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Why Circumcision is a Feminist Issue

  I am the badass mama of two intact boys. A feminist mama. A gentle, peaceful parenting mama. I know, every day, that I screw up as a parent. I also know, every day, that the choices I make for my sons are the right ones.

Starting with the first. I did not cut them at birth.

Oh, no. Don’t get me wrong. As a single woman in America, I thought circumcision was the “normal” thing. And I suppose it was. But that doesn’t make it the right thing.

When I was pregnant with my first son, my mom made the (now obvious) statement,

“I hope you’re not going to circumcise if it’s a boy.”

I had barely thought about that. I knew I’d have a peaceful, natural birth, but I hadn’t thought much past that. To the gender.

And that’s where this issue lies: the gender.

We, as feminists, believe that our cause is based on the sole reasoning that women are equal. Guess what. Our boys, born every day, a million cut every year, also deserve that equality.

If we expect that our baby girls deserve better than genital cutting–simply because of what sex they were born–then why not our boys?

Here is the base: If you would not cut a baby girl, you should not cut a baby boy. Some might argue that FGM is “much worse” than male circumcision. First off, research both. There are many different “levels” of FGM. I don’t agree with any of them, but some involve only a nick to the hood or comparable. Would you have that done to your daughter? And you can agree, then, that a “nick” is less damaging than ripping the prepuce away from the infant penis without anesthetic. So some forms of FGM are “worse” than male circumcision. Well, I say that rape is “worse” than sexual assault, but I wouldn’t wish either on anyone.

And incidentally, some of the exact same reasons are given for FGM as male circumcision: religion, cleanliness. I answer this simply: We should not push our ideals on someone else’s genitalia, period. Ever.

Let’s leave the male genitalia alone.

We argue against FGM. But what about the million boys born in America who have no voice? There are 20,000 nerve endings cut off of the penis when circumcised. There are many reasons given, and every single one of them have been debunked.

  • It decreases the risk of penile cancer. Let me get this out of the way first: Penile cancer is one of the rarest forms, accounting for less than 1 percent of cancer cases in men. There is conflicting data on whether circumcision decreases the risk for penile cancer, but I hardly think that we should cut off a healthy functioning sexual organ over such a minute risk. We wouldn‘t cut off the breast buds in little girls, now would we?
  • The risk of phimosis, or a foreskin that won’t retract. Just as in the female body, let’s learn and know what’s normal for the intact male. The foreskin gradually retracts between infancy and adulthood. And guess how. Nope, not by parents or doctors forcing retraction. (That’s actually quite harmful and can lead to much bigger problems.) It does so naturally, with the help of gentle stimulation over the years. Now, I think we can agree that boys will often take care of that themselves, yes?
  • HIV and other STDs. This is in the forefront of the pro-circ movement right now. I could show you a study that says that it’s actually the number of sex workers in a given area rather than the circumcision rate for males. I could also point out that most of Europe is intact, and if we’re comparing the HIV rates in industrialized countries, the U.S., with its tradition of routine infant circumcision, still wins. It’s not a logical argument. It has no basis in reality. And also, it has to make us shake our heads: I would rather teach my sons to respect their own bodies and those of their partners by using protection. Circumcision is hardly a free pass to have unprotected sex, and that argument should be dropped from the dialogue.

There will always be a new study. And it will always be proven wrong. Circumcision is a solution in search of a problem.

Baby boys in America start their lives out with a violence: pinning then down, “cleaning” it away. Who can reconcile that truth? It’s not fair. It’s not equal.

Finally, this is an issue of bodily autonomy. Every day, we fight for our own. We fight to “Keep your laws off my body.” Does that only apply to the uterus, and only when discussing abortion? No. We must understand that it is his body; it must be his choice.

Why, as feminists, as mothers, as general badasses, are we willing to overlook this as a human rights issue? “Because it’s always been done” is a horrible answer. We are not those who acquiesce to the status quo. When we do, we are no better than the patriarchs we claim to fight against, perpetuating a harmful practice because it’s always been done that way and we can’t be troubled to stop it.

Let’s let our children come into this world without violence. Let’s leave them be, perfect in the way they were made. We were. We are. Don’t our sons deserve the same respect?


Image: Jacob Anikulapo on Flickr via a Creative Commons License.

Find me on Twitter.


