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The Cruelest Cut

Tom Morton's review in the Australian Review of Public Affairs of Richard A. Shweder's "Why Do Men Barbecue? Recipes for Cultural Psychology" focuses almost entirely on Morton's dismay at Shweder's apparent support for female genital mutiliation under certain circumstances, most particularly in cases where the practice is culturally approved and determined.

Part of Shweder's case is that boys are regularly circumsized and therefore it is a form of cultural hypocrisy for liberals to oppose a similar operation for girls. He is saying in effect, because we allow this disgusting and degrading practice for males we shoud be happy to extend the privilege to females. Ooops, I guess I let my prejudices show there.

crying20babyI am firmly opposed to the practice of infant genital mutilation for non-medical purposes, regardless of sex. It is simply disgraceful that we allow this practice (on boys) to be widespread and for it to receive government approval. It is worth noting the position of the American Academy of Pediatricians, supported by the American Medical Association: “There is no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the newborn.” I am certainly not opposed to circumcision itself: I believe that any adult person has the right to do anything to their bodies that they choose. But no adult person has the right to mutilate an infant that, by definition, has no ability to consent or reject.

And don't give me that old "religious freedom" garbage! We don't allow polygamy, even though that is sanctioned by several religions. We have taken steps to stop corporal punishment even when that was being applied under the guise of religious teaching. There is no doubt in my mind that we would disallow the cutting off of a baby's finger, say, even if the family's religion called for it to be given as a sacrament. And yet we still allow men to cut the ends off the penises of little boys in an act of vindictive savagery.

It is nothing but hypocrisy for us to challenge the right of African tribalists to maintain their rituals while we ourselves are using a knife on the sex of hundreds of thousands of children every year. Both sets of practices, when performed by adults on children, represent fascism at the deepest and most fundamental level. And both sets of practices should be banned immediately.

June 11, 2004 in Circumcision | Permalink


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Keep in mind, too, that the types of genital mutilation practised on girls are generally much more severe and debilitating than circumcision is for boys. I agree that circumcision is pointless, but it is a whole order of magnitude less nasty than what happens to many girls around the globe.

Posted by: Derek | Aug 16, 2004 1:42:32 AM

A concise statement that should be recommended to prospective parents who remain in doubt regarding this barbarism. Unfortunately, my experience is that Americans are likely to go on doing this out of unthinking, blind, robotlike compliance with what started as a "cure" for masturbation--and has now snowballed into an "everybody's doing it" "hygenic" measure!

Nothing should ever take precedence over the consideration parents should have to preserve the respective, individual autonomies of their own children; for goodness sake, let them be the ONLY ones who can decide if their genitals need alteration and their psyches can withstand the trauma of such an early and pointless amputation!!!

Posted by: John Little | Apr 1, 2006 5:30:47 PM

I realize I am responding rather late to John Little's comments posted above, but he should receive a STANDING OVATION! He has provided the perforect definition for RIC (Routine Infant Circumcision) -- it is "TRAUMA" brought about by an "early and pointeless amputation!" What he might have added is that the infant foreskin is NOT a "useless appendage" -- it is the most sensitive, most enjoyable part of the most important organ distinguishing a male neonate.
KUDOS AND CHEERS, John Little, your observations are very BIG, indeed!

Posted by: R.L. Stewart | Jul 17, 2006 11:01:39 AM