In an astounding development, counterpunch.org published an article on Friday that discussed the politics of neonatal circumcision in America.
What’s astounding is that this topic has been bouncing around select progressive groups for years. The perennial question has always been, When will progressives look at this issue? And the answer at least in a single instance turns out to have been Friday, March 2.
The article is generally very good. However, a few nudges are in order.
In the Pediatrics 25-year longitudinal survey of New Zealand children on the association between circumcision status and sexually transmitted infection, the authors actually issued a retraction of sorts. They admitted that their finding could not be squared with an Australian study that included 10,000 participants that found no protective effect from male circumcision. Hugh Young, who runs a very thorough website from New Zealand on the issue of circumcision, has collected every bit of published material that a single human being can actually do on his own viz circumcision and put it on the web. You can see the retraction and his critique at http://www.circumstitions.com/news/newest-heads.html .
Also, readers of this blog will know that the HIV/circumcision link has a lot of critics and a growing number of studies that contradict (or at least complicate) the findings. Among them is the Stallings study that found an equal protective effect of female circumcision, prompting the timely question (at least in the mind of the reader) of why male circumcision should be considered acceptable and female circumcision not acceptable in a pandemic.
Also, there’s the Mishra study that showed a protective effect withIN countries from circumcision in only one out of eight countries studied. The premise was that cross-border comparisons were inappropriate in an observational analysis of this sort. Their conclusion was that real world settings would probably not bear out the random trial studies’ conclusions due to as-yet unknown confounding factors (perhaps, therefore calling for a longer longitudinal period of observation?). Another issue worth thinking about is highlighted in an earlier entry that appeared to show circumcision as a vector for spreading HIV.
While it seems implicit and explicit in a number of paragraphs in this essay, I would only reinforce the idea that you could make a very good argument that the very fact that “restoring” and open grassroots organizations have popped up since the 80s points to a very large number of men who are thoroughly upset and disgusted with the practice of circumcision. This is of no small moment when we’re talking about a forward-looking modern society that values human rights, individual autonomy and the decades old principle of the right to refuse medical treatment.
Click through for more.
The Politics of Male Circumcision in America: To Cut or Not to Cut
By DAVID ROSEN
Two recent reports of clinical trials in East Africa successfully demonstrated that circumcision of adult men significantly reduces the risk of contracting HIV. The trials have renewed a debate in the U.S. as to the procedure’s efficacy. While female circumcision is nearly universally denounced in the West as a form of barbarity, male circumcision persists for medical, cultural and religious reasons.
Murray Bookchin, the late anarchist theoretician, once observed that the first form of social hierarchy was the tyranny of the old over the young. And circumcision, whether inflicted on male or female children, may well be the oldest form of tyranny, the brutal imposition of pain and disfigurement on the young to enforce the rule of the old, especially older men.
While the medical reports confirm the value of male circumcision under particular conditions, a value that has its origin in the procedure’s centuries-old practice, the question remains whether it is a medically unnecessary procedure in the U.S. today?
Editor’s note: I’m not posting the full text of this article just yet, opting instead to point you to the URL where it resides. First, I think counterpunch.org is an excellent newsletter edited by a fine journalist, and want readers to read this article and see what else is offered there. Second, I have corresponded with the author of this article and I would only publish with his permission rather than rely on fair use doctrine. And third, my experience has been that the archiving of articles on Counterpunch remains fairly reliable and we should not expect the piece to disappear any time soon.
See it here: http://www.counterpunch.org/rosen03022007.html