So much wrong in one little story


Here’s some smug sanctimonious Christianity for you, all inflicted on a helpless baby.

On Wednesday, Martina Obi-Uzom was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to an 11 month old baby boy. She was entrusted to look after the baby while his parents went away one weekend. During that weekend, she took the baby to London to be circumcised, in accordance with her own Nigerian Christian beliefs. She knew the baby’s mother did not want her baby circumcised. So she posed as the child’s mother, recruited a man to pose as his father, and convinced a Jewish circumciser to perform the procedure.

You are probably rightly horrified right now. Wait until you learn what happened to Ms Obi-Uzom.

She was given a suspended sentence of 14 months. She was also ordered to pay costs of £1,500 and a £140 victim surcharge, which seems paltry compensation for amputating part of a person’s genitals without consent or medical need.

Judge Freya Newbery said although the offence merited a prison sentence, “circumstances” meant she decided to suspend the sentence. The judge said she accepted that Obi-Uzom’s intention “wasn’t to harm the boy” and that she was of “impeccable character”. She also said she was a “professional person” and “highly qualified”.

I’m going to guess that the judge overlooked the mutilation of a baby because the perpetrator’s “impeccable character” consisted of being Christian. Anyone who took a knife to harm a baby for any other reason would be dealt with far more severely.

Comments

  1. ionopachys says

    Well, there is a teeny tiny little silver lining. At least she didn’t get the book thrown at her just because she’s foreign-born and (presumably) dark-skinned.

  2. tacitus says

    When I saw this story posted (in summary) on Reddit, I thought it had taken place in the US, so I assume the leniency was the result of male circumcision still being considered completely routine in this country. That she got away with it in the UK, where circumcision hasn’t been the norm for over 60 years (I was born in the 60s and my parents didn’t consider cutting me for a second), is far less understandable.

  3. ajbjasus says

    1 What? I think think the book should have been thrown at her because of what she did, not the colour of her skin or birthplace.

  4. vucodlak says

    The judge said she accepted that Obi-Uzom’s intention “wasn’t to harm the boy”

    This would maybe fly if she’d had it performed under the mistaken belief that it was necessary for health and hygiene. Sexually mutilating a child for the sake of a religious ritual, on the other hand, is pretty much the fucking definition of ‘intent to harm.’

    It probably isn’t permitted under the law, but I hope the kid grows up and sues her for everything she’s got, assuming the parents don’t. A pathetic slap on the wrist like this little fine just insures that it will happen again.

  5. says

    What Martina Obi-Uzom did was despicable and disgusting. The fact that she got away with it and only had to pay a small fine is even worse. More importantly, the fact that in the UK parents are still allowed to circumcise their babies at all is even worse. Just ban the damn practice. If some religious man wants to get himself mutilated, he is free to do so after he turns 18 years old. Parents shouldn’t be allowed to perform bodily modifications of their children who, by definition, cannot consent. I find it saddening that people are so outraged about a women mutilating a baby without his mother’s permission, but whenever parents themselves mutilate a child, then it is legal and business as usual.

  6. says

    @#3, ajbjasus:

    The phrasing in #1 was ambiguous. I believe the intent was: “well, at least we know that the defendant was not arbitrarily punished because of her skin color or birthplace, as has happened frequently, since she was not actually punished in any meaningful way at all.”

  7. gijoel says

    I’m kind of pro-circumcision and I think she should go to jail. Any medical procedure should be done only with the parents’ or guardians’ consent.

  8. says

    She took the boy to be sexually assaulted, but the item doesn’t say where. If it was a hospital or clinic, why does it still have a license to practice? If it wasn’t a licensed medical care person, how is this not kidnapping?

  9. Artor says

    Can the parents pursue additional charges? What about the identity theft and kidnapping crimes?

  10. Bruce says

    I can imagine Trump now: “we have to ban the immigration of [Christians] until we can figure out what the hell is going on here.”
    If they had enough power, some people would force mandatory circumcision or genital mutilation upon ALL adults. Why would they stop at less?

