Misogyny, Freemasonry, and You. A Primer on Gender-Based Fraternity

There’s nothing worse than getting an unsatisfactory answer to an important question, with the possible exception of being asked an important question and having an unsatisfactory answer, which is always the absolute worst. I’ve written about Freemasonry and women before, but the question still comes up. In fact, it’s coming up more and more, because more and more young men are joining freemasonry, and we’ve all got women in our social circles who, naturally, are put off by the men-only stance of freemasonry. This gets even more complicated when we bring transgenders into the mix. Because these questions are generally directed, through social circles, at young men, and because being young men, they are likely relatively new to freemasonry, these questions are often given dismissive answers.

“That’s just how things are…”, and “women wouldn’t be into this kind of thing,” etc. These are, frankly, dumb, indefensible answers. No one should pass along traditions of bigotry, and no one should underestimate the thirst women have for deep bonds and experiences.

First Things First: Forget the idea that women aren’t allowed to be freemasons. It’s not true.

A couple weeks ago I had a woman message me through my lodge’s website wanting to know how to become a freemason. It happens occasionally. Maybe they’re genuinely interested, or maybe they want to start a fight. It doesn’t matter. Freemasonry, when done seriously, is an exceptional program of self-reflection and improvement, and I always encourage anyone who reaches, out to explore it, and then I send them a link to the organization that is best set to support them on their way.

Yes, women can be freemasons. And yes, women freemasons are real freemasons. There are a lot of different kinds of freemasonry, just like there are a lot of different kinds of law schools. Some are all male, some are all female, some are coed, some are religious, some secular, etc. But they all basically teach the same thing: the law.

In freemasonry, there are a lot of different schools too, but we basically all teach the same thing.


It can’t be ignored, of course, that the most popular and prevalent school of freemasonry is what is sometimes referred to as Male-Craft Masonry. I definitely want to get into the particulars and history of each, but for now just suspend your disbelief and accept the following statement: They’re all legitimate.

A Defense of Male-Craft Masonry

Why do we have male-only freemasonry? The short, libertarian answer is because men sometimes like to just be around other men, and that’s something that we get to do. I don’t insist women include men in any of their get-togethers. Why? Because insisting that your social group can’t function without a man around is condescending and would probably make you uncomfortable. Well, same goes. This might be a different argument if freemasons got some kind of systemic benefit that is unavailable to women, but that’s not the case. We have no knowledge you can’t Google, and we have no connections or influence that you couldn’t get by joining any other group you’d like.

A second short defense is that a huge part of freemasonry is about creating an environment of harmony. Women, along with religion and politics (the other two things not allowed in most male-craft lodges) are the three things men historically fight over. The long-term goal is, of course, to create harmony in the presence of these things, much like the long term goal of many is to have the self-control not to eat a whole bag of chips and down a quart of ice cream while playing Candy Crush on the couch every night, but when you’re just starting out, the best move is to get the temptations out of the house entirely. We’re creating a harmonious environment and that means removing the temptations that cause us to be selfish and aggressive.

The longer, more complex answer is that a huge part of freemasonry is about bonding, and men and women generally don’t bond in the same ways.

Male bonding has a long, long history that is generally related to conflict. As hunters, and soldiers, men would form bands of brothers, or horizontal honor groups. For a primer on Manly Honor, check out the Art of Manliness series. While bands of brothers still form (in the military, police, fire, rescue, etc), the basic truth is that most of us no longer have an honor group with which to bond. Sure, some of us have sportsing leagues, or fantasy sportsing leagues, or gaming guilds, etc, but how many times have you seen your husband or boyfriend, when under stress, retreat to the loneliness of the television, or his smartphone, or just check out socially all together?

A UCLA study on friendship among women found this same thing. Women, when under stress, would tend to gather with other women, while men would tend to isolate, which is part of a predictable fight or flight response.

Men don't generally think to do this.

Men don’t generally think to do this.

