Courtney Bender on the controversial ballot measure to prohibit circumcision of males under eighteen years of age, which will be up for a vote in San Francisco in November:
Fortunately, reporters don’t have to decide what this ballot measure is really about. They can – and I think they should – instead note the ways that all the factions try to frame their positions. On the one hand, Jewish leaders assert their basic right to practice an important religious ritual – and recall persecution in the Soviet Union (the incarceration of mohels, or worse) as a cautionary tale. They are also often eager to point to recent medical studies showing that circumcision may have health benefits – even though the studies they cite are mostly focused on HIV transmission rates in sub-Saharan Africa.
On the other hand, the small cadre of activists that has promoted the proposal in San Francisco, along with the authors of “Foreskin Man,” argue that their opposition is not about religion (the villain of the first issue of the comic was Dr. Mutilator, for example) but rather about the rights of children to their bodies. At the same time, we can note that their consistent use of the term “male genital mutilation” connects their project to the much more widely supported political condemnation of female genital mutilation – an issue that clearly has its own religious reverberation; FGM’s connection to Muslim-majority African nations links the practice to religion in problematic and occasionally incendiary ways.
And then there are, naively or otherwise, people like Jena Troutman, the doula who introduced and withdrew a similar ballot measure in Santa Monica. “It shouldn’t have been about religion in the first place,” she said. “Ninety-five percent of people aren’t doing it for religious reasons, and with everyone from the New York Times to Glenn Beck focusing on the religious issue, it’s closing Americans down to the conversation.”
Read more, at the Scoop.