  11. says

    Kidnapping, identity theft, and fraud? Yeah, I agree, prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

    But is anyone going after the mohel for unlicensed practice of medicine? (Not to mention surgery w/o proper anesthesia?)

    I won’t call this mutilation until the world ALSO acknowledges that disabled children have the right to not be mutilated for parental convenience. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashley_Treatment

  12. says

    gijoel @#7

    Not parents’ consent. The patient’s consent. It is perfectly possible to perform circumcision on an 18 years old man. If some adult man wants to get himself circumcised, he’s free to do so. Parents should have no fucking right to mutilate their child’s body, they shouldn’t be allowed to perform medically unnecessary procedures on their non consenting children.

    WMDKitty – Survivor @#12

    OK, that really sucks.

    From Wikipedia:

    The parents state that they sought such treatment … to avoid the cramps and discomfort associated with menstruation; and to avoid the discomfort from large breasts

    When I tried to obtain a hysterectomy, doctors refused me. I’m a European Union citizen and the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that people have a right to change their gender and obtain medical treatments of their choice. Nonetheless, my country still managed to figure out a loophole how to effectively deny me access to said treatments. The justification doctors gave me was that by demanding a hysterectomy I am asking to have my body mutilated and I’m trying to harm my own health, and no ethical doctor could possibly mutilate me like this.

    Here’s the problem. When doctors want to perform a hysterectomy and breast removal surgery on a child who cannot possibly consent to said procedure, then they will claim that such treatment is beneficial to the patient, because it helps to “avoid the cramps and discomfort associated with menstruation; and to avoid the discomfort from large breasts.”

    When doctors don’t want to perform identical surgeries on me, a consenting adult who has specifically demanded said procedures, then a hysterectomy or breast removal gets labelled as “mutilation” and unnecessary and harmful. Then menstrual cramps stop being a problem and breasts somehow no longer cause a discomfort. (I’m non-cis, so of course this shit causes a hell lot of discomfort for me.)

    By now I have developed hatred towards a significant portion of doctors. They don’t give a shit about the desires of the patient. Instead they will justify whatever crap they want to do with the patient’s body. They will deny the patient’s bodily autonomy, they will totally disregard the patient’s personal wishes. Incidentally, refusing to perform a surgery I have requested also counts as “doing crap to my body.” Being unable to obtain medical procedures that I need severely harms my wellbeing.

  13. says

    Sometimes, PZ, I think you go over the top. Circumcision is the norm in the UK and I have seen nothing that says it is bad for you and many people believe that it is good, like taking out extra teeth. Are you saying that dentists removing wisdom teeth is wrong too? You could say the woman was actually doing the right thing.

  14. says

    chrispollard @#14

    You like circumcision? Great, you are welcome to get yourself circumcised and enjoy your foreskin-free penis. Now stay the hell away from babies. You have no fucking right to mess with other people’s bodies without their consent.

    If you are such a dirty swine that you cannot possibly be arsed to, gasp, take daily showers and wash your genitals, then that’s your lifestyle choice. When it comes to the current generation of children, I’m more optimistic, and I like to believe that majority of them will somehow manage to regularly wash their penises. Never mind that poor hygiene habits still remain a problem regardless of whether a man is circumcised or no.

  15. blf says

    chrispollard@14, Circumcision is the norm in the UK.

