My wife is a blogger. She blogs mainly about family building and infertility and there are two topics she has learned to studiously avoid: breastfeeding and more to the point here, especially circumcision. Why? People’s opinions on these two matters become quickly polarized and flame-filled comments inevitably ensue [ see below].
So it is with some hesitation that I even bring this up, but today’s Washington Post article about Intactivists by Dan Zak got me thinking. Particularly this excerpt:
Spend some time with intactivists and you will hear how circumcision is responsible for, among other things, the oppression of women, sexual disharmony, deforestation, militarization, the rise and fall of empires and the invasion of foreign lands for oil.
Here’s a little experiment. In the above paragraph substitute the words “intactivists” and “circumcision” with “anti-Semites” and “Jews” respectively and tell me if the result isn’t something that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Aryan Nation website. I’m in no way equating the anti-circ crowd with anti-Semites, but the breadth of “crimes” that each assigns to their adversary is certainly resonant.
It also seems to me, reading the article that Zak went out of his way to avoid using the “J” word. (Acutally, Zak’s article basically read like an excuse to repeatedly print the word “penis” in a family newspaper.) Certainly both Muslims and Jews practice male circumcision — according to Wikipedia 68% of circumcised men are Muslims. But there has historically been an anti-Semitic fetishization of Jewish circumcision and Jewish sexuality. All sorts of nineteenth and early-twentieth century literature speaks of a close tie between Jews and the transmission of syphillis. Among the more hysterical claims was that circumcision was actually a means of transmitting sexual diseases for which Jews had developed an immunity. The explicit claim was that Jewish sexual diseases were infecting a pure culture from within, and that circumcision was both tactic and strategy in this conquest.
Anti-circumcision activists are more than conscious of this history and go out of their way to disown those who would conflate Jews with circumcision. And yet… It still sits weirdly with me. Does the article say that Jason Siegel and Zachary Levi Balakoff, two young men who are on a hunger strike to expose male genital mutilation, are Jewish? No. But, come-on. And I immediately think, what better prop to deflect charges of anti-Semitism than two young Jewish men outraged over their mutilated genitals. Lots of young Jewish men like myself are circumcised, have had quite nice sex lives thankyouverymuch, and have chosen to circumcise our sons. It’s hard not to be defensive in the face of Misters Siegel and Balakoff’s outrage. But hey, we all have our conspiracy theories.
In any case, how you feel about circumcision is probably something you should work out with your mate prior to marriage, and hey, we just happen to be offering a Tying The Knot: Premarriage Workshop in April. If this is a more pressing issue for you, which is to say you’ve got a bun in the oven, then you can also puzzle through the bris issues in our two-part workshop L’Amazing Baby: Childbirth Preparation with a Jewish Twist which is coming up in June.