empowered women choose not to circumcise
by aubrey taylor
What on earth does circumcision have to do with being an empowered
answer isn’t obvious. The two issues seem worlds apart, one
having to do with an infant’s foreskin, and the other: you.
Some of us seeking personal strength and empowerment in our lives
may never have children, some already have, but the fact is that knowing
the truth is empowering for any woman, or any man. How many times
have I heard something similar to “If I had known, I never would
have let them do it.” This statement is often times made, unfortunately,
by the mothers of boys who have had complications, which sometimes
need additional surgery to correct. Having the truth about circumcision
can only lead to an empowered decision, should the occasion arise,
or having an empowered position in your community. However, knowing
why an empowered woman would choose not to circumcise goes beyond
simple education, and into our strengths and weaknesses; and to see
it we must examine also why nowadays we circumcise in the first place,
even in the face of the truth.
let’s start with the truth. Circumcision is unnecessary. You
may be thinking “But they’ve been doing it for so long,
and I’ve always heard that it’s cleaner.” The medical
documents regarding circumcision in the United States date back to
the late 1800’s and quote well-respected doctors saying that
circumcision would, among many things, end masturbation and even cure
hygiene issue wasn’t brought up until after those ideas were
realized as false, or as a sort of afterthought. No one had, at that
time, ever studied the foreskin, and claiming that it’s cleaner
not to have it, is like claiming that it’s cleaner to remove
your fingernails so that dirt cannot collect under them. As far as
I know, fingers come into more contact with contaminants than the
then, there have been many other excuses that take turns defending
circumcision, and even today medical professionals are still debating
the supposed benefits that include an implication of preventing STDs
and penile cancer. Yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated
since the 1970’s that there is “no valid medical indication
others hold to the old assumed facts. In the face of professionals
making opposite claims one can either study everything there is to
be studied, or resort to common sense: If 85% of the world has natural
genitals, and they don’t end up needing modification, perhaps
what’s natural is safe. After all, women have many more folds
of skin “down there” and we seem to do OK. Even in the
face of an infection or other problems, the solution is NEVER amputation.
There isn’t after all, a single body part that is free from
an occasional problem. We don’t cut off our toes to prevent
getting an ingrown toenail!
is also extremely painful and inflicts damage; that’s what they
WON’T tell you. The foreskin in infancy is attached to the head
of the penis with a membrane called synechia that is similar to the
membrane attaching your fingernail to your finger. The foreskin must
therefore be torn from the head of the penis before it can be amputated.
This would be like shoving a blunt metal probe under your fingernail.
complications of circumcision arise from the risk of taking too much
skin or accidentally cutting off other structures like shaft tissue
or the glans (penis head), there’s a risk of infection and hemorrhage,
as well as issues arising after the circumcision like skin bridges
and chordee (bent penis). There have been many unfortunate instances
where the infant suffers a loss of the entire penis or even death.
it isn’t well known, the foreskin is an essential part of the
penis. The foreskin of an infant protects the glans from abrasion,
and contains a tight ring of tissue at the end that keeps fecal matter
and other debris from coming in contact with the urethral opening.
Later in life, after the glans and foreskin separate, the gliding
motion of the foreskin aids in smooth sexual intercourse. The average
foreskin is also innervated with 10 to 20 thousand sexually responsive
we must consider the moral implications of removing a part of someone’s
genitals by force. Whose body is it? Who should decide? Who has the
right to remove a part of your genitals without asking? No one? Well,
how nice for you. In the United States, female minors are protected
from any kind of genital cutting by federal law, regardless of race
or religion. According to the 14th amendment, everyone deserves equal
protection under the law regardless of race, religion or SEX.
women in the United States have no experience with an intact penis.
There is an underlying belief that it’s ‘gross’
or ‘dirty’. We generally don’t know that it has
a function, and are told that circumcision is a good thing. Even as
knowledge that circumcision isn’t medically necessary spreads
and becomes more commonplace, we are still circumcising. Why? As a
woman it is our instinct and our conscious desire to protect our children
from any harm. Aside from our ignorance about the subject, what could
be so strong that it is able to override this natural tendency? The
reasons are the things that hold us down in other situations: the
pressure to socially conform, avoiding conflict by allowing denial,
and the inability to assert ourselves.
need to be “normal” is a natural human instinct. That’s
why teasing and ostracism are so effective. No one wants to feel like
they’ve stepped over the boundaries of taboo. For many women,
being seen as different is an unacceptable risk and she will conform
to the perceived ‘norm’ to avoid it. Society used to punish
those who were different with very severe consequences including death.
