by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners
For those of you old enough to have watched “Our Gang” commonly known as “The Little Rascals”, you will be familiar with The He-Man Woman-Haters club. The club was a neighborhood boys club founded by Spanky and was made up of nearly all the boys who appeared on “Our Gang”. In the short film, "Hearts are Thumps", Spanky, Alfalfa, and Buckwheat have no interest in observing Valentine's Day. To prove it, Spanky establishes the He-Man Woman-Haters' Club to serve as their united front against the holiday. It is also (re)-formed in the short film: "Mail and Female" as a reaction to not being invited to a MacGillicuddy Girls party. After reading the comments on a Facebook post advertising a zoom meeting that UGLE (The United Grand Lodge of England) is sponsoring on May 4: "Freemasonry for Women", I believe that it might have evolved into a sub-set of our membership.
Full disclosure, I have absolutely no issue with Women Freemasons. I also have no problem with Co-Ed Freemasonry. I am a member of the Oddfellows, and pre-pandemic, I had the ability to sit in an Oddfellows Lodge made up of both men and women. I am more concerned about the survival of the Craft than I am with adhering to our landmarks. Our landmarks were created at times where other men were held as property, and when women were thought of as such. Landmarks can change. To illustrate my point, there was a time that a man having a physical deformity was ineligible for Masonic membership, but that landmark was dropped. I would like to believe that our membership has grown and become more enlightened over our long history, but reading some of the comments on the post quickly made me realize we still have a lot of growing to do.
While the United Grand Lodge of England does not officially recognize either Female Grand Lodge (The Order of Women Freemasons and Freemasonry for Women-The Honourable Fraternity of Anceint Freemasons or HFAF) in the UK as being officially being regular, it has stated they are regular in their practice. (See below for their official statement).
A statement issued by UGLE – 10th March 1999
There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice. There is also one which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, discussions from time to time with the women’s Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men(even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing to the Grand Secretary. The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of pure antient Masonry, but which by implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings, or participation in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge.It states on its own website that they follow exactly the same ceremonies and wear the same regalia as male Freemasons, and they often work closely with those Grand Lodges on community and charity projects. The vast majority of members of UGLE that I know could care less about women practicing Freemasonry. Apparently, not so much for some members of our various Grand Lodges, mostly those in America. To be fair, I think this is a minority of members.
It is troubling to me that there is still this subset that has this misogynistic mentality. The idea that somewhere Women Freemasons are practicing Freemasonry is extremely upsetting to them. They fear that recognition of these Grand Lodges as regular might open the floodgates and have women wanting to join their lodge. They argue that women would be a distraction in the lodge room because apparently, men that proclaim themselves to have excellent character cannot control themselves around members of the opposite sex. I'm not even going to dignify the comments about exposing the naked breast with a response. Then there are the inevitable cries of: What about the landmarks! Hell would freeze over! Over my dead body! My obligation says something different! The logical fallacy in these arguments is the assumption that these Female Freemasons would want to join their lodge. To my knowledge, they don't want to infiltrate your lodge because they do not want a Co-Ed lodge, they just want to be able to practice Freemasonry with other females.
Another argument is based upon the false belief that Lodges are only practicing regular Freemasonry when they are recognized as being regular. While there are still unfortunately a handful of Grand Lodges in the United States that do not recognize Prince Hall as being regular; did Freemasonry change for the members of those Grand Lodges that have recognized them as such? Not to my knowledge. Did anything that PHA does in their ritual change when they were “Recognized”? No. Because even though they were not recognized as such, they were already practicing regular Freemasonry. The same applies to these Female Grand Lodges.
Many of you may not know that one of these Female Grand Lodges, the HFAF, has established a Lodge in Washington D.C. The lodge is America No.57, and their Worshipful Master is Ms. Lourdes P. Elias, who is the spouse of MWB Akram Elias. MWB Elias is a Past Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Washington D.C. and you probably would recognize him from his appearances on various History Channel programs. Do you think that MWB Elias doesn't support his wife or her lodge because it isn't recognized as regular? Do you think that the prayers offered by their Chaplain, Commander Lynn Chow, USN, Ret are any different? While I don't personally know MWB Elias, and I am not privy to the prayers used by the HFAF in their ritual, I can make a fairly educated guess that the answer to both of the above questions is No. I can base my answer upon the opinions expressed by MWB Elias in his Article, Confusion in the Temple. If you have an opportunity to read it, I would urge you to do so. (https://www.dcgrandlodge.org/uploads/6/9/5/4/6954862/voice_2019_issue_02-final.pdf)
It is my belief that the real reason for the misogynistic mentality displayed when the idea of Women and Freemasonry comes up is the fear of change. This is the same fear of change that is evidenced within a lodge whenever a member attempts to suggest an idea that hasn't been tried before and has the idea summarily dismissed because it has never been tried before. For these members, the customary norm would be upset by attempting any new idea because the lodge has already established a pattern of what is considered an acceptable idea. They believe that the banality of mindlessly following the status quo is protecting their stated meeting, their local lodge's identity, and by extension, Freemasonry as a whole from change and that this status quo has to be preserved at all costs. It is this type of mentality that is displayed by our membership that is one of the leading factors in why we are seeing declining membership numbers. What I can say with conviction is this: Freemasonry will not change for you nor will it change for the Women practicing it regardless of your opinion of them.
If women want to practice Freemasonry, then let them. The system of morality that Freemasonry teaches does not apply just to the male gender. The values that we promote do not either. In my mind the more people that practice the ideals of Freemasonry, the better our society is, especially in today’s world. I would further argue that our ideals are needed more now than ever before. Does it really matter if a “Recognized Regular” lodge is spreading them? I don't think so. Does it lessen or cheapen the way you practice Freemasonry in your own lodge? It absolutely should not. Please stop acting like they don't exist, or belittling them for existing when what they do has no bearing on you.
Those of you that might identify as members of the He-Man Woman-Haters club, it is time for you to stop worrying about how others practice Freemasonry and focus on how you are doing it in your own lodge. If you want something to worry about I offer the following suggestions:
Worry about why you cannot recruit new members, or retain ones that you have.
Worry about why lodge attendance is lagging.
Worry about why Masonic education is not being prioritized, because if it was, you and other members of your lodge might learn that Women and Freemasonry do indeed have a rich and fascinating history.
If you're anything like me, you probably have plenty to worry about. Personally, I would rather use my energy to focus on a solution to an issue that will help my local lodge.
Like it or not, Female Freemasonry is not going anywhere, and I dare say there will come a time when UGLE or another Grand Lodge will recognize one or all of them as regular. Are you really going to demit when that happens? If you answer this question affirmatively, then your protest isn't going to hurt anyone except for the other members of your local lodge. They are the ones that are depending on you to make a quorum for the next stated meeting. What is more important to you?
WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor. He is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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