    Nope. Not even close. For instance, from Estimation of country-specific and global prevalence of male circumcision, 2016, puts the UK at c.20.7%. Other studies suggest similar rates, e.g., Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge cites:

    Europe — Less Than 20%
    Armenia, Austria, Belarus, [many others…] and the United Kingdom.(42)

     (42) Male circumcision in Britain: findings from a national probability sample survey (PDF), 2003:

    […] We found 15.8% (95% confidence interval(CI) 14.7 to 17.1) of British men aged 16–44 years reported being circumcised in Natsal2000 [survey]. Age specific prevalence was greatest among men aged 40–44 years (19.6%, 95% CI 16.8 to 22.7) compared to those aged 16–19 years (11.7%, 95% CI 9.0 to 15.2). With the exception of black Caribbeans, men from all ethnic minority backgrounds were significantly more likely to report being circumcised to men who described their ethnicity as white ((adjusting for demographic variables: age, global region of birth, ethnicity, residence in London, religion, and qualifications) adjusted odds ratio (OR) for self reporting ethnicity as other than white 3.02, 95% CI 2.39 to 3.81, p, 0.001). In addition, men born abroad instead of in Britain were significantly more likely to be circumcised ((adjusting for demographic variables: age, global region of birth, ethnicity, residence in London, religion, and qualifications) adjusted OR 1.74, 95% CI 1.25 to 2.42, p, 0.001). Significant (p,0.001) variations in the prevalence of circumcision were also observed across the major religious groups, with prevalence being greatest among Jewish men (98.7%, 95% CI 90.1 to 99.8) and lowest among Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists (9.8%, 95% CI 4.7 to 9.3). […]

    You’re either badly misinformed, or a bad liar. Next time, please do a bit of checking to avoid barging in with utter nonsense.

  16. blf says

    The discrepancy between aziraphale@19’s figure of 3.8% and the 15–20% figures quoted in @20 is the 15–20% is for the UK male population as a whole, whilst the 3.8% is for boys aged 15 years and younger .

  17. says

    @ChrisPollard:

    You could say the woman was actually doing the right thing.

    Okay, so a woman who kidnaps the child she’s supposed to be babysitting, recruits another person to engage in a conspiracy to commit a form of fraud, and then subjects an unsuspecting mohel to legal liability he couldn’t possibly anticipate in order to subject a child to unneeded and unwanted medical care.

    Sure, you could say that woman was doing the right thing, just because what’s a little fraud, kidnapping, and unnecessary minor surgery between friends?

    I wouldn’t. But you could.

  18. says

    Crip Dyke @#22

    subject a child to unneeded and unwanted medical care

    If an adult man who is at least 18 years old chooses to get himself circumcised, then that would be medical care. However, when the same procedure is being done to a baby who, by definition, cannot consent to it, then that’s mutilation. Without the patient’s consent (and no, parental consent doesn’t count) medically unnecessary interventions are a form of mutilation and not “medical care.” It’s the patient’s consent that differentiates “medical care” from “abuse and mutilation.”

    Note: I understand that often children get sick. In these situations doctors and parents must treat them even though a child cannot consent to anything. But being born with a foreskin is not an illness that requires urgent medical help.

  19. PaulBC says

    @chrispollard

    You could say a lot of things. I would argue that kidnapping someone to remove an impacted wisdom tooth without consent should also carry serious criminal penalties even if I would advise the person (obviously not a baby) to have it removed. It sounds like a good plot for a medical/legal drama (or farce). I wonder if it’s been done.

    Let’s say the baby was born with a “extra” toe. It happens. Who gets to decide on surgery? Legally, the parents have that discretion. If a “concerned” aunt kidnapped the baby and drove to a rogue surgeon would you say she was actually doing the right thing?

    As far as I know, circumcision still is pretty normal in the US, but that’s what’s crazy. You should not be making permanent body alterations without consent or some absolutely compelling medical reason.

  20. says

    @Andreas:

    when the same procedure is being done to a baby who, by definition, cannot consent to it, then that’s mutilation

    Actually I agree with you, and your criticism is well taken. In my defense, I was trying to get ChrisPollard to admit that no reasonable person could actually say that the babysitter did the right thing, and thought that my best chance of getting CP to admit being wrong was to sidestep that issue and focus on the things that CP couldn’t possibly deny (because CP had seemed to already deny that circumcision was harmful).

    But it was probably wrong of me to concede that, even for the sake of argument. Even “merely” conceding a point for argument’s sake can be a bad and harmful thing to do. I apologize.

