03 June 2008

True Story???


I stumbled across this blog somehow... I think I was looking to find out if it were really true that George Washington were left-handed as my father taught me when I was young (he does tell a lot of tall tales about flowers screaming and talking to each other and whatnot, s0 best to verify, no offense, Dad).

I do want to be a culturally tolerant person. If you have different celebrations or wear different clothing, and your big party of the year is some other day besides Christmas, I want to be accepting of that. But I really have difficulty with the idea of getting a little boy all geared up for a big party and then wacking part of his li'l weenie off. It actually gets me kinda mad on the child's behalf because he has no choice. I suppose none of us has a choice in how we are raised, but ... oh, it just seems mean to me in a way I can't describe.

A comment from a young man, "I wouldn’t lie down when they told me to. So they took me in front of the TV and said, ‘Look at this movie.’ They suddenly cut it when I wasn’t looking!” Yikes!

And we haven't even gotten to the cultural idea that a girl should be "circumcised" so that she is marriagable. It seems to me that there should be just as much outcry against this practice as there was against foot-binding. But because it's a private area, maybe no one wants to talk about it. And they don't want to show pictures of the damage. To me, that's wrong. Many girls go through this procedure with NO anesthesia and with dirty instruments. There are major veins in that area and girls could bleed to death.

I've never seen the "Vagina Monologues." I can't imagine going to a place to be entertained by a discussion about one's private areas. However, too often victims of sexual abuse or rape have to be quiet in polite discussion. Have you noticed that in polite conversation, Joe can talk for about half an hour on the various ways losing his job has affected his life? How would people react if "Cindy" were to get up and talk about the various ways the sexual abuse she went through as a child affected her relationships and how she sees her body, etc.? It's a shame that little children can be victimized by our unwillingness to talk about certain issues.

But in any event, what do you think about the circumcision story? Do you think this really happens to young men and they have no clue what's going to happen until it does? I'm having trouble imagining moms and dads treating their own children so callously. It was all I could do to allow the doctors to perform an emergency appendectomy on Patrick. It was so sudden! It was so trumatic for him! He says the worst part of it was the fact that from childhood, he's heard his mom and dad talk about the news stories. You know, how the anesthesia doesn't work and the patient FEELS the pain of things being ripped and torqued... the accidental overdoses and unclean operating conditions.

"You never told me that most of the time things work out fine!" he said later. Well, I'm glad they did. I sure wish I had more time to prepare him and assure him that things probably would be fine.


  1. I didn't read the article yet; what caught my eye was your comment about female genital mutilation. I remember seeing a woman talk about it on t.v. years ago. I found an article about her.


    There is a movement to end female genital mutilation. It's just fought elsewhere, so we don't hear about it much.

  2. Oh, the description of "how it's done" on that website is frightening. Perhaps I read too much into it, but it sounds like things will not change in these cultures unless the MEN are convinced that there is some other way that women will find sex extremely painful and certainly without pleasure. I don't know how they'd do that, but at least a little anesthesia and a CLEAN razor would be nice.


  3. Dear Mrs. C,

    I am the American teacher who wrote the post on the children who discussed circumcision in class.

    I want to assure you that in my Middle Eastern country, female circumcision is NOT practiced. In fact, fortunately I live VERY far from where female circumcision takes place, and my Middle Eastern husband had never even HEARD of the practice before I told him about it! His reaction was shock and disbelief until I showed him a book that even had pictures, and then he couldn't look at them.

    The main places where female circumcision IS practiced are in Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, perhaps into Kenya, and areas around there. I think there is a swath across Africa, south of the Sahara going through into Nigeria, where a lesser form is practiced. This is NOT part of Islam. It is a pre-Islamic practice that originated in the times of slavery transport. Now, unfortunately, large groups of uneducated Muslims in these countries believe it is part of Islam, or that their daughters will not be marriageable if it is not perpetuated. The Egyptian government has passed laws against it, but it is still being done secretly because a girl is still considered "bad" and "unclean" by most in the society, if it is not done.