Living in a more sophisticated and civilized society we no longer
face anything as extreme as physical harm for stepping out of the
norm, but the weight of social expectation is still too much for some
women to handle. “That’s not the American way”,
“He’ll be the only boy on the block”, “My
parents won’t agree” or “I don’t want to be
different” are things that she may worry about. It takes a confident
and empowered woman to let go of any concerns about what others will
think, or the desire to be like everyone else, in favor of doing what’s
right. In fact, in these changing times the rate of circumcision is
as low as 30% on the west coast, and possibly only 60% nationwide
and dropping. Worrying about being different is becoming less of an
issue for women and young boys. Not to mention that most of the world
does not routinely circumcise male infants. Boys are more likely to
face teasing from peers about things that are obvious at first sight,
like clothes, or weight, and we accept this as a normal part of growing
A good way to avoid thinking about an uncomfortable topic, or having
to make a tough decision is to simply ignore it, or believe something
that allows you to dismiss it. This is generally something common
with people who are stuck in a negative situation that cannot be changed,
so that they don’t have to feel bad. Women who have already
had their son circumcised would have to admit they were wrong if they
accepted that circumcision is damaging or unnecessary. This plays
a large role in circumcisions’ perpetuation. We don’t
want to admit that we could have hurt our children, so we may even
take it as far, in our subconscious defense, as insisting that it’s
necessary and that it continue to prove we were right.
those with the decision still in front of them, it may be easier to
simply believe what we’ve always heard, and skip the argument
altogether. Many simply don’t want to know the truth, because
it would complicate their situation. Accepting myth at face value
and denying yourself knowledge is like locking your own chains. It
is allowing someone else to make your decisions for you. Being empowered
means having the strength and the courage to stand against oppression,
even if it comes from inside your own self. Refusing to deny is a
difficult quality to obtain, because the one you’re fighting
a baby boy is born, or sometime before, a woman is faced with the
question “will the baby be circumcised?” She must then
deal with many pressures. If the baby’s father was circumcised,
he may want the same for the child. Because it is an issue concerning
the penis, a woman may feel that the decision isn’t hers to
make, and even though she may not want to allow it, she will defer
to the father. Perhaps the doctor has said that it is necessary. In
the United States we trust that our doctors know all and are infallible.
It may seem rude or insulting to go against what her doctor has suggested.
Who supposes to know more than a doctor?
a woman’s faith may be questioned if circumcision is perceived
as a religious necessity. She doesn’t want to appear as though
she is going against her religion. All of these pressures may make
a woman feel as though it’s not her place to interfere with
the issue of circumcision, and she finds it difficult to assert herself
feeling less than empowered. However, a mothers’ first job is
to protect, because infants cannot speak for themselves, so circumcision
most certainly is her business. Taking a stand against your mate,
doctor, or religious peers is without a doubt a challenge. Again it
takes a woman with strength and courage to overcome such situations.
empowered woman is educated, refuses to believe myth, is strong, moral,
and she stands up for herself and the defenseless; it takes all of
these things to say no to circumcision. For those empowered women
who aren’t faced with making this particular decision, they
will have the same qualities: refuse to continue to be a catalyst
for the perpetuation of a harmful practice against the defenseless.
& further information:
Harvey Kellog, Treatment for Self-Abuse and Its Effects, Plain Facts
for Old and Young, Burlington, Iowa: P. Segner & Co. 1888, p.
MD. Importance of Circumcision. Medical World,Vol. 20 (1902): pp.518-519.
Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Fetus and Newborn. Standards and
Recommendation for Hospital Care of Newborn Infants. 5th ed. Evanston,
IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1971:110.
AAPs’ most recent circumcision policy statement, visit aap.org
Deibert GA. The separation of the prepuce in the human penis. Anat
comprehensive list of articles documenting circumcision risks and
damage, visit cirp.org/library/complications
Doctors Re-examine Circumcision by Thomas J. Ritter, M.D. and George
C. Denniston, M.D. 2002
C, Taylor, J, “The Prepuce,” BJU International 83, Suppl.
1, (1999): 34-44.
Nature Intended It by Kristen O’Hara with Jeffrey O’Hara.