Thursday, February 28, 2019

Poetry Corner - Circumcision Scar

This is the fifth in a series of poems and song parodies that I wrote for a contest that centered around male infant circumcision. The contest encouraged original songs and poems, as well as parodies of other works. For my last Poetry Corner entry, I posted an original poem, trying to encapsulate the feeling of helplessness that I feel at not being able to do anything to stop the mutilation and abuse of children unable to fend for themselves.

This time, I'm posting a poem, inspired by the melody of the Japanese children's song, "Akatonbo."

The word "akatonbo" means "red dragon flies" in Japanese, and in this song, they serve as a reminder of the singer's long-lost childhood.

When I first heard this song, I thought the melody was rather sad, as if looking back at a traumatic memory wishing it would have been different. I had to find out what the lyrics were, and sure enough, they reflected the melody perfectly.

Here are the original Japanese lyrics in both Japanese script and English translation:





Red dragonflies
Red dragonflies
In the red sunset
When was it that
I watched them
On someone's back last?

In mountain fields
We gathered mulberries
In small baskets
Or was it just
An illusion?

At fifteen
My big sister left home
To get married
Her letters have
Long since ceased to come

Red dragonflies
In the red sunset
Look, one has stopped there
On the tip
Of a bamboo pole

Having seen what the song was about, I was inspired to write lyrics that may reflect what a grown man who resents having been circumcised might feel now that he is older, aware of what has happened to him, and unable to change the past. Rather than reflect the Japanese translation, I wrote them to fit the rhythm of the original song. In my version of the song, a circumcision scar replaces the dragonflies, both serving the same function of taking the singer back to a time when things were different.

Circumcision Scar
Back when I was in my mother's womb,
Back when I was born
Intact and whole,
There at her breast I'd suckle
Mindless of what was to come

Sleeping blissfully rocked in her arms
Long ago it seems
Oh that life
Had been that way forever
Was it only just a dream?

Then a stranger took me from her breast
Oh so suddenly
Behind closed doors
There on a table
Men with scalpels had their way with me

Time has passed, I've yet to understand
Now that I am grown
Now when I see
My circumcision scar
Tears are always sure to come.

"How can you remember?" ask those who wish to belittle a resentful man's feelings.

An intactivist friend of mine once said something along the lines of:

"A circumcised man is reminded of his circumcision every time he urinates, showers, masturbates or makes love. The question is, how could he forget?"

Even if you can't remember, even if you don't; the scar is there day in and day out to remind you, for the rest of your life.

Related Posts:
Poetry Corner - Song Parody: "My Foreskin Home"

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Poetry Corner - Lullaby For the Damned

This is the fourth in a series of poems and song parodies that I wrote for a contest that centered around male infant circumcision. The contest encouraged original songs and poems, as well as parodies of other works. For my last Poetry Corner entry, I posted a song parody based on a song called "Greenfields" by an older American folk-singing group called "The Brothers Four;" and an explanation as to why I chose this song.

This time around I'm posting an original poem I wrote, called "Lullaby for the Damned."

When I wrote this poem, I wrote it from a feeling of helplessness, powerlessness; first, for the child, who is in an unescapable predicament, and second from me as an onlooker unable to do anything about it.

This is how I felt the first time I ever saw a video of an infant circumcision, with a poor child strapped down to a cutting-board, unable to move, unable to escape, and this is how I continue to feel today.

Short of getting on my knees and begging parents not to put their child through this, short of beseeching doctors to adhere to that dictum of medicine, "First do no harm," what else can I do?


And what else can a child do?

They say that victims of abuse, whether it be sexual, emotional or physical, have a coping mechanism to deal with the pain. As a way to escape what's going on, the victim will imagine him or herself outside of his or her body, in order to detach themselves from what's going on; they imagine their souls escaping their bodies and that they are floating above the room as they look down and watch what's going on. This coping mechanism is known as "dissociation."

Witnesses of male infant circumcision report that as the child's penis is being filleted, the child lets out shrieks and screams unlike any other cries they've heard. The child often blows his lungs out, unable to scream any more, and eventually passes out. He goes into a state of "shock," often called "sleeping" by unsympathetic doctors. What is happening is that, this is how the child is coping with what is going on; this is their escape.

What are doctors thinking as they do this?

Are they actually there, in the moment?

Or have the souls of the doctors too left the very room?

In order to escape the shrieks and screams?

Or in the case of male doctors, away coping with that same familiar pain they experienced decades ago?

