In every culture across the world, one can find initiation ceremonies that mark the transition of a young boy into a man. Most of these ceremonies involve some kind of performative bravery, valor and power, all of which are viewed as masculine attributes.
In Peru, Warachikuy is a male initiation ceremony where young men undergo various tests to prove their bravery and valor in order to receive the status of officially becoming a man. Even today, Warachikuy is an important part of Andean cultural heritage and is regularly held at the at the archaeological site of Saksaywaman near Cusco. The initiation ceremony includes warlike dances, battles, competitions and a lot of ancient rites. Warachikuy takes place annually, during September and is worth visiting and experiencing for yourself.
Certainly, Judith Butler was right in saying that gender is a performance and one is socialized into performing male and female roles. One can even view Boys Scouts and military conscription as performative initiation ceremonies, though they are concealed under the masks of nationalism and patriotism. Many feminists point out that male initiation ceremonies exclude young women from participating in displays of bravery and valor, thereby creating an assumption that only males can be brave and valorous. And we all know that such assumptions are harmful not only to women, but also to men who are forced to perform these rigid ideas of masculinity.
Thankfully, times have changed and initiation ceremonies have begun to fall out of favor, and conversations regarding gender performance have begun to take place. These conversations have helped to reduce unnecessary pressures placed on youngsters to perform their designated gender in a socially prescribed manner. Nevertheless, some of these ceremonies can be colorful and entertaining, and it always helps to understand gender from different cultural perspectives.
Do you have a male initiation ceremony in your culture that you would like to share with us? How do you view these gender initiation ceremonies in light of conversations and policy changes the are taking place around the world in favor of women and LGBT people?
All images via Pululante on Flickr