A month or two ago, NPR interviewed an African woman on circumcision. It had just been made illegal in her country and she was arguing against the law. Circumcision, she argued, reduces disease, cures promiscuity, and besides, “I want my daughter to look normal, to look like me.” There are differences between female and male circumcision, for certain, but it’s hard for me to see them clearly. Both leave behind children well acquainted with pain, children who have been wounded in a ritual, a cosmetic procedure, that looks too much like sacrifice.
It’s a practice that, I think, requires a second look. A discussion. I have written harshly about it, not because I want to offend or argue, but because I have no other words. Circumcision affects me on an emotional level, as so much violence does. I know so many parents whom I love and respect, whose sons are well loved and happy, and who have chosen to have their sons circumcised, but I don’t understand it. I don’t follow the reasons behind the decision. I would like to understand.