As they crush and dice, are they reliving the whole thing?

Trying to get away still?

Is cutting other children a continued attempt to escape that which, for the rest of their lives, will haunt them whenever they urinate, masturbate, take a shower or have sex?

As I stand there, helpless, powerless, all I can do is say this prayer in my head...

Lullaby for the Damned
By Joseph Lewis

Sleep on, oh little one,
And pray that you don't wake.
Escape the tethered body
That a knife will soon come rake.

Drift away to slumberland,
Your struggle is in vain.
Only there can you be safe,
and never know the pain.

Related Posts:

Poetry Corner - Song Parody: "My Foreskin Home"

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Circumcision Documentary Twitter Storm Continues

Almost as soon as the circumcision documentary American Circumcision was featured on Netflix, the film moved onto the "Popular on Netflix" category, prompting a Twitterstorm which continues today.

People's reaction tweets are being posted every day, and the reactions range from "eye-opening" and "informative" to "dumb" and "horrible." When challenging the status quo, it's to be expected that there is going to be backlash, that's why negative reactions aren't too surprising.

The negative responses are what people would expect; there is no shortage of people defending their "parental choice," tired attempts at male infant circumcision humor, body shaming men with anatomically correct male genitals and accusations of "one-sidedness" and "anti-semitism."

Still, in spite of nay-saying Twitter users, the responses to the film on Twitter have been overwhelmingly positive and favorable. Dissenters may try and minimize the film, but the fact is that the film did win three awards, and, for better or for worse, it is trending on Netflix, and like it or not, people are talking about it. The ongoing tweetstorm and the effect this film is already having on Americans is simply undeniable. Readers can check out tweet responses to American Circumcision on their timeline shared below. (Scroll to the bottom of this post.)

Some have responded with the effect of "I started watching it but I had to turn it off because it was ridiculous." Or "I don't see what the big deal is."

At this point, Americans watching the film have got two choices; acknowledge the truth, or keep denying while the rest of the country wakes up. They have the option to turn off the video and watch something else. People can only hide from the truth and feign ignorance for so long though.

You can lead a man to knowledge but you can't make him think.

"Three things cannot be long hidden the sun the moon and the truth."~Attributed to the Buddha
"After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more"
~Morpheus, The Matrix

Where is American Circumcision available for viewing?
In addition to Netflix, American Circumcision is also available at iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, YouTube, Vudu, Vimeo, Microsoft, Barnes & Noble, Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Comcast, Spectrum, DirectTV, Dish Network, Verizon FIOS, Frontier, SuddenLink, Media com, Wow, EastlinkTV, Shaw, Telus, Bakers & Taylor, Alliance Entertainment and Midwest Tape.

If you haven't already, watch the film and post your own reaction @circmovie on Twitter!

Relevant Posts:
Circumcision Documentary Making Waves on Netflix, Twitter

American Circumcision: A Reaction to a Documentary on Circumcision in America

"American Circumcision" Wins Best Documentary Film Award at the Lone Star Film Festival

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Circumcision Documentary Making Waves on Netflix, Twitter

Since its release, the circumcision documentary film "American Circumcision" has been causing a stir. Not only has this film appeared in the Lone Star Film Festival, Social Justice Film Festival and the Outer Docs Film Festival, it has also received awards in all three festivals. It received the Best Documentary award at the Lone Star Film Festival and the Silver Jury Prize at the Social Justice Film Festival last year, and received the Best Documentary Feature at the Outer Docs Film Festival this year.


The film is making new waves. The film has only just been released on Netflix a few days ago, and it's already causing a Twitterstorm. It has been endorsed by organizations such as APPAH and blogs such as Towleroad.

It has only been the second day since its debut on Netflix, and it's ALREADY moved into the "Popular on Netflix" category.

Tweets of people's reactions are pouring in, and they range from complete "I never knew!" moments, to expected reactions from people who "don't see what the big deal is." (But thought it important enough to tweet about anyway.)

I don't want to post any on here that will result in having those comments removed, thus resulting in an empty space on my blog, so I'll let Twitter users verify for themselves. Just follow the film's Twitter account @circmovie and read the reactions for yourself.

The Netflix version of the film apparently blurs out the parts of the procedure shown, which should tell people something about it. Female circumcision is supposed to be "worse" than male infant circumcision as people in the West would like to imagine it, yet Netflix found male infant circumcision to be grotesque enough to warrant having it blurred out. Perhaps it's not the "little snip" people would like to believe it is after all.

