For centuries, the act of circumcision has been woven into the fabric of various cultures as a rite of passage, a religious edict, or a perceived medical necessity. Suppose you take a closer look at its history. In that case, it becomes evident that this practice, which involves the surgical removal of the foreskin from the male penis, has evolved in its justifications over time. Yet, as with many age-old customs, we are starting to witness this practice challenged on a larger scale. Today, more than ever, the debate around circumcision is not merely about its historical significance but also about the influential figures and authorities who fervently advocate for it. This article will explore the voices behind the push for circumcision and how to combat them to keep your child intact.
Authority Figures and Groups That Will Pressure You to Circumcise
1) Medical Professionals
Historically, the medical community has been a significant proponent of circumcision. For many decades, medical professionals in various parts of the world, but especially in the United States, have recommended circumcision, emphasizing a blend of historical precedence and alleged health benefits. Traditionally, these perceived advantages ranged from hygienic reasons to preventing various infections and diseases.
Yet, underlying these medical endorsements, there are roots in historical and cultural biases. In the 19th century, for instance, circumcision was recommended as a preventative measure against masturbation, which was wrongly believed to lead to a long list of physical and psychological ailments. Over time, as this belief was debunked, the medical community shifted its focus to other potential benefits, such as a reduced risk of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and the transmission of certain sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
These claims have been almost entirely disproven, and any risk has been revealed as statistically insignificant. Numerous studies have shown that, with proper hygiene and safe sexual practices, the medical benefits of circumcision do not outweigh the risks. Moreover, the ethical concerns associated with performing a non-consensual procedure on an infant have been brought to the forefront of the debate. If you find yourself in a position where a medical professional is advocating for circumcision, it’s crucial to be informed and prepared to discuss the topic. Here are some ways to approach this conversation:
- Seek Clarification: Politely ask the doctor to elaborate on the specific medical reasons they believe circumcision is necessary for your child.
- Present Counter-Evidence: If you’ve done your research, share studies or medical opinions that challenge the traditional stance on circumcision. The medical community is vast, and views on this subject vary.
- Ask About Alternatives: If the reasoning is centered on hygiene or the prevention of infections, ask about alternative methods to achieve the same results without resorting to surgery.
- Express Your Ethical Concerns: It’s okay to discuss the ethical implications of circumcision, emphasizing the child’s lack of consent and potential long-term consequences. This will help you be more than capable of protecting your son from circumcision.
- Seek a Second Opinion: If you’re feeling pressured or unsure, there’s no harm in consulting another medical professional to get a broader perspective on the issue. Always be firm, and remember, you can say “no.”
2) Religious Leaders
Various religions, including Judaism and Islam, have practiced ritual circumcision for millennia. In Judaism, the “brit milah” (covenant of circumcision) is performed on the eighth day of a male infant’s life, signifying the child’s entrance into the covenant between God and the Jewish people. Similarly, in Islam, circumcision is viewed as an act of cleanliness, often linked to the Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) covenant with God. However, there are alternatives to physical circumcision that can keep your son intact and still align with your religion. We’ve examined several of them in our article, Circumcision in The Bible if you want to learn more.
Many religious followers are wrestling with the intersection of ancient traditions and contemporary ethical and medical considerations. If you’re among those questioning the religious imperative of circumcision within your faith community, here are some strategies to consider:
- Educate Yourself on Religious Texts: Delve into your religious scriptures and teachings to understand the origins and significance of circumcision within your faith. Understanding the scriptural basis can provide a foundation for your conversations.
- Seek Progressive Voices within Your Faith: Some progressive voices or subgroups might hold different views on traditional practices in many religions. Connect with such groups or individuals who offer alternative perspectives or interpretations.
- Explore Ritual Alternatives: Some faith-based communities have started embracing symbolic ceremonies that honor the essence of the ritual without involving the physical act of circumcision. Research and propose such alternatives within your community.
- Engage in Community Discussions: Foster an environment where members of your faith community can openly discuss the dangers and cons of circumcision, sharing personal experiences, medical evidence, and ethical considerations.
3) Family Members
The familial unit often carries its own beliefs and traditions, steeped in generations of practice and unspoken expectations. Circumcision, for many families, is one such tradition—a ritual passed down from fathers to sons, grandfathers to grandsons.
