On Coming of Age

4 Oct

Initiation with Ants
In this remote Amazonian village, becoming an adult means sticking your hand into a swarm of angry, stinging giant ants.

Wearing a Glove of Venomous Ants 
Pat takes on an Amazonian bullet ant ritual and is thrown into 24 hours of mind-numbing pain.

Fulani Initiation Rites
Benin boys move toward manhood by enduring the sting of a whip.

The Hamar Bulljumping ceremony
Ethiopia

Apache Girl’s Rite of Passage
In New Mexico, the Mescalero Apache reservation prepares for a coming-of-age ritual. Over the span of four days, young Apache girls will pass through ancient tests of strength, endurance, and character that will make them women.

Knife Dancing
A ritual of passage for a South Korean girl requires dancing barefoot on top of sharp knives.

Reflect:

1) Discuss your initial observations and questions.

2) In your view, why are some coming-of-age rituals so celebratory (like Sweet Sixteen parties, the Quinceañera, and the Bar/t Mitzvah) and others are so physically demanding?

3) These videos test our ability to practice cultural relativism: In your view, should these rituals be understood as culturally appropriate, or – in the case of female genital mutilation – human rights violations?

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22 Responses to “On Coming of Age”

  1. kyrag9 October 4, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    1) I feel that all of these coming of age events that these cultures have been doing are extremely dangerous, painful, and a lot of work. I feel like each one of these activities are meant to show the individuals strength or honor to their family and culture. It’s almost like this big challenge that you need to exceed in, in order to join adult hood. My big question is how did all of these activities start? Who’s idea was it to do this?
    2) I feel like our society has parties and fun things like that because becoming of age is something that is given to us. In these other cultures it is something that you have to work for, or prove to your society. I do not think that either is wrong, it’s just a different way of showing or expressing the coming of age.
    3) I feel like each one of these events that these cultures do are physically demanding, but for whether or not it is right or what they should be doing depends on the activity. Some of them like walking on knives or putting your hands in ant gloves maybe to some people is not necessary but it’s okay if that’s what you believe in. Now with female genital mutilation I personally think that that is wrong, definitely if it is by force!

  2. alexanderc6 October 4, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    1) After watching “Initiation with Ants”, I could tell straight away that this coming of age ritual was something that they treasured. Each man that performs this task, and succeeds agreed to do it 20 more times. This definitely shows extreme dedication to what they believe is right for them to do. I think that this ritual boosts their confidence, endurance and strength.
    2) Most of the typical coming-of-age rituals that happen in America are so celebratory because it involves being the center of attention. They celebrate them getting to a certain age, and gaining new privileges. However, the coming-of-age rituals that are physically demanding not only allow one to gain new privileges, but they also boosts their confidence, endurance and strength.
    3) I believe that the people that belong to a culture should do what they have to do to become an adult. It shouldn’t be forced upon them, but they should learn about it so one day they could try it. They are appropriate to the culture that they occur in.

  3. mileidar October 4, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    1) I think that the coming-of-age rituals in other countries are unbelievable and in my perspective it is hard for me to see these acts to be categorized as okay or normal in a community of people. It was hard imaging how much pain each of these people had to go through and for them to hold it in throughout everything.

    2) In my view, coming of age rituals are so celebratory in the states rather than physically demanding like in other countries because of the difference in lifestyle of our country compared to these other countries. Our lifestyle is extremely comfortable and much less physically demanding than the lifestyle of having to hunt for food and doing physically demanding things on a daily basis. I also think that in other countries they have to prove their strength by enduring pain, while in our country coming of age is something to celebrate and it is given to us.

    3) I think that female genital mutilation is different than coming of age rituals because it is something that you have to deal with for the rest of your life rather than coming of age is something that you do once and never again and doesn’t leave a lifetime affect. The removal of the female clitoris is something extremely personal and I think it is wrong. The pleasure that comes naturally from sexual intercourse shouldn’t be taken away in order to become a woman it actually just contradicts the idea by not allowing her to experience that feeling. In a coming of act ritual, the pain is temporary but in a genital mutilation the results are forever and unchangeable.

