29 July 2012

CC06 - Circumcision

Circumcision.  Particularly, infant circumcision.  That's right, this post is about the wilful mutilation of an infant's genitalia.

In late June of this year, a German court in Cologne declared that the act of circumcising infants was illegal and banned the practice.  This story was shared around the Men's Rights community to much celebration, such as the National Coalition for Men, because the wilful mutilation of a baby boy, against his will, is a perfect example of the misandry in society.

At the beginning of the July, John the Other, a well known Men's Rights Activist, a regular contributor to A Voice for Men, and a Vlogger on Youtube, posted an article titled "Promoting the Mutilation of Infants" about how a writer for the Huffington Post named Sheryl Saperia had authored an article in which she cavalierly declared that circumcision wasn't mutilation and that everyone needed to shut the hell up about it.  It was even titled "Male Circumcision is Not Mutilation.  Period." declaring before it even starts that anyone who opposes circumcision on the grounds that it's malicious and causes irreversible harm is just plain wrong.

The dictionary defines mutilation as "an act of physical injury that degrades the appearance or function of any living body."  Seems to me that circumcision does both.

Now, I don't read the Huffington Post, mostly because drivel like this is published by it, so I didn't know about this article until after JtO alluded to it in his article for AVfM.  So I looked it up, and immediately several things jumped out at me about it.

The first thing she declares is "neither the right to security of the person nor to gender equality should operate in such a way as to proscribe male circumcision on the grounds that it is comparable to the justifiably prohibited custom of female genital mutilation (FGM)."

There is so much wrong with this sentence, I don't even know where to start.  She is basically saying that cutting off the foreskin isn't anything like cutting off the labia, and therefore doesn't qualify as 'security of person'.  She also seems to say that gender equality doesn't apply because female circumcision is justifiably prohibited.  The implication, of course, being that male circumcision isn't justifiably prohibited.  Then, by using the term 'circumcision' for the male and 'mutilation' for the female, she immediately sets the tone for the whole article.  To her, male circumcision is clinical and sterile and medical, whereas female circumcision - ahem - I mean MUTILATION is violent and cruel and gratuitous.

She goes on to list how the WHO characterises the two surgical procedures, and how the WHO says female circumcision is so much worse than male circumcision.  She says that there's no strong medical evidence that shows male circumcision as harmful, and thus opposition to it is unjustifiable.  She says that Jews and Muslims must circumcise their sons by religious mandate.  She even compares the prevention of the circumcising of Jewish boys to genocide, which is patently absurd.

In the end, she makes a dozen or so arguments in favour of mutilating the penis of an infant only days after he is born, and every single one is based on negative reasoning.  She not once says why we should circumcise a boy, but instead lists dozens of reasons as to why we shouldn't not circumcise a boy, meaning that she holds no reasons to support circumcision beyond rebutting objections to it.

But every single one of her rebuttals misses the most important point, the point on which my personal objection to circumcision is based, and the point that shows the circumcision issue is paramount to the Men's Rights Movement.

Not once does she even consider whether the infant has the right to decide his own fate.

I made this argument in a forum in which JtO's original article was linked, stating that I was disgusted with how nearly every person who challenged the position that circumcision of infants was wrong did so from the perspective of "You can't oppose male circumcision on the grounds that female circumcision is bad, because they're different."

These people consistently seem to miss the point.  We oppose circumcision not because female circumcision is wrong, but because the infant doesn't choose it.


But Sheryl Saperia doesn't see it that way.  She only sees circumcision as it relates to women, religion, or law, but never to the infant to whom the penis belongs.

Unfortunately, the MRM isn't free from this attitude either.  The following is a list of each argument I was presented in favour of circumcising male children by an MRA, and my associated rebuttal.