  21. PaulBC says

    Honestly, it bugs me to see ears pierced on very young girls, though this fits with many cultural norms. I believe in the simple rule of leaving other people’s bodies alone unless there is direct consent after the age of consent or a compelling medical reason (in which case parents can give consent, or non-parents if it is a life and death issue). None of which, I’ll add, apply in the case of infant circumcision.

    One of the lamest reasons I have heard for circumcision is to “look like Daddy.” Huh? WTF? I mean this must be sufficiently persuasive to make it into the official list, but there must be an entire new kind of crack to smoke if people think this explanation is good enough.

    And please don’t get me started on the nightmares I’ve had about ice-pick lobotomies. Many people are far too trusting of self-proclaimed “doctors” who believe they can do something simple and helpful. Granted, a circumcision does not have all that much consequence compared to more serious mutilation, but we should be well past the point of accepting major, irreversible procedures as “hygienic.”

  22. says

    PaulBC (#26) –

    Granted, a circumcision does not have all that much consequence compared to more serious mutilation, but we should be well past the point of accepting major, irreversible procedures as “hygienic.”

    Except that hygiene isn’t the reason US hospitals keep pushing parents to do it.

    It’s solely about money, charging the parents and insurance for an unnecessary surgery, and by selling foreskins for profit. They’re not incinerated as medical waste, like a tumour would be. They’re sold for profit, for use in plastic surgery and “anti-aging treatments”.

    Something tells me that parents aren’t informed of this.

  23. vucodlak says

    @ chrispollard, #14

    I have all my teeth. Why? Because it wasn’t medically necessary to remove any (why yes, I do have a big mouth, thanks for asking). I was an adult by the time they came in, and I opted to keep them rather than have unnecessary surgery.

    I would have made the same choice about my foreskin, had I been allowed to. I wasn’t; I was an infant when it was cut off.

    TMI time:
    I have very dry skin. This results in tiny, nigh-invisible cracks all over my body, making my skin extremely sensitive and prone to allergen-related rashes. This matters in a discussion about circumcision because part of the purpose of the foreskin is to keep the glans moist. Not having a foreskin, my glans is not kept moist. It gets cracks that aren’t so tiny or invisible, and anything that gets into those cracks causes burning pain.*

    Some things only burn a little bit- the lotion I use to sooth my dry skin doesn’t hurt too much, and urine, thankfully, is bearable. Semen isn’t too bad, if I clean up promptly. Saliva, on the other hand, feels like someone is holding a lit cigarette to the end of my dick. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t find the concept of receiving blowjobs terribly appealing anyway.

    Sex, on the other hand, is something I think I’d enjoy. Most of the varieties of sex I’d like to try involve getting bodily fluids near my penis. I’m a little afraid to find out how, for example, PIV intercourse might feel. I’m a bit of kinky fellow, but I still don’t think I’ll enjoy it if one of the kinds of sex that I’m most interested in turns out to feel like someone’s taken a soldering iron to one of my most sensitive body parts.

    And it will all be because of an unnecessary surgery done on me when I was too young to even begin to understand the concept of consent. You know what really pisses me off about the whole thing? My parents knew there was no real medical benefit to it. They had it done so I’d “look like my father.” No, really, that’s what they said.

    I was talking one day with my mother about the misinformation that’s out there about the so-called ‘medical benefits of circumcision, and how it even sometimes fools medical professionals (my mom was a nurse), when she said “That’s not why we got you circumcised. We did it so you’d look like your father.” I was stunned into silence. They literally had a piece of me cut off for the most fucked-up reason I could imagine. I don’t know what my father’s dick looks like, I can think of no good reason neither I nor anyone who’ll ever know what mine looks like should ever find out, but that’s the reason I’ve had years of pain.

    Circumcision is not a harmless procedure. It should not be performed on those who don’t need it, without their consent.

