Alec Weisman's

Cutting Away the Misinformation

In Domestic Policy on July 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Alec Weisman

Timeless circumcision jokes can add a new term to their repertoire: “intactivists.” These “intactivists” seek to ban circumcision by proposing legislation to eliminate the practice of infant male circumcision. They argue that these bans are needed to abolish the “barbaric” practice of circumcision.

Yet their efforts came to a head when this ridiculous attempt at lawmaking in San Francisco and Santa Monica was overcome by controversy. Although the sponsor of the proposed Santa Monica bill quickly withdrew it, and a lawsuit will likely to suspend San Francisco’s vote on the November 2011 ballot initiative, “intactivists” continued their protests outside the United States Capitol to make their radical anti-circumcision sentiments known to Congress.

Me (A Jew), Intactivists, and the Phallic Washington Monument in front of the Capitol

These attempted bans stem from the belief of “intactivists” that male circumcision is the equivalent to genital mutilation of females. All forms of child female circumcision are currently prohibited under Title 18 of the United States Criminal Code, as female genital mutilation is much more dangerous, extreme, and terrible than is male circumcision, and lacks any potential benefits. Their use of videos of infant circumcisions is motivated by “intactivists” in their mission to portray male circumcision of the foreskin to be brutal, traumatic, and dangerous.

Using emotional, medical, and ethical arguments, “intactivists” have sought to impose their beliefs upon their fellow citizens. By relating male circumcision to female circumcision, a horrific procedure that is banned throughout the developed world, these anti-circumcision activists try to cast circumcision as unprotected by 1st Amendment provisions protecting religious freedoms. Advocates of the ban claim that individuals are protected from “bodily mutilation” and attack infant circumcision due to a lack of consent from the child.

This objection to circumcision is a critical problem with the circumcision ban. The disdain of “intactivists” toward parental and religious rights reveals the elitism and egoism of the leaders of the anti-circumcision movement. Jena Troutman, the activist who pushed for the Santa Monica ban, argued in the Santa Monica Outlook that “My goal is to educate parents to give them a choice, because our babies are perfect as they come out.” Yet these activists are offering rather limiting choice to the American people by demanding that cities and states ban the practice of circumcision. It is not enough for the anti-circumcision advocates to discuss their ideas with people who support circumcision; “intactivists” view it as their mission to ban circumcision in all cases except for medical emergencies. This assault on freedom is outrageous, especially when faced with the reality that no laws mandate that families must circumcise their sons.

Anti-circumcision activists also try to take on the medical arguments that have been traditionally cited in favor of circumcision. Several studies and many doctors recognize that health benefits of circumcisions exist, especially as a protection against contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, the American Urological Association has recommended that circumcision be offered to parents for health reasons. However “intactivists” cite the Royal Dutch Medical Association that in 2010 officially declared that circumcision is unnecessary and is an abuse of the rights of the child. The existence of mixed medical studies is often obscured by misinformation and conspiracy theories from within the “intactivist” movement.

A powerful charge against the movement to ban circumcision comes from the appearance of blatant anti-Semitism displayed by “intactivist” leaders. Although the assertion of anti-Semitism should be used carefully, when blatant displays of propaganda are produced that rival those of World War II-era Germany, a serious discussion of prejudice should be considered. In a cartoon series called “Foreskin Man” produced by Matthew Hess, anti-Semitic themes run rampant. Hess is the president of MGMBILLORG, which works to create legislation that would ban infant circumcision. Portrayals of anti-Semitic imagery include the “monster mohel,” who the comics depict as “Nothing excites Monster Mohel more than cutting into the penile flesh of an eight-day-old infant boy.” Monster Mohel is the archenemy of “Foreskin Man,” the classically Aryan protagonist of the comics who is a blond, blue eyed, and muscular superhero.

Parents’ decision to submit their child to circumcision should not be based solely on any one factor, whether it is hygiene, health, appearance, or religion. Yet banning circumcision is not a real solution to the problem of ignorance that it seeks to address. Rather, education should be the focus of an ongoing debate over whether parents decide to circumcise their children. Proper understanding of both the merits and detriments of the procedure is essential for parents to make an informed decision. The elitist and self-righteous leaders of the “intactivist” movement will doom their crusade, relegating their cause to failure as fodder for the late night television comedy circuit.

  1. Under no circumstance can Male Genital Mutilation be termed “religious”. For two-thousand years it has only been a political device, designed by a few Jewish Priests (during the Babylonian Captivity) to establish political control over people. Get parents to mutilate the penis of a newborn child … and you can get them to do just about anything.

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