By Karen Kidd, PM
(I speak only for me)
Nothing like a bit of righteous indignation to kick off a blog.
Recently, a participant in a philosophical group supported by my mother lodge in Washington told me that he had been approached by a Malecraft Mason – a stranger to him – who cautioned him that the Brothers of my lodge are not “real” Freemasons.
“Why would he say that?” the participant asked me.
The order to which I belong is well into its second century in North America. There are many, many Brothers who came before me, who labored and lived lives as Co-Masons.
I’ve been a Freemason more than a decade and I’ve spent much of that time writing about the history of women-only Freemasonry and mixed or Co-Freemasonry. I can name women operative masons from the cathedral-building period of the middle ages. I can document at least one woman Freemason during the entire period of the modern Craft (and there were more). I’ve presented papers at Masonic and non-Masonic conferences and my work has been published in Masonic and academic journals. I am friends with many Malecraft Masons – including not a few with “grand” in their title – who call me “brother”.
Co-Masons have been – and are – doctors, lawyers, waiters, tailors, construction workers, writers, politicians, web designers, journalists, accountants, social workers, yoga instructors, musicians, bouncers, executives, retailers, they come from all the walks of life. Co-Masons are nothing new – there’s a Co-Mason on Australia’s 50 dollar bill – and we are well into the 21st Century.
Despite all that, I and other Co-Masons still have to put up with the defamations of Malecraft Masons of a certain ilk who are genuinely freaked by the idea of woman in an apron.
I’m pretty sure the Malecraft Mason who told the participant – a non-Mason – that I and other Brothers in my lodge aren’t “real,” is this guy:
If that isn’t him, it’s a close enough approximation.
And, yeah, sure y’betcha, I could just ignore him and others like him, not give him the satisfaction of a response, turn the other cheek, show myself the better person and Freemason, let it go and yada-yada-yada.
Co-Masons have done that for generations. Untold thousands before me endured Masonic jewelry ripped from lapels, around necks, and fingers. They have had their premises broken into and their equipment stolen; they have been called out in the street, arrested, jailed, and legislated against for being the kind of Freemasons who are cool with both genders in lodge.
Words, by comparison, aren’t that big a deal. Right?
I’m just not feeling it right now. For once, I don’t want this guy to go unanswered, unchallenged. I don’t know that I’ve heard it all, but I feel I’ve heard enough to be expert in the shite this guy has to say. I feel equally qualified to respond.
So, to how many shites should I respond? Should it be the top 100 pieces of shite I’ve heard from this guy? Fifty? Twenty? Ten?
Oh, let’s do five. And if we need more, I’ll write about this again (blogito ergo sum).
In no particular order and starting with the most recent shite from this guy to come to my attention:
1) “You’re not real”
Sweetheart, I’m as “real” within the confines of the order to which I belong as you are within yours. I could question your “realness” and it would have as much validity. Not that it would be especially Masonic of me to tell your friends – strangers to me – that you aren’t “real” but I could and with arguably a hell of a lot more proof than you have.
Any Freemason who challenges the “realness” of another Freemason should check his – or her – own. How “real” is the Freemason who would be that rude, that unkind, that intolerant? The Freemason who questions the Masonic “regularity” of another Freemason points up their own irregularity. Let them who are without sin cast the first stones.
Further, when you do this you speak for your order and you have no business doing that. The authority of ANY Masonic order begins and ends at its own boundaries and goes no further, including making any great pronouncements about the realness/regularity/whatever of any Freemason beyond its boundaries.
So you and your order – assuming your order even knows what actionable slanders you’re up to – can say/think/feel/invent/talk all the trash you want and it will be relevant not at all.
And it is rude. Rude is something Freemasons should strive not to be. Seriously, you need ME to tell you that?
2) “You’re playing at Masonry”
So are you.
No Freemason is perfect, none of us has it down pat. If we were, or did, we wouldn’t need to be Freemasons.
What you seem not to have learned in the Blue Lodge is that you’re on a journey toward a perfection you will never reach but for which you must ever strive until you lay down your tools and answer the summons to the Grand Lodge Eternal. Work diligently upon your own ashlar knowing it will never be perfect but you must do it.
If you didn’t learn that until now, well, then now you have another tool to play with. Knock yourself out.
3) “I don’t want women in my Lodge”
I don’t want women in your lodge either.
My experience with the likes of you is that this statement is what’s actually bugging you. I don’t think you really care how “real” I am, how Masonically “regular” I am, or how much I’m “playing” at Masonry. What really upsets you is the idea that if you acknowledge there are women Freemasons and that there are Masonic orders that accept women as members, that your lodge will have to integrate.
I don’t know why you think that but you do.
The truth is that there is choice in Freemasonry, that the Craft is triune in nature: there are lodges for men only, lodges for women only, and lodges for men and women. It is a system we know can work largely because it does.
So if your lodge doesn’t want to admit women, there’s no reason why it should; and I would fight to the death for the right of your lodge to remain gender-based.
However, I also expect you to show the same respect for those lodges that choose to do otherwise and, thus, allow choice in Freemasonry to continue. That there are lodges elsewhere that will accept women is why your lodge can remain gender-based (the lawyers out there will know what I’m talking about).
Which means Co-Freemasonry is doing you a service. Imagine that. You’re welcome.
4) “How can men and women sit in lodge together without thinking about sex?”
Yeah, wow, this isn’t creepy at all 0.0
Seriously, this is a problem for you? Grocery stores, universities, churches, school plays, board meetings, polling places, baseball games, and other such venues must be pure hell for you. This earth is peopled by billions of men and women who mix all the time and get things done without thinking about sex all the live-long day. Pity you can’t but, well, that’s your cross to bear.
That this is a problem for you points up why there is a great need for choice in Freemasonry. If you can’t sit in a room with the opposite sex and keep your mind on the labors at hand, then you should remain in your gender-based lodge because, respectfully, you would make a poor Co-Mason.
5) “Having a woman in my lodge would violate my Obligation?”
Then don’t have women in your lodge.
That said, Freemasonry is much bigger than your lodge and your Obligation. Not all Freemasons take the same Obligation and they are in no way required to live up to yours, no more than you are required to live up to theirs. It’s very personal. You keep your Obligation, and I’ll keep mine; everything will be just fine.
And those are five shites that I hear from this guy.
I won’t offer an apology to Malecraft Masons who don’t act like this guy. That’s commendable, but I also have seen too many of you remain silent to these slanders. UnMasonic behavior by omission remains unMasonic, and, on your part of the tree at least, it’s actionable. Don’t tell me what you don’t do. Go do what is right, even when it’s easier to do wrong. Or be silent.
And for all Malecraft Masons who recognize themselves in this guy . . . you’re Freemasons, for crying out loud! You shouldn’t need a cranky old Co-Masonic Past Master like me to tell you any of the above. Your mentor, your lodge, your grand lodge – YOUR PARENTS – should have taught you better.