    By the way, my orthodontist wanted to cut my wisdom teeth out before they even showed. They were very anxious about this, claiming it would utterly ruin my mouth and all the hard, painful work they’d done with braces if I allowed them to come in. Life got in the way, however, and I never got around to having it done (I did consult my dentist, who thought it best to wait and see). Turns out they fit just fine in my mouth. My orthodontist just wanted the money.

    *They’re also not terribly attractive, but that’s a lesser consideration.

  24. says

    Crip Dyke @#25

    I wasn’t trying to criticize you, it’s just that the choice of words can sometimes matter. The words “medical care” normally have positive connotations, hence I’d use something else here. I know that by saying “mutilation” I am intentionally using a word with highly negative connotations, which is automatically alienating people who disagree with me. I guess, if I was trying to convince another person, I’d have to stick to something more neutral, maybe “medical procedure” instead of “care” or something like that.

    PaulBC @#26

    Honestly, it bugs me to see ears pierced on very young girls, though this fits with many cultural norms.

    Yep, same goes for me. Where I live, pretty much every female assigned at birth person has her ears pierced. I do not. I’m glad that my mother didn’t do this to me without my consent. As a child, I was a tomboy and didn’t particularly want earrings. Nowadays I just live as a dude.

    By the way, I still have my wisdom teeth. And on top of that, my teeth are also a bit crooked. My mother/dentists offered me to fix that, but I refused. It’s not a problem while chewing/biting, and I’m under no obligation to endure pain for the sake of having a perfect smile.

    And if I were born with six toes, I’d probably choose to keep it that way. I’m under no obligation to have a “perfect” body (whatever “perfect” even means, it’s not like people can agree about it). And if I were born intersex, I’d sure as hell not want doctors messing with my body before I’m old enough to decide for myself).

  25. says

    @#26

    One of the lamest reasons I have heard for circumcision is to “look like Daddy.”

    In my opinion, the worst ever reason I have heard is “women think that circumcised penises are more beautiful.” This claim is wrong and problematic for so many reasons.

    “Hygienic” is just as dumb. Are we really expecting the next generation to grow up without daily showers?

    “Reduced STI risk” is also dumb. Using a condom is a hell lot more reliable, but of course conservative Christians won’t allow evidence based sex education in schools, instead they’ll just chop up infants’ bodies and pray for God to keep all the STIs away.

  26. blf says

    PaulBC@24, “As far as I know, circumcision still is pretty normal in the US”.

    Yes. The first source / study cited in @20 puts it at c.71.2% (for the male population as a whole). Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge cites some studies which suggest the rate is falling, but still very high, perhaps c.50% but maybe as “low” as c.30% of very young boys.

  27. says

    @PaulBC When our daughter was born in Brazil, the nurses offered to pierce her ear on the the day of her birth and put a diamante stud in it (to show she was a girl). It is a cultural norm here in Brazil – we refused for all the reasons discussed in the comments here. Personally I thought it was an extremely weird thing to offer new parents, but there you go.

  28. lochaber says

    just to add to the pile-on…

    chrispollard@14>

    I’ve still got my wisdom teeth, and I refused medical orders whilst enlisted in order to keep them. sure, they didn’t grow in like normal teeth, and they aren’t useful to me, but they also aren’t causing me any problems, and I’d just like to avoid unnecessary medical procedures.

    I don’t think male circumcision is at all comparable. There is a lot of evidence that sensitivity is greatly reduced by circumcision, both by removing all the nerve endings that are present in the foreskin itself, but also by exposing the glans to constant stimulation and causing it to become desensitized.

    There are literally billions of men with intact foreskins who do not suffer any negative consequences due to remaining intact.

    Circumcision is based in a strange religious practice of sacrifice and self-mutilation to demonstrate dedication and fealty to a deity, and has no business being done to people too young to consent.

  29. says

    Oli Davies @#34

    When our daughter was born in Brazil, the nurses offered to pierce her ear on the the day of her birth and put a diamante stud in it (to show she was a girl). It is a cultural norm here in Brazil

    Holy shit! This is so wrong.