In addition to Netflix, American Circumcision is also available at iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, YouTube, Vudu, Vimeo, Microsoft, Barnes & Noble, Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Comcast, Spectrum, DirectTV, Dish Network, Verizon FIOS, Frontier, SuddenLink, Media com, Wow, EastlinkTV, Shaw, Telus, Bakers & Taylor, Alliance Entertainment and Midwest Tape.

 However you might feel about the procedure, one thing is for sure; cat's out of the bag. Male infant circumcision is no longer the taboo subject it once was. The conversation is happening, so you might as well become aware and informed on the topic. American Circumcision is a good start.

Related Posts:
American Circumcision: A Reaction to a Documentary on Circumcision in America

"American Circumcision" Wins Best Documentary Film Award at the Lone Star Film Festival

External Links:
Official American Circumcision Film Website

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

DETROIT: Federal Ban on FGM Declared Unconstitutional

Intactivists had been watching this case closely. We knew that what was riding on this case, what the possible outcomes, and what their implications were. We knew that whatever the outcome would be, it would be a landmark decision, and progress in the fight for basic human rights.

A year ago on June 2, 2017, I asked the question:

How far can "religious freedom" and "parental choice" justify the needless cutting of flesh in healthy, non-consenting minors?
This was it; the one case that would finally address this question.

Either "religious freedom" and "parental choice" could be used to justify the needless cutting of flesh in healthy, non-consenting minors, or it could not.

You cannot have it both ways.

In March, 2017, one Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was charged with performing female genital cutting on two girls from Minnesota on February 3rd, 2017, at a Livonia clinic owned by one Dr. Fakhruddin Attar. She had been doing this for 12 years, and if found guilty, would have faced life in prison for violating the Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996.

This was, unless, the doctor could prove that what she did wasn't "mutilation," but "benign religious procedure," which she and her defense lawyers were already trying to allege, or unless the federal ban could somehow be thwarted, since, under the ban, all cutting of female genitals, great or small, constitutes "mutilation."

The outcome of this case would have far-reaching implications, particularly in the case of another alleged "benign religious procedure."

Readers know what I'm talking about; male infant genital cutting.

Who was on the case, and why would it matter?
Who the doctor's defense lawyers were is important to note because it would appear that they had personal stake in the matter.

Famed constitutional law scholar and attorney Alan Dershowitz and prominent Birmingham defense attorney Mayer Morganroth were hired by Dawat-e-Hadiyah, an international religious organization overseeing a small sect of Shia Muslim mosques around the world.

According to Morganroth, they were hired "to protect the people charged and to represent the religious organization."

Morganroth had represented numerous high-profile clients, including ex-Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, auto executive John DeLorean and Jack Kevorkian.

Dershowitz is a retired Harvard Law School professor and lawyer who defended celebrity clients in some of the country's highest profile criminal cases, including O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson and British socialite Claus von Bulow.

Alan Dershowitz is Orthodox Jewish, and Morganroth is a Jewish surname.

This is important because male infant circumcision is seen as divine commandment in Judaism, and it has been a highly contested practice for the past two millennia.

A negative outcome in a case against a physician performing non-medical genital cutting in children at the request of religious parents would mean the legality of Jewish circumcision would be put in question.

Of course, the defense of a client is the duty of any lawyer, but for these lawyers, the outcome would mean a bit more, and so they would see to it that it would result in a favorable one for them.

Religious Freedom or Basic Human Rights?
A year ago, I said that the outcome of this decision would be a landmark decision either way.

On the one hand, upholding the federal ban on FGM would mean a loss for this doctor, and it would mean not only that what she did was illegal, it also meant that the legality of Jewish circumcision would be brought into question.

It would mean that parents couldn't just do abusive things to their children and get away with it under the cloak of "religious freedom."

On the other hand, a landmark win would mean  a win for "religious freedom," and the legality of Jewish circumcision would remain unquestioned.

A year ago, I also warned that such an outcome might result in the Federal FGM Ban of 1996 being struck down, opening the door for other forms of FGM, and possibly other abusive practices, to be legally performed in the US.

Today, we read about the outcome of this case.

History Made
So what was it going to be?

The protection of "religious freedom?"

Or the protection of basic human rights?

For all people?

The powers have decided "religious freedom" must be protected at all costs.

