Monthly Archives: November 2011

Another Perspective – Guest Blogger #2

This was sent to me from something posted in a private group.  A person who read my blog asked the author for permission to submit it to me, and after getting it, sent it to me to post.  Here is the post, unedited, as it was sent to me:

 

I seriously wish I would have thought about circumcision more b4 my son was born. We didn’t know his sex until the day he was born and for some dumb reason I figured while I was pregnant that the time between when he was born and when they asked if we wanted him circ’d or not would be plenty of time for my husband and I to discuss and decide. Unfortunately, we chose to circ him, mostly because my husband is and figured why not (it’s still sinking in how ignorant and nonchalant that sounds), but at the time we were just that ignorant. Now after researching and reading all these posts on the AP boards, I really regret not having thought about it much sooner so we would have been able to make a better decision.

Okay, I said all that to really say this… when I was pregnant I went out to lunch with 5 of the guys I work with. The topic came up with the 60 something year old part time guy about if we knew the sex of our baby, I said no, and he said well, “if it’s a boy you’d better not cut him!” And he didn’t say it quietly! So we started talking about circ’ing and he very strongly apposed it, BUT he wouldn’t give a good reason. From there we ending up talking about the history of the penis and the foreskin and it’s purpose. That discussion ended in a loud debate over religion and by the end of lunch I walked away thinking my God that man must have had his penis hacked off by a terrible doctor or something. It never once made me think about leaving my son intact. I really upsets me one: that he didn’t give any good reason to not circ, if he had I probably would have began researching in time to save my son, and two, because I completely missed the huge lesson of the whole lunch and that was that there were two options… that had never occurred to me before.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that a totally over the top approach might steer people in the circ’ing direction out of pure fear of the unknown (I think that’s where I was when we decided for it), the guy at lunch just seemed like a freak and I didn’t want my son to be like him! As you all have said a gentler more informative approach would have been GREAT! I would have much more likely listened to someone who gave me unbiased info and references. And isn’t it kind of going along with AP to respect other parents and help them make informed decisions using the same kind of techniques we all use with out kids? We can’t force parents not to circ by trying to control them through manipulative guilt tripping, excessively overdone poems, etc… coming from someone who wishes she’d gotten advice, I really wish someone would have just been open and honest and out loud about it… its like people don’t talk about circ’ing because it’s like politics and religion times 100 because it’s regarding a penis. I just wish I had heard a lot more about it from a lot of people… friends, doctors, in my birthing class… but definitely NOT in the form of a holier-than-thow-you’re-ruining-your-baby-forever-if-u-circ mass email/personal conversation/bulletin board post slaughter of anyone with genuine questions. Make any sense?


Some Examples:

I was told in an email that people have never seen these histrionic comments that I ‘claim’ intactivists use.  So here’s some examples from online.  As  I said in a previous article, I don’t feel comfortable quoting people online, however, without doing so, I have no examples of these tactics.  From one article’s comments section, within the first 20 or so posts, I’ve managed to pull up an example of every kind of ridiculous hyperbole discussed in previous articles.  Along with some new ones.

From The Guardian article about banning male circumcision, comments section:

Hasselblad says:

I would fight any attempt to remove what I feel is my right to have my son circumcised

It is not for you to decide. You don’t have a right to circumcise your son. You don’t have the right to mutilate your child’s genitals under religious pretexts. This is a violation of the child’s human rights. Your son’s body does not belong to you, it belongs to him. When he is old enough, that is, when he is legally an adult, he can make informed decisions himself about what happens to his own body.

Male and female genital mutilation are part of the same issue. In both cases, adults are making decisions about what is to be done to children’s bodies, for spurious reasons, without the person to whom the mutilation is being done having a say in the matter. Let’s not forget that children are people too.

