Well. I guess my plan that this blog be a happy happy fun fun mommy blog is kind of shot to hell. I was going to write a post about just how un*bearably* lovely it is to have a 2-month old, and how much easier this whole parenting a baby thing becomes with each kid (the irony).
But instead, I can’t stop myself from wading into this…
I recently received a comment in response to the short post I made a few weeks ago, about the AAP’s policy on the mutilation of baby boys (accompanied by a photograph of myself and of Felix–at only a few weeks of age–indicating our objection and showing solidarity for the anti-genital-mutilation cause).
As the comment was submitted to me to be published, I will present it here, followed by my thoughts. I know I am treading on dangerous ground. I know religion is an extremely sensitive, personal topic. I have honestly endeavoured, here, to be respectful, although I am sure that there are many who may not see my reply that way. I do, genuinely believe that we should all be free to believe, dress, love, and worship in our own way. But above all, we need to protect our children.
And E. writes to me:
“Just because we do not understand or relate to another’s perspective or point of view that doesn’t mean we should label it pejoratively.
But since I want to keep an open mind, I will consider that this may indeed be mutilation for those who are not of the faith/belief system of judaism…since within Judaism this is the most sacred of spiritual obediance to our Creator who it is most deeply believed commanded this be done. Which is why it is felt that it is nothing at all negative but spiritually vital …disciplined, and in the end not painful or curtainly not unbearablely so…All the males who go through this right of passage come out just fine…more than fine…its a blessing, and bond/covenant with their creator.
Like much less painful say than birth…but we wouldn’t say it was a negative thing just because their is pain.
Try to open your mind…it is hurtful to those who believe to feel so brutally judged by your point of view. It is a misjudgement from their point of view. Be gentler. Okay? Don’t be hypocritical asking for understanding and open-mindedness for your point of view others deserve that respect as well. You may choose your own way, let others choose theirs. Don’t judge them. Let’s try to use language that promotes understanding.”
The fact that your faith dictates that such an act should be carried out on a child does not change the nature of the act, which according to me, and according to the English language and according to thousands of angry men without foreskin around the world who have formed support groups and activist organizations, most certainly is mutilation.
|1. To deprive of a limb or an essential part; cripple.
2. To disfigure by damaging irreparably: mutilate a statue. See Synonyms at batter1.
3. To make imperfect by excising or altering parts.
Furthermore, I will not use the term “circumcision”, a euphemism which serves to normalize an act that is terrible to me (in the context of unconsenting children), and which diminishes the seriousness of harming infants in the name of religion, personal preference, aesthetics or a misconstrued attempt at “sanitation”.
Please don’t get me wrong: I believe strongly in Religious freedom–but only insofar as it does not infringe on the right of anyone else to live in safety and peace and in accordance with their own beliefs and as long as this freedom does not violate the basic human rights of another person. Cutting the genitals of a helpless newborn baby does, unequivocally in my opinion, fall into the latter category. It is abhorrent to me that in any society, religious belief would trump a child’s sovereign right to bodily integrity, and I continue to feel shocked and outraged that the practice remains legal–especially as female genital mutilation has become–thankfully–a prominent human rights issue in many countries.
I know very little about Judaism, and my intention is in no way to condemn any part of that religious belief system. I do know, however, that *all* religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc., have evolved over time, and that certain practices and rites in all religions have been modified, replaced and in some cases, discarded. If indeed the alteration of male genitalia is such an important aspect of the Jewish faith, then it should certainly be offered to adults (although I suspect that very few grown men–Jewish or otherwise–would consent to such a thing).
I do know for a fact however, that there are thousands of men around the world who *have* been harmed by genital cutting, and irrevocably so. Pain, sexual dysfunction, trauma, and psychological issues are but some of the repercussions of genital cutting. True, there are also many men who feel that they have not been harmed by the cut. This does not in any way preclude the necessity for obtaining clear, legal, adult consent when modifying or removing a functional and healthy body part.
As I stated earlier, I share your enthusiasm for open-mindedness. And my mind is certainly open to the possibility–however improbable–that adult men, for religious reasons or otherwise, might elect to have the tip of their penis cut off. But no matter how much effort I make, I simply cannot accept that there could be any justification whatsoever, for performing a medically unnecessary, potentially harmful, and irreversible surgery on the sexual organs (genitals=private parts) of a newborn child who cannot speak for himself–whether or not this is dictated by God.
While I have taken note of the fact that you feel hurt by my opinion on the matter, I must reiterate again that for me, this is an issue of human rights and the rights of children to be cared for, and to not be harmed. To be blunt, when it comes to child abuse, your hurt feelings are of no concern to me.
I will not be gentler in my description of this issue; not now, not ever. If you knew me (which clearly you do not), you would know that I have never asked for, nor expected, understanding or “open-mindedness” from others when it comes to my opinions or my convictions (about anything). Feel free to disagree with me, and to judge me. This is your prerogative. I am utterly resolute in my belief that children should be protected from this kind of harm, and thus, I am unbothered by disagreement, criticism, judgement or outrage. You speak of respect. But where is the respect accorded to infants, who cannot speak, object, decline, or fight? You may choose your own way. Let the child choose his. I will continue to use language that, as persuasively as possible, makes a case for protecting babies, and for saving them from unnecessary pain, trauma, and body alteration.
The more I learn about the issue of infant genital mutilation, and the more men I encounter who feel robbed of fully functional sexual organs, and the more I read about the various positions in the debate, the more determined I am to continue to stand up for little boys, and to encourage individuals and governments to enact legislation that would make genital mutilation illegal, and send a message that as a society, we stand for the protection of children.
Perhaps, however, we do share some common ground: you speak of the Creator, and of sacred spirituality. I too have spiritual beliefs. My God is reflected to me in the beauty of nature, and most potently, in the perfection of my newborn children, whose bodies and souls are so utterly and impeccably innocent, trusting, gentle and whole. Our children look to us, their parents, to nurture them, and to keep them safe. While I cannot, and will not, comment on, or denigrate someone else’s God–even a God who demands that a mother inflict pain on her own child– my God and my spiritual conviction insists that I speak out against the practice of genital cutting.
I urge you to explore some of the many organizations of Jewish people who oppose or question circumcision. Here are some links, and there are several similar groups on Facebook. Many of these present suggestions and options for more conservative rites of passage.