Friday, March 28, 2014

Input From Men, Please!

I have been thinking a significant amount, lately, about my decision to raise my female children with the cultural expectation that they will, around the age that they begin to experience pubescent growth, be thrown a "Red Party."

This has become rather like a tenant of my Humanist "faith." I believe that coming-of-age is a time of our lives that nearly every human culture acknowledges and celebrates in some meaningful way.

As I have had my own experiences of becoming a "female adult" within the culture of my youth, and I have observed the experiences of other females "becoming adults" within the differing cultures of their youths, as a Humanist Minister I have thought a great deal about the culture of "coming of age" that I would like to create for my own children someday.

Let me first describe, at least in part, my vision of a "Red Party."

This will be a planned event (likely prepared for six months to one year before it takes place) where every female-identified human that the young girl chooses to attend, is invited.

Every attendee wears Red, in some form, which symbolizes the beginning of the young girl's adolescent journey into womanhood, and shows support of everything the color Red symbolizes (blood, life, love, passion, beauty, etc.).

The "female-identified attendees" may be of absolutely any age, birth through death. They may be the girl's younger siblings, nieces, cousins, friends, or classmates . . . they may herald from the siblings, nieces, cousins, classmates, friends, peers, or co-workers of other girls or women that she knows.

The primary concern is that these are the individuals from whom the girl who is coming-of-age would be interested to hear advice about "what it means to be a woman."

This is a Red Party! A Celebration of Womanhood!

No matter the ages of the attendees, each individual is expected to wear red, to bring something symbolizing womanhood, and to offer some token or type of advice pertaining to how to be a woman.

My own vision of what this event would entail is that the women preparing the party (likely the mother(s), aunt(s), sibling(s), cousin(s), and/or friend(s)) would prepare every type of food for the evening that is reminiscent of womanhood . . . they would bake bread, prepare their favorite dinner dish (casserole? meatloaf? pasta? salad?), and enlist each other attendee to the party to bring a dish, side, dessert, or drink that is reminiscent of womanhood to that person.

As the Red Party begins, guests arrive and share what they have brought to contribute to the meal, and why. As the meal progresses, once every invited guest has arrived, a toast is proposed (likely by the woman/women organizing the event) -- the young girl is given a virgin version of a "Red Party" drink that all the other women are enjoying, and the young girl gives the first toast!

She toasts to something that she loves about being a young woman, or something she looks forward to about becoming a woman. The meal & drinks continue, and each female-identified girl or woman in attendance shares a story/experience/piece of advice, and proposes a toast in honor of the young woman who is coming of age. They are all encouraged to share something about being a woman, and/or something about how the color Red is related to being a woman.

Finally, the main vision that I have regarding the purpose and cultural importance of this "Red Party," is that the young woman who has "come-of-age," and who is being honored and celebrated at this party,  will have the opportunity to ask any and every question that she may have about "womanhood."

If she has any questions about how to deal with "getting a period," or how to interact with her peers (male, female, gender-queer, etc.), this is her ultimate chance! She can ask younger friends or family members what they perceive to be the "most important" things about being a "woman." And she can ask older friends or family members what they perceive to be the "most important" things about being a "woman!"

This is her coming-of-age occasion. The time of her life when she will be surrounded by girls & women she loves, who will bring her food & shower her with gifts, and openly and honestly consider & answer any question she may have!

So, now that I have described my vision for a "Red Party" for young women, we come to the reason I am asking -- even begging! -- for input, please, on this post!

Especially, input from boys, young men, and male-identified adults!

I realize that I am a woman, and have identified and accepted myself as a girl or young woman since at least the age of three! So I feel quite qualified and comfortable crafting a coming-of-age celebration for women, identifying as a woman myself.

And so, the primary question that I have is: How would Male-Identified youth prefer or desire to celebrate and/or acknowledge their unique coming-of-age experience(s)?


  1. You asked for mens' input: Red Party seems to emphasize the period for me. Creepy. Sounds like having 'hair on your balls' party for guys. Women get to keep their own counsel on if or how much to emphasize their biological transition to womanhood. I've seen some baby/vagina baby shower cakes, so this sounds a bit like the same. But those are all adults and kids transitioning to womanhood might not quite be ready for that level of reality.
    Before transitioning to the male side, I think this requires some gender normative treatment. I think that's a bit problematic. I think it's important, especially in adolescence to recognize but not over-emphasize gender differences. I could be wrong. It's certainly the case that men and women are different - biology, gender identity, hormones - or a combination of those things for a a id with male plumbing and female identity or some other combination.
    So for 'males' we might have feats of strength if they're interested. Or skills competitions or talking with a really attractive woman. You'd be surprised how hard this is with a brain flooded with hormones.
    But I think the first part is to brainstorm 10 or 20 coming of age components. Maybe some are gender neutral or some are steretypically gender specific. Some might be in the company of like-gender, some with family, some without family. Then the important part is for mentors and the honoree to select the best components for their customized ceremony. In that way, the child comes of age in the way best for them, without sterile, rote rituals, without gender normativity, and with as much support as possible.

  2. Dday76 -- Thank you so much for your reply! I was honestly surprised to hear that what I described as ideal for a coming-of-age celebration for young women sounded "creepy." I would argue that women grow hair over their genitals at puberty as well, so I don't think it would be quite like having a 'hair on your balls' party.

    The main reason I had considered the "Red Party" is because in our culture, women are often intensely shamed, disrespected, and denigrated by male peers (and adults of all gender identities) around the time they begin to bleed -- which yes, is a biological transition into womanhood, but the reason it should (in my opinion) be celebrated as an empowering time to young women, is precisely because it has for too long been considered a disgusting, misunderstood time of feminine development ... one of the "creepiest" jokes I heard as a pre-pubescent girl was something akin to, "What's the only animal that, if caught bleeding for seven days straight, you still aren't allowed to shoot it dead to put it out of its misery? A Woman." If kids are ready for THAT kind of 'reality' in 'jokes' by the ages of 8-10, they are certainly mature enough (physically and emotionally) to have a counter-acting supportive adult community teach them what 'having a period' is really, actually about!

    I have to say, I really, really appreciate and love the final paragraph of your response! I will start doing just that type of brainstorming with the youth and adults in my life that I feel alright discussing these things with ... what are the 'important,' gender-neutral and/or gender-specific 'coming of age' components we all recognize?

    I appreciate the suggestion to have "feats of strength," but feel it would imply that men become strong at puberty while women do not (when in fact all humans become stronger through puberty) ... but skills competitions may be a great thing to incorporate into the Red Party as well as the coming of age celebration for young men.

    I'm not sure what a young man would want a celebration like this to be called -- I'm not even sure a young woman would want her celebration to be called a "Red Party," but if it is, what could an equivalent party title be for the young men?