Feminism and male circumcision

I recently had a baby boy (my second) and of course the topic of circumcision came up. I educated myself on circumcision and how it is totally medically unnecessary to circumcise a healthy baby’s penis and felt that doing so would pretty much amount to mutilating him for no other reason than because everybody else is doing it too. Unfortunately when I made up my mind about it, it was already too late. He was getting circumcised at that doctor’s appointment.
My husband reported that our son seemed fine- that although we were told they wouldn’t use pain relief he believes they did because he seems a-ok. That was until the first diaper change..and every diaper change after that for the next four days when my baby would shake and scream in pain. Fast forward to three weeks later and he needs to be re-circumcised, the first circumcision actually made it medically necessary to circumcise him-again. I felt awful. We had no way of knowing how this child would feel about some of his most private parts being sliced and diced all in the name of conformity- something we as his parents would have to deal with for several diaper changes and cranky nights while he’d have permanently changed genitals the rest of his life. Something he had absolutely NO say in.
When I joined facebook, I also joined something called “circle of moms” and circumcision is a hot topic today. One mom actually posted a video of a newborn being circumcised and contrary to what many people believe its routine to NOT give any pain relief. This baby gave a scream that made me cry, the video is about 5 minutes worth of cutting, pinching and tearing at his penis and foreskin which obviously has a motherload of nerve endings because the child is shaking and screaming in pain. That video and the comment of some of the mothers who say circumcision is best because girls preferred circumcised penises and other boys will tease him reminds me of a video I watched in college that said the SAME thing about female genital mutilation.
What if we saw a video of a little girl’s clitoral hood being removed without pain relief that took 5 minutes. What if we were told by her parents that its better to do this because its cleaner (as if washing it isn’t good enough) it looks better (as if her genitals in its natural form are ugly and needs to be cut away to be more pleasing) and that she’s too young to ever remember the pain so why waste money on pain relief (as if her pain is somehow negligible because its such a wonderful trade-off that she is forced to conform.)
I am now firmly on the side against circumcision and only wish I had actually looked deeper into this before my sons were circumcised. I honestly went along with the crowd on it and thought it was just one of things you do to your sons, get them circumcised.
If one of our rallying cries is bodily autonomy and we’d raise all hell when AAP briefly decided to allow “nicking” of female newborn genitals, does being against male circumcision become a feminist issue on the grounds of bodily autonomy or is it the universal right of a parent to SONS to do with their child’s genitals as they please?

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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