On Coming of Age

12 Feb

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.

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

If you’d like to learn more about the Maasai and female genital mutilation (cutting), read this.


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 – as in the case of female genital mutilation – human rights violations?


25 Responses to “On Coming of Age”

  1. stefan brandis bryan February 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    The celebratory definition depends on the culture because the whipping in africa and the dancing on knives could be as special there as a sweet 16 is in America. To us they might not be culturally appropriate but to them its fine. I also think that we cant judge what is and whats not human rights violations.

  2. Trevor Harrington February 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    1) My initial observation is that I am not surprised by such different cultures because different parts of our planet is divided in culture, languages, rituals etc.

    2) Different cultures observe coming of age in very different ways. Some observe it as a celebration of a person and their life thus far. Others observe it as a transformation to adulthood with more symbolic rituals to represent coming of age.

    3) I believe that these customs for coming of age ceremonies are absolutely culturally appropriate, because in the view of an outsider, other different customs from far off places will appear very strange, and vice-versa.

  3. nstupel February 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    2) In The Benin Tribe, I Believe that it is a interesting competition when the two boys whip each other, and whoever flinches less wins. It teaches pain endurance, and how strong you are as you have to be really strong to give a good whip to your opponent, Winning means you become a man, but losing just brings you shame. It is very important, especially with tribal rivalries. Unlike in the United States, in this culture you have to work and experience a lot of pain in order to become a adult. These cultures have different traditions and each culture has different ways to celebrate becoming a man or women. Some want to flatter you with gifts and make it be all about you, while others make you experience tremendous pain and earn your welcome.

    -By Noah Stupel

  4. Ray R. February 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    1. I noticed that these rituals were very physical and required that you show no pain. I noticed that the people in the videos are very dedicated to getting these rituals done and not backing down. They really just wanted to get the rituals over with.
    2. I think that it really depends on the culture that you come from and where you are born/currently live. It depends on what the culture demands from you to become-of age. It really depends on where you are from.
    3. I think these really should be looked as culturally appropriate. I don’t think that these should be considered human rights violations because it is what they believe in and no one should have the power to take away what you believe. I think that these coming of age rituals really should be understood by people around the world and not looked down upon.

  5. Kelsey Hank February 12, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    I dont understand how in the ant video, that those men havent passed out yet. AFter that one suffering why would they want to go through that 19 more times? I think they make teenagers do these type of celebrations to become a young adult is so tht they show they are mature enough to be one and that they are proving they can handle responsibility. But the one thing I dont understand is why they have to go through such danger in order to prove that they are mature enough to be an adult. I think that these rituals understand as culturally appropriete because that is what they believe in.

  6. Albert Ackroyd February 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    1) My initial observation was that it looked like they were trying to enjoy the pain they were in
    2) Some are celebratory because possibly in the past it used to be incredibly hard to do. For example the bar/batmitzfah has been going on long before the printing press, and people probably were told via speech and were forced to memorize it. Some are physically demanding to show strength and perseverance and that the person going through it can survive on their own and aren’t just worthless
    3) In my view they are culturally appropriate and each culture should have a form of their own. If one receives no suffering then they could easily turn out to be something like Sophie from my super sweet 16

  7. joshuas625 February 12, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    My initial thoughts on the various procedures that different cultures have to do in order for a member of their tribe to become an adult in the eyes of their tribe. In my view, an event like a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is unique because it gives a Jewish boy or girl the privilege and honor of being considered an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community. In my view, the rituals I observed in the videos are harsh, but unique. However, for women, I consider the rituals for girls becoming women in their community to be direct violations of human rights.

  8. Janil carbone February 12, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    1) Discuss your initial observations and questions.
    I was really surprised at some of the rituals in other countries. Their coming of age of is of great significance to them and their culture. Here in the united states it is more done to please the individual rather than gain respect.

    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?
    Other rituals are more demanding because in there eyes the person going through the ritual is finally accepted as an adult. Here in the US its more like you’re midway through teenage years and on the verge of becoming an adult. In the videos i viewed the rituals test more strength and passion for your culture. For instance in the video of the ants there was on kid that said he was going to do it more times until he is viewed worthy enough of being in the tribe. Also the video about getting hit the ritual although it is painful brings them joy and others joy because he is strong.

