I’ve written on the cultural element of routine infant circumcision (RIC) before and it’s something that we have to revisit over and over and over again if we’re going to see change. One of the things that people often forget is that cultural biases are incredibly powerful in the way we process information and accept (or reject) arbitrary or even harmful behaviours. In addition to this cultural bias and how it influences us, we forget too that our own experiences – even if we don’t remember them – shape the way we think about issues.
For many people, the decision to perform RIC comes down to, “My husband/I had it done so my child will have it done.” The implication is that what is fine for one is fine for another, that there was no harm done to the adult in question so no harm to consider for the child. The problem here is that we haven’t considered how much of a person’s response to this is based on their own defence mechanisms because of previous trauma (as an infant) or an actual appraisal of events. Common defence mechanisms that are relevant to the circumcision discussion include: denial (of any wrongdoing or trauma), repression, intellectualization, and rationalization. Indeed when we speak to individuals about RIC many of these things can be blatantly seen in their justifications and because of our cultural bias, we accept these justifications as completely valid and without concern for any hint of a defence mechanism.
BUT… (of course there’s a but)… What if you heard these same discussions from females about female circumcision? What would you think then?
If you don’t believe they exist, watch the following and then tell me how we can state that what applies to males in our cultural context doesn’t apply to females in a different cultural context. Or why we can justify the same behaviours for one sex and not another. I won’t ask you to change your mind immediately, but to at least open it to the possibility that our discussions and our justifications may not be all they seem on the surface.