Circumcision is probably everyone’s favorite topic ever, because no discussion could be more comfortable or less personal. And no one on either side of the circumcision debate has any strong feelings on the matter.
I am, specifically, referring to male circumcision. Even more specifically, to the circumcision of male infants and of young male children. I think that only really weird people care if a twenty-year-old man gets himself circumcised and they aren’t sleeping with him.
I’m not going to debate female genital mutilation for the same reason that I don’t like to debate rape or whaling or the hitting of children. I can disagree with people about gun control or the death penalty or even abortion rights without absolutely losing it. The other things that I have mentioned are agree or die sorts of conversations. I can hold an opinion without the possibility of exception or compromise on abortion rights (which I do) while still understanding that there are people out there with radically different views than my own. I can even respect these people.
So let’s get one thing straight: male circumcision and female genital mutilation are not, in any universe, comparable. They are both surgical modifications to the genitals, often performed without any regard for the wishes of the young person on the receiving end. Both create permanent changes to to one’s sex organs. But only one is a grotesque mutilation with no religious basis that leaves so many of its victims with horrific psychological scars as well as dramatic physical scars. Only one is culturally designed to rob its victim of her power and the simplest physical symbol of her independence as a living being.
The circumcision of infant male children is a part of Jewish religious tradition, and young Muslim boys are also supposed …