  1. Thank you, thank you..
    I was in the no cut camp, but reading this made it clear as day.

  2. So, why doesn’t a baby have the right not to be cut up into pieces or burned to death with saline and removed from the mother’s body while its still in her uterus? But as soon as its born, it has rights? The mother’s rights are no more important than the baby’s, no matter what stage of life the baby is in. It may be the mother’s body that the baby is inside, but its the baby’s body that is being destroyed during an abortion. It is her duty to protect her baby’s life and its right to that life, no matter why she may not *want* a baby. Its not what she *wants* that is important. Just like a child’s foreskin remaining intact is more important than what the parents may *want* to do with it. I am all for not circumcising babies of either gender, I just don’t understand why its only *after* they are born that they get “rights”. They are humans too, no matter their stage of life. Just like you said, “Let’s let our children come into this world without violence. Let’s leave them be, perfect in the way they were made. We were. We are. Don’t our sons deserve the same respect?” That applies to much more than just circumcision.

    • The abortion v. circumcision argument is moot. There are plenty of intactivists who are also pro-life. I am so sick of reading this. Lets pick our battles and stick to them. Instead of saying “well you’re killing babies” lets focus on the task at hand. Maybe if we can get this world to the point of not harming their infants, we can get them to the point of not harming their fetuses either. Education is the name of the game, and until people have the information they need, perhaps we can save a million circumcisions and a million abortions from being performed… until then, pick your battles… dear lord I am so sick of this argument!

    • Saving Babies says:

      If you are in support of a fetus’s right to life, why are you so against his right to genital integrity?

      I can see logically how one can be pro-choice on abortion and anti-infant-circumcision, but I’ll never understand how someone who is against abortion can support circumcision. That’s like saying rape is okay because it isn’t murder.

  3. Please see “How Male Circumcision Harms Women” at http://www.circumcision.org/harmswomen.htm.

  4. Cate Nelson says:

    Beth, I have intactivist friends on both sides of the abortion issue.
    I believe in my bodily autonomy just like I believe in that of my sons. If you’d like to read about why I went from pro-life to pro-choice, here’s my link:

    That last paragraph in this post may apply to more for *you*, but it does not apply to how I feel about abortion. My body, my choice. Children should never be the “punishment” for having sex or being raped. I will always stand by a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions.

    • Cate, so how about a man’a right to have consensual sex without being forced to be a father and pay child support?

  5. Children are not a punishment! That right there tells me that you should never be a parent. You clearly do not see them for what they really are. Its all about what you want. That is a big problem. You get to have fun all you want and sleep with whomever you want and when your actions create a life, you get to just throw that precious life away. You make reproductive decisions when you choose to do the thing that causes reproduction, knowing that it could create a life. If you become pregnant, you have already reproduced. That is not the issue. The issue is after the fact. You think its ok for a woman to kill her child and throw it in the trash. Do you not see how disgusting that is? Why is your body and why are your rights more important than the child’s? They are not! Your children are equals. In the case of rape, the child would be the only good thing that came from it. Why would you want to kill it? And when does the unborn child magically *become* a human being with rights?

  6. Cate Nelson says:

    I was writing a preemptive response to the oft-penned idea by pro-lifers, “If you don’t want to have children, don’t have sex.” (Which you just said, by the way.) Hence, the quotes around “punishment”. But thanks for telling me I shouldn’t be a parent. Maybe I should have aborted?
    You are hysterical on this issue. Calm down, please. I will no longer continue to debate abortion on a circumcision post, because you obviously can’t be rational.

  7. I never said “if you don’t want to have children, don’t have sex.” Don’t put words in my mouth. Basically what I’m saying is have some self control. Everything is not about you. When you become pregnant, everything becomes about the child. And if you are all that matters and a child is punishment, why would you ever have one? My question in my first comment was, why does the child have a right not to be circumcised but he does not have the right to his life until after he is born? It doesn’t add up. The life issue is infinitely more important than the circumcision issue. I was not being hysterical. Can nobody show the least bit of emotion without being called hysterical? How can one who values life not become emotional when so many precious lives are being destroyed and thrown away by ignorant and neglectful “mothers” every day?

    • Why are you even arguing this matter????

    • palatinus says:

      “precious lives”… there are 7 billion of us, we really aren’t that special or precious. In fact: we could do with a few less. We are animals, mammals who reproduce just like pigs or mice do. Embryo’s are not full persons, their rights don’t trump those of the mother.

      Think about it: there aren’t enough resources and jobs to go around, so why let even more children be born? To take it one step further: it is argued that roe vs wade caused the decline in violent crime in the 90’s. Less unwanted children = less criminals 20 years later.

