Family tradition of circumcision - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 11-16-2007, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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More and more often, I see people citing “family tradition” as their main reason for circumcising. This seems like another version of the “look like Daddy” excuse. With the exception of religious circumcision, that “tradition” goes back two, MAYBE three generations. So because Daddy and Grandpa are cut, baby has to be too? I don’t think many people realize how recent this trend is. They think that everybody’s been cut since the founding of America and the baby would be an outcast if they were intact. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard of men insisting that their sons have to look like them or else they’ll be SOOO traumatized, only to find out that their dads were intact.

Even if it was “family tradition” to circumcise, why is this a tradition that is so important to maintain? Unless someone is changing the baby’s diapers, they’ll never know if the boy is cut or not. It’s not like a family tradition where everyone wears matching shirts at the reunion. No one will know. A tradition is not a tradition if nobody knows if you do it or not. It’s meaningless.

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#2 of 14 Old 11-16-2007, 11:12 AM
 
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I agree... to me a family tradition is something your family always does and celebrates together.... uhhh like holidays or praying before a meal or always going for ice cream after a piano recital...

So if circ is really a family tradition (think first communion), is everyone going to show up for the blessed event and then have a nice family meal or celebration afterward? I can understand if it is a religious thing, but other than that, the "family tradition" reason doesn't make sense to me.

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#3 of 14 Old 11-16-2007, 11:40 AM
 
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Agreed. Other than religious circ (which I know we can't discuss here), I don't get why people cite "family tradition" as a reason to circumcise their sons. I don't think a lot of Americans understand how recent the "tradition" of circumcising is - they seem to associate it with the founding fathers sometimes, don't they! And, at a family reunion, it's not like the men are all going to be wearing T-shirts advertising their circumcision status.

In a case like this, I think traditions are meant to be broken!
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#4 of 14 Old 11-16-2007, 01:29 PM
 
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My family of origin had a tradition to hurt and humiliate kids. Thank goodness I have some common sense not to pass down these to my kids.


Why is cutting on a healthy newborn deemed an okay tradition? I just don't get it.:
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#5 of 14 Old 11-16-2007, 01:32 PM
 
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I always thought that it was a "family tradition", too, until I decided to leave my kids intact, and learned that my grandfathers were intact, too.:
I was shocked- like you said, I assumed that this had been done for centuries.
Good thing its never bugged me to buck tradition, though.

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#6 of 14 Old 11-16-2007, 01:41 PM
 
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I don't believe in tradition for the sake of tradition. In other words, every "tradition" deserves to be reevaluated and decided upon based on its own merits. Using "tradition" as an excuse is simply a way to abdicate responsibility for decision-making. But it's a touchy subject. "Everyone in our family's always done it this way [as a pp said, probably not true], and I trust the ways of my family. What, are you saying my whole family for generation's back is wrong about this?" They're effectively challenging you to insult them and their family.

If I were feeling very bold, I might say, if female genital mutilation were your family tradition, would you support that?

But IRL, I would probably just smile and nod sympathetically, and say, I can understand it can be difficult to go against the grain in your family, but there are some really GOOD reasons not to circumsize-- did you know _______ ..."

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#7 of 14 Old 11-16-2007, 02:02 PM
 
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My family had a tradition of not using carseats; I have many memories of crawling around in the back of our family's station wagon as it barreled down the highway. Some traditions are unhealthy, risky, dangerous, etc.