Circumscision breaches human rights law. The sooner it is banned outright, the better.

acinetobactor says:

complete tosh. A barbaric custom that has no rightful place in civilised society. To try and equatate it with Sikhs not wearing a helmet is genius though.

myanaisir7 says:

Please don’t make me repeat myself. It gets tedious. Explain why how you feel makes a difference to, for example, a baby’s right to bodily integrity as protected by the Offences against the Person Act 1861. Don’t do this by saying the law as it stands says male circumcision is legal – the law often has to play catch-up as human concepts of morality and rights evolve (see slavery, torture, apartheid, etc). Explain why an exception should be made to the right to bodily integrity to allow you to have your son’s foreskin cut off when he is a few days old because of how you feel.

I am happy you feel being circumcised has had a positive impact on your life and believe the vast majority of circumcised men would

PeterLe says:

Re: Human rights:
Human Rights Act: • freedom from torture and degrading treatment. A screaming baby that horrifies all who hear it, caused by an assault with a knife is kind of torture.

From my comments section:

Hitler McJesus says:

Umm, circumcision is child rape. If you disagree, then you’re a retard. A child is held down while part of their sexuality is literally destroyed, often without anesthesia.

Circumcision is violent, disfiguring child rape. Just watch one on youtube. It’s a barbaric blood ritual and was started to control men. It has no place in a civilized society.

Circumcision is worse than the most common forms of female genital cutting.

Would FGM be ok if it were done in the US in a sterile, safe way?

Do I really need to add more?  This is ridiculous.  If you were carrying an unwanted pregnancy and were considering abortion, would a bunch of slavering zealouts in the parking lot of the abortion clinic, waving signs of bloody 20-week-stillbirths (mislabeled as abortions at 12 weeks), screaming that you’re murdering your baby convince you not to follow through with the abortion?  Maybe a small portion would, through intimidation.  I hazard many of the women who do walk away simply come back another time, or go somewhere else.  In any case, even if it does work from time-to-time, that doesn’t mean that the method is sound.  There’s bullying, intimidation and lying going on in my scenario.  If that’s what you need to use to convince people, then you should give up the argument.


Guest Blogger Sums Up My Position Better Than I Do

I believe this was copy/pasted from a forum last night.  I certainly got a lot of people from there last night.  In any case, this gem was sent to me by the author of the comment, and for anyone left wondering exactly what this blog is about, if this doesn’t clear it up for you, you’re going to have to start commenting.

 

 

Resorting to Ad Hominem…doesn’t do anything to discredit the validity of their arguments.  You do realize that’s a logical fallacy, right?

I read a large part of the blog in question and I largely agree.  Here’s how I see it: convincing people to not circumcize based on misinformation is not much better than convincing them to circ based on misinformation.  That feeling of being “tricked” into doing or not doing something only creates pushback when the information is disproven, and only hurts the cause in the end.

I am strongly anti-RIC, for the record, but I do not consider myself an “intactivist.”  When I think of “intactivist” I think of the individual that refuses to acknowledge any evidence presented in favor of circumcision, discrediting not only the information but also the source of the information.  The same intactivists also refuse to admit when their own sources are biased or exaggerated, and some admittedly use bogus or inflated statistics because they deem it to be “for the cause.”  That is disingenuous, deceitful, and cheap.  I not only acknowledge that it is a difficult decision, I also acknowledge that there is compelling information on either side, as well as a strong division even amongst medical professionals.  I can see, in other words, how someone could research the issue and decide to circumcise.

When it comes to argumentation, if you can’t make an argument in favor of your position without using misleading, biased, or even admittedly exaggerated statistics, and logical fallacies, then you have to consider that perhaps your position isn’t as strong as you think it is.  On the contrary, perhaps it is an indication that the argument against your position is stronger than you think it is.  That is my approach to logic and argumentation, anyway.  If you have to resort to Ad Hominem *ahem* to discredit the argument, then I basically conclude that you must not have a real leg to stand on in the debate.

The first thing you learn in Statistics is that the same statistic can be used to argue almost any position.  Take the penile cancer statistic.  One could make the argument that because RIC reduces the incidence of penile cancer, that it is justified.  The opposite side could take the same statistic and say that because the incidence of penile cancer is so low within the population anyway, that the slight reduction in the incidence of penile cancer is negligible and not worth the inherent risks of RIC.  So the very same statistic could be used to support both sides of the issue.