    • I think what the author of the article is trying to get at is that the abortion issue is a separate issue. If we’re going to say that circumcision issue leads to abortion issue then why not say that the abortion issue leads to free health care for expectant mothers and for children? Why not say that the abortion issue leads directly to not executing murderers? Why not say that the abortion issue leads directly to never bombing foreign countries? Regardless of how you feel about these things, they’re not the same issue. They may have similar or identical guiding principles but they may not. Include what you think the ‘guiding principles’ are and you may have a better point.

  8. Abortion is a red herring argument brought up by people who are trying to divert attention away from the topic – and by extension what that person ultimately supports: the genital mutilation of infants.

  9. Cate Nelson says:

    “You make reproductive decisions when you choose to do the thing that causes reproduction, knowing that it could create a life.”

    I just simplified your words. Same idea. *yawn*

  10. I’m not trying to divert attention from the original topic. My point was, why do they have a right not to have their penis mutilated but they do not have the right to life until after they are born? Its not that difficult to understand my question. I agree 100% that they have the right to not have their foreskin cut off. My son is intact and any sons I have in the future will be. But I also know that they have the right to their life. “But what about the million boys born in America who have no voice?” That doesn’t just apply to circumcision. And, yes, you do make that decision when you do the act that causes life. My husband and I are not ready for another baby yet, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have marital relations. But we do abstain when I am fertile and we have the self discipline to do so. We use NFP. That doesn’t mean never have sex. Thats not what I said. Grow up. We know, however, that in intercourse, we could create another baby. And we could not and would not even consider not having that baby as an option once it was conceived. We recognize a child’s worth and importance and do not see a child as a punishment. A child is the only good thing that could come of fornication or rape.

    • We know what you’re saying, and YES YOU ARE DIVERTING! Take your pro-life rant to an abortion posting… IT DOESNT BELONG HERE! GET IT THROUGH YOUR SKULL!

      • Jeze, Beth….STFU! You don’t get it, that’s ok. Just stop showing us just how hard you don’t get it!

    • “A child is the only good thing that could come of fornication or rape.”
      —yeah, I’ve never had anything good come from fornication. Oh, believe me, I’ve tried. Fornicating left and right but never a single solitary good thing from it. Not one single moment of enjoyment or happiness from all that fornicating. It was a lot like working at a burger joint with no AC on a hot summer day. If only fornicating were enjoyable. Oh well, until some scientist figures out how to make fornicating pleasurable I guess we’re all just stuck with the hell of modern fornicating. Sometimes, I just think it might be better to just read a book or do my taxes or mow the lawn. But I keep at it. I figure, my father fornicated and his father before him so it’s kind of a family tradition. I owe it to them to keep fornicating, no matter how much I’d rather not have sex with a beautiful happy woman. I don’t know what she’s so happy about. Doesn’t she know that we’ve been fornicating? I just don’t understand her sometimes.

  11. Wonderfully written! I wish everyone I know would read this. I just got into a discussion on facebook with two moms that cut their sons after I posted a similar article. Unfortunatley I think their psychological need to defend their choice prevented them from seeing the point. *sigh*

  12. ileihpirej says:

    Well, you know what Beth? You know — just as I know; and everyone else here knows–you DID divert attention away from the original topic. As the ONLY male who has bothered to comment on this, I have to say: I’m offended. You’ve taken a perfectly wonderful article that addresses the atrocities that affect millions of boys all over the world and you’ve managed to turn it into an episode of The View….the kind of episode where all the commentary comes out sounding like a bunch coked-up barnyard chickens cackling away. For once, I’d like to see people actually approach this topic without it turning into a circus act. If you want to discuss abortion so in-depth, please…feel free. BUT NOT HERE. That would be like me blabbing away about enlarged prostates on an article about female breast cancer. I understand where you’re coming from…I really do. But there are COUNTLESS numbers of articles and forums where you can discuss abortion. But there are VERY FEW places where this one topic is even mentioned. Please, you’re doing the Male Genital Mutilation topic a disservice.

  13. “I’m not trying to divert attention from the original topic.”

    Aaaaand right *after* you said that, you proceeded to continue with the diversion. Again, red herring.

  14. I hate it when people take circumcision and turn it aroun into pro-life.

    Beth stay on topic will you. we get it, your pro-life but going off topic will not get people round to your way of thinking, it just pisses people off because your detracting from the topic of this post.

