First of all, disclosure: I am very much against male infant circumcision. My family does not practise it, and I don’t think it’s fair to permanently alter such a critical body part without that person’s adult consent. However, I also have Jewish and Muslim friends (as well as some non-religious snippers) with whom I prefer not to argue what to them is a deeply-held religious ritual. Call me a coward, but avoiding awkward confrontations with friends is a Canadian tradition.
In San Francisco, however, the issue has come to the fore (so to speak) with a proposal to ban circumcision on a November ballot. It has, obviously, stirred up accusations of antisemitism and state interference in private parental matters.
And then there’s this:
That’s right, an Aryan “superhero” (shouldn’t he have a hood?) is saving a baby from a villain actually called “Monster Mohel” and his Hasidic henchmen. There are not enough facepalms in the world to express how I feel about this.
Nancy J. Appel, Associate Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, says “‘Foreskin Man,’ with its grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes, reaches a new low and is disrespectful and deeply offensive.”
The comic is the brainchild of Matthew Hess, President of California intactivist lobby group MGMBill, whose message is “We call on members of Congress to pass the MGM Bill into law without delay so that boys may enjoy the same protection from circumcision as girls.”
And this is where the argument always leads. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a practice that is widely damned in the Western World, despite being just as embedded in certain cultural traditions. The two forms of genital interference, however, has some very big differences. What happens to girls, in Northeast Africa and parts of the Near East and Southeast Asia, is extremely traumatic and is often designed to deny them sexual enjoyment as women. The male version is much less of a loss to male sexuality and although an extreme (if short-lived) trauma to newborn sons is not in the same realm of gendered violence.
To be fair, not all the villains are ethnically identified. There is also representation of the pro-circ medical community, presumably emboldened by the WHO’s recent endorsement of adult male circumcision as an emergency measure against HIV spread in Africa.
To me, the stereotypes presented in this comic book have more in common with Nazi propaganda than with a modern discussion about religious tradition versus individual genital rights, and where the state should step in.
The worst part of this fiasco, for me, is that it will confirm people’s suspicions that the intactivist movement is really antisemitism in righteous disguise. If this comic book campaign were a “false flag” or a hoax, it couldn’t have done more to polarize discussion about genital integrity between reasonable groups with different perspectives, and make the intactivist side look unbearably evil.
But you can read issue #1 and #2 at the Foreskin Man web site, and make up your own mind.
(Thanks to Jackie Di Caro for the tip… uh, I mean “heads up”… ummm… link?)