    3) These videos test our ability to practice cultural relativism: In your view, should these rituals be understood as culturally appropriate, or – as in the case of female genital mutilation – human rights violations?
    Its honestly really hard to say. I feel that if some kids dont want to do the ritual they shouldnt have to but most of these kids were willing to do so and actually really proud. Some seem very brutal and we as us citizens would view them as human rights violations

  9. Kayla :) February 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    The rituals in these videos are very different than what we are used to. I think the reason why some coming of age rituals are celebratory and others are so demanding is because some cultures believe to become an adult you need to prove that you are strong enough so they make you do things that are painful and they believe that that is the only way you can become an adult. Other cultures believe the opposite and they think that you should have a party and celebrate that you are reaching the age of becoming an adult instead of proving that you are strong enough by doing painful things.

  10. Brianna Trani February 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    In Wearing a Glove of Venomous Ants I can’t imagine the pain those men go through. I observed that they dance while they have the gloves on to get your mind off of the extreme pain. The coming of age rituals are so demanding because they have to prove their “worthiness” to be in that tribe or prove there braveness. I think these videos should be understood as culturally appropriate video because it’s their cultural, they choose to do it. This is how they prove their braveness.

  11. Dena Zeitoun February 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    In my view, some coming-of-age rituals are so celebratory (like Sweet Sixteen parties, the Quinceañera, and the Bar/t Mitzvah) and others are so physically demanding because some cultures think that being an adult is serious and responsible.

    In my view, these rituals should be understood as culturally appropriate, or – as in the case of female genital mutilation – human rights violations because if we didn’t understand it or if we were against it, it would be ethocentrism.

  12. Hannah Nunez February 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    1) In the video, “Wearing a Glove of Venomous Ants” I noticed that as the process went on the more the pain was inflicted. I think that the last guy (the American) wasn’t expecting it to hut so much because the other two men were good at hiding there pain. I wonder if there are any side affects to the ant venom.

    2) I think this is because in some cultures these rituals, such as the venomous ant gloves, are to test the strength of a person to see if they are ready to make there own choices, while others are for fun, like a Sweet Sixteen.

    3) Well, I think that the way this question is written, makes people think that these rituals, such as female genital mutilation, are awful, however I think that these rituals are culturally appropriate. These cultures have had these rituals for centuries and they think that is an important part of a persons life.

  13. simeon098 February 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    My initial observation is that although to me these rituals appear barbaric they are viewed as necessary passages and rites of coming of age to the people that preform them.

    I believe these rituals vary from culture to culture due to societal factors and the nurture of individuals within each culture. Some cultures may believe that entering adulthood accompanies a sacrifice of innocence and welcoming of burden and responsibility. This act is symbolically represented by the enduring rituals they preform. The outcome of the rituals illustrate the ability of the individual to bare burdens independently and in a manner that suggests maturity physically and mentally. In societies that are less demanding to our instinct and more involved with the pursuit of pleasure we see more celebratory rituals. These rituals demand less strain and stress and promote our desire to achieve happiness. These ritualistic parties celebrate our childhood and optimistically put the future in prospect for us.

    Its hard to answer this question entirely true to my beliefs while still adhering to my cultural acceptance as well. I believe most of these rituals that are held sacred to these cultures are of no business of ours to infringe upon. Unless of course the rituals begin to violate the globally accepted law of human rights (FGM). In which case it is the duty of anyone and everyone to step in and end the injustices.

  14. kiara homs February 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    1) I watched the second video where there are two young boys that are competing to see who is bravest and where the young girl is getting tatted on her face. My observations on this video was that the ritual starts from a very young age. I observed that the rituals seem to be based on how brave the person is or who wins. A question that I have is why does the ritual have to do with competition, why can”t both young people be winners due to their bravery?
    2) In my view some coming-of-age rituals are so celebratory (like Sweet Sixteen parties, the Quinceañera, and the Bar/t Mitzvah) while some others are physically demanding basically because I feel it all has to do with culture. In my view people of different cultures see things or have their own way of thinking or believing. They all grow up believing one thing and what ever their culture has believed or have been taught, it is carried on. In their eyes, their rituals aren’t “demanding” it’s normal is something they have to and want to do.
    3) In my view these rituals should be understood as culturally appropriate, only because I wouldn’t like it if someone was to walk in and tell me that having a sweet sixteen is wrong or inappropriate. I just feel that telling someone that their culture or what they might believe in is inappropriate is just rude. I feel that what ever people do to celebrate a coming of age thing, it’s appropriate for them so that’s all that should matter. To me it does seem wrong, but I don’t feel I have the right to say whether it is appropriate or not. It might seem wrong to many but it isn’t wrong to the people that do practice the physical coming of age rituals, because it is their culture.

