Remember the episode of Seinfeld titled “The Bris”? Jerry gets quizzed by Elaine:
Elaine: Hey, Jerry, you ever seen one?I was reminded of this when Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle decided to have some fun with circumcision in her opinion column this morning:
Jerry: Oh, you mean that wasn't ... uh?
Jerry: No. Have you?
Jerry: What'd you think?
Elaine: [wrinkles her nose] It had no face, no personality. It was like a Martian. But hey, you know, that's me.
The ballot measure bills itself as a ban on “forced genital cutting” and “mutilation.” Clearly the authors want to confuse voters by equating male circumcision to female genital mutilation, the barbaric, unsanitary butchering of a young girl's private parts in a procedure that has been known to leave girls severely infected and in pain.Saunders is echoing the remarks of Rabbi Gil Leeds, who similarly complained that “mutilation” is a misnomer. I tend to disagree, since the permanent amputation of part of the penis should not be treated as a trivial matter, even if the results aren't on the same level as the brutality of so-called “female circumcision.”
Saunders tips her hand even while trying to be even-handed. She cites a pediatrician while ostensibly presenting both sides:
[Dr. Erica Goldman] informs parents of the pluses—reduced chances of urinary tract infection and sexually transmitted diseases—as well as the risks—it's a permanent cosmetic change.Oy! The “risk” of circumcision is that it's a cosmetic change? It's not a direct quotation, so we can't simply blame Dr. Goldman for this conclusion. It's what Saunders picked out as the key item, ignoring all other factors. (Should we tell circumcised boys that the lack of a foreskin is why they need lube? Is Johnson & Johnson—manufacturers of K-Y Jelly—behind the push for more male circumcisions? This calls for an investigation!)
I snorted when I saw Saunders using the words “cosmetic change,” but I guffawed when I read her peroration. Like the dutiful right-wing columnist that she is, Debra has to complain about “nanny state” legislation and frame the anti-circumcision measure in those terms, slipping in an allusion to the city's ban on toy giveaways with unhealthy fast food. It's a poor fit:
A busybody law? Check. Does it address a problem most folks did not know existed? Check. Pun opportunities? Oh, yeah. First they came for the Chicken McNuggets, then they came for my son's ...No, no, no, Debra. You're missing the point entirely. The ballot initiative says they have to leave your son's nuggets alone!