Circumcision: The Root of Misogyny

By Anne V. Pyterek

I've always thought circumcision was dumb, pointless, idiotic, puritanical, and downright mean! It wasn't until I became the mother of a son that I began to think of it as much, much worse. It wasn't until then that I would wince at the sight of someone who has had that done to him. To me, it looks creepy; it is creepy. It looks bruised , stripped, broken. Mutilated. Unnatural. Painful and numb at the same time.

It wasn't until I became the mother of a son that I thought of circumcision as the root of all evil"or at least the root of misogyny. How could they not grow up and stomp us under their boots after we allow such a hideous, agonizing torture to be inflicted on their freshly born little bodies?

A gestating and newborn person's mother is absolutely everything to him. No matter how much dad talks to the baby in utero, or plays Chopin for him on his violin, no matter how well the baby recognizes other people at birth, mom is still the only one he really knows. Inside out. She is not just the source of life; she is life. Mom is Goddess. Her body is Eden. She is paradise, bliss, and eternity. A minute away from her is an eon of exile and agony. Without her there is no life, only interminable desolation. She looms so large and all-important that he can't see beyond her. And to imagine her as a separate being, or as weak, or as under someone else's influence is unfathomable.

So that's why if something terrible happens, it's mom who allowed it. (In our society, whatever is wrong with a person is usually "their mother's fault.") It is She who betrayed him. There just isn't anybody else. It's Woman who's responsible for Man's fall from Grace"according to the circumcised, Old Testament, patriarchal lot. It doesn't matter who actually does it--they are just pawns, devices, minions, tools, instruments of torture"it's Her Will. It doesn't matter who actually wants it or what the alleged reasons are.

How could a betrayal so huge, so profound, NOT take root in the tons and tons of societal garbage heaped upon the heads of little boys and produce such misogynous crap as wife-beating, witch-hunting, prostitution, pornography, mother-blaming, rape, sexism, endless perversions of every kind, and just general cold, unemotional, not-able-to-talk-about-his-feelings kind of guys? It couldn't.

But one, whole, feeling little boy raised with integrity will grow up to be one whole, feeling man with integrity. He will be horrified when he learns of the atrocity committed by his fellows. He will speak against it. He will have a whole, different outlook on life"one not based on pain, fear of pain, suppression of pain, or administering of pain"and therefore a life that touches others in a whole, different way. This boy will make a difference.

(We are grateful to Jody McLaughlin and The Complete Mother for sharing this personal essay with us.)