[Square & Compasses]    

Why Men-only?

From: dryfoo@MIT.EDU
Message-Id: <9502102311.AA29137@thelonious.MIT.EDU>
To: ricci@world.std.com
Subject: Re: Masonic Visitors Guest Book 
In-Reply-To: Your message of "Fri, 10 Feb 1995 15:39:14 EST."
Date: Fri, 10 Feb 1995 18:11:21 EST

} -------
}     Name:: Diana Ricci
}    Lodge:: 
} Location:: 
}   Office:: 
}   E-mail:: ricci@world.std.com
}  Message:: I noticed that 99.9% of your home-page visitors are men.
}            Why are women not allowed into your peaceful order?
} ----
} sent by: ricci@world.std.com

Your observation is separate from, but related to, your question.  As
you will see by tomorrow, nothing prevents women from visiting, signing
in, and appearing in my guestbook.  I take who I get.

Our Fraternity is another matter.  There are at least 3 separate reasons
why women are not allowed it Masonry, and my short answers will do
justice to none of them.  But I think that the FAQ and a very long
discussion in alt.freemasonry (if you can find an archive) a month or so
back will amplify on some of them.

1) The "by definition" answer, (or "You won't like this one at all"):
Women are not allowed in Regular Masonry because it is one of the
landmarks, and as such cannot be changed.  This may seem stupid and
circular, but as I said, it is a "definition", not susceptible to or in
need of proof.  An analogy is, say, baseball: anyone is free to recruit
a team, purchase regulation gloves, bats, and balls, and lay out a field
with 4 bases plus home-plate.  They can play all they want.  But they
cannot expect to get other baseball teams to agree to call what they're
doing "baseball".  It doesn't fit the definition.  Not a great answer,
but the solemn obligations I made while joining or advancing in Masonry
include (a) not participating in making a woman Mason, and (b) only
making Masons who agreed to keep the obligations as they are now.

2) The "separate spheres" answer: Humanity knows very little about
psychological and spiritual growth, and about the teaching of same.  We
have perhaps 5000 years of experience, but very little empirical
analysis on the data that those years have produced.  Among the things
we hardly understand are gender-related matters.  But one stream of
evidence suggests that many societies have found it useful to provide
occasional opportunities for single-gender socializing and spiritual
work.  Our modern society really provides very few of those, fewer all
the time.  Masonry is one that remains, and out of respect for its
little-understood efficacy, we choose not to tinker with it.  (In formal
words, we say "...it is not within the power of any man or body of men
to make any alteration in the body of Masonry.")  In short, the
exclusion may be serving some purpose, and since we hardly understand
how or why Masonry "works", we don't mess with it.

3) The "Yes they are" answer: The only bodies women are excluded from
are "regular" Masonic bodies, that is a sort of "confederation" or
"communion" of separate Grand Lodges around the world that recognize
each other, and the members of whose constituent, subordinate lodges may
visit each other freely.  There are also a number of Masonic lodges that
these bodies term "irregular" or "clandestine" (not synonymous but the
difference isn't relevant).  Some of these "irregular" lodges have long
traditions, possibly dating back to the mid-1700's, nearly as old as
"regular" Masonry, and _some_ of them accept men and women, and some, I
think, women only.  If you read alt.freemasonry, you have read postings
by at least one woman Mason.  There are also several affiliated or
"adoptive" bodies within the family of regular Masonry that have women
members.  If you're interested in either of those alternatives, I can
send you more information.

I hope that's some help.

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A Page About Freemasonry is http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry/