I recently read a book by the daughter of a friend of mine, that dealt with honor killings in Druze society. It is called “The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice” and you can find out more about it at http://www.7perfumes.com/.
As I read this story, I found myself considering the theory that Amy Logan puts forward to explain the cause of female subjugation in some cultures. I think that it has much rational merit.
She says that in many cultures, many of them Middle Eastern, Asian or African, there is a practice that takes place in the family where the mother fills most of the parenting and nurturing responsibilities for both the girls and the boys until one day…she simply doesn’t.
At some point in a boy’s development, he is taken under the wing of the men of the family and taught the man’s role, which often undervalues women and can even treat them with outright contempt.
Contempt always opens the door to mistreatment and control issues, and the author’s theory is that this sudden break from the mother’s love to the father’s discipline, with no rite of passage whatsoever, can cause great anger in the young men. In a male dominated, honor obsessed society, that anger will most naturally fall on the women as the weaker, “less honorable” sex.
Ms. Logan surmised that this dynamic would make it easier for honor killings to occur.
I found myself wondering if she was right, and if she was, what could we as parents do to change this dynamic, even in the American culture? Was a rite of passage that important? Could it help our children understand and respect the other sex as they transition into the fullness of their own sexuality and maturity?
I instinctively think that it is that important, and although we had girls instead of boys, we created a rite of passage in our family that you may want to think about for your daughters and consider adapting for your sons.
In previous blogs, I have mentioned how friends of mine received their “rite of passage” from reading a Kotex box or a pamphlet. This was not what I wanted for our daughters. I wanted them to see themselves differently as they changed, and in the most constructive way possible. My husband totally agreed and so we made our own tradition.
At the onset of puberty, we found a suitable gift (ring, necklace, whatever…you decide!) and presented it to our daughter as a family occasion with a special dinner and ceremony.
We welcomed her into the community of women and of life givers and we made it an event that both celebrated her new maturity and informed her that as a young woman who was now capable of creating life within her body, she had new responsibilities.
We assured her that God did not give her this capacity to make a new person in the world without expecting her to use this gift wisely.
We gave each of our daughters this rite of passage when the time arrived and it opened the door to continuing and important conversations about sexuality, intimacy, contraception, and protecting themselves from everything from sexually transmitted diseases to emotional trauma.
Will this work for all children? I think so.
Think about what you would have wanted to know when you reached puberty. It is a confusing, somewhat embarrassing time for most of us, but it doesn’t have to be.
If your family regards it as a special time and a rite of passage, it helps to smooth the way to developing a proud young adolescent who will respect him or herself and their future partners.