Stepping Away from Friendship in the Name of Human Rights

By Danelle Day  © 2010

I've read a few comments lately on the peaceful parenting Facebook page that are along the same lines as this particular one:

I have concerns with people who talk about not being friends with someone who circumcises their children. Some people also call it 'child abuse'!? This is a bit disheartening. How can we possibly educate people and lead by example if we alienate ourselves and live in a bubble surrounded by people who think exactly like us?

I certainly appreciate the genuine care and concern this wise question poses. Here is my response:

I do not believe that people let friends go who made past mistakes. We all make mistakes - we can all learn, grow, move on and do things in more baby/child-friendly ways in the future. When we know better, we can do better. Some of my very closest friends are those who circumcised ALL of their sons before they had access to accurate information - or because they believed at the time that was what was best for their child. Each of us has room to positively progress and make different decisions along our parenting journeys.

The difference comes when someone is willfully choosing not to become informed on a subject (such as genital cutting) even though the resources and opportunity exist, and/or they elect to continue the practice of FGM/MGM on future children despite knowing its degree of detriment. Why would anyone stand silently by and say, "It's okay. We can still carry on as usual..."

Would we speak up if our friend or sister or cousin was going to circumcise their infant daughter?

What if they wanted to amputate a toe or an ear or a pinky finger from their baby 'just because' - without medical necessity?

If I wanted to circumcise my 10 year old - not because he needed it, but because I decided I just felt like doing so - I wanted his penis to look a certain way to me - would you say anything?

Would we continue a friendship with someone who repeatedly sexually assaulted babies or children without ever acknowledging their actions?

There are certain things that are choices, that may or may not inflict direct and lasting harm on others:

I might cloth diaper, a friend uses disposables;
I might wear my baby everywhere, a friend's baby rides in his carseat all day;
I might homeschool this year, a friend sends his kids to private school;
I may play with my children outside each day, a friend's children stay inside much of the time;
I may prep homecooked meals, a friend's family frequents McDonalds.

There are many differences among us that do not necessarily violate basic human rights. Surely we can befriend those who are not exactly the same as us, or the world would be a boring place of no learning/experience/growth. Differences color the world beautiful!

But there are also actions that are grave offenses to basic human rights, and to stand by and continue on as though nothing is wrong with these assaults is just as bad as being the one to perform them.

For this reason, while I will never attack or hurt anyone (we all deserve to be gently loved, respected, and given yet another opportunity for growth), I also do not choose to continue friendships with those individuals who refuse to become educated on the subject of infant genital cutting and insist on continuing to amputate healthy body organs from non-consenting girls or boys without medical need. To inflict permanent harm upon another's body is as violating as we can possibly be.

It is also possible to separate the act of FGM/MGM from the parents who've been involved. Most parents love their children very, very much (including those who have had their daughters or sons circumcised). They are not 'child abusers,' even if they are not informed of the consequences of this action. Yet the actual act of genital cutting -- to forcibly amputate or mutilate (alter beyond repair) healthy organs without medical need from a non-consenting person, forever impacting his/her body and life -- certainly qualifies as abuse.

On a broad scale, this is not about 'judging' people - this is about standing up for human rights and not bending in our position to conform to injustices around us.

It very much reminds me of the antebellum era when those standing up for the rights of slaves were offending slave owners and judging the wrongful actions around them. It took someone to stand up!

This is also not about denying our gentleness with other parents and lovingly befriending people of all walks of life -- everyone makes mistakes. Again, I have many close friends who have circumcised sons in the past, and I have made countless mistakes of my own throughout my parenting days. But these same friends have since looked into the subject and would go to great lengths to educate their children, to keep future sons intact, and to one day speak up for their own grandchildren.

If an individual refuses to become informed on the matter and elects to remain willfully ignorant and/or sadistic in their treatment of children, why would any advocate for humanity (especially babies or children) desire to continue a close relationship with that person?

It once again brings up Martin Luther King, Jr.'s true statement:

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

I pray I never become passive in the fight against injustices in the world around me.


  1. I agree with you 100%! If a parent chose (and make noooo mistake about it-- only the OWNER of the body should decide!) to circumcise in the past because they didn't know any better, that's one thing.

    But those who either research it and *still* decide to do it, or equally as bad, NOT bother to research it *at all*... I simply (((can not))) associate with such gross (and it IS gross!) negligence and stupidity.

    Same thing with those who say "it looks better". Come effing ON! Uh, no.

    I'm a happily intact male all my life with absolutely not ONE "problem". I actually CHERISH my foreskin and would have such rage and hurt if *I* had been mutilated at birth.

    Thank YOU for shining a spotlight on this. Some people will look at you like you got 2 heads when you say you *refuse* to associate with "cutters" (circumcising parents). Well, if it was your Muslim neighbour who brought their newborn DAUGHTER home and was secretly planning a circumcision, what would *you* do?