    Where I live, I occasionally (rarely) spot girls who look five or six years old with earrings. That makes me uncomfortable. While six years old children are able to voice their preferences, they are also very likely to change their mind later. Thus it is safer to wait until a child is older and less likely to regret that body modification they agreed to do back when they were only five or six years old. I know that back when I was six years old, I still wore all the pink dresses my mother gave me, because she had successfully convinced me that I look pretty in them. My gender dysphoria became apparent only a few years later when I started questioning all those feminine things that my mother made me do.

    lochaber @#35

    I’ve still got my wisdom teeth, and I refused medical orders whilst enlisted in order to keep them.

    People tried to force you to have your teeth pulled out? WTF?

    Growing up, I had no clue what wisdom teeth were, I didn’t know there was anything special about them. Thus I have no clue at what age mine appeared. I just know that I have them now.

    The first time I heard about wisdom teeth was a year ago (I was 26). My dentist found a cavity in one of my wisdom teeth, and before starting to work on that cavity she asked me whether I’m planning to have them pulled out. That question really puzzled me. Why would I choose to just pull out any of my teeth? Confused as I was, I just said “no.” Only after my dentist fixed said cavity, I did an online search on wisdom teeth.

    From my experience, I can only assume that in my dental clinic dentists don’t even bother to talk with their patients about wisdom teeth until something goes wrong and they start becoming a problem for some patient. Thus no dentist ever even mentioned wisdom teeth to me until she found a cavity in one.

  30. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    lochaber@35
    Yeah, when I joined the Peace Corps they recommended both having your wisdom teeth removed and a prophylactic appendectomy, but given the state of medical care where I was going, that was somewhat understandable. I declined.

  31. PaulBC says

    I skipped the dentist for many years while my wisdom teeth came in (I have room). I was expecting the dentist to want to pull them, but actually she said they seemed fine and just needed to fill a cavity. So I still have them. I believe they did push my lower front teeth and make them slightly crooked, but it’s not a big deal.

  32. says

    If an adult man who is at least 18 years old chooses to get himself circumcised, then that would be medical care.

    Please remember that circumcision CAN be medical care for a rare number of children who, despite being cared for correctly, develop repeated and very painful infections. Only that the parents of those children usually see this as a regrettable necessity they’d prefer to avoid. My husband was a candidate for circumcision. he says he can remember the painful infections, and they were informed that this was on the table, but then a growth spurt took care of the matter. His younger brother wasn’t that lucky.
    As for earrings: I allowed my daughters to make the decision when they were six. I told them clearly about the pain. The older one decided to have hers pierced one after the other and we gave her time inn between to decide if she wanted to go ahead. She did. Some time ago they decided they didn’t want them anymore. They’ve grown closed again, meaning they’d need to have them pierced again if they wanted to wear earrings again. They are still the ones making the decision.

  33. anat says

    To WMDKitty — Survivor, @12:

    But is anyone going after the mohel for unlicensed practice of medicine?

    I don’t know about this specific case, but many mohalim are also trained and licensed MDs. Not sure how (or whether) their respective professional societies enforce standards of care on their practice.

  34. says

    Giliell @#39

    Please remember that circumcision CAN be medical care for a rare number of children who, despite being cared for correctly, develop repeated and very painful infections.

    This is why @#23 I wrote: “I understand that often children get sick. In these situations doctors and parents must treat them even though a child cannot consent to anything.” I’m fully aware that there exist (rare) medical problems that make circumcision a necessity. I never in any way objected to necessary medical procedures.

    As for earrings: I allowed my daughters to make the decision when they were six.

    I’m uncomfortable with letting six years old children make such a decision.

