Masculinity, uncertainty, and obscure rites of passage

By Cobus Fourie

Someone I know quite well alerted me to a (gay) medical doctor and his fascination with all things esoteric including the sickening concept of male rites of passage.

Granted, Mister Medical Doctor is on the wrong side of 40, I am on the wrong side of 25, and I suspect there is also a generation gap between our world views. Aside from the generation gap, one also needs to be mindful of my supposed extreme libertarianism in the anarcho-centre-leftist range.

Maybe I am viewing all of this through my intense disdain for the patriarchy, which would also explain the anarchist tendencies. I see all rites of passage as incongruous to our Zeitgeist. Moreover, I see attempts to grasp the unattainable through mass hysteria and trance-inducing rituals as inappropriate and scary – hence why I avoid certain charismatic congregations and any 12 step programmes like Alcoholics Anonymous.

I’ve exposed the proliferation of the men’s movement in my last post in which Amelia Jones, author of Feminism, Incorporated. Reading “postfeminism” in an antifeminism age dissects the methodology and hysteria of the men’s movement:

The other side of the postfeminist coin is the so-called ‘men’s movement’. Inspired by Robert Bly’s book Iron John (1990) the men’s movement appropriates and perverts the rhetoric of feminism to urge the contemporary American male to ‘find a voice of [his] own’ as a ‘Wild Man’. Bly laments the feminization of the American male at the hands of his female caretakers, and calls for the extirpation of this spineless femininity through primitivist histrionics and rituals of male bonding. The ‘Wild Man’ immerses himself in mother nature and beats the appropriated drums of his ‘primitive’ brothers with big sticks to prove to himself that … his ability to dominate is intact.

Now I know rad-fems can be strident, as exposed in the Mail & Guardian article Lady, tramp, feminist icon. Lady Gaga or Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (as she is known off-stage) must be one of the foremost Pink rights activists of our time. Lady Gaga doesn’t fool around, she asserts herself, and she carries a formidable presence on 15 centimetre heels. However, feminist stalwart Camille Paglia is less impressed and calls Gaga a “ruthless recycler of other people’s work” and proclaims that there is an “essential depressiveness and spiritual paralysis” to her. Paglia might be too “old school”. I also wonder what spirituality has to do with equality. It seems both Mister Doctor and Ms Paglia have a penchant for the esoteric.

Via Mister Doctor’s nauseatingly esoteric blog, I came to see a phenomenon called The Mankind Project and it seemingly has a worldwide footprint. I also came across testimony on Facebook of other random gay guys who went on these man-camps only to extol the virtues of the Mankind Project much to my amusement.

My question: why do you feel so insecure and uncomfortable in your own skin that you have to discover your “inner wild animal” in between primitivist histrionics? We do not live in the Stone Age anymore. We do not have to stave off wild beasts for our survival and we need no longer hunt or forage for our food. We have a modern service economy with division of labour and we have transgressed the need for strict characterisation between male and female in terms of behaviour and build.

Imagine if women also laagered around their sole common denominator – their sex/gender. I am horrified by the thought of it. Oh dear, the return of Jong Dames Dinamiek! All the shock, horror, shoulder pads, and big hair of the 80s now conjured up in my mind’s eye scares me to death.

Men-only events are just plain misogyny in disguise. Men and women are equal – thus no separate events for one sex. Why do men, gay included, seemingly have this existential crisis of late?

Now my astute perceptiveness tells me there is something more to the Mankind Project than meets the eye and I have thought of joining a camp to experience it for myself. Then again, I am not quite fond of men in general and the “bush” is not really my cup of tea. No, I decided. I shall sit in the comfort of my suburban life, sip on organic vanilla tea and honey bush chai, and contemplate such sociological constructs. I feel no need for a “transition” or rite of passage, but why do so many others have this dire need?



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