    When it comes to the living breathing child outside the womb the laws of the land and morality apply to him. He has a right to his own body and that right is far greater then that of his parents or anyone else on this earth. I alter his body beyond repair without his consent is barbaric and cruel. We protect our girl children and its beyond the time to put into place legislation that protects our boys. Ignorance is no excuse, to cut and not inform your self first is even worse. When you become a parent and custodian of a child it is your natural duty to protect him and help him prepare for that time when he steps out alone. That means making INFORMED decisions.

  15. Dear Cate Nelson,
    I am a cut male who is absolutely disgusted with what was done to me. That being said, I want to thank you for the time/effort you are putting forth towards this. It means the world to me that one day males will have the right to bodily autonomy like our female peers enjoy.

    The one “qualm” I have with your piece involves the word patriarchy..

    The word patriarchy is defined by merriam-webster as – “control by men of a disproportionately large share of power”. So in essence that means that men are advantaged by being a male and given disproportionate amount of power. The problem is that it does not exist. Yes, there is a very small number of people that control the rest. Yes, the majority of them happen to be male. No, I have never been advantaged due to my gender.. Never.
    My body was mutilated shorty after birth by request of my mother. My body was enlisted onto the draft to insure I receive the same citizenry benefits that women are given regardless. The word is flawed and so is your perception if you believe it(patriarchy) “still” exists in America.
    The word you’re looking for is kyriarchy which loosely means “the ones with power” as the ones in power do not care about the common man or women, and the use of the word patriarchy is offensive as it unequivocally means that men are inherently advantaged in “this” system – which in modern times is quite the opposite.

    And just a side note, you correctly mention that the foreskin has over 20,000 nerve endings. That however is not including the frenulum and dartos fascia which are nerve rich tissues typically amputated during a male circumcision (12 different tissues in total). Bringing the total nerves amputated closer to 30,000. Just as a comparison the clitoris is well documented to have 10,000 (albeit more densely packed) nerve endings. It bothers me that people can ignorantly call one “practice” worse than the other solely based on gender.

    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all those who oppose genital cutting – regardless of sex.

    • Cate Nelson says:

      Men are and were the ones traditionally in power, though if we’re talking about socioeconomics, you’re right. And I have caught some flack for using the term, but it was meant to be a bit more tongue-in-cheek: a statement to the feminists who follow this line of thinking.
      But a [male] friend pointed out, and I have to agree: “The first people hurt by patriarchy are the men.”

  16. Locuta de Bjorg says:

    Thank you so much for writing this well-researched, sensible, sensitive article.
    Some other authors/bloggers have made the assertion that the San Francisco ballot initiative banning circumcision/MGM is “anti woman” or misogynistic in addition to the usual anti-Semitic nonsense. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sex is better for the man and his female partner (if he swings that way) if he has all the sensation and function that Mother Nature intended for him. Google “sex as nature intended it” for more info.
    And yes, an intact man does need to pay attention to keeping clean below decks. He also needs to brush his teeth and bathe regularly! If he cannot handle those functions, well then, maybe he is not the man for you. Find clean intact guy to enjoy.
    You sound like a fabulous mom. I look forward to the day when none of us have to make such a decision it and is considered a gruesome, regrettable mistake of the past.

  17. Cate I’m going to be honest I can’t stand most feminist due to their sexist nature when it comes to circumcision as they demand I as a man acknowledge all of their rights yet they refuse to acknowledge all of mine. However feminist like yourself don’t have your head shoved up your backside and so unlike so many of the others I do like you and I thank you for what you have done it means a lot to someone like me who was circumcised and hates it.

    • Cate Nelson says:

      Nathan, hopefully there are plenty of feminists like me (well, not exactly like me: Yikes!) raising intact sons. Raising respectful, kind, gentle sons who understand that their mama fights for baby boys so that we can all be whole people.

  18. And none of you have answered my question. It involved this topic and another. That does not mean I’m diverting from it. I am combining it with another topic to form a point. None of you are doing any good at making your case. You are acting like morons. Do the world a favor and grow up! None of you seem to know what you are talking about and you’re just making yourselves sound stupid. Good job. I’m done with this. None of you are able to answer a simple question and sadly, you will just continue to wallow in your ignorance and selfishness. Too bad for you and your children. Ta ta sickos!

    • Cate Nelson says:


    • Beth. abortion is a different issue – spectrum of issues, rather, depending on when in pregnancy you’re talking about – but whenever they may begin, human rights do not END at birth.