    Apply the same to BOYS! Equality. That's where it's at.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I recently got into an argument (she made it an argument) with a friend over circumcision. She refuses to see anything but that "circumcision is better and the intact men will always get an infection." I am not very close to her at all and only became friends with her because she married a close friend of mine (he is intact and wanted his son to stay intact but she refused to allow that.) I dropped the argument and really havnt talked to her since. I dont know how I should act with her when I see her.

  3. @Ashley: Tell your 'friend' that I am a 40 year old uncircumcised male who has NEVER had a genital infection of any kind and to make such an aspersion, without any basis in fact, is just plain....well, retarded.

    Agree with you on this Arp, (like on most things really). Making a past choice when didn't have all the info to make an informed choice is forgiveable but ignoring the facts and to revel in ignorance (and to cite cosmetic/aesthetic reasons) is plain despicable.

  4. I recently looked at an argument that started on my FB page and decided I wasn't going to go that route. I couldn't help people to understand what we were talking about and trying to inform if I did get rid of some people that don't see eye to eye with me on this issue. I kept the people that were in the argument "for circumcision" as my friends... However, that night I did delete a ton of other people that weren't beneficial to my life - and just "there."

    I am willing to educate and inform those who are willing to listen to what I have to say. People that start a disagreement are the ones who are almost always willing to listen. =)

    Thank you Danielle <3

    -Faith M.

  5. I don't speak to my own brother for this very reason. He had books, dvds, articles, emails and more put in his grubby little hands by me. Not only did he still mutilate his son, but he never acknowledged a single piece of information I sent him.

    Most people don't know better and don't have all the info. I can excuse those parents, but for parents like my brother there is no excuse.

  6. I have two boys. My oldest is technically my step-son and was circ'd long before I knew him. I circ'd my 2nd child because unfortunately, I really wasn't that educated on the topic and it was just what my family said I should do. Knowing what I do now...if we have a boy in the future, he will absolutely NOT be circ'd. Nope...not doing it. My husband and I have had a very thorough talk about it and I'll be honest, I fully expected the "well, that boy will look different than the rest of us" line, but he didn't. When I explained why we shouldn't to him, he totally agreed.

  7. I have done that... and I am okay with it. Then again these are also the people who had no problem telling me about how wrong I was in my choice to leave my sons intact, breastfeed in public, homebirth and homeschool. Sometimes you can't educate pork.

    As far as enlightening these people... sometimes it should not have to be up to others to make people have that aha moment. I have my own life to live and if it means that I rely more on my husband and children as support than that is okay.

    Sometimes I think circumcision is about peer pressure. If some of these women didn't have those types of friends maybe they would make a different choice. I know women who considered leaving their son intact until they talked to all their "friends" who set them straight about how nice a cut penis is.

  8. It sucks sometimes, but hopefully we can get more people to see reality and decrease the amount of pain in the world.

  9. Tabatha, you didn't know better, but when you got all the info you made a CHANGE. It takes a wise person to admit their mistakes and move forward differently. You should be proud!

  10. I may stay 'friends' with those who have their kids mutilated after they check out the information (if they even did), but I have absolutely zero respect for them. I just feel sad for them that they can remain so willfully ignorant about what they allowed to be done to their babies. It's one thing to not know at all, or be lied to by doctors, it's another to have the information, books, videos, etc GIVEN to you and still let them do it. I just hope their kids can forgive them when they grow up and maybe find out what was taken away from them..for NO good reason. I just feel sorry for mothers who didn't know anything about the procedure, this is not their fault if they just had no idea.

  11. There are people I won't have anything to do with because they refuse to take any information I have offered and are blatant about it being their right to choose for their partner won't even visit with his nephews making up all sorts of excuses.

  12. Parents who don't know anything about it..... well in this day and age where information is so readily available it is so hard to make excuses for parents. It is amazing the whoppers that people come up with for reasons to cut their sons. I had one woman tell me.... that because she worked in an auxilary hospital for seniors... she didn't want to have some person retract her son's foreskin when he was 90 because he couldn't anymore.... what a reason to mutilate him 90 years earlier...... If I was a man I probably would have rather had that foreskin for 90 years and then let me die in peace.

  13. thanks for posting this..i have recently struggled about continuing a friendship or not with a few friends who *just* birthed sons and circ'd..again. For both it was their 3rd son they cut. And one of the friends i talked to her about circ when she was pg with her 2nd and then they didn't find out with their 3rd and i PRAYED it was a girl. Nope. another son.

    I felt instantly ill..when I should've been joyful...I couldn't help but feel sick. Especially when he had a peaceful out of hospital birth and the mama practices AP (except for the part about being DETACHED from the act of protecting her babies in this way)

    i told my husband i just couldn't do it..could not continue being friends with this pro cutter. He was upset towards me for making that choice..but i felt sick to my stomach every time i thought about visiting that baby...feeling like i could've done more. :(

    And they are planning to have more kids soo...this article was well timed. It inspired me to clean up my friends list...deleting all pro cutting mom's who are dead set on cutting future babies...even seeing my posts..but probably had me on hide after the 3rd article.

  14. Anon -

    I totally understand. I have distanced myself from my supposed 'best' friend quite a bit, and her doing this made me take a hard look