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#8 of 14 Old 11-16-2007, 03:03 PM
 
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Some relevant quotes from the United Nations on tradition and FGM:

“Since FGM/FGC is part of a cultural tradition, can it still be condemned?
Yes. The function of culture and tradition is to provide a framework for human well-being; cultural arguments can never be used to condone violence against persons, male or female. Moreover, culture is not static, but constantly changing and adapting. ”

Also, from the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which "protects against all forms of mental and physical violence and maltreatment (art 19.1); to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (art 37a), and requires States to take all effective and appropriate measures to abolish traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children (art 24.3)

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#9 of 14 Old 11-20-2007, 06:50 PM
 
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you know, even if it is a real family tradition, that doesn't mean you have to do it.

my family has circumcised their sons for millenia -- maybe as much as hundreds of generations of circumcised men. it probably started as a cultural marker, and then developed into a religious rite. my ancestors just kept doing it, mostly for religious reasons, and it tied them together. but, unlike most of those ancestors, i don't believe the torah was received whole on mount sinai; i don't keep the sabbath; i don't wear wigs and long sleeves. and now my son is the first boy born in my family for thousands of years who is intact.

even though i don't feel religious compulsions to do most things that are jewish, resisting circumcision was still one of the most difficult decisions i've ever had to make. but i'm proud of it, and i am proud to give my son the gift of his foreskin, untouched. he will probably never thank me for it, and that is how i will know that i have truly succeeded, because it will be so perfectly normal that he won't even notice.
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#10 of 14 Old 11-20-2007, 07:00 PM
 
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This is why I am so happy that my husband is intact and that I have no brothers. I have no idea what my parents thing about circumsicion and I don't care. My husband's family leaves all males intact. So this way I can leave my future son intact and I don't even need to consider any traditions our familes may have had. Not that I would follow a tradition of circumsicion, I would not, but at least it is one less thing to worry about defending to my family.

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#11 of 14 Old 11-20-2007, 07:16 PM
 
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I think the "family tradition" reasoning is simply a justification for caving and/or adhering to wishes of other family members.
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#12 of 14 Old 11-21-2007, 06:10 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SammyJr View Post
I think the "family tradition" reasoning is simply a justification for caving and/or adhering to wishes of other family members.
sure, it's exactly like that. don't beer commercials work that way, too -- you know, "bandwagon" mentality? it's a really powerful way of creating in-groups and influencing other people's behavior.

that's why i say -- i know it's wrong, and when my son was born i didn't do it, but it's still hard -- very hard -- to go against the weight of history, tradition, and my mother's shock. it's probably still hard even if it's a manufactured tradition because you can't necessarily tell when you're on the inside.

since we're such social animals, going against the norm requires personal strength and conviction. i mean, notice how we who oppose circumcision gather together in a place where being pro-intact is the norm -- we're reducing the drain on our emotional energy by discussing it in a place like this. it's much more casual. bringing the case against circumcision to a less receptive environment requires a much greater investment of self. going against tradition is like forcing oneself to engage in that debate inside your head, and then again with whoever is pressuring you to do it. even if you don't have the debate, even saying "this is my decision, i will not compromise, and i will not discuss it further" requires the same emotional energy.

all i'm saying is that, though "tradition" is no excuse, i think if you want to understand people's motivations, you have to realize that it's more powerful than it seems on the surface.

by the way, shalom auslander wrote a memoir called foreskin's lament -- i don't know if it's any good because i haven't read it. but i heard him talk on the radio once, and he talked about how, even years after having a falling-out with judaism, he still had a lot of difficulty with his desire to not circumcise his son (hence the book's title). in case you want another example of someone working very hard to go against tradition.
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#13 of 14 Old 11-21-2007, 06:25 PM
 
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Even if it is deemed a "family tradition" it's not an excuse to sexually violate a child in the name of "tradition". Not all traditions should be passed on to the next generation.
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#14 of 14 Old 11-21-2007, 07:20 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arduinna View Post
Even if it is deemed a "family tradition" it's not an excuse to sexually violate a child in the name of "tradition". Not all traditions should be passed on to the next generation.
ITA.

I think I would abandon the family if the traditions stated I needed to cut up the kiddos. Family traditions are tough to break if its something you really look forward to doing and can't afford it... like if you have to skip a family picnic or something... but I just can't see circumcision as being a family value/tradition. It just reeks of "justification" and "excuse".
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