      And “B is worse than A” is not an argument for A,

    • Saving Babies says:

      If you had posed a simple question, we’d have answered it. You chose to ask a question that has as many different answers as there are people in the world. It’s not the same as “what is the sum of two and seven.”

      You are acting like a spoiled child. Stop assuming that everyone who is annoyed by your question is pro-choice, because that’s not the case, and quit arguing that you’re not diverting, because you are. Your entire purpose here is to question abortion rights. That is not the purpose of this blog post or this discussion. Perhaps you should start your own blog, or seek out one that actually intends to discuss the issue you so desperately want to discuss.

  19. “And none of you have answered my question. It involved this topic and another. That does not mean I’m diverting from it. ”

    Bullcrap. Yes you are. It’s a common tactic we see among PRO-CUTTERS – which you have demonstrated yourself to be, given your insistence on DIVERTING the subject away from infant genital mutilation.

    Do the world a favor and educate yourself on this issue.

  20. Thank you for writing so reasonably on this subject. I believe that when you give people the facts, they’ll turn away from this brutal practice. All we need is enough enlightened, compassionate people like yourself willing to make the facts available.

  21. Heidi M. says:

    Very good blog post. I feel the same way. Genital integrity for all. I made the decision not to circ my son 20 years ago. If you think you meet with resistance today, I’ll tell you it was really tough back then. But I did my homework and decided that there was just no good reason for it. Why put him through that surgery if it was totally unnecessary? Made no sense to me. It still doesn’t – and now we know so much more on the subject. My OB-GYN was not overly thrilled with my decision, but he knew not to argue with me. My pediatrician was an elderly gent who said it was no big deal to NOT circ. And then my dad told me that he’d never had any problems, not being circ’d, and that was enough for me. My son is just fine all these years later.

    • Cate Nelson says:

      Heidi, I’m one of the lucky few who know that if I would have had a brother (born in the late ’70s, have 5 sisters), he would have been intact. My lovely mother was the real voice of common sense in this for me, and I’m glad she put me on the path to intactivism (and feminism, mind you).
      Your son is blessed to have parents who didn’t mind going against the grain if it meant that he had genital integrity. Good for you!

  22. And Cate, great picture! Such a change from all the stock “To Cut Or Not To Cut” pictures – circumcised bananas, chopped carrots, Egyptian papyri, kitchen utensils, gurgling babies, left-handed aviation tinsips (see http://www.circumstitions.com/write.html) and fluffy scissors (Bleagh!).

  23. Reneé Kazmar says:

    Excellent article! I’m thankful every day that my husband and I instinctively knew that there was just no reason to cut off any of our son’s body when he was born. He’ll turn seven years this August and is as whole as the day he was born.

  24. Check your facts, please. Intactivists are not an unbiased source of information, and one study generally does not invalidate many studies. I don’t know why you feel circumcision is something awful. Maybe you just prefer foreskins? Most cut males are pleased with their status, and I’m certainly glad I was snipped. I think we feminists surely have better things to oppose than beneficial procedures performed on boys.

    • You’re right, GS, we’re biased in favour of human rights.
      The value of studies depends on their quality as well as their quantity. One well-designed and well-performed study by people who are not predisposed to circumcision invalidates many studies “designed to prove” (I know one that actually used those words) that circumcision is a good thing.
      We feel circumcision is somthing awful because a few babies die of it, some lose their penises, many have lesser harm and damage and a very large number hate what was done to them. At one circumcision every 26 seconds in the US, those numbers mount up.
      No good studies have been done but polls suggest that men are much more likely to be happy to be intact than happy to have had part of their penis cut off.
      You were not “snipped”, you were probably sliced with a Gomco clamp or crushed and your foreskin let die in a Plastibell. If you’d been sliced in a Mogen clamp, you’re lucky they didn’t take part of your glans too (that’s why the Mogen Company went out of business). Nowadays with an Accu-Circ, you an also be chopped – but never “snipped”.
      The “benefits” of circumcision do not outweigh the risks and harms, and I’m sure feminsts don’t need your help in deciding their priorities.

  25. “Check your facts, please.”

    We have. Which is why we know that the so-called ‘benefits’ to getting cut are highly exaggerated, if not downright mythical. No medical organization in the world recommends routine infant cutting.


    “I don’t know why you feel circumcision is something awful.”

    It’s medically unnecessary, it forever robs a man of the full functionality of his genitalia, as nature intended – it’s a blatant human rights violation. That’s why it’s awful.

    Have you watched the videos?


    “Most cut males are pleased with their status, and I’m certainly glad I was snipped.”

    Most victims of forced genital cutting don’t know any better. If you’d been missing the use of your arm your whole life, you wouldn’t appreciate the benefit of having two arms. If you are color blind, you cannot appreciate being able to see full color range. Same thing with men who have been forced to endure partial amputation of their penis. Quite simply, they don’t know what they’re missing.

    Why Most Circumcised Men Seem ‘Satisfied’:

    But once a man becomes fully informed about what was needlessly stolen from him, he feels quite differently. Especially when he realizes that some of the issues he’s probably been dealing with are the result of what happened to him on that cutting board.


    “I think we feminists surely have better things to oppose than beneficial procedures performed on boys.”

    It’s not a ‘beneficial’ procedure.

    Girls are protected from this barbarity, yet boys are not. This is unconstitutional. Boys deserve equal protection under the law.

  26. Christopher says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge on the subject. I am forever glad to have stood my ground 7 years ago by NOT giving my consent to my son’s routine circumcision. I had no contacts, nor read any anti circumcision articles, etc. I just knew in my heart it was the wrong thing to do. If more of us search our hearts and conscience I’m sure more of us would decide NOT to do this to our sons. Once again, a great read that I will refer to often.

    • Cate Nelson says:

      That’s amazing. I wish more parents would go with their gut and choose not to injure as a way of “welcoming” a boy into this world.

  27. Thank you Cate for writing this article. I’m glad that you are urging the battle-hardened feminist movement to take up this equal rights issue. Feminism has done a wonderful job of not only modifying numerous cultural standards, but also in developing the expertise and theory on *how* to challenge unfair and damaging societal and individual habits.

    Thank you for not cutting your sons. I’m missing my foreskin and it sucks. I talked to my mother about it and she was stunned when she thought about it. She sincerely apologized for not taking more control at the time of my birth.

    In other forums on this topic (namely a Facebook group called “End Routine Infant Circumcision” http://www.facebook.com/EndCirc) I heard a story of a mother/father pair who had decided not to circumcise. While the mother was conked out after the birth a nurse came in and picked up the baby. The father asked “hey, where’s he going?” and the nurse replied she was taking him to be circumcised, of course. The father was pissed off and obviously stopped the procedure, thankfully. But they were shocked that the hospital had tried to do it *by default* and wouldn’t have made any announcement if he hadn’t asked.

    It’s terrifying, really. Anyway, thanks again.

    • Cate Nelson says:

      Thanks for giving me another pro-intact page on FB to like! It *is* shocking, when we think about it. I hope that feminists who consider themselves humanists (rather than the rare “us against them”) will continue to fight for gender equality, starting at birth. It’s important. What is more basic than the right to keep our bodies whole?

  28. Sex workers do not spread HIV. Unsafe sexual practices spread HIV, regardless of who is doing them.

    In countries like Australia, where sex workers have been supported to have high condom use and good peer education networks about HIV, sex workers actually have a HIV rate lower than the general population.

    Please don’t promote whorephobia.

  29. Troll King says:

    Circumcision is not a feminist issue. It is a male rights issue. I guess I am supposed to give you, a single mother at that, a fuckin cookie for not mutilating your sons, who you seem to have no trouble denying a biological father to, but all you have done here is try to co-opt the men’s movement using our own information. You are presenting this like you just figured it out but MRAs have been pushing this for years. Infact, feminists have openly stood against our attempts to get the practice made illegal.

    Even in this article you spend half the time talking about FGM. Why is it impossible for you and other feminists to talk about anything that harms men without reframing the debate into how women are worse off??? Oh wait, it is because you were never oppressed to any degree close to what your ideology claims. The fact that boys are circ’d at all in the west is proof enough that they are not privileged over women.

    The sad truth is that feminism ran out of things to complain about years ago, even then most of what they complained about was fictional or revisionist herstory, and now feminists want to do nothing more than appropriate the MRM.

    • What does “co-opt” mean?

      How is standing up for the rights of men to make their own decision about what happens to their genitals when they are of an age to research it and make their own decision “co-opting the men’s movement using our own information?”

      That doesn’t even make sense!

      Since becoming an Intactivists, I have realized there are vast differences between men who choose to circ their son’s in spite of the research and the risks involved in the surgery (YES, it IS a surgery) and those who choose to give their son(s) a right to their own bodies.

      Men need to have ability to separate themselves from their son’s….men need to get their own self-esteem and not feel the need to perpetrate the same atrocity upon their newborn son(s) so they can feel better about their sexuality….it’s ridiculous that men think need their son’s genitals need to match theirs. Women don’t look their daughters’ genitals over to make sure they “match” or look like their own.

      Vincent Bach explained this phenomenon perfectly:
      “First of all, you need to understand that circumcised men are cornered on this issue. They were circumcised without their consent and have no inherent knowledge of what being Intact is like. Even though they rarely will discuss the issue, they are keenly aware that they have been surgically altered in a very private way. There are several ways for a man to deal with this issue but the safest way, psychologically speaking, is to believe at all cost that the surgery performed on them was an enhancement and is preferred by women. Confirmation of this belief is essential to their sexual self-image. Do I need to tell you that sexual self-image is a major issue for men? Didn’t think so.”

  30. What feminists DON’T want you to see: http://goo.gl/f4pXo

  31. Nikhil Kannan says:

    Excellently written. I’d also like to add a little bit of information (and hope!): we’re on the horizon of reversing the mutilation of myself and millions of others using a (seemingly) miracle substance known as “Extracellular Matrix.” I’m not 100% sure how it works, but a guy was able to regrow his finger just fine, so a foreskin isn’t too far behind. (Matter of fact, there’s a clinical trial starting now/soon.)

    Link: http://www.foregen.org

  32. A variety of Jewish and Israeli groups are working to abolish circumcision.

    Intact Son: The Israeli Association Against Genital Mutilation (in Hebrew)

    Kahal: Giving Up Brit Milah (in Hebrew)

    Beyond the Bris: A Jewish Intactivist Blog

  33. Thank you very much for addressing this angle of the issue. Too often I have met women who loudly carry the label “feminist” but use it to put men below women.

    That’s not what feminism is about. I’ve been reluctant to carry the feminist label due to these few women who give a bad name to all the wonderful people trying to bring equal rights to ALL humans.

    I also ask women to think about the message they send when they circumcise their sons. It’s as if you are saying you, a WOMYN, a FEMINIST, brought forth an imperfect human who required surgery for no other reason than gender. Not only does that dehumanize your son, it also degrades you.

    Tyranny ruins the tyrant and not just the victim.

  34. A few Jews are even on record for supporting or even endorsing the San Francisco circumcision referendum.

    Outlawing Circumcision: Good for the Jews? by Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, The Forward, 5/20/11

    The Circumcision Referendum: A Liberal Jewish Perspective by Sandford Borins, Ph.D.

    Howard Stern: Jewish Intactivist by Rebecca Wald

    Questioning Circumcision: Op/Ed by Rebecca Wald
    The Jewish Reporter, 6/2/11

  35. Christopher Marshall says:


    Saw a link to your article from the http://www.reddit.com/r/mensrights.

    Thank you for writing it.

    Very well written and argued.

    I suspect some of the feminists who have no interest in opposing against circumcision don’t like the idea of admitting not only that there are some ways in which the rights of men are less respected than the rights of women, but that women, as mothers, are active participants in the abuse of so fundamental a right.

    Thanks again for not only speaking out, but doing so with wit and style. Good show.

    • Cate Nelson says:

      I think the other issue is that some feminists, like the population overall, bought into the myths surrounding the “cleanliness” issue and circ’ed their own sons. And now, like the rest of the population, may have a hard time facing that they may have actually made the wrong decision and now choose defensiveness.
      Of course, there is always the argument as to why circumcision is done on females versus on males: control. Some feminists contend that where it is practiced, it is about controlling women and their sexuality. Which is of course true, but not everywhere. In some places, the “ritual nick” is religious. And “cleanliness” is again brought into the decision for some of the lower-level forms of FGM.

      The fact is, when we entirely separate the genders on the human right of genital integrity, we’re only making things worse. We can hardly teach equality when one gender’s body is cut simply for being that gender.

      Thanks for the kind words, Christopher. A friend had passed on that it had posted in the “Men’s Rights” section of reddit, and I was wary of reading the discussion over there. I’m glad you came over to bring something positive to this discussion.

      • Christopher Marshall says:

        You’re welcome.

        It is the easiest thing in the world to avoid hurting someone’s feelings by not bringing up a topic like circumcision. The heat you take when you do it anyway can be serious. It takes a lot of integrity to not blink in the face of that.

        Thanks again for the heartfelt advocacy.

        I am forever grateful to my wife’s OB-GYN who, when I asked him what he thought of circumcison, started his reply with “I *hate* that s***”. I don’t think my words would have convinced any of my relatives that leaving my son intact was the right thing to do without his unflinching support. It can’t be easy for a doctor to take a stand like that, seeing as how, if this subject ever gets the airing it deserves, and people come to understand the harm that the medical profession has aided and abetted for decades, it will unleash a flood of lawsuits against lots of doctors. I think that is why doctors don’t usually bring the subject up unless you ask them.

        I wonder how this issue is going to play out. I heard just today that 10 congressmen have sponsored a bill to make it illegal for states (and localities) to pass laws against circumcision (obviously to shut down the ballot initiatives in California).

      • P.S
        Look up how circumcision was brought to America. It was advocated by the Mothers of the Republic women’s rights movement and other traditionalist men and women as a form of sexual control of males(back then in some areas castration was a common remedy for male masturbation).

  36. There is even a spiritual and religious movement in Judaism to do a symbolic ceremony instead of a surgical circumcision.

    Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective by Miriam Pollack

    One Rabbis’ Thoughts on Circumcision by Rabbi Nathan Segal

    Brit Shalom Celebrants by Mark D. Reiss, M.D.

    Brit B’lee Milah (Covenant Without Cutting) Ceremony

    A Case for Bris without Milah.

  37. feminist’s crack me up with how they ignore everything and try to relabel issue’s this or that to keep their hateful movement relevant. Even going as far as to deny the role the American Matriarchy has in this systematic abuse of men.

    The day’s of women changing their mind and blaming men for it are over. Women are going to be held accountable for their actions very,very soon. And no amount of backpedaling will change a thing. Feminism is nothing more then a female supremacist hate movement and feminist’s are nothing more then a bunch of desperate bigoted female supremacist’s.

    • Cate Nelson says:

      People always crack me up with their poor use of apostrophes.

    • Christopher Marshall says:

      I can’t make sense out of your slamming of feminism, especially as a comment to this article, unless I assume that you feel threatened by a feminist writing an article in support of men’s rights (since it would serve as a counter example to your thesis).

      Other than that, I’m baffled.

  38. Jews in America are increasingly bypassing circumcision.

    Jewish Intactivist Miriam Pollack has some great commentary on ‘this in this recent interview.

    Jews Speak Out in Favor of Banning Circumcision on Minors

    Jewish Voices: The Current Judaic Movement to End Circumcision: Part 1

    Jewish Voices: The Current Judaic Movement to End Circumcision: Part 2

  39. I’m a masculist. It’s nice to see feminists and women caring about male-specific issues of equality alongside their own. Women have their own issues but we will never achieve true equality by focusing solely on the advancement of women. Nice post.

  40. Christine says:

    Thank you for posting this. It is provides a lot of great information. Unfortunately I had no choice but to cut my son to protect him from a family infection that hits around three. His father, grandfather, and great grandfather all got it and had to be cut late enough in life that they all remeber it in detail, including the intense pain from all those nerve endings. Their mothers had to choose between putting them through the pain or or risking much worse, such as a spreading of the infection or amputation. I wasn’t willing to risk it when his father recounted the pain to me. Up until that point, I had no intention of cutting him at all.

    Oh, and before anyone says something about the pain he felt as a baby, my son was the first baby his doctor ever had that slept through it.

  41. I appreciate your opposition to male genital mutilation. But as far as it being a ‘feminist’ issue, that seems curious to me because the fact that male genital mutilation is accepted and celebrated in the United States while female genital mutilation is forbidden and condemned to me discredits the feminist argument. That is that women are second class citizens in America while men are a privileged class. Because if there were the case it would be female genital mutilation that is accepted and male mutilation that’s not. In reality widespread acceptance of male genital mutilation is about male disposability and misandry. It’s about as ANTI-feminist as an issue gets. To me the logical feminist position would be pro-male genital mutilation because feminists hate men.

  42. Georg Shteln says:

    Nice blog, Cate. Very good to read. More, please.
    Christine- very weird story that needs clarifying: a mysterious illness that genetically surfaces at three years of age? Sounds obscure- does it have a diagnoses?
    And no, a living child never ‘sleeps’ through genital amputations. A baby experiencing severe pain will fall into a comatose-like state of shock. I’m sorry to tell you this.


  1. […] August 2011. There are increasing decibels against male-circumcision. "Male circumcision is a feminist concern," they appear as to be saying. In fact, efforts are underway so that a male child has to wait […]

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