As such, I give very little weight to the medical “facts” and statistics when it comes to the topic of routine infant circumcision.  Not only am I skeptical about the sources and the accuracy of the information, and feel that on both sides some of the numbers thrown out are just being parroted from one internet poster to the next without any real source, but I recognize that even if the information is accurate, depending on the context in which it is presented, it could be supportive of either side of the debate.  As such I have said many times that I feel the Bodily Autonomy argument is by far the most convincing and hardest to refute.

One of the ways I encourage others to think about circumcision is to consider the potential outcomes of either decision, a Pascal’s Wager of circumcision, if you will.  This is admittedly an oversimplification, there are shades of gray, but generally there are two choices the parent can make, and two basic outcomes for each choice which are as follows:

You do not circ/Child is happy
Outcome: All is well.

You do not circ/Child is unhappy
Outcome: Man can reverse the decision and circ, all is well.

You circ/Child is happy
Outcome: All is well.

You circ/Child is unhappy
Outcome: No adequate way to reverse the decision, individual remains unhappy.

The only choice in the above scenario without a positive outcome is to circumcise your child, and for him to grow up unhappy with that decision for whatever reason.  All other choices either leave nothing to be unhappy about or at the least leave a valid remedy to cure the original decision.  To not circ therefore is to err on the side of caution and leave a valid remedy for your decision intact (no pun intended).  It is the safest “wager.”

In summary, I agree with the overall stance of the blogger: love the message, hate the tactics.  Relying on exaggerated statistics to argue against RIC is no different than exaggerating the benefits of breastfeeding to get more people to breastfeed or to shame the people who don’t.  In the end it does more damage to the cause because it calls your credibility into question and makes you appear to have an agenda, which automatically makes people skeptical and defensive.  One must also consider what it says about the position, your bias, and your emotional attachment to the outcome if have to resort to false information to persuade others.

Until irrefutable and convincing medical evidence comes out to support either side, I’ll continue to fall back on bodily autonomy.


Are There Compelling Reasons Not To Circumcise?

I just got a really interesting comment.  Just now.  Within the last few minutes.  It made me realize a few things.  The purpose of my blog is (still) misunderstood, and that it comes across as though I don’t think there are any valid reasons not to circumcise.  Here’s the comment:

As an intactivist, I’d have to agree with you that over the top comparisons get you no where. Although I will say that if a person views circumcision of minors as a social justice issue, they’re going to have a hard time NOT comparing it to other social justice issues in the past, even if that comparison falls short…. For the record, I hate it when anybody drags the terms “nazi” or “holocaust” into anything other than an actual discussion of 20th century Germany and WWII. Just. Don’t. OK?
Anyway, I can see that “his body, his rights” isn’t an argument that works for you (and unfortunately, I don’t think it works for most American parents either).

So I’m curious, since you say that you’re against RIC but also against intactivism, what arguments against RIC do you feel are legitimate and worthwhile?

So, thanks Quiet Intactivist, for the thoughtful comment.  Here’s arguments that I think work for the debate.  I’d like to point out that these arguments may or may not sway me personally, but that they’re more sound than arguments that are easily refuted.  Your audience is skeptical, and so you have to be more critical of your own argument.

Bodily Autonomy – This is not something that can be disproved through facts and figures.  This is a philosophical argument.  I think the way you phrase it is very important, however.  Most people who circumcise have a very proprietorial view of their children.  That’s why they usually make a comment to the effect of ‘My family, my choice’ or ‘My child, my choice’ or ‘I made the best decision for my family’ (which, how your newborn’s genitalia affect your family in a general way is sort of over my head, this comment never made any sense t0 me).  This is one of the strongest arguments against RIC, in my opinion.  If there is one, and only one thing that we should be able to count on, it’s the personal control over our own body.

