A couple of weeks ago, Peaceful Parenting reported on some remarks Russell Crowe made about circumcision:
Circumcision is barbaric and stupid. Who are you to correct nature? Is it real that GOD requires a donation of foreskin? Babies are perfect….
I have many Jewish friends. I love my Jewish friends… but stop cutting your babies. I will always stand for the perfection of babies. I will always believe in God, not man’s interpretation of what God requires.
Rather than tackle the very disturbing way Crowe approaches the issue – treating Jews as a monolith, accusing “us” of “cutting our babies,” telling us he knows more about God than we do, ignoring the fact that circumcision is as hotly debated within Jewish communities as it is without – Peaceful Parenting puts a stamp of approval on the whole thing:
Thank you for standing up on behalf of your own sons, and for boys the world over, Russell.
The comment thread follows the same trajectory: words like “barbaric” and “disgusting” abound, and one commenter claims that Crowe was silenced by the Jewish media.
Stuff like this is the reason I don’t blog much anymore.
The problem isn’t that people are anti-circumcision. The problem is that they’re calling an ethno-religious group barbarians. Look, I’ll just bring this out into the open: I’m more on the fence about circumcision than most people I know. I know circumcised men who wish the procedure hadn’t been done, and I know others who don’t care, and still others who are glad they had it done and plan to do the same to their own sons. There’s a lot to unpack in all of that, but there’s a more personal reason why I can’t join others in their absolutist stance: I worry that, because I don’t plan on circumcizing my son if I have one, he’s going to come to me someday and tell me that other Jews are ostracizing him for not being “Jewish enough” – just like I, as a half-Jew, have been ostracized by other Jews for not being “Jewish enough.” I worry that he’ll face the same road as me: carefully navigating Jewish communities, always choosing whom to confide in, and for the most part keeping his dirty little secret to himself.
For those of you who might be tempted to tell me there’s nothing stopping him from just getting it done when he’s older – well, first off, there’s the fear and pain of an irreversable medical procedure, which isn’t nothing, and secondly, anyone who’s ever been bullied knows that once you’ve been marked as an outsider, “fixing” yourself rarely undoes the damage.
I think my children will be in a much more secure place than I was, as they’ll have a mother who will tell them in no uncertain terms that there’s no such thing “Jewish enough.” But environments still have an impact on people, and when the time comes for me to say no to the procedure, I’ll be keenly aware of the possibility that I’ll be trading a physical scar for an emotional one. Basically what I’m saying is that in order to address circumcision, you have to address the ramifications of not being circumcized.
This is why pounding on our doors and yelling “Barbaric! Disgusting! Stop it already!” doesn’t stop circumcision. Rituals and practices stem from culture, and if you don’t respectfully educate yourself on and then address the culture, you’ll never change the practices. The way I see it, if you want male circumcision to stop, there are two better ways to go about it: 1) you can either avoid framing it as a specifically Jewish issue (as circumcision is routinely performed for health and hygene reasons, as dubious as those reasons may be) and acknowledge that there’s a whole host of religious and cultural issues that maybe you’re not an expert on; or 2) if, for whatever reason, Jewish circumcision is what moves you, you can approach one of the Jewish movements, led by Jews, to stop Jewish circumcision, and ask how you can help.
Really, I don’t know how you can expect to change things any other way.