given to a girl becoming a woman? There’s no doubt: I’d choose something like this over a period party.

All in all, I hope we can send the message to our girls that they don’t have lose their virginity to feel like women (do watch Ansiedad very charmingly plot her course to womanhood in this clip from Girl in Progress for a perfect example of this thinking).

And that boys receive fatherly approval – and whatever else they need – and don’t claim later to have felt initiated into manhood only after their own father dies.

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Posted in: Blog