Parents shouldn’t mutilate their children, amirite? I think that’s a pretty safe claim. But….
But it turns out it’s ok, as long as you make a show of angst about it first. It’s ok as long as you go on and on and on about your feelings on the subject, demonstrating how sensitive you are, and then in the end agree to lopping off a bit of your baby’s penis. The show of angst makes it ok, so it turns out that the mutilation of the baby is actually all about the feelings of the mommy.
Ever outspoken about what I considered the “barbaric” nature of the bris ritual, it is no wonder I was blessed with two sons. Experiencing it once was pure agony. But it was as I stood on the sidelines awaiting my younger son’s circumcision, in pensive conversation with my brother, that I realized I — and women like me — deserved to shed our status as victims and claim our own meaning in this tradition.
And so she does, at great and self-indulgent (or is that “pensive”?) length.
These days, the recent ballot initiative in San Francisco to ban the circumcision of minors (ultimately stricken by a local judge on a technical matter) is the latest manifestation of the growing anti-circumcision movement. Like shirking vaccinations, shedding strollers in favor of “baby wearing,” and embracing co- sleeping, it is increasingly popular to resist subjecting your newborn to such a “barbaric” procedure against his “will,” and to casually throw around terms like “genital mutilation.” Great. Just what I needed to add to my ambivalence over the decision to circumcise my sons — a healthy dose of the liberal guilt I thought I safely had left behind in college.
But I did not find the cries of the hyper-liberal terribly persuasive. Yes, choosing to circumcise your son involves making a difficult and significant decision on his behalf — but what in parenting doesn’t? And, after all, isn’t the irrationality bred of cult-like child-centric parenting ultimately akin to religious zealousness? Just trendier.
Yes, parents have to make many decisions for their children, but no, that doesn’t make it ok to snip off a bit of a baby’s penis for reasons of religion or tradition.
I chose to be awakened from my womb-like slumber, along with my new son, and confront that, while his pain may be my own, I cannot always protect him. Neither from physical discomfort, nor from the weight of the traditions into which he was born. For me, the bris served as an important reminder that there are things larger than me and my quest for rationality. Larger than my son and this brief encounter with pain. As one parent wrote about giving his son over for his bris, “I submit him [for circumcision] because I hope there is more to this than I can see or understand.” There are things I can’t explain, things beyond my control, even — especially — when it comes to this new life.
So she just abdicates responsibility, and lets it happen, because religion is bigger than she is. Therefore what? It’s ok to keep children out of school, to forbid girls to go to school, to hire people to hit children with metal poles, to marry little girls to adult men, to mutilate children’s genitals?
It’s a sad spectacle, someone going to all that trouble to come to a hopeless conclusion.
Update: Stewart did a graphic response so I helped myself to it.