Initiating Men into Their Sacred Masculinities
Somos Iniciadores de Hombres. As New Warriors, we are Initiators of men.
On Friday night, a man who has prepared impeccably, owned his shadow and his gold, and is ready to provide a challenge, informs the “NEXT MAN!” that he is about to enter “an intense men’s training, a rite of passage and what some call an initiation into the sacred masculine.” This has been happening on Friday nights around the world for 30 years.
Societies across time have assigned men to be the protectors and providers, the strong and brave. Men have been expected to display courage, emotional toughness, aggression, dominance, competitiveness, as well as loyalty, integrity and compassion. Boys have learned the ‘rules’ of being a man from fathers or father figures, the tribe, church, media, schools, and peer groups. There is a place and a need for these ‘masculine’ characteristics in our society. At the same time, there is a critical need to recognize complexity in our understanding of gender.
Later on Friday night, during I Know I’m a Man, men hear the question:
“What kind of boxes does the society and culture put you into to distinguish you from other men?”
Masculinity is a box, a gender normative frame, where societies and culture determine the characteristics, behaviors and patterns for those “entitled and deserving” to be considered men. Under this structure, there are two often mutually exclusive different sets of beliefs: that which is accepted, and that which is not, leaving little option in between.
Here’s a critical distinction: sex and gender are not interchangeable terms. Sex refers to an individual’s biological status while gender ‘refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex.’ In the case of those identifying as transgendered these can also include an experience where biological sex doesn’t conform to internal experience of gender. It is in these complexities, where our role as initiators into ‘sacred masculinity’ gets complex. Because at a fundamental level, we are often inviting men to restructure their masculinity – to change their conception of their gender; a set of beliefs, characteristics, and behaviors that they have been trained in their whole lives.
Sociologists and academics have introduced a more pluralistic perspective. I offer for your consideration that there is not a unique masculinity. There are masculinities.
Changing or expanding a belief challenges accepted ‘reality.’ In order to even partially change our beliefs, we need to build another reality set as valid as the one we are deconstructing. In our always evolving culture and society, we are learning to embrace the fact that men express masculinity in a broad spectrum of different, wonderful, and ‘manly’ ways.
The process of recognizing the spectrum of masculinities without losing that which is essential to the warrior archetype has been tortuous and painful for men. It is a struggle to see the both/and. The social and historically accepted Man / Woman dichotomy was an easy way to justify our position of privilege. It was also a mechanism to enforce that all individuals biologically born as male showing behaviors of self-sufficiency, bellicosity, hierarchy, and superiority towards women were the only valid members of the group. Boys and men displaying less ‘masculine’ traits were isolated as ‘unmanly’ until they could prove their ability to dominate themselves and others.
This traditional and hegemonic concept of masculinity was insufficient and largely inauthentic. It is a stereotype that has been useful in some ways, but harmful in too many others.
Changing our concept of masculinity to include individual or cultural variations can be painful or threatening. There is an increasing number of men proudly raising their children at home and more professionally fulfilled breadwinner women than ever. There is a tension between the exigent masculinity model and the possibilities of each individual to express their manhood. This is the cutting edge on which we do our work as New Warriors. Men who are drawn to the ManKind Project may perceive there are different ways to be a man, to be authentic and congruent.
I believe this is true.
At our NWTAs and circles we offer tools for men to explore their own possibilities to be real, accepting themselves and respecting others. We encourage men to express themselves fully in a healthy, passionate and meaningful way, and ultimately in service to a mission for the benefit of humanity. We help heal wounds, including those related to the ways we express or suppress the many variations of our masculinities. We welcome all men.
In the NWTA Context presentation we invite men “To be fierce in protecting what we value and love. Focused in going for what we want.” We encourage men “to be Awake, to be Healthy, to live life with Integrity, to Empower himself and others, to Live life with Mission, and, to Evolve as man through Connection with other men.” We emphasize, “We are all Warriors—each in his own way.”
There is wisdom in the principles and archetypes upon which we have based our work.
This is Initiation into Sacred Masculinities.
Estoy adentro. Are you?
Jose Antonio Mondelo
MKP USA Chair Elect