On November 10 of this year (2018), the charges against Dr. Jumana Nagarwala were dismissed, precisely because the judged declared the federal ban against FGM "unconstitutional."

The judge deciding this was none other than US District Judge Bernard Friedman.

US District Judge Bernard Friedman

I must say, with a name like "Friedman," I'm really not surprised.

There is not a doubt in my mind that the unstated reasons the judge ruled this was precisely to protect male infant circumcision.

Intactivists would have wanted the federal ban on female genital mutilation to be struck down on the grounds that it violated the 14th Amendment equal protection clause, but it was struck down on the grounds that genital mutilation is said to lie outside the scope of federally regulated interstate commerce instead. 

But to me, it really doesn't really matter; those who wanted to prevent a legal precedent that would invalidate "religious freedom" and thus place male infant circumcision under scrutiny from occurring, found a way to invalidate the Female Genital Mutilation Act, just as I predicted they would do a year ago.

I have always said, and continue to say this; either religious freedom and parental choice can be used to justified the forced cutting of genitals of children, or it cannot. It can't be had both ways.

The Ramifications of This Decision
I don't know about other intactivists, but I for one, welcome this decision.

Either decision would have been progress for our movement, because either decision would result in questioning "religious freedom" and "parental choice" sooner or later. However, I believe we couldn't have wished for a better outcome.

Had the judge upheld the federal FGM ban, it would have merely prolonged the grace period for male infant circumcision. The fact is that most, including activists against female genital mutilation, would laud the decision as the "correct" one, and life would have continued business as usual.

The fact is that striking the federal ban against FGM down is going to get people's attention; I don't think campaigners against FGM are going to be happy. There is going to be hell to pay.

Perhaps this judge inadvertently gave this conversation a push in the right direction.

The topic of the extent of "religious freedom" and "parental choice" is going to be a lightning rod for conversation.

In the past, activists against FGM and advocates of male infant circumcision alike were able to dismiss the topic "because they're not the same." Still others would hem and haw and hoped that the conversation would just go away.

Dismissing and ignoring is no longer a choice.

Sitting on the fence
is no longer an option.

We intactivists have been saying for years that laws against FGM would not stand unless male infant circumcision were addressed. We were attacked by FGM activists for it. Now, exactly what I and others have predicted has come to pass.

This decision has propelled this topic from its usual position as the elephant in the room, to the forefront of conversation.

It can no longer be said that "male and female are not the same," because thanks to this legal precedent, male and female forced genital cutting are on the same tier.

The firewall between male and female forced genital cutting has been officially knocked down.

Anti-FGM groups will now have a decision to make; either recognize basic human rights for both boys and girls, or watch their movement crash and burn.

The conversation can no longer be dismissed on the grounds that the forced cutting of one sex is more or less "severe" than the other, because that's neither here nor there.

Either "religious freedom" and/or "parental choice" justifies the forced cutting of the genitals of healthy, non-consenting children or it does not.

Ultimately the question is this:

What is more important?
"Religious freedom and/or "parental choice?"

Or basic human rights?

You cannot have it both ways.

We are going to have to choose once and for all which it will be.

What's it going to be, FGM activists?

What's it going to be, world?


Reality is here.

Related Posts:

Politically Correct Research: When Science, Morals and Political Agendas Collide

DETROIT: Woman Doctor Faces Charges For FGM

COURTROOM SHOWDOWN: Religious Freedom on Trial

INTACTIVISTS: Why We Concern Ourselves

Circumcision is Child Abuse: A Picture Essay

External Link:
Detroit Free Press: Judge dismisses female genital mutilation charges in historic case

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Poetry Corner - Song Parody: "My Foreskin Home"

This is the third in a series of poems and song parodies that I wrote for a contest that centered around male infant circumcision. The contest encouraged original songs and poems, as well as parodies of other works. For my last Poetry Corner entry, I posted a haiku and an explanation of its meaning. This time, I'm posting a song parody based on a song called "Greenfields" by an older group called "The Brothers Four."

I suppose it's appropriate to talk about the original song first, as many of my readers will probably not know it. The Brothers Four was an American folk singing group of four men, which had its heyday in the 1950 and 60s. I only became aware of this group relatively recently, through a friend of mine who has an appreciation for American folk music. He is fond of playing various music from the 50s, 60s and 70s in his car, and through him I also came to like music from those eras. It was through my friend that I came to like music by Simon and Garfunkel, the Carpenters, Peter, Paul and Mary and the like.