    Regarding male circumcision, that IS part of BOTH the Islamic AND Jewish religions. Perhaps you are aware that even in the United States that Jewish couples are required to circumcise their sons by the eighth day after birth (generally without anesthesia)--I once attended such a circumcision. They told me that "babies feel less." I don't believe that for one minute.

    Throughout every Muslim culture, in every country, if you google pictures of "circumcision parties," you will find children dressed up in fancy clothes for these celebrations, at which time they also receive presents (unless they are from a poor family, when they might go to a shrine, or a saint's tomb, on the birthday of the Prophet Mohamed (always a national holiday), when sometimes someone will be there who can do it cheaply, without a party). In any case, the important thing in the Islamic religion is that it is done before puberty.

    Part of the reason I wrote this post is that in past private correspondence, men I know have been horrified to know this is done at an age when the boy is old enough to remember it, that it would be more traumatic than doing it to a baby. I was surprised at my children's reaction, when they (who had had it done at an older age) were themselves horrified to hear that in the United States, it is done to babies.

    At any rate, because it is a religious requirement for MEN, in both the Jewish and Muslim religions, the practice will not be going away. Are you aware that the majority of Christian men in the United States are circumcised as well? My doctor friends tell me that men who are circumcised themselves usually do choose it for their son, whereas, those who are not, generally don't choose it for their sons. I have been living outside of the United States for sixteen years now, so perhaps practices have been changing in the past ten years or so, I don't know.

    At any rate, thank you for reading the post on my blog, and thank you for posting on this important subject.

    Best regards,
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)

  4. Thanks, Eileen!!

    I ordinarily would have a big objection to the very idea of circumcision. Why would you cut off healthy body parts, especially private ones? But I can't very well argue with God! Same with polygamy and slavery. I know a lot of Christians object to the ideas for cultural reasons, but AS PRACTICED in the Bible (not the Southern US,) you can't object on biblical grounds.

    I wouldn't have any squeamishness about the idea of a circumcision party and the like if the poor boys knew what would happen at least a little ahead of time. I personally think about what I'd feel like if I suddenly had parts of MY genitals cut off with no notice, and then apply MY feelings to those children. Which might be "wrong" because my feelings may have been different had I grown up in that culture, you know? But I like to think on the whole people are pretty much the same in "good and bad" aspects the world over.

    I appreciate your thoughtful responses on my blog. Bless you today!

  5. Having lived here nearly 17 years, I can honestly say that the reason the parents (nor anyone else) tells the children in advance is that, even though it is a religious requirement, no one can stand to give any more pain or worry than necessary, especially parents to their own children. Having seen this in action, to tell the child in advance would be "to make him worry, or cry." And parents here are so soft on their children, parents THEMSELVES can't stand to see their children cry.

    Kids are basically allowed to do whatever they want (even toddlers to remain standing in a moving family car) because if you make the kid sit down, or in a car seat, "he cries." The idea seems to be that if you let your child cry, you look like a bad parent.

    In male circumcisons, the parents can't even stand to be in the same room with the child when it is done, so it is usually left to the uncle. This fell to my husband when our nephew was circumcised.

    When it is about to be done, the women go in another room and start shouting and banging on tambourines--now I know the reasons--so the parents and others don't hear the child scream or cry. In my opinion, this is the worst part.

    I assure you, the parents can't stand it themselves, but as it is a religious requirement, there is no choice in the matter. Muslim societies have just made this the traditional way to deal with it. Parents were brought up that way, and they in turn, bring up their children this way to do it without informing the child in advance.

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)

  6. AH! That makes sense now! We tend to do that to older people that are senile and "wouldn't understand" that we're selling their house or whatever. But we do it with good intentions.

    On the culture and children: I'm not particularly enamoured of the Wahabi Muslim religion, but I will say they expose their children to far fewer questionable images, movies and the like. And in *that* respect, I believe children grow up better for it. Of course there is a balance between rigid authoritarianism and the permissiveness that pervades our society, too. True lovingness makes that kid put his seat belt on or else!! How funny that we are more rigid on some things than others, yet both safety in mind and body are important.


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