Consequently, the decision to break away from this tradition can lead to familial tension, especially when older generations view circumcision as an unquestionable norm. Here are strategies to approach and discuss your anti-circumcision, pro-intact stance with family members:
- Empathy First: Understand that for many older family members, circumcision is deeply intertwined with their cultural, religious, or personal beliefs. However, in the end, you have to be firm to protect your child and keep your son intact.
- Share Personal Research: Provide well-researched information on the risks, dangers, and concerns surrounding circumcision.
- Personalize the Discussion: Sharing your reasons and feelings can often be more effective than cold facts. Express your concerns, fears, and hopes for your child’s well-being. Help them see the issue through your eyes.
- Find Common Ground: Establish shared values and concerns. For instance, you and your family want the best for your child. Use this as a starting point for the discussion.
- Stay Calm and Avoid Confrontation: Heated arguments rarely lead to understanding. Even if faced with resistance, try to keep the conversation calm, respectful, and constructive.
- Seek Support: If there are family members who share your views or are open-minded, engage them in the conversation. They can offer support and provide a different voice that resonates with the older generation.
- Agree to Disagree: There might be instances where no amount of discussion will change deeply entrenched beliefs. In such cases, it’s essential to set boundaries respectfully and make choices that align with your convictions, even if they diverge from family traditions.
4) Mainstream Media
In the internet age, information is abundant but not consistently accurate. The topic of circumcision, too, is not immune to skewed representations, particularly in mainstream media. From movies that trivialize the procedure to news articles that selectively highlight purported “benefits” without providing a holistic view, misinformation is rife. This portrayal often serves to perpetuate the normalization of circumcision, obscuring the controversies and concerns surrounding the practice.
Here’s how to approach the media’s representation of circumcision and discern reliable information from biased narratives:
- Recognize Stereotyping: Media, especially entertainment, often resorts to stereotypes. A circumcised penis might be presented as the “norm” or more “clean,” further perpetuating misconceptions. Recognize these instances for what they are: fictional representations and not factual endorsements.
- Look Beyond Headlines: Sensational headlines are designed to grab attention, not to inform. Delve deeper into the article or news piece to understand the nuances of the discussed topic.
- Diversify Your Sources: Relying on a single source or type of media can provide a narrow view of the subject. Expand your horizons by seeking information from both mainstream and alternative outlets.
- Check for Citations: Reliable articles or news stories cite studies, experts, or research. Take the time to verify these sources independently to ensure they are credible.
- Beware of Confirmation Bias: Media consumers often gravitate towards news and information that aligns with our beliefs. However, it’s crucial to challenge ourselves and seek diverse viewpoints to understand the topic comprehensively.
- Educate and Share: As you gather accurate information and insights, consider sharing them within your network. Counteracting misinformation begins with informed individuals taking the lead.
The Path to Informed Decision-Making
In a world of conflicting viewpoints and powerful voices vying for your attention, it is essential to ground oneself in well-researched, unbiased knowledge, especially on topics as personal, significant, and life-changing as circumcision. Being informed provides clarity and equips parents with the tools to confidently navigate external pressures and make choices that align with their child’s values and best interests.
The advantages of being well-informed are manifold:
- Confidence in Decision-Making: Understanding the intricacies of circumcision, its history, the dangers of circumcision, and the surgical risks of circumcision gives parents the confidence to make decisions free from external pressures or emotional manipulation.
- Ability to Engage in Constructive Dialogue: When confronted with strong opinions, being knowledgeable allows parents to engage in productive conversations, provide counterarguments, and potentially enlighten others about their findings.
- Emotional Preparedness: Making decisions about circumcision can be emotional. Being informed allows parents to feel a sense of peace with their choices, knowing they acted based on sound knowledge rather than fleeting emotions or pressure.
- Protection Against Manipulation: An informed individual is less susceptible to being swayed by misleading narratives or biased information.
To learn more about how to protect your child from circumcision, take a look at Georganne Chapin’s memoir, This Penis Business. Besides highlighting the path that led to her becoming executive director of Intact America and a leader in the intactivist movement, Chapin clarifies the commercial and historical motivations behind circumcision while highlighting its lasting physical, sexual, and psychological repercussions. Revealing shocking practices like the commercial repurposing of foreskins and the pressures placed upon expectant mothers, this book serves as a powerful wake-up call, challenging readers to question and confront the enduring impacts of the multi-billion-dollar circumcision industry.