    When I was six years old, I was extremely obedient. I desperately wanted adults to praise me. My mother told me that I look pretty in pink dresses. Thus I wanted to wear pink dresses in order to please my mother. My mother told me that long hair are beautiful for girls, thus I “chose” to have long hair. More importantly, I wasn’t even aware that I have alternative options, I didn’t know that I could be anything but a girl. At the age of six I had no clue about the anatomical difference between boys and girls (I literally didn’t know that boys had penises). I was convinced that boys were children who wore pants, blue clothes, had short hair, and played with boy toys. Girls were children who wore pink dresses, had long hair, and played with girl toys. I was informed that I’m a girl, thus I had to behave like one. Nobody ever punished me for being non-feminine. But the pressure was there. Yes, it was very subtle, but it was so ubiquitous, that I didn’t even know that I had a choice.

    When I was 10 years old, I started to gradually notice that I like “boy things.” Slowly and gradually I stopped wearing dresses and skirts. I started reading books intended for boys/men. I got interested in masculine hobbies. By the time I was about 13, I was a tomboy. Nonetheless, the pressure to be a girl was immense. My parents, my school teachers, my classmates, everybody forced me to be a cute and feminine little girl.

    By the time I was in my late teens/early twenties, the pressure to be a women was as strong as ever. My school literally forced me to wear high heels and dresses for special occasions (even though I never learned how to properly walk on high heels). My boyfriend mentioned how he liked it when I put on a dress and looked feminine. My (female) university classmates advised me to wear more feminine clothes and use make-up (I hated make-up so much). All the media I consumed informed me that hairy female legs are ugly.

    I was already 23 when I finally realized that I’m not a woman and that I want to live as a man instead. It took me so damn long to figure out who I was, because I was indoctrinated that I must be feminine, I had no clue that I had a choice at all.

    Here’s the problem: before coming out as a guy, I voluntarily chose to do female things. It’s not like my every single clothing purchase was enforced from above. It’s not like somebody ordered me to experiment with make-up (I disliked it so much that I never truly used it much). I did make a choice to be feminine, it’s just that this choice was influenced by all that pressure that was being put on me. If my mother had told my six years old self that earrings are beautiful, I would have wanted to get my ears pierced.

    Anyway, I assume that you don’t raise your daughters the way how my mother raised me, I can imagine that you aren’t complimenting them every time they do something feminine (and withholding compliments and praise every time they do anything masculine). I assume that you try to make sure that their choices aren’t guided by social pressure. I’m willing to believe that, unlike me, your daughters actually could make a truly free choice. Nonetheless, I still don’t like it when earrings for six years old girls are treated as the norm. Even if you don’t do that, plenty of other parents still subtly enforce gender norms upon their children. If a six years old would-be-tomboy goes to school and sees that majority of other girls in her class have earrings, then she will be pressured to conform.

    As a child I just didn’t have the courage to oppose the norms. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to have friends, so I did whatever the hell other girls my age did. They wore pink dresses, so I also wanted to wear pink dresses. They played with pink dolls, so I also wanted to play with pink dolls. If majority of girls my age had had earrings, I would have wanted to get my ears pierced. It took me years until I learned not to yield to social norms and peer pressure.

    Right now the environment in which children grow up is extremely gender-segregated. Thus a child who likes or does something intended for the opposite sex risks social isolation and bullying. I don’t know how to fix it. But normalizing earrings among six years old girls only makes the problem worse. (Back when I grew up, girls weren’t supposed to get earrings before their late teens. By the time I became old enough to even theoretically be allowed to get earrings, I already knew that I don’t want them.)

  35. says

    Andreas
    We all have our biographies that inform our positions. Funny enough, my childhood experience was more or less the opposite: I was a “tomboy” (I hate this word, since it implies I wasn’t a girl correctly just because I climbed trees) and I loved getting earrings because finally I didn’t get misgendered anymore.
    I actually watched with quite some concern as the world kept exercising more and more pressure on my daughters to conform to certain gender expectations and stereotypes, but I also promised myself NOT to shame them for being girly. They chose to have their ears pierced, they also chose to no longer wear earrings. They also do know about different genitals and that those highly correlate with being boy/girl but don’t necessarily make you one.