In the UCLA study they found that women had a heretofore unheard of third option to the the fight/flight stress response, which was “tending or friending”. Their bodies generated oxytocin (sometimes called the love hormone) in response to stress, which generated a desire to either tend to children or seek out friendships. In these acts, more oxytocin would be generated, enhanced by their estrogen production, which would produce calming, stress-reducing effects, which facilitates bonding.

Women produce oxytocin in all kinds of ways, from giving birth to breastfeeding. Even hearing a baby cry–and it doesn’t have to be yours–can generate oxytocin, which triggers all kinds of physical and emotional responses.

Men also benefit by oxytocin, which can encourage loyalty, trust, and cooperation. It can also encourage people, for better or worse (usually depending on how marginalized a group feels), to prefer their own particular group/tribe over others.  But it can also cause men to better identify competitive relationships and be more competitive in general, and can fuel jealousy.

The problem is that men don’t generate nearly as much oxytocin, and when we do, it’s typically through sexual arousal. It’s also involved in the creation of testosterone, which is another hormone that has a light and a dark side, and also can reduce the effects of oxytocin.

Now I’m not an expert on oxytocin and hormones, so I won’t claim that there’s any definite connection here, but it seems to me that male-craft freemasonry is designed, through bonding rituals (like our degree work, our educational discussions, and fellowship) to generate oxytocin in males that is so useful for stress reduction, and mental and spiritual growth, while removing points of competitiveness and marginalization that can twist oxytocin into a negative hormone.

Essentially, guys hanging out with other guys reduces their stress. A study of Barbary macaques found the same thing. Apes, when put under stress, would do well bonding with other males, feeling safer in numbers, and looking out for each other. When stressed males were in mixed groups, they would fight and posture.

Male-craft masonry is important to a lot of freemasons, because it’s a type of bonding that is very hard to otherwise obtain, but so crucial for our health and well-being.

Mixed-Craft and Female-Craft Masonry

As I said before, there are a lot of different types of freemasonry, and yes, they are legitimate schools of freemasonry, which I will explain, but first I want to talk about why Male-Craft Freemasonry has such traditionally terrible relations with other types. It boils down to two words: irregular and clandestine.

Freemasonry is old. Really old. It may not be Solomon’s Temple old, but it’s still pretty old, and the thing about old stuff is that they weren’t really regulated very consistently. Masonic lodges, as best as we can put together, were groups of people who wanted to learn about philosophy and morality by modeling themselves off honest-to-goodness stonemason guilds. There may be direct connections, in fact. This is because in the age before schools or the internet, this was a really effective way to pass down knowledge and learning.

While operative masons received their charter to labor from their employers, speculative masons didn’t really need anyone’s permission to work, so essentially, if you had a good knowledge of the craft, and a bunch of friends, you could start a lodge. If you had so many friends that some of them wanted to start their own lodges based on your knowledge off the craft, you could be a grand lodge and hand out charters. The result of this is that in those early days there were, in fact, a lot of different grand lodges, and a lot of different versions of freemasonry. If any one was more “legitimate” than the others, those distinctions have been lost to the sands of time. These are called “time immemorial lodges.”

These minor differences in style are generally ignored. Sometimes a difference between styles is so great that one grand lodge declares another grand lodge “irregular” and pulls recognition. All this means is that a member of one school of freemasonry cannot be a member of an irregular school of freemasonry at the same time. It is usually accompanied by a denial of visitation rights, or the ability to perform ritual together. My lodge says no women. Your lodge admits women. If we worked together I could be breaking my word and my word is my bond.

So irregular means “not same enough.” It’s not that their sincerity is being called into question, but there can’t be amity. It’s not that you’re a bad person, we just can’t date. It’s not you, it’s me.

Clandestine means fake.  They formed all by themselves, without the warrant of a grand master. These are groups that use the moniker of freemasonry to their own ends to bilk members out of money in a pyramid scheme, to dangle unending degrees in their face to control them through avarice, and it’s basically a con game. It has nothing to do with the craft of self-betterment. It’s about self-enrichment of the fakers.

