Yesterday we discussed the idea of when a Girl becomes a Woman and that discussion leads us into today where we try to answer when a “boy” becomes a “man” and, in my experience, there are three areas where tests are applied to make the difference clear:
In certain cultures due to religious beliefs or work that must be done, boys become men as young as 12 and 13 with responsibilities to the community and in jobs that advance the culture and understanding. They may not be encouraged to marry at that age but they are given greater “adult” responsibility in the tribe and the family. Many consider that transition the mark of a man.
Growing up in Nebraska it was generally considered among boys you became a man when you had your first ejaculation — either alone or with someone; but usually alone and during the night — because you had the power to help create life and that ability, even if not maturely accepted or verified by the outside world, meant you were a man because you could have a blood commitment to protect someone you brought into the world.
Reaching legal age where you can sign a contract is also, for many, the bright line transition from Boyhood into Manhood. You are held socially responsible for your overt acts and if you misbehave you will no longer be considered a child — your punishment will find you in an adult circumstance.
Sorting it Out
The problem is finding a public common ground for this determination so everyone in society can agree on the rights and responsibilities of the young as they age. That is why the law subscribes to the idea of a chronological fitness test for adulthood precisely because it is a marker you either reach or you do not reach and once you pass that Maginot Line of responsibility there is no going back from whence you came.
I don’t find the boy into man issue as hot a topic as the girl into woman topic probably because all men know deep inside they are really still immature little boys. The girl into woman debate also has deep roots in the Feminist political movement where a shedding of pretty, but petty, images and concepts of women and girls and their historic subservient roles in society had to be changed in order for the female gender to march forward into equality. In America, a woman’s right to vote was guaranteed only in bits, here is how the pieces fell:
Colorado is the first state to adopt an amendment granting women the right to vote. Utah and Idaho follow suit in 1896, Washington State in 1910, California in 1911, Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona in 1912, Alaska and Illinois in 1913, Montana and Nevada in 1914, New York in 1917; Michigan, South Dakota, and Oklahoma in 1918. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is signed into law by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby on August 26, 1920.
Gender discrimination between boys and girls and men and women is still vibrant today. Breast cancer took a long while to find appropriate research funding while prostate cancer research was quickly fully funded across the nation.
I know women today who choose to spell “women” as “Womyn” because “men do not belong in Womyn” and I wonder if it was ever a good idea to divide people by labeling their gender milestones instead of valuing their innate human worth in the whole.