The contemporary society seems to be totally different from the societies of the past. This may be observed in different rites which used to be traditional even for the most advanced societies, including European and American. In this respect rites of passage seem to be particularly noteworthy, especially in relation to girls which were treated in a different way in the past than they are now.
The readings and lecture for this week reveal numerous facts that indicate at the rites of passage for both girls and boys and it is noteworthy that for the latter these rites were basically closely related to the body changes. To put it more precisely, the maturing of girls was associated with the start of menstruation. In fact the first menstruation symbolized a dramatic change in girls’ social position and attitudes of the surrounding people in relation to them. At the same time, nowadays it is hardly possible to imagine what those poor girls in the past had to come through in such an important period of their life.
In fact, their first menstruation seems to be a real test for them and what is more important in the past it was not only psychological but also a serious physical challenge. It was not a rare case when they were simply isolated from the rest of the society in special menstruation huts where they remained for ‘purification’ and where the conditions of life were quite difficult if not to say unbearable, especially for us living at the age of high technologies, medical services and comfort. For instance, Hawaiian or Caucasian huts looks rather like a prison for the most dangerous criminals than a residence with all essential conveniences. Moreover, even ‘civilized’ Europe and even America treated girls in their special days as ‘unclean’ and it was a widely accepted practice to literally purify them.
As a result, it is obvious that in the past maturing girls, which actually were only on their way to become women, had to remain in a kind of isolation which closely related to physiological changes in their organisms. At the same time, it seems to be a mistake to think that such isolation is only a physical test they had to pass. It is obvious that such isolation was a serious psychological challenge young girls had to cope with on their own without anyone’s assistance or support.
Nowadays, it seems to be a real savageness but, in actuality, can we state that such superstitions, which forced girls to move to the menstruation huts during their first menstruation, have totally disappeared? I can hardly believe so. We still have the sweet sixteen party, which is practically analogical to the end of the girls isolation in the menstruation huts but this rather emphasizes that modern society unlike our ancestors prefers parties than isolation. However, the prejudice against women and young girls in their special days are still quite strong since it is still believed that to a significant extent the bad mood or anger with girls are often explained by their periods that seems to be another variation of stigmatism that existed in the past.
Thus, the epochs are changing but some conservative views remain unchanged and even though the form has changed dramatically, the essence remains the same.
Howe, N. and W. Strauss, 13th Gen : Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?, New York: McGraw Hill, 1993.
Howe, N. and W. Strauss, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy, New York: McGraw Hill, 1997.
Howe, N. and W. Strauss, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, New York: Routledge, 2000.
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