  4. Gregory Samus October 4, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I have noticed that these videos of the rituals that the children must do are extremely physically demanding and often are done because the children have something to prove or show the elders Or even the other kids I think that the way we show our coming of age because I believe that what is right and wrong is all based on the type of culture you are because to us fire ant gloves and a knife dance is crazy but to them having a giant party might be unheard of because to them it doesnt exisis just wrong I think that female genitale mutilation is completely wrong and a violation of human right because if it is done by force it is painful and it is a act that’s have to live with for the rest of your life and some women may not want to love like that but I do think other acts are tolerable because they are part of the culture and a tradition as well as optional

  5. lukem88 October 4, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    I feel that each culture has its own way of coming of age. In the Amazon people show their adulthood by putting on the fire ant gloves- this could sort of put the people that go through the ceremony in preparation for life hardships. Also in the U.S., coming of age is marked by celebration. I feel we do this because it is a happy occasion for us. In the case of the cultures that go through painful rituals to come of age i feel that is their custom and they should stick with it.

  6. cpjr803 October 4, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    1) I observed that a lot of these cultural coming of age rituals from other countries have to do with enduring pain. I also observed that our rituals celebrate our coming of age but these rituals ask you to prove yourself.

    2) I feel our cultures coming of age rituals are celebratory because we have it easier than them so we have no need to endure pain to prove ourselves. I feel their rituals are so physically demanding because their lives are harder so they have to prove they are strong and can handle the road ahead.

    3) In my opinion I think instead of put your hand in a glove of poisonous ants, whipping each other, and etc don’t make sense as their growing of age rituals. I feel instead they should do rituals involving things they will need to learn how to do in their future. I feel female genital mutilation is not right in any culture because a ritual shouldn’t be doing something to your body it should be doing an activity.

  7. gbbyb October 4, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    1) Watching the videos made me realize how hard these kids or men need to work to be recognized in their community. For instance, in one of the videos I watched men need to put their bare hands in gloves filled with stinging ants 20 times for five minutes in order to be considered a warrior. In other videos, it was either dancing on knives or whipping someone without having them flinch to be considered a man or not be considered weak.
    2) When we turn a certain age, people around us expect a certain level of maturity out of us. Sixteen is supposed to be an age where we take on more responsibility as a young lady or young man. So by having a Sweet Sixteen, it is supposed to be a celebration to represent that. But in other cultures, no matter what age, they are judged based on how much they can endure in pain or how much courage they have. Different people, different societies have different ways of looking at others.
    3) To me, these rituals are not appropriate. I don’t think anyone should have to go through life threatening pain in order to prove how strong they are or how much courage they have. It definitely is a human rights violation, but then again most of these people have the choice whether or not they want to do perform that ritual. But in my opinion, it is obviously extremely dangerous.

  8. sandiminn October 4, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    1) I think that these rituals are to show how physically strong they are and that they are mature enough to do this. These rituals are really painful, difficult and out of ordinary. In the ant gloves video, the chief said that without pain or challenging activities in life, you don’t appreciate life. My question is that do people do these rituals just to fit in the crowd?
    2) Some coming-of-age rituals so celebratory and others are so physically demanding because in the culture we life in, we appreciate the event. We don’t have to prove anything like being strong enough.
    3) In my view, these rituals should be understood as culturally appropriate on SOME activities because this is what other people believe in. I can’t change their beliefs. If a 14 year old getting hit by a stick without flinching proves that he is strong to the people, then it is what they believe in. But other activities like female genital mutilation is just completely wrong humanly. Because it is literally just rape.

  9. connor7932 October 4, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    2) I feel rituals that celebrate coming of age show that adulthood can be tough, so you might as well celebrate now. The physically challenging coming of age rituals show that you will experience pain and suffering in adulthood.

  10. alenag3 October 4, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    The films that I watched really show how culture takes such a big rule in peoples life. The way people celebrate their coming of age is different in every culture, but I realize how meaningful this is to some people. Cultures around the world celebrate the coming of age by long torturing rituals, party’s, dancing on knifes, and I can just imagine how many more. As I watched these films from an anthropologist point of view I was extremely amazed but also frightened. I must admit that I can’t imagine me being part of a culture that practices these rituals, but then i thought if i was to be born in one of these families i would be honored to practice them. The problem is that people instantly judge what others beliefs by not knowing what is means to them. Honestly, I think some coming of age are so demanding and not celebratory like we usually do because to others becoming an adult means something more then just growing up. In other places teenagers have a harder life, and becoming old just means things are not going to get easier and you need to prepared for that. Some rituals for example female genital mutilation to be is human right violation, but thats because they way i was raised thought me women should have every right man do. It is unfair that some women are forced to have this done to them, if they were to have a chance to choose this and not be forced to do this i wouldn’t go so against it i feel. As I said before everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

