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 news reports of botched incidents.
Broadly, it is important to recognize circumcision is controversial by referring to cross-cultural differences, much like we do in many other areas of research. Namely, we must consider world-wide prevalence (over 75% of men world-wide are uncircumcised), and acknowledge the fact numerous, scientific and medically advanced countries (e.g. Germany, Netherlands, Norway(2), Denmark, Sweden and more) have sought to legally ban the practice when performed on minors. They 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, 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 our message. I offered my graphic design services to an American activist organization called Intact America, should they need additional help with our cause.
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 the topic, hopefully encouraging their independent research and provoking critical thinking. I have perused this cause with passion, fearlessly approaching a sensitive, rarely considered issue in public, again and again. Well… truthfully, “fearless” is an illusion I cast on my listeners. There is not a single time I do not feel my heartbeat pounding when I first mention circumcision. It’s scary; people react in unpredictable–sometimes violent–ways. But it’s beyond my control at this point. It’s simply not about me; it’s about little boys.
Upon my graduation, I will be applying for a new organization at UW Madison, advocating for children’s right to bodily integrity. This has been one of my life’s great missions, and I look forward to the day when both men and women are protected from genital cutting.