  15. Kim Corona February 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    After watching the videos I thought it was really interesting learning how many different cultures have different ideas of how to celebrate someone’s coming of age. For example the one I enjoyed a lot and found very interesting was the tradition of wearing gloves with alive stinging ants. I found it interesting of how the guy Pat tried that and seeing his reaction after what he went through was really good.

    I think when people celebrate “Coming of Age” it’s very different to other people. Like for example how here in the U.S. many celebrate Sweet 16 for both male and female. People here in the U.S. when it comes to celebrating the coming of age it’s more like a party than a ritual. Like another example is in other countries it’s more physically demanding I think it’s because people in other countries are more religious and care a lot more about their culture.

    In my view I think these rituals should be understood as culturally appropriate, because I think people who live in America might think it’s really “weird” or just morally “wrong” but that’ s just because we don’t understand their culture. Because for those who celebrate those rituals they find that “normal” because it’s what they’ve known to do since they were little so to them it’s not wrong or weird.

  16. ashley villalona February 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    1. After watching all of the videos, I found “Wearing the Gloves of Venomous Ants” the most interesting. The reason for this is because then men were not allowed to show any pain while wearing the gloves. I found it most interesting seeing the American man put on the gloves for the five minutes. His reaction afterwards had me shocks, because I didn’t see any of the other men reacting in the pain the way he did.
    2. I think that they’re celebrated because it passed on from family to family. It’s a tradition passed on that your family, culture, or religion do not want to see stopped, and want to be continuously celebrated, so that they don’t die out. They do these rituals to celebrate the becoming an adult in these communities. The elders and the children enjoy seeing these young adults go through these traditions to become an adult.
    3. In some cases it can be viewed as culturally appropriate, like a sweet 16, Quinceañera, and a Bar/t Mitzvah. Things like the venomous ant gloves, and female genital mutation can count as human rights movement, because its causing the person pain.

  17. evelyng32 February 12, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    1.) In each ritual I saw that everyone had to do something to show bravery or shame in their cultures. All of the rituals are difficult because you have show bravery on all these tasks that give you a lot of pain. If you had shame and didn’t do well in the ritual you had to re-do again sometime in your life. Most of them are physically painful because a lot of people say you most go thru a lot pain to be happy with your life.

    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?
    I think all these rituals are all different because of the place you live in. Like in American when your becoming an adult everyone wants to celebrate this type of joy with a party and be happy that your becoming an adult. In other countries like Africa, India and China they have alot of other rituals saying that you need to learn to become and adult. There countries want the person to suffer a bit to become a happy adult. Like in the video of the Wearing a glove of Venious ants the guy said in order to be happy with your life you have to suffer and feel pain once in life to be happy with your life. He means like you have to take away your fear and be happy.

    3) In America if you do this to people it could be called a abuse but i think it’s their own rights that the people do this because there culture wants them to show this. These rituals are i guess for their own good because what they do shows something. Like the girl in the Fulani Initiation Rites the girl had to get tattaos on her face so she can them how brave she was. It said that if they girl cried or showed any type of pain it meant that she was shamed and that the she had to re do that ritual again later i her life.

  18. danielavelasquez February 12, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    1. I found these videos very interesting and hard to watch. It was hard to see what these people have to go through and it is all just to be treated as an adult in their community. I was surprised to see that these rituals are so physical and demanding.

    2. I think that it is all about traditions and what has been happening for years before.I feel that the United States and other countries have parties and celebratory events because during these times they care more about the people that are having the parties and not the community. What I mean by this is that even though these parties are cultural events a lot of the time it is more about what the person that is having the party wants. With cultures that have physical ceremonies I feel that they don’t care as much about the way the person feels but rather if they can undergo a ceremony to be part of their community. Parties don’t really show that someone is an adult but these ceremonies do. (That is what they might think)

    3. I think that it is hard to say weather or not a culture can have a certain tradition. I would say that it is a human right violation to do female genital mutilation because it is not the girls choice and it is something that is extremely painful. This is something that in many cases girls don’t want to do. Parties for the most part the children/ young adults decide if they want to do this so it is culturally appropriate and okay to do. Although I feel this way I also kind of think that it is hard to judge a culture and tell them that they can’t do something that they have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years.