  11. farzana October 4, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    When watching these films of other cultural celebration on coming of age, i was frightened yet amazed of some of the rituals. Little kids even preform rituals such as jumping off a 30ft tower or having to put their hands into gloves filled with bugs with painful stings. Being put in an environment where you have to survive on your surroundings, i believe these rituals are necessary. In America we are being given our necessities without any hardship but the people in those countries have to physically work to get what they want. These rituals do have a purpose on why they are being preformed. they live in conditions where they need the skills theyre are doing in the rituals for life. For us it seems outrageous being put to do all these sorts of things but for them it gives them proud to be able to preform it. If we were living the way they did we would also have to do the rituals and we would preform them with pride. I do believe that these rituals are culturally appropriate. They believe they are needed to do this in their culture because of how they live. For example, People cut off the women cliterous in order for the women to not experience pleasure. They believe that women shouldnt go around sleeping with men but men can be given that opportunity. There is always a reason behind these kinds of rituals.

  12. mherij October 4, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    After seeing the different clips about coming of age ceremonies, I feel like these ceremonies are probably the most effective because one of the chiefs stated, “If you live your life without pain or suffering or effort it wont mean anything to you” and I think this is true. When you get older you ten to face more hardships. It’s definitely different from our ” coming of age” ceremonies. I think the reason we have Sweet Sixteen parties, Quinceañera’s,and Bar mitzvah’s because it’s not so much as you’re becoming an adult its more about hey everyone look at me I have an extravagant party celebrating an age that doesn’t really matter because you only become an official adult in America till you 18 or 21.

  13. wendyn6 October 4, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Wow the rituals that some of these children have to endure are crucial and in my eyes are crazy but as they said they are very important initations that can leave you walking away feeling a sense of pride and achievement.

    I think that here coming of age ceremonies are just so to mark that you are growing older and then later on in life difficulties will become worse and overwhelming at times but you ability to keep going without a flinch shows that you are maturing. Where as in other countries and societies you endure the pain which marks that you are in maturing.

    I think these rituals are appropriate and should be understood and not to be judge. I honestly believe this because of two quotes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “If you live your life without any pain or suffering or effort it wont mean anything to you.” So a whipping or fire ants is mark of courage and strength but FGM is NOT okay.

  14. siararamirez October 4, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    My first observation was that all of these rituals are painful, and in this country/culture, it would be insane to do any of these things. But, as I said in class, people from other countries sort of have it set in their mind that to be “of age” you have to prove you are, it is not like America where you turn 13 and you’r of age (Bar Mitvahs) or if you turn 16 and have a Sweet 16. These countries rather let you be of age when they know you are, and that is why they have to go through all of thes “tests” and pain, to prove who they are. These tests can prove strength, bravery, etc. I also made another observation about the Korean culture and their ritual of becomming a shaman. The girl who danced on knives had an illness and this reminded me of Lia from the Hmong people, she had epilpsy and although this was a disease her family and the Hmong people believed she was gifted.
    I believe that some of these rituals could be seen as a human right violation, for example female genital mutilation, because they are taking away her human right to have pleasure. But things such as wearing a glove of stinging bees, is just physical harm and we should accpt that and understand it. I believe that if a ritual isn’t necessarily taking anything away from their people, then it is approprtiate.

  15. sallygibson3 October 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    My reaction to these videos are that there’s they seem so painful and it’s a lot different from our cultural preferences, but I believe that they have to prove their strength to become an adult. I think that our cultural background has a lot to do with what you do to consent coming of age and because our background comes with convenience and strive to become rich so we have parties. I think the fgm is very different then these cultural rituals because is many cases fgm is forced with some consent of parents or grandparents. In the cultural rituals the participants might not feel like they have a choice but ultimately they do and with fgm is mostly forced.

    • rondellw5 October 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

      1. As I watched these people from different countries do these painful initiations, I realized that these people were in some aspects in a completely different world. They have very different beliefs then we do, and rightfully so. Not only are their beliefs different, but they also have a different environment, language and overall culture. I don’t think I can ever fully understand how to place my feet in their shoes. I do know, however, that I understand that their views are very different from ours and as a result I cannot fully analyze why they do these things. What happens if you fail your tests? Are you shunned from the group? What does it mean to be “put to shame”?