My friend and I were on a road trip when I first heard this song. When I asked him who the group was, he told me about The Brothers Four. He had a CD with the group's greatest hits. I was hooked. There were other songs on the CD such as "Seven Daffodils" and "Try to Remember." For many reasons, the song "Greenfields" stood out.

Here are the lyrics to the song:
By The Brothers Four

Once there were greenfields
Kissed by the sun
Once there were valleys
Where rivers used to run
Once there were blue skies
With white clouds high above
Once they were part of
An everlasting love
We were the lovers who strolled
Through greenfields.

Greenfields are gone now
Parched by the sun
Gone from the valleys
Where rivers used to run
Gone with the cold wind
That swept in through to my heart
Gone with the lovers
Who let their dreams depart
Where are the greenfields that we
Used to roam.

I'll never know what made you run away
How can I keep searching when dark clouds hide the day
I only know there's nothing here for me
Nothing in this wild world left for me to see.

But I'll keep on waiting
'Til you return
I'll keep on waiting
Until the day you learn
You can't be happy
When your heart's on a roam
You can't be happy
Until you bring it home
Home to the greenfields and me
Once again.

When I first heard "Greenfields," the song gave me a feeling of loneliness, of longing for what was once there. This was reflected in the minor key in which the song was written, as well as the lyrics themselves. I couldn't help but think of circumcision and the feeling a man who resents this unwanted intrusion on his body might feel. The lyrics in the original song also seem to lend themselves to allow me to reference foreskin restoration. I decided to write a parody for the poetry contest.

Here is the song reinterpreted in my parody:

"My Foreskin Home"
Parody by Joseph Lewis

My Foreskin Home
Once there was foreskin
And I was one
Once there was tissue
Where veins and nerves used to run
Once I had a foreskin
I would have been proud of
Once it was part of an everlasting love
I was born perfect when I
Had foreskin

Foreskin is gone now
Shorn by someone
Gone is the tissue
Where veins and nerves used to run
Gone with the cold knife
That cut into my heart
Gone with the doctor
That tore my skin apart
Where is the foreskin my glans
Once called home

I'll never know why it was torn away
How can I keep searching, I'm ridiculed all day
I only know, that it was robbed from me
No one in this world could give it back to me

But I'll keep on stretching
'Til it returns
I'll keep on tugging
Until the day they learn
I can't be happy
While my glans is exposed
I can't be happy
Until my glans is home
Home in the foreskin I had
Once again

I hope you enjoyed it. Please check out past Poetry Corner entries in the links below.

Related Posts:

Poetry Corner - Haiku

Saturday, September 29, 2018

American Circumcision: A Reaction to a Documentary on Circumcision in America

The award-winning documentary on male infant circumcision in America, "American Circumcision," was released last year. Though I kept my finger on the pulse regarding the release of this film, I didn't know it had been completed and even released until I had read that the film actually won the Best Documentary Film Award at the Lone Star Film Festival in November 2017. Up until recently, I hadn't actually seen the film, either. I didn't think I needed to see it, as I've been an intactivist since 1996 or so, and I felt I knew everything I needed to know regarding this complex issue. I finally got a chance to see the film in its entirety, and my assumptions were confirmed, although I was actually rather surprised. In this post, I will give my reaction to it.

The Film Maker, Brendon Marotta, not only covered as many points as he could on this issue; he actually had the courage to interview known male infant circumcision advocates face to face. Knowing what I know about the circumcision advocates he interviewed, I don't know what I would do if I were actually standing face to face with them. Hearing them actually blatantly and deliberately state lies as if they were accepted matter-of-fact, and hearing them deliberately minimize or deny the gravity of what is male infant circumcision, gave me the feeling of wanting to put my hand through the screen and strangle them.

There was nothing new in the film that I didn't already know, but American Circumcision seemed to breathe life into that knowledge. It reignited something in me to watch Brian Morris outright say that intactivists are "causing death all around the world" with total seriousness, to watch Marie Wawer and her partner go on and on about how circumcision is "almost like a vaccine," to watch Edgar Schoen minimize and dismiss men who are angry about their circumcisions, to watch Andrew Freedman deny the religious bias evident in the "convictions to his tribe" he had just finished professing, and yes, to watch and hear video of a baby being circumcised. I wonder what must have gone through Brendon's mind as he filmed the doctor go through the procedure of forcibly mutilating a healthy, non-consenting child's genitals.