  19. Jaquelin February 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    1)Most of the rituals show some type of pain that the person passes through. But even if they are experiencing a lot of pain some aren’t supposed to show it, if not they wont be able to pass the ritual.

    2) In my view some of the coming of age rituals are so celebratory because that is what their religion demands of them so its more of celebrating that you are finally an adult, and in others they’re aren’t really focused on that. There more focused on how willing are you and how brave are you into becoming an adult.

    3)I think that these rituals should be respected the same way a sweet sixteen is respected. Because this is their own way of celebrating their coming-of-age. Yes some may seem a bit extreme for us but then again that is what their culture and religion believe in.

  20. Christian Ndoci February 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    1) Some observations I have is that everybody watching the rituals is very calm and not worried about the person in all the pain. It shows that they take the rituals very seriously and believe they do not harm the person.

    2) Some rituals are so celebratory and others are so painful because traditions are different in different countries. In this country, even those there are different ethnicity’s, many different celebrations that are celebratory and most of the time they are not painful in this country because we believe coming of age is something to celebrate. But on the other hand, in other countries, they believe in proving their coming of age and that they are ready for the coming of age using pain.

    3) I think these rituals are cultural but I also think that the kids coming of age should have the right to choose whether they want to do it. Even though it is part of the culture, I think they should do what they want and what THEY think is right even though to us, it looks wrong because we don’t usually celebrate in pain.

  21. anthonyp347 February 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    1.As of result of watching all of these rituals being performed the only question I have is how do these kids or people not scream or get nervous performing the rituals that consist of pain? Are the used to this ? Do they practice before the main ritual ?

    2. I believe some are celebratory and others are not because it depends on where are you in the world and what your religion and beliefs are. In the united States instead of people performing rituals that consist of pain instead the throw a huge party to celebrate something. This may be a different story in Africa due to the fact that their beliefs and religion are completely different.

    3. I think they should be considered culturally appropriate because that is the persons option to either perform it or no. The option is always there and if they don’t agree with it they have the option to leave or do what ever to not go through the pain. If that is what they believe than let them be, its just like us if we choose what we want to do because its our choice. Everyone is entitled to what they want or believe in.

  22. Bryan February 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Bryan Encarnacion

    2) Some coming-of-age rituals are so physically demanding because it actually proves and shows how someone becomes an adult. It shows that you have to work hard to become an adult.

    3) They should be understood as cultrually appropriate because they believe what they believe. We believe that Sweet Sixteen’s are normal while they think that these physical demanding things like putting your hand in ant gloves is normal.

  23. Emily M February 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    The coming of age rituals are different in every culture, a lot of them are very celebratory such as sweet sixteens, quinceaneras, and bat/bar Mitzvahs etc. But others are very painful and frightening such as female genital mutilation and dancing barefoot on knives. All these rituals are very important to each culture because it shows that in their land to become a adult they need to prove that they are strong and worthy of their culture.

  24. stefan February 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    I was surprised by all of these rituals, the coming of age is special to them, going through pain is like a step into adult hood. I can’t even imagine doing any of the things that any of these cultures do.
    Dancing on Knives and all of the other rituals might not be celebratory to us but to them it is. They don’t look at it as physically demanding they look at it just as we look at sweet sixteens. I dont think its our place to say whether these are culturally appropriate or a violation of human rights, because its their culture.

  25. sar5135 February 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    1. My initial observation was that they were trying to take the pain and change it afterwords as joy for being a warrior or man, saving your own soul, and what not, for when taking pain, it make’s us grateful to know who and what we have in life in stead of taking it for granted and getting spoiled.

    2. People created a ritual that inflicts pain onto someone’s hands, skin, or genitals, in order to prove that someone is strong to support or be one with the community, while we created a way of celebrating the rituals based on their age (Sweet 16’s and what not) instead of pain.

    3. The rituals that are practice culturally are inappropriate and dangerous, but it can be studied and practiced around the world. But, without suffering and pain to make someone grateful that they know their place in society, they end up like the girl, Sophie, in the Super Sweet 16.

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