There Are Parenting Decisions and Then There Is Circumcision

As my readers might know, I am 100% against routine infant circumcision, which is the circumcision of an unconsenting minor without a legitimate medical reason. On my Facebook page on Thursday, I shared an image that had been shared by Saving Our Sons. I captioned the image with “Thoughts?”

There Are Parenting Decisions and Then There Is Circumcision 1

Almost immediately, I received the following comment:

“I respected your opinion about the whole circ thing when it became clear you were anti-circ… but now you are going to a sad scary place where I don’t care to be. This judgy “your a bad mom cause you mutilate your kid” shit is OLD AS H***. Grow up and be happy with your OWN decisions regarding your children instead of pointing your judgy little fingers at folks you dont agree with. There is disagreeing with someones choice and then there is this.”

I obviously agree with the sentiments of the image, but wanted to clarify that I did not create the image: “I didn’t make this. Someone name Taylor Green made it in response to an ad from Granola Babies. It was shared by Saving Our Sons.”

There Are Parenting Decisions and Then There Is Circumcision 2

I also clarified the intent of the image for the commenters who were puzzled by the “she”: “The intent of the image is to point out the hypocrisy of allowing male circumcision but not allowing female circumcision. And, yes, females can be circumcised.”

In the United States and most other Western countries, female circumcision, or female genital mutilation, is prohibited by law. However, male babies are not given the same protection or rights to bodily integrity; male circumcision, or male genital mutilation, is allowed, at least in the United States. (My applause to the countries in which a ban on all routine infant circumcision is being considered.)

I then received another comment from the commenter cited above:

“yes and the original ad was lovely. it was about respecting eachothers parenting choices and accepting our differences but that we all did what was best for OUR children. this is hateful. you can’t hide behind the “I didnt make it”statement. the intent behind this alteration is not to start a meaningful dialogue about the issue. this isn’t like debating whether to start solids at 4 mos or 6 mos. this is comparing male circ to female circ and there IS NONE. FGM is not and has never been done legally in the USA. the WHOLE POINT of FGM is to control,degrade and HURT FEMALES. Male circ is NONE of these things. FGM results in lifelong pain and damage to girls that is irreversible. in the overwhelming majority of cases this is not true for boys. yes there are rare complications, but they are RARE. FGM is MEANT to hurt and mutilate it rarely results in anything else. this was a great ad that has been twisted and used to create hateful divides and arguements. its disgusting what has happened with this ad.”

For those not in the know, the original ad from which the anti-circumcision image was made was posted by Granola Babies:

The intent was to support all mothers regardless of their personal decisions about parenting. However, as I explained, bodily integrity is not a parenting decision:

“The reason that some people are upset about the original ad is that the non-medically necessary surgical removal of healthy, functioning tissue (circumcision) should not be a parenting decision. It should be the decision of the owner of the penis. If a mother wants to work outside the home or if a mother wants to stay at home, yes, that is a parenting decision.”

A different commenter then chimed in:

“I studied international affairs, and focused in human rights. FGM is horrible, and this ad is definitely offering a cynically morbid jest at the subject matter. Male circumcision is entirely different from female ‘circumcision’, in that for males it can be a religious choice, a medicinal choice, or both; whereas FGM is to remove stimulation and many freedoms and intrinsic powers of being a woman, especially since it is primarily used in repressive patriarchal societies. ParentingPatch, I found [the original] comments to be spot on and more informative than the use of the ad intended to be.”

I replied, “We at The Parenting Patch are against the routine circumcision of unconsenting minors for non-legitimate medical reasons.”

The second commenter then responded:

“Then I would suggest researching subjects before posting them with the intent of provoking thoughts and discussions on the subject matter. Considering female circumcision is not a medical issue, or even choice mind you, it is a form of repression. Comparing the two is a poor choice in drawing comparisons. I don’t compare racial tensions between blacks and latinos in Harlem to Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda; though the reproduction of knowledge that led to the feuds are similar, they are intrinsically different in foundation.”

Although unintentionally, the second commenter hit the nail on the head:

“Routine infant circumcision of males is also not a medical issue. I am very researched. And, to continue with your example, the problem with the original ad is that the ad compares RIC (not a parenting issue) to actual parenting decisions like co-sleeping and a mom who works outside the home. Furthermore, this is my page, so I shall post what I feel passionate about. I am passionate about ending RIC.”

Nontherapeutic circumcision is not a parenting decision anymore than racial tensions in Harlem are comparable to racial tensions in Rwanda. The anti-circumcision image thus accomplishes two goals. First, the image points out that routine infant circumcision is not a parenting decision. Second, the image comments on the hypocrisy of the gendered views towards circumcision in the United States and much of the Western world.

Finally, I would like to share a response from Saving Our Sons that explains the harms of male circumcision and the similarity of the procedure to female circumcision much more eloquently than I could:

The whole point of MGM is to ‘control, degrade and hurt’ men. This disconnect between FGM and MGM is where the problem lies. There are several items linked from this page on the very subject:

And just knowing how and why MGM was started as it is now performed may be beneficial.

There’s no ‘judging’ in Green’s remake. It is simply pointing out the fact that if we are tolerant and ‘okay’ with MGM, then we should be equally as ‘okay’ with FGM. If one is never okay, then neither is the other. We have *human* rights that are not trumped by sex.

Am I judging parents who have consented to routine infant circumcision in the past? No. We all make mistakes; we must also try to make better decisions in the future. But circumcision is not a parenting decision.

Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is a mother, wife, writer, librarian, and linguist. She earned a BA in English studies with a minor in creative writing from Illinois State University in May 2007, an MS in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2009, and an MS in English studies with an emphasis in linguistics at Illinois State University in December 2011.

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