  • Male circumcision is not mutilation, it's a simple procedure to enhance penis hygiene and to avoid foreskin complications. You cannot compare that to the horrible female genital mutilation which causes a life time of pain and an elimination of sexual pleasure. Rebuttal: Despite being demonstrably false, this argument is irrelevant. The opposition to circumcision isn't based on the alleged harm or benefit of circumcision.
  • It is my right as a parent to choose for my son. Rebuttal: You do not have the right to make this decision for your child. By doing so you deny his humanity, his bodily sovereignty, and his will.
  • Circumcision during the first week after birth is painless, and totally risk free if done at a hospital by a competent surgeon. Rebuttal: Again, this is an unproven hypothesis, in fact there's evidence to show that it is in fact quite painful, judging from how the child wails in sheer terror and agony during the procedure. Regardless of this fact, this argument is again irrelevant. The opposition to circumcision isn't based on how much pain it causes.
  • Parents make decisions regarding medical treatment for their children all the time. It is part of their duty as responsible care givers. Parents authorize the administration of vaccinations and medicines to their children without their consent, authorize surgical procedures such as tonsillectomies and dental correction. Circumcision is no different. Rebuttal: This is where we wander into the argument for the relative harm and benefit of circumcision. The right of a parent to authorise surgical procedures to be done on their child is based only on correcting harm. The foreskin is not dangerous, it is not poisonous, and it will not cause the child adverse health effects any more than healthy tonsils will. Advocating circumcision on your son to prevent disease is like advocating a mastectomy for your daughter to prevent breast cancer. There is no need to excise healthy tissue.
  • Denial of my right as a father to choose for my son is an example of the state taking away the rights of men. Rebuttal: The state taking away your right to choose is no different than you taking away your son's right to choose.
  • I cut his nails, clean his hair, and brush his teeth. He cannot do it now, so I must do it for him. Rebuttal: The cutting of hair and fingernails and bathing and brushing of teeth are all maintenance procedures. Hair and fingernails grow back. Bathing and dental hygiene causes no harm. These are not comparable to the irreversible procedure such as circumcision.

In the end, there is no good medical reason to circumcise an infant.  If there is ever a medical need to do so, it would occur after the fact, as a response to a medical need, not as a preventative measure.

But that's just medicine.  As Sheryl Saperia so eloquently stated in her article, there are religious reasons to circumcise baby boys.
In my mind, this is no reason.  Religious doctrine is rampant with illogical and harmful practices that are only done because "God Said So".  Again, for me, this comes down to choice.  Indoctrinating an infant into a religion is paramount to child abuse in my mind, and when that psychological abuse is coupled with physical harm, it becomes even more reprehensible.  If a child chooses to follow in his parent's religion, then he can choose the physical consequences of that decision at that time.  But responsible parents should be teaching their children HOW to think, not WHAT to think, and the same goes for choice.  Teach them HOW to choose, not WHAT to choose.

I've even heard many women support circumcision because they believe that a circumcised penis is prettier.  This is the truly offensive position.  Advocating for the mutilation of an infant for the purely aesthetic preference of women?  That's outrageous!  Consider if the roles were reversed, if we surgically altered our females at birth simply to make them more attractive to men.  Besides, Her Body, Her Choice applies for women.  Why not His Body, His Choice for men?

In the end, the issue of male circumcision (which should rightly be called male genital mutilation) is a central issue to Men's Rights Activists because it is the perfect example of how the rights of males are often routinely denied or ignored simply as a matter of course, and even some MRAs aren't immune to this bias, as demonstrated by the flawed assertions illustrated above.

What we must start asking ourselves, I think, is why we are so invested in the ritualistic mutilation of our baby boys.

I was going to end this post with a meme that I once saw that perfectly encapsulated this whole argument, but I can't find it, so instead I'll describe it.  It shows a picture of a baby boy strapped to a table with the shadow of a pair of scissors falling over his body.  The caption reads "His Human Rights Start When, Exactly?"


1 comment:

MsWordstress said...

Well said! It is amazing to me that there is such a double standard regarding this issue that runs rampant in our culture. But it seems as though our voice is getting louder. Hopefully we will see this horrible practice end in our lifetime.