I already knew that there were actually people trying to pass off lies as gospel truth on this matter, but it's one thing to know about these things, and it's quite another to actually see these acts on film personified. When I observe someone telling a deliberate lie and I know that what they are telling is demonstrably false, I think one of two things is happening; either the person is idiotic and stupid for actually believing and repeating these blatant lies, or they know that they're lying and are hoping the people they tell lies to are idiotic and stupid.

The situation in America makes me lose faith in science. Deep down in my heart, I want to believe that scientists and researchers out there are interested in finding out the truth. I want to believe that scientists and researchers are neutral, unbiased, dispassionate, and that they are interested in seeking for truth, not reinforce preexisting beliefs apriori. I want to believe that where there is untruth, scientists and researchers will oust it and expel it as such. I want to believe that researchers and scientists can put their own personal beliefs aside and profess the truth, no matter how uncomfortable this makes them feel, and how shaking this is for religious beliefs they've held all along. I want to believe that doctors actually want to practice medicine, not practice superstition. Instead, what I see in America is "researchers," "scientists" and "doctors" use pseudoscience to confirm their own superstitious beliefs. They then push these beliefs onto naive parents under the pretense of "public health."

If something is demonstrably false, it's the duty of other scientists and researchers to call it out, is it not?

What is going on in America?

What is happening on in world stage that other scientists and researchers lack the gall to call Americans on their deliberate superstitious circumcision nonsense?

Brian Morris is neither a surgeon, nor a pediatrician, nor a urologist, nor a doctor of any kind. And yet, it's as if he were the Alex Jones of male infant circumcision; he seems to have no trouble passing himself off as a "circumcision expert" dispensing advice to parents, and news outlets actually look to him as a respectable source, despite his lack in any medical credentials. He goes on and on about how much he "loves science," but then he minimizes or dismisses science and research he doesn't agree with. Worse than that; he actually spends his time trying to discredit authors that write research showing circumcision to be detrimental. You're not a true scientist if you dismiss research and findings you disagree with. WHAT IS THE REASON the University of Sydney hasn't already stripped him of their prestige for using it to pass himself as any kind of "expert" on male infant circumcision?

There are huge holes in the "research" in Marie Wawer's work, and the work of others, and claims on it that "circumcision reduces the risk of HIV." Among other things, their findings simply fail to manifest in the real world, where HIV and other STDs are more prevalent in circumcising United States, than they are in non-circumcising Europe, Australia, Japan and other countries. "Mass circumcision campaigns" are being conducted in Africa based on this. This has led to people in Africa circumcising boys and teens against a parent's wishes, not to mention tribes are using these claims to justify the forced circumcision of men in their communities. What is the reason researchers and scientists around the world aren't questioning these claims and decrying these "studies" and the "mass circumcision campaigns" as the human experiments they are? Would we ever endorse "research" that involved circumcising 1000s of women to "measure how much FGM reduces HIV transmission?" And then pour millions into "mass female circumcision campaigns?"

Freedman and Schoen would deny it, but it is obvious their judgement is colored by their conviction to preserve the traditions of "their tribe." When a Muslim doctor advocates for FGM, we don't call it "persecution" to blast him or her for it. We don't treat the situation with kid gloves so as to avoid being called "anti-Muslim." There is an ongoing case in Chicago, where a doctor is in hot water for performing FGM on girls in this country. Her allegations are no different than those of Jewish advocates of circumcision; "This is our culture, it is our religious right." Why is it only with male infant circumcision that suddenly, we want to "respect people's cultural and religious beliefs?"

Here we have Andrew Freedman openly declaring his fidelity to his "tribe," but we're expected to believe him when he says this doesn't at all color his judgement, he "wants this to be a choice for parents." Only 0.6% of the population is Jewish. Why do American parents, 99.4% of which do not to belong to this "tribe" need to have this "choice?" Why does eliciting any kind of "choice" from parents have to be public health policy? And why are doctors expected to perform a superstitious, religious ritual for parents? The question becomes, what if parents want the doctor to perform female circumcision "because it's their religion, their tribe, and they should have the choice?" Since when is it a doctor's duty to superstition and religion and not medicine?