Lack of Necessity – There is no necessity for Routine Infant Circumcision.  While I find that I understand where parents who circumcise are coming from (somewhat), that doesn’t mean I agree with their position or reasoning.  There is no necessity to circumcise a medically-healthy, non-Jewish boy at birth.  Any and all arguments regarding cleanliness and disease are based on cultural misconceptions about the foreskin, and not on actual data about the prevalence of any such issues.  Another issue has to do with the erroneous belief in the necessity of retraction to clean.  It is unnecessary at best, and may be harmful for some infants.  Because of the physiology of the prepuce,  it is impossible for any debris to get beneath the foreskin before a boy is retractable, and so there is no cause for forced retraction.  In regards to it’s appearance (the ‘it looks better’) argument, there is no reason at all to circumcise at birth.  Even if the intact penis were some sort of immediate sex-kill, I have a real problem with the idea of newborns having sex, and therefore the validity of circumcising for a sexual issue over a decade before it might possibly become a problem.   As has been pointed out multiple times, you can’t really tell circumcision status with an erect man, anyway, and there are no guarantees that A) His sexual partner would even be able to tell, and B) That his sexual partner would even care.  If the appearance of his penis is unsatisfactory to the man, he can make the decision to have his foreskin removed himself.

Harm – While most intactivsts and I disagree on the degree of harm, we are in perfect agreement that RIC causes harm to a baby’s genitals.  If it were somehow necessary, the risks of the harm versus the benefit of the circumcision could be weighed, but in Routine Infant Circumcision, there is no risk/benefit consideration.  The name says it all.  While the actual hard data on the purported risks and benefits of circumcision is inconclusive,  it is, without a doubt, far better to opt for a more conservative approach, and not circumcise when there is no problem.  Surgery is a serious proposition, no matter how minor, and it is something that should not be done without necessity.  Even if the necessity is aesthetics, that is something that is only relevant to the person with the penis.  Whether his mom, dad, or partner find his penis unappealing to look at is totally and utterly irrelevant.

 

I’ve said it time and again, I am against RIC.  I also think that if you argue the case with unsound data, the ground you lose in credibility can not be reclaimed.  Further,  the credibility loss by obsessed fanatics against RIC paints a negative picture of everybody against RIC.  Public perception matters, because they’re the people whose mind’s you are attempting to change.


Just A Snip. Now Overreact.

I have two blog posts planned for the night.  I think I’ll go ahead and start on one of the most ridiculous claims put forth by intactivists.  One that’s roundly mocked by pretty much anyone with two braincells to rub together.

There’s an oft-posted blog about  a baby girl from Malaysia’s circumcision.  In the blog, photos of the baby girl are shown, and then a couple of photos of the almost invisible piece of tissue removed from her clitoris.  Is it something I’d do, or enjoy or necessarily support?  No.  But you can’t tell me that taking a piece of flesh smaller than this hyphen (-) is worse and more damaging than what’s done to a boy during circumcision.  You also can’t tell me that a clitordectomy,  the most common form of female genital cutting (which involves the removal of all or part of the clitoris, eliminating about 75% of women’s means of achieving orgasm) is exactly the same as male circumcision.  Nor can you tell me that most FGCs are the same as RIC done in the US.  The reason is that in the US, baby boys are circumcised with sterile, steel instruments, with some form of pain control and succor,  and modern medical knowledge, including wound-care.  Being held down by your family and having your clitoral hood sliced off with a tin can lid by an old women when you’re 5-14 years old is not at all comparable, no matter how analogous you believe the tissues are.

