Friday, July 25, 2014

On Double Standards

Two sets of parents sit down at a restaurant. The genders of the parents or their sexuality are unimportant but for the sake of this situation we'll err with the majority - two heteronormative sets of parents in monogamous relationships. One set has a small child with them; the other set is obviously expecting.

They are Mom A and Dad A, the newly expecting parents, and their good friends, Mom B and Dad B, the ones who already have a child.

The group settles in and exchanges their pleasantries. As seems to happen with every group with there are children or pregnancies involved, the conversation eventually changes to child rearing.

Dad B: "So.. Are you going to.." He makes a scissors motion with his fingers. "Have the baby.. You know?"
Dad A: "Circumcised? Well, yeah."
Mom A and B roll their eyes and go back to their conversation. This doesn't appear to interest them much.
Dad B: "Oh. Why?"
Dad A: "Well, you know." He looks uncomfortable. "Our doctor says it's healthier. Cleaner. All that build up of smegma junk, you know. And it'll smell."

They both laugh uncomfortably. Mom A nods at what she's heard her husband say.

Dad B: "Ya know, really, I mean.. You can teach them to fold everything back, clean themselves."
Dad A shudders.
Dad B: "You don't have to have it snipped."
Dad A: "Well.. Maybe the kid'll clean itself when it's a little older, but.. What about when it's young? I don't want to have to be messing around with a baby's.. Bits."
They laugh again.
Dad B: "You know, little babies, you just wipe them like usual. You don't actually have to pull anything around. You just.. Wash. And when they get older? Well, kids learn to clean themselves. And they continue as adults."

For a moment the conversation seems to stop. Dad A shrugs.

Dad B: "Have you guys talked about it at all?"
Dad A: "Well, kind of. But.. All the others will be.. Circumcised, you know. It's just the norm. I don't want my kid looking different from everybody else's kids. I can't imagine the confusion. Why didn't we do it, why's everybody else done, it's just.. How things have always been."
Dad B: "Trends are actually changing. Circumcision is becoming more rare. In fact, by the time our kids are in the locker rooms, most WON'T be. The ones who are cut will be the odd ones out."
Dad A: ".. Seriously?"
Dad B nods, very resolute. Dad A seems to think this over for a while.
Dad A: "But.. Ya know how it was when we were younger, right.. There was always that ONE who wasn't.. Cut.. And oh my god, it's all you heard about, how nasty it was, how gross it was. I don't want that to be my kid."
Dad B: "So they learn to wash. Besides. If someone is going to purely judge their interest in your child based on whether or not they're circumcised, of all things.. Is that really someone you want your kid in a relationship with? Doesn't sound healthy to me."

By this point the moms have begun to listen in. They're leaning a little closer, trying to make it look like they aren't paying attention, but it's obvious that they are. The dads pause, smile a little, clear their throats.

Mom A: "Circumcision reduces the instance of UTIs."
Mom B: "Aaactually, it really doesn't. Why is it that one gender gets a round of antibiotics and told to pay attention to hygiene more carefully when there's a UTI, and the other gets the recommendation of circumcision if it hasn't already been performed? Sounds like bunk to me. Besides, our country is really the only one left that circumcises frequently with no medical need. Europe, Canada, and so many others just don't anymore, and you don't hear about a massive wave of UTIs and other diseases spreading around like wildfire because people aren't cut."

Mom A blinks. She hadn't thought of that before. She frowns.

Dad B: "Hey, we don't want to tell you what to do. But there's really no reason to circumcise if it isn't medically necessary, you know? Plus, it's rarely done with the proper amount of anesthesia, a baby can't tell you if they're having symptoms of complications, diapers can mask the amount of blood loss to a point where it's already deadly and you don't know it, never mind that you're removing healthy erogenous tissue from a baby who can't consent." He shrugs. "It's just stuff. It probably won't kill them, but it might. It might not leave them scarred for life - or then again, maybe it will. You can't tell before hand if something bad will happen. It isn't a risk we wanted to take." He takes his partner's hand. She smiles.

Mom A: "You mean, you guys didn't..?" She points at the baby, who is happily babbling away at something.

The other two parents shake their heads.

Mom B: "Risk versus benefit. There just wasn't enough of a benefit for us. It made no sense. Our pediatrician agreed and was even the one who brought up whether or not we had considered it in the first place. He was thrilled when we said we chose not to."

Mom A frowns. She seems to be thinking something over very heavily, and finally, she clears her throat. She glances at her husband, then back at the other two.

Mom A: "How.. How do you explain the fact that they look different from you..?"

Mom B smiles and puts her arm around her partner.

Mom B: "We say that the cycle of abuse has stopped."
Dad B: "We say that we know that the decisions our parents made were the best they knew how to make, but that things change and people learn that things can be done differently."
Mom B: "And when our daughter is old enough to really understand why she wasn't circumcised, she'll have the choice to make for herself."

The A family looks kind of impressed.

Mom A: "I don't really want to circumcise my perfect little girl." She doesn't sound too proud. "But I thought it's something we had to do."

The other parents shake their heads.

The cycle can stop. If we don't cut our girls... Why do we cut our boys?

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