The history of lodge recognition, schisms, etc, is very long and so incredibly boring. Most people nowadays confuse the two, and that tends to breed a little bit of that “my group is better than your group” oxytocin bondind thing. Mileage may vary on whether masons or even Grand Lodges think the following are irregular or clandestine,  but the general thought of those in the position to make these decisions, including the United Grand Lodge of England, where my state’s charter traces back to, and is the granddaddy of pretty much all freemasonry on Earth, would describe these organizations as irregular and unrecognized, and not clandestine, because despite distinct, even irreconcilable differences, they are both sincere, and can trace their lineage back to the time immemorial lodges, making them as legitimate as anyone else.

Female-Craft Masonry

Female-craft masonry is just how it sounds. It’s single-gender freemasonry for women. Given the distinct differences between men and women, I won’t go out on a limb and say it’s basically exactly the same, because I’m sure it’s all kinds of fascinating and alien to my eyes, but they get all the social benefits of single-gender tribalism, as do males.

It began in the early 20th century as a breakaway from co-masonry, and is still running strong. Sadly, female-craft freemasonry is not very widespread. It mainly exists in United Kingdom, and a smattering of other countries, though I hear it’s popular in parts of South America.

The largest of these bodies is the Order of Women Freemasons, which, at last count, boasts over 10,000 members, formed into 358 lodges throughout the British Isles, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe. There are not currently any U.S. based lodges of Women Freemasons.

Mixed-Craft Masonry

Mixed-craft, or co-masonry is freemasonry composed of both men and women, and comes in two flavors: God, and God-Free.

The International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain traces it’s lineage through the French Grand Orients of Freemasonry and is perfectly legitimate. They have no gender or religious requirements, per se, fancying themselves the original freethinkers, and mainly concern themselves with worldly affairs to the perfection of humanity for its own sake. And there are plenty of U.S. based Le Droit Humain lodges. In my limited interactions, I personally find them a bit smarmy and self-satisfied, but I won’t knock them too much because they do practice freemasonry and do it sincerely.

My personal preference, just from my investigations, is The Honorable Order of American Co-Masonry, which split away from Le Droit Humain over the God/no God issue. American Co-Masonry is, of course, found throughout America, and from what I can tell, is very seriously done. A fantastic resource to learn more is the recent Masonic Roundtable episode on American Co-Masonry where you can hear about it directly from the horse’s mouth.

Though they are a much smaller organization than Male-Craft Masonry, in many ways I’m jealous of these organizations, because they’re not really subject to populism. No one, to my reckoning, joins Co-Masonry to get in good with the boss, to make connections, or to drive humorous, tiny cars in parades. Regular masonry has gained a much-deserved reputation for pancake-flipping and fair booths. For reading the minutes, complaining about the cost of light bulbs over coffee, and going home again. I feel like (and I’m basing this on no firsthand evidence) that co-masons go to lodge to practice freemasonry. So really, they’re ahead of the game.

As for co-masonry in general, it’s hard to say if it’s better or worse, and I think that’s got to come down to personal preference. One of the points of male-craft masonry is to help create the kind of you that can be your best no matter who you’re with and what you’re discussing. So maybe co-masons, forcing themselves to work in harmony with each other to a greater extent than male-only masons, are more socially and emotionally advanced. Or maybe they’re just more delusional. I really don’t know. But everyone has different challenges, and in the end, I like variety.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

Why can’t a woman be a freemason?

They can.

And they can do it well. Most lodges are male-craft because it’s good for men, and men need these things to be better people. Choices exist, and are vibrant and full of philosophy and fellowship. It’s true that female-craft masonry is not an option many places, and one’s choice of co-masonic lodges may be small or distant. It’s also true that male-craft lodges could do more to encourage their growth. I’d love it if my grand lodge let me visit my masonic cousins, because irregular is not clandestine.