The comparison of FGC to RIC is routinely made, and then backtracked with a thousand caveats.  The justifications are poor, but clung to, and most people either don’t care, lack the information or the ability to stand up to the horde when debating intactivists.  The very few who do are utterly loathed.  This isn’t the only extremely inappropriate comparison made.   Here’s a few of my favorites:

Slavery – This is always done in the vein of  ‘Slavery was socially accepted, but we know it was wrong; therefore, circumcision is also wrong, but still socially accepted’.  The issue is that we have to look at the negative connotations of slavery for about a millisecond before coming to the realization that circumcision isn’t comparable at all.  Slavery took away total bodily autonomy.  Slaves were punished and even killed for merely looking at a white woman, sometimes.  Circumcision does not enslave a boy.  It removes a piece of tissue that, in the long run, is unlikely to have nearly the dire or far reaching consequences of slavery.

Child Rape – Comparison of a Bris (Jewish Ritual Circumcision) to child rape.  They ask if there was a religion that endorsed child rape, would that be as stridently defended.  Again, to compare them, we need to examine why child rape is abhorred, and then why a Bris is done.  First, as far as I know, no religion endorses child rape.  Second, the Bris is performed as a sign of the covenant between Abraham and God.  It was the first and most important commandment given by God to the Jewish people.  Saying a boy born to a Jewish mother could be Jewish without a circumcision is like saying you can be a Christian without believing in Jesus.  How an important ceremony that binds a child to his cultural and spiritual heritage is related to non-existent religious child rape takes contortions that even a circus performer would have a hard time accomplishing.

The Holocaust – Internet fail.  The end.


What Do You Mean, Bully?

Recently, I was told that this blog talks about how intactivists bully or try to emotionally manipulate, but I haven’t explained how.  I’ve pointed out some misused statistics, but haven’t commented much (aside from Nunya’s comment) about the actual bullying done by intactivists.  I wasn’t really sure how to do this, because I don’t want to quote people from online without their permission.  Even if I had their permission, I wouldn’t feel terribly comfortable doing it anyway.  However, it’s not hard to find what I’m talking about.  You can check out BabyCenter’s Community Forums, Mothering’s Forums, CafeMom’s Forums, and pretty much any online article about circumcision to see what I mean.  So lets get down to some actual specifics.

First, I’ll posit some reasons why intactivists would want to be offensive or bully people.    I have seen some misguided intactivists claim that by offending people, they’re getting their attention and are more able to convince them not to circumcise.  This is the most ass-backward logic I have ever heard.  I also have seen them swarm on people, like a hive of angry bees on a hapless victim.  Bullying-by-numbers is an old play out of the Logical Fallacy Handbook: Argumentum Ad Populum.  The more people agree, the more right you are.

Here’s some of the offensive terms I’ve heard used:

Mutilation

This is the most commonly used, emotionally-charged term I have seen.  Many intactivists refer to RIC and even religious circumcision as ‘mutilation’.  They’ll dance around it, pull out dictionary definitions and pretend to not understand why it’s offensive.  I’ve seen that particular scenario played out hundreds, if not thousands, of times.  Mutilation is a word with strong, negative connotations.  Nobody uses the word mutilation in a positive light.  When you use a word like that with parents who have circumcised their kid, or are considering it, you’re telling them that they are bad.  Evil.  Harmful.  Parents who would harm their child.  Most parents who circumcise their children are doing it because they’ve bought into the cultural misconceptions about the foreskin.  They think they’re doing what’s best for their child…that they’re doing him a favor.  They’re not doing it because they’re bad or evil.  They’re doing it because that’s what they’re familiar with.  Telling them they’re mutilating their children or considering mutilating their children is no more going to cause them to listen to your message than a Christian Proselytizer coming to your door and telling you you’re going to Hell right off the bat.  Pretending that you don’t know why that word is offensive is disingenuous at best.  Intacitivsts use the word because it is offensive.

Victimizing

Let’s face it.  If anyone told me I was victimizing my children, I’d rip their fucking face off.  So why anyone would use this term to someone who’s not actually victimizing their children is beyond me.  This is total fail.  Turn that around.  What if someone were to say to you “You’re victimizing you’re children because you left them intact, and now they’re going to be mocked and no women will have sex with them!”.  You’d be indignant.  Hell, you’d be outraged.  So why would you say that to someone else?  I think the Golden Rule is just about the most perfect rule to follow when it comes to intactivism.

