In 2006, I became an activist. I spent countless hours raising awareness of the greater complexity and inequality of male circumcision. As a young woman born in Israel, I had little cause to doubt the practice; Bris is deeply rooted in our religious faith and culture; questioning it was simply beyond imagination. Luck had it, I came to witness the procedure with my own eyes, and my life inevitably changed. I searched everywhere for answers, ranging from old scripture through long conversations with medical professionals. I then looked for books and published empirical studies, and began noting frequent reports of botched incidents.
Broadly, circumcision is controversial. Much like in other areas of research, referring to cross-cultural differences is absolutely critical: consider world-wide prevalence (over 75% of men world-wide are uncircumcised), acknowledge the numerous, scientific and medically advanced countries (e.g. Iceland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway(2), Denmark, Swedenand more) who are actively seeking to legally ban the practice when performed on minors. Europeans find it fundamentally unethical as the child cannot provide his informed consent. This alone ought to provoke the sort of critical thinking skills we wish so fervently to instill in College students. What’s more, the alleged benefits are questionable: for example, far more women suffer from UTI’s than men, yet they are treated with antibiotics, not a scalpel. Likewise, one in 100,000 men will develop penile cancer while breast cancer continues to be diagnosed in 1 in 9 women, yet no one is performing neonatal mastectomies preemptively. Condoms are the ideal, cheapest, safest form of protection against STI’s, not surgery – and the list goes on…
Sadly, despite my hard work, I realized I was alone. Most Israelis have never heard of the evidence I presented and were unwilling to listen. So I decided to find those already searching: I had built–and continue to maintain–a website for the Israeli community, discussing circumcision’s influences on sexuality. I applied my own education as well as meaningful articles written by others. With their approval, I translated the content to Hebrew for Jewish parents to contemplate. I further created graphic-designs that were used for stickers and shirts to help others spread the message. I offered my graphic design services to an American activist organization called Intact America, should they need additional help with our cause.
More Recently – My Fight
Since joining the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014, I had contacted faculty in an attempt to improve current Human Sexuality courses. I have presented on the topic in class and have raised the matter during discussions whenever possible. In the coming months, I will be producing content for Human Sexuality, introducing UW students to male circumcision. I hope to encourage and inspire students to explore the matter independently, and form their own opinions on fairness and equality. I have perused this cause with passion, fearlessly approaching a sensitive, rarely considered issue in public, again and again. Okay, truthfully, “fearless” is an illusion, a spell I cast on my listeners. Every single time I mention circumcision I feel my heart breaking through my rib cage. It’s scary; people react in unpredictable–sometimes aggressive–ways. But it’s beyond my control at this point. It’s simply not about me; it’s about little boys. It’s about the right of the child.
Upon my graduation, I will be applying for a new organization at UW Madison, advocating for children’s right to bodily integrity. The fight for equality is long and difficult, but also necessary:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.” ― Frederick Douglass
I look forward to the day when both men and women are protected from genital cutting.