But you know what? In the end, even though I’d like more robust masonry for women it’s not our job to make more lodges for women, is it? If we were to open our lodges to women (besides creating a huge recognition stink) we’d be losing something that is very meaningful and necessarily to us. The various types of female masonry also doesn’t want or need our help. No one needs us mansplaining freemasonry. Women have to do what women feel are right for themselves. The most we can do, is get out of their way.


9 thoughts on “Misogyny, Freemasonry, and You. A Primer on Gender-Based Fraternity

  1. Thanks for a very earnest and well thought out post regarding co-freemasonry. It has always been my premise that freemasonry is an energy that is owned by no entity, and that we form rituals and groups in order to channel and understand the spirit of masonry which is in fact open to any person who will take time to understand what masonry truly is, and as Pike and Manly P. Hall often suggested in their writings; the best Masons were living a Masonic life long before they petitioned a lodge for membership.
    So far as groups go, I agree that any group can form and allow or disallow persons as groups see fit, and it has been my experience that most women generally have no interest in joining malecraft lodges and those that are truly interested in becoming a part of a Masonic order do find their time in Le Droit Humain or other co-Masonic orders fulfilling and women make great ritualists in these groups and are wonderful Freemasons and very good friends of mine whom I refer to as “Sister”.

    The issue is really that of the threats that many Grand Lodges hand down by way of edicts and threats towards their members for personally recognizing a woman as a mason or even discussing masonry with women. I’ve found that most male Masons have no real issues on a personal level with the fact that there are indeed female masons, but it will take Grand Lodges a long time to reign in there own egos and realize that this has been happening for a very long time (mixed gender legitimate lodges) and let their members exist to make their own decisions how they accept that individually. Not meaning that Grand Lodges need to accept woman as members, but at least “tip the hat” and support some of the mixed gender lodges charitable efforts.

    Thanks for a well written piece!

    Johnny T. Asher
    President and Founder
    The Universal Freemason Research Society, Inc.

  2. 1) ‘I personally cannot agree with “There exists today Freemasonry for men, Freemasonry for women and mixed Freemasonry, so the UGLE’s wish not to admit women is hardly relevant is it?”… I suppose, the above quote has the exact equivalence to my ears were I to hear a GL say: “There exists today Freemasonry for whites, Freemasonry for blacks and mixed Freemasonry, so this GL’s wish not to admit blacks is hardly relevant is it?”’
    2) Clubs which are exclusive to either men or women may be justified or not in terms of their objects. In the case of Freemasonry our object is the, “cultivation and improvement of the human mind.” Among our teachings are those of equality, universality, inclusion; that, “we all sprung from the same stock, are partakers of the same nature, and sharers of the same hope”; and that we are to “regard the whole human species as one family.”
    3) If, as you say, men and women innately relate to others differently, then the formal structures of Freemasonry would help keep relationships on track. However, Look about you! Such care has not been required in other situations. Women and men in virtually every other field of human endeavour can work, serve, worship and socialize together, whilst keeping their passions and prejudices within due bounds, why not in Freemasonry?