It's not talked about in this film, but Edgar Schoen was Jewish (he died in 2016), he was an avid male infant circumcision evangelist, and he was connected with many proponents of male infant circumcision. He was connected with Neil Pollock, he himself a Jewish mohel in Canada, whose sole source of income are his male infant circumcision clinics, and who goes to different countries, taking advantage of the male circumcision/HIV gravy train to promote circumcision. He was connected with Daniel Halperin, one of the "researchers" trying to push circumcision in Africa. Edgar Schoen himself went on a campaign to try and convince European medical organizations to endorse male infant circumcision as public health policy, but he was rejected, every single time. A Jewish circumcision evangelist, you couldn't find anyone more biased on this topic than Edgar Schoen, and yet he somehow found his way into the AAP, and helped change public policy. The AAP was on its way to aligning itself with medical organizations in the rest of the world, but it instead took a step back into the 1800s, and it was all due to this man.

Brendon touches on a topic that is often a no-go zone when it comes to this conversation. Both activists against female genital mutilation and advocates of male infant circumcision shut down the conversation whenever female genital cutting comes up. "Don't compare the two," they say. "They aren't the same." They expect for the conversation to end there and then, and refuse to continue beyond that. The fact of the matter is that most people who utter these snappy sound-bites don't actually know what they're talking about. Most only heard from somewhere, or saw it in propaganda against female genital cutting, or female genital mutilation, and simply memorized all these points because they sound good, and are often effective in shutting down the conversation. "Don't compare them," they say. Well, somebody had to have, in order to come up with the idea that they're "not comparable." I myself used to believe that male and female circumcision are "completely different," until I actually started looking.

The more you investigate, study and compare genital cutting, the more you realize that actually, both male and female circumcision are quite comparable, if not identical. You come to realize that every aspect of male and female circumcision is the precisely same. The claims, the truths, the lies, everything. Everything that you can say to justify male infant circumcision can be used to justify female circumcision. Everything that you can say to condemn female genital cutting is also true of male genital cutting.

Female is horrific and performed in the African bush by amateur shamans using crude utensils such as rusty blades and shards? The same is true for male circumcision. Male circumcision is performed by trained professionals in the pristine conditions of a hospital using sterile equipment? The same is true for female circumcision. Female circumcision is used to subjugate women and control their sexuality? The whole reason male circumcision exists in the west was to stop boys and men from masturbating. In the Chabad website, it is written on various pages that the subjugation of Jewish male sexuality is the very goal of male circumcision. (Other Chabad references here and here.) Male has "potential medical benefits?" Well, so does female circumcision. Male circumcision is an "important religious cultural custom?" Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, so is female genital cutting. Female circumcision causes complications and death in girls and women? Well male circumcision causes complications and kills also. Male circumcision can be performed in infants so that they don't remember the pain? This is precisely what they do in South East Asian countries.

We talk about "severity," "intent," the professional status of those who do this, the cleanliness of the utensils use etc. as if any of this actually mattered. As if female genital cutting could be justified if it were made "less severe," if we made it about "medical benefits" instead of sexual detriment, if it were done by trained professionals in a hospital using clean utensils instead of out in the African bush. As if the moral acceptability of forcibly cutting healthy, non-consenting minors hinged on the outcome of "studies" or "research." In the end, we have determined there would never be enough "benefits," never enough "studies," never a procedure "minimal" enough that would ever under any circumstances justify the forced cutting of a girl or woman. WHY the double-standard for boys and men?

Brendon actually interviews two women who underwent what we would call "female genital mutilation." One of them actually recognizes and acknowledges the parallel of what what happens to boys daily in this country, and what happened to her. The other woman, a westernized, by all means American woman, recounts her story of how she was taken away for her female genital cutting ritual. Instead of being angry, the second woman "embraces" what has happened to her, and actually advocates that forced female genital cutting be practiced freely. If you heard her talk and closed your eyes, you would think she sounded like any other American mother advocating for male infant circumcision. If she had a deeper voice, you could confuse her for a man minimizing his own circumcision. "It's our culture, it's our choice." According to her, her forced genital cutting has not impaired her ability to experience sexual pleasure and orgasm.

It is often claimed that female circumcision destroys a woman's ability to orgasm, but here we have one of many women saying from personal experience that this is simply not true. We seem have invented this maxim that "as long as a person can still experience sex, as men are still able to after circumcision, then it's OK," only, it's turning out that it's based on pure myth and propaganda. Another researcher, Sarah Johnsdotter, who has talked with hundreds African women, reveals that even women who have undergone the most severe form of FGM, "infibulation" (sowing up the vulva to leave a small hole), are still able to enjoy sex and orgasm. So is forcibly cutting a girl or woman justified now? I don't know about my readers, but for me, the answer is "no." When an action is a violation of basic human rights, it doesn't matter that you can still enjoy sex afterward.