      2. I think that as we get older we realize that we need to take on a bigger responsibility and this leads to celebration or painful initiations. The way these differ has a lot to do with our views on life. Cultures are different in many ways, which is what brings me to believe that this is the reason for the differentiation. We are raised in different enviornments, taught different languages, and this would only seem right for us to do coming-of-age differently. Hunting is very important in lives of others while educations is very important in our lives. Different views lead to different types of celebrations and initiations.

      3. Personally, there is definitely a line between cultural relativism and a humans right violation. All of the videos we watched seem to be less extreme only in the aspect that they are only painful for a limited amount of time, but femail genital mutilation would be for a lifetime. I feel like if you take something to the point where it could restrict you from something for your entire lifetime, than that is too far. Taking something physically away from a human is too much for me.

  16. katherinehebert October 4, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    I find the videos of the Coming of Age rituals in cultures pretty interesting. As I was watching the videos, I knew that if I was placed in that situation I would not be able to do most of those rituals successfully. Ms.Jenkins observed in class that “you’re more respectful to other cultures than you are to your own” and I see that as feeling inferior to other cultures because they have to go through such hardcore tasks and we just throw a party. Other cultures feel like they have something to prove, or they want to accomplish something so physically demanding to prove something to themselves and to have it mean something for such a long time. We want to have a memorable event when we turn 16 as well, yet most of us want to have a big, amazing party and on shows like “My Super Sweet Sixteen,” we come off as spoiled teenagers with petty problems. Other cultures want to have been able to complete something so harsh, to be able to say that they can do that and to show how strong they are, which goes back to our own celebratory rituals, that don’t really account for much because a great memory of a good time. I do feel that some rituals, like female genital mutilation, are completely wrong and a violation of human rights, but it really depends on the ritual to be considered a human right violation or culturally appropriate. There are some circumstances that are a part of the culture but there are some issues that are violate human rights around the world.

  17. wendyn6 October 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    Wow the rituals that some of these children have to endure are crucial and in my eyes are crazy but as they said they are very important initations that can leave you walking away feeling a sense of pride and achievement.

    I think that here coming of age ceremonies are just to mark that you are not only growing older and then later on in life difficulties will become worse and overwhelming at times but you have ability to keep going without a flinch shows that you are maturing. At the same time I feel how does this show that you have come to adulthood? You were brave in that second but will you be brave when the situation presents itself again?

    I think these rituals are appropriate and should be understood and not to be judge. I honestly believe this because of two quotes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “If you live your life without any pain or suffering or effort it wont mean anything to you.” So a whipping or fire ants is mark of courage and strength but FGM is NOT okay.

  18. alexandertd October 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    1. I noticed that most of the coming of age ceremonies were done be choice. All the people that experiened the ceremonies did it because they wanted to. Not because they were forced to.
    2. Bar/Bat mitzvahs, sweet sixteens, etc celebrate becoming an adult, that’s it. The ceremonies that are demanding usually mean that the person becoming an adult now has certain duties, they can marry, it’s more then just becoming a certain age.
    3. I think that the ceremonies are okay till a certain extent. Ceremonies that are harmless and are only parties are fine, but ceremonies when people are hurt should not be allowed. EVen if it’s their culture because it’s not right.

    • Trevor Turner November 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

      this is a test post

  19. Trevor Turner November 12, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    1. I found out most of the coming of age cerimonies were mostly not mandatory, so almost all of the people doing these things wanted to do them. When i found that out i realized they were not forced to do any of these things.
    2. In the US most of the coming of age cermenonies inquire responsibly and other things.
    3. I dont think these cermonies are uneccesary yet this is just my opinion other people believe what they want

  20. sjn7425 November 13, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    2) I feel like our society has parties and fun things like that because becoming of age is something that is given to us. In these other cultures it is something that you have to work for, or prove to your society. I do not think that either is wrong, it’s just a different way of showing or expressing the coming of age.
    My first observation was that all of these rituals are painful, and in this country/culture, it would be insane to do any of these things. Whatching these videos made me think that every culture has their own way of saying that there kids are becoming young adults, but having them to walk on knives and putting gloves with dangerous bugs that really does not convince me because your hurting your child. But if thats the way people express themselves then thats how they going to it with there kids, but i really think its not nessesery to do these hurtful traditions.

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