  36. blf says

    Giliell@42, That sounds somewhat familiar: A very good friend of mine — a self-admitted “tomboy” (no idea if she dislikes the word or not) &msash; only started sometimes wearing an earring, a very petite / discreet one, after University and working for years as a professional and manager, once she got a bit tired of sometimes being misgendered. To this day, she intensely dislikes wearing dresses, and as far as I know, does not own any high-heeled or other impractical shoes. (She’s also quite open about all this, and I have her permission to use her as an example — anonymously, of course — in discussions similar to this one.)

  37. says

    Giliell @#42

    Funny enough, my childhood experience was more or less the opposite: I was a “tomboy” (I hate this word, since it implies I wasn’t a girl correctly just because I climbed trees) and I loved getting earrings because finally I didn’t get misgendered anymore.

    I never thought about the word “tomboy” this way, but it makes perfect sense. Of course there is no “correct” way how to be male or female. I never thought about it this way, because I was never a girl, either “correctly” or “incorrectly,” instead I was a very confused boy who had no clue how to reconcile his aesthetic preferences with society’s norms. But yes, it makes sense for cis women who happen to like some stereotypically “masculine” things.

    I’m not using testosterone, and without it I just cannot pass for a man. It doesn’t matter that I flatten my chest, it doesn’t matter that I try to get my voice as low as possible while speaking. My hips are still too damn wide, my voice is still too damn high. And people just keep on referring to me with female pronouns. I’m not blaming others for this. I am not delusional, and I can understand the physical facts about how my body looks like. But getting misgendered and treated as a woman still feels saddening and frustrating.

    I actually watched with quite some concern as the world kept exercising more and more pressure on my daughters to conform to certain gender expectations and stereotypes, but I also promised myself NOT to shame them for being girly.

    I will never have children, so I can only talk about the kind of world in which I would have liked to grow up: more gender neutral options for clothes/toys/hairstyles. No peer pressure to pick the option that corresponds your anatomical sex. No social isolation and bullying for children who make any minority choices.

    I went to a kindergarten when I was five and six years old. There were about 20 children, a mixed gender group. Most of the play time we spent in a large room. In one corner of that room were placed all the girl toys. In the diagonally opposite corner were placed all the boy toys. Girls always played in their play corner, boys always played in their corner. On one occasion a single boy entered the girl play corner. All the girls encircled him and started harassing him until he was finally forced to leave. The kindergarten teacher didn’t stop the bullying, she didn’t defend the boy. Personally, I was nowhere near as brave as that boy. I knew that entering the boy play corner was forbidden. I knew that I’m not allowed to approach even the several meters of space around it. I knew that touching boy toys was forbidden. I never did that in kindergarten.

    When I was 10 years old, I got my first boy toy, a plastic toy sword. Simply entering the toy store and buying this toy was a nerve wrecking experience for me. Afterwards I played with that sword only at home, alone in my room. My mother never found out that I owned a toy sword. Nobody found out.

    I started behaving in more masculine ways when I was between 10 and 12. At the same time I also lost all the female friends I had had until then. When I was between 11 and 16, I didn’t have a single friend. I only talked with adults, but they weren’t exactly friends. At school I couldn’t befriend girls who were all different from me. I couldn’t even try to befriend boys, because they pushed me away (in my class girls were friends with girls and boys were friends with other boys). My social isolation fixed itself when I was about 16. At that time I was finally old enough to be able to befriend adult men. The friends I made after my years of social isolation were all men, between 5 and 15 years older than me.

    The strict policing of gender norms hurt me a lot, and I would have preferred to grow up in a different world. Children themselves were the ones who did most of the gender policing. Adults established a world in which boys and girls live differently, and children strictly enforced in among their peers. Only in their late teens the former children finally realized that gender norms are stupid and that it’s actually acceptable to be friends with that weirdo who cannot properly behave like a girl.

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