Brendon's film shines light on these claims that "male and female circumcision are worlds apart" and "should never be compared," and reveals them to be simply hyperbole meant to allow people to criticize the practices of another culture, while protecting their own. The closer one looks, if one dares, the more one realizes that not only are these practices "comparable," they're identical. Either both should be allowed to continue based on "religious freedom" and "parental choice," or both must be condemned for being the basic human rights violations that they are.

One of the aspects this film touches upon are the different attitudes we have towards the male and female sex. While it's acceptable for women to be victims, damsels in distress if you will, it's not acceptable for men. It is expected that males be strong, stoic and resilient; "whining" and "complaining" is seen as "weak" and "unmanly." Men protesting wrongs that befall them is a joke. In fact, it's "comedy" in America to cause damage to a man's genitals. Someone kicks a man in the testicles and hilarity is supposed to ensue. It's no surprise, then, that in America we try to make a joke of circumcision, and we belittle and dismiss men when they say that they are unhappy that this happened to them. When a woman expresses discontent that something has happened to her, the world is ready to listen. There are women's crisis centers and hotlines for women seeking support. Nothing for men. Most men have to look for help at women's crisis centers.

 A common quip used by male infant circumcision advocates is that "men will get over it." Edgar Schoen himself is in this film telling men to "Get a life! Most men are happy they were circumcised." (I don't remember exactly, and I don't want to scrub through the video to get the exact quote.) Well what if men aren't happy, and that the reason they don't come forward is precisely because they're afraid they'll be ridiculed and laughed at instead of being given support? Men do complain. It's just that we as a nation have decided to pretend we can't hear them. This is funny, because at the same time, we bellyache that "men don't listen" or that they "have trouble articulating." We expect men to respect other people's bodies when their own bodies weren't respected, to listen when nobody listened to them, to speak up when they hurt after we've told them all their lives from day one that their pain and suffering doesn't matter.

The film touches on so much more. He touches on the misinformation American doctors inadvertently or quite deliberately give parents, how circumcision botches are not recognized as such, how some parents don't learn about the risks and adverse outcomes of circumcision until it's too late, how in America, there isn't a system of monitoring the adverse effects of circumcision, how hospitals, doctors and medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics don't seem to be interested (Why would they be, if male infant circumcision is a money maker for them?), how historically it was believed that babies feel no pain, desensitization due to circumcision, restoration, efforts to ban the practice, Jewish voices in the intactivist movement, the numerous lawsuits for botched circumcisions and the lawyers behind them, and much more that I probably missed.

This much can be said; when it comes to knowledge concerning anatomically correct male genitals, America is in the dark ages. Male infant circumcision was once the rule of the day in English-speaking countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, but they've since moved on, and no one buys into the "medical benefits" there. The practice has been banned in hospitals in Australia, much to the chagrin of Brian Morris. Male infant circumcision is pseudoscientific pseudo-medicine that should have gone the way of blood-letting and head trepanning, and yet, for whatever reason, American doctors continue to cling to it. America can surely benefit from an overhaul in medical curricula; the most any American physician learns about the anatomically correct genitals is how to cut the foreskin off. In America, most males are circumcised, as is the American psyche; Americans are only ever exposed to circumcised penises in health and medical textbooks.

Americans need to sit down and actually have a real conversation regarding male genitals. No, not on how funny it is to kick men in groin and jokes about how one should never buy gribenes from a mohel. A genuine, serious conversation. Americans need to learn to hear circumcised, gentile and Jewish alike. Put down your spring-loaded dismissal lines and actually listen to what they have to say. It may be uncomfortable, but such a conversation is becoming increasingly unavoidable and long overdue.

American Circumcision is an introspective, well-researched beginning to this conversation.

Related Post:
"American Circumcision" Wins Best Documentary Film Award at the Lone Star Film Festival

Politically Correct Research: When Science, Morals and Political Agendas Collide

DETROIT: Woman Doctor Faces Charges For FGM

COURTROOM SHOWDOWN: Religious Freedom on Trial

Edgar Schoen Showing His Age

EDGAR SCHOEN: America's Circumcision Champion Dies

INTACTIVISTS: Why We Concern Ourselves

Circumcision is Child Abuse: A Picture Essay

External links:
Official American Circumcision Film Website

#circumcision  #i2