Ignorant, Stupid

Variations on the same theme.  These terms are broad brush terms that are very popular with anyone who doesn’t agree with them, whether they’re moderately anti-RIC or full-blown circumfetishests.  Not everyone who ‘researches’ circumcision comes to the same conclusion.  Not all the evidence is as clear cut as it’s made out to be.  There’s a lot of conflicting information and studies that come to polar opposite conclusions on the same topic.  Just as intactivists take advantage of this to cherry-pick information that supports their position, so do circumcising parents.   I’ve seen a lot of comments from circumcising parents that show that they’ve not read much about circumcision or the foreskin, I’ll grant that.  Instead of calling names though, why not just correct the misinformation?  Most people are more willing to consider the information if it’s presented in a polite, calm fashion.  If you call someone ignorant or stupid and then post a link with a self-satisfied cyber-smirk, chances are they’re just going to dismiss it.

Conspiracy

That’s right.  There’s a grand conspiracy of doctors who know that circumcision is ‘wrong’ and ‘harmful’, but just won’t admit it for fear of lawsuits.  I’m going to have to label this as more silly than offensive, but considering how many doctors, including the AAP have stated that circumcision is not necessary…well, I think it’s obvious that doctors aren’t afraid.  The question of whether it’s wrong is more of a philosophical one, and in our culture, it’s not considered wrong.  Individually, we may consider it wrong, but culturally, we do not.
Then there are just the implications.  The implications that parents who circumcise don’t love their children as much as the parents who don’t.  That the parents who circumcise are more stupid or are sheep.  That parents who circumcise are unenlightened or sadistic.  Or that parents who circumcise are easily manipulated by money-hungry doctors who are only doing it because it’s easy money.

I’ve seen posts on message boards where intactivists discussed the merits of lying by omission to sway people to their decision.  I’ve seen them talk about outright lying, I’ve seen them encourage intactivists from other websites to swarm down on a person who dared to contemplate circumcising their child.    The case against circumcision is strong, and doesn’t necessitate bullying.  The problem is that to intactivists, it’s all or none, and so to them, any dissent means that they need to do anything and everything to get agreement.

 

 

I’d like to take a moment here to clarify something.  While I admit that I’m using ‘intactivist’ in a very general way, I’m not talking about everyone who labels themselves intactivist.  I’m talking about a very specific group of people who do very specific things and behave in a certain, very easily-identifiable way.  The all-or-nothing, the black-and-white, the us-and-them.  I’d encourage people who are against circumcision, but who do not agree with or utilize those methods to find another way to describe themselves.  The reason is that the public perception of intactivism is really, truly bad.  The average person who is not an intactivist sees the people I’m talking about as Intactivism.  That is what it is to them.  Not people who politely debate, refrain from bullying, lying, name calling or attacking.  I apologize if I have offended anyone, period.  Extremist or not, the point of this blog is to attempt to point out to intactivist exactly what they’re doing and how it’s harmful to the cause against RIC.

I’d also like to let you know that the following topics will be addressed this week, along with any suggestions anyone would like to give me, and any guest posts that I receive:

Brit Milah/Jewish Circumcision
Why RIC Is Wrong
More Statistics For You
Why Using Statistics In An Actual Debate Against Circumcision Is Wrong
MGC and FGC Are Not The Same
The Harm Factor
A Post About The Risks of Melodramatic Presentation


An Open Call

I’d like to hear from you, dear reader.  The furious intactivist.  The circumcising parent (both religious and secular).  The moderate.  I’d like to post your opinion on my blog.  So please, feel free to submit a post in comments, with the words ‘Blog Post’ in it, and I’ll post them.  I’m not going to post redundant comments, so please don’t flood me with ‘his penis, his choice’ or ‘your right to religious freedom ends where his body begins’ posts.  I’ll post anything that hasn’t been posted yet.  You’ll get your very own shiny blog post, right here on The Case Against Intactivism.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled blog.