  3. I love men babbling and tap-dancing around the issue. Fact is, races and sexes are separate in lodges, and men are given the ‘secret’ that races and sexes aren’t equal in their lodges. White men believe they are superior and have their egos stroked as they’re told they’re the superior race and sex. However, this creates the hilarious situation where white men are unknowingly subordinated to jewish lodges and doing their bidding. Since white people are a threat to jews, jews have used white masons as tools to diversify and genocide their own race via programs such as Agenda 21, refugee programs, and immigration. Think about it — there are only immigration issues in WHITE countries. There are no immigration problems in Israel!! Moreover, eastern-star women are running around implementing ‘secrets’ such as gangstalking targets who offend the club and supporting their club every way they can. Meanwhile their husbands are given certain sexual favors behind closed lodge doors and coached in misogyny if they achieve enough degrees in the right lodges. I do not know how women could support their husbands being members of an organization which breaks up marriages. If you have a high degree yet haven’t been coached in misogyny yet, you’re only a member of a ‘cover’ lodge and are merely there to do toastmaster speeches the rest of your life to make freemasonry look good. I do not see how separating races and genders as the standard way can every work for the 21st century. I do not see how white men can stand to serve jews and secretly implement programs which burdens their own race. What better way to burden a race than to import masses of immigrants whose welfare must be paid by the white citizens in that country? How can white masons stand to see their kids attend a public school in a district which was secretly and strategically drawn to include people who don’t even speak English. Or see 33% of their money get sent away in federal taxes to pay for nothing except for wars in countries that Israel deems a threat. These ‘secrets’ can only be implemented via secret societies which keeps races and sexes separate like freemasonry. This article claims you can google every masonic secret. No, actually, you just need to think about what’s happening right in front of your eyes and what’s been quietly implemented on a grand scale to figure out the ‘secrets’. So for all you masonic men holding onto racist and sexist attitudes, don’t feel so special. Chances are you’re pawned by another race.

  4. As for women’s sects, where I grew up there was Freemasonry for men, in the form of the Blue Lodge, the Scottish Rite Brothers and the Shriners, none of which women were allowed to attend. For women there was the Order of the Eastern Star. Although it was primarily a women’s group, men were also allowed to join, and there were always a few, who were also Freemasons, of course. I was only a teenager when I could plainly see that the men were basically spies, keeping tabs on the women. Of note, the women of the OES were not allowed to wear pants to their meetings or events, and were not allowed to serve alcohol at them either. Can you imagine such rules in the male-craft lodges? There is a complete double standard!

    • Oh, wow. Could you even imagine? Masonic lodges that pester their membership with restrictive dress codes and alcohol restrictions? That’d be crazy. Next thing you know, we’d be arguing about trivial nonsense like light bulbs!

      Thank God for the patriarchy, amirite?

  5. I enjoyed this blog entry very much and found it to be informative, balanced, even-tempered (shouldn’t be unusual, one would think, but is more and more uncommon these days) and well-researched or in most cases I suspect based on well-rounded personal experience and masonic travels. As a M… M… of the Grand Orient de France (living in France) I found your observations on Feminine Freemasonry very interesting and I also appreciated the way you summed up the topic of “regularity” which is pretty much the way I would have explained it and the view we take here in France at the GoDF on the subject as well. As of 2010 the GoDF has voted to leave the decision of whether women are admitted and/or initiated up to each individual lodge, so we have the interesting phenomenon of all-masculine as well as mixed lodges under the umbrella of the same obedience / grand lodge. Visitation rights between UGLE and GoDF lodges are currently handled as “Mostly no problem, but off the roster – and no mixed lodges.” I will make a point of visiting and following you excellent blog, Brother. Fraternal greetings.

  6. In a world where Gender is so fluid, how can you justify claiming that men need time with just other men?
    What about the women that resonate better with men, regardless of their genitals? Do they just have to lack the social interaction that they crave?
    It’s simply old fashioned and out of date to dismiss women.
    I cannot understand a justification that history is the reason why women can’t be members. If that justification is to be deemed valid, why can those who do not practice the trade of stone masons become members today? If we use history as a justification, there would be no one left.
    Whilst Masonry contributes to charity, why not acknowledge that by allowing more people to join, the contribution to charity will inevitably increase.
    I can’t see how any organisation can justify creating barriers due to gender, race, background or any other factor. We’re in the 21st century; why not reflect that in Masonry?

    • Well, for all the reasons I literally listed in the post. We can start there. Even if gender is fluid for some, it will never be fluid for all. Just as we benefit from being with people of the opposite sex, so too do we benefit from being with people of the same. People have a right to do this and you can’t reason away their experience. They get something out of it.

      Women can be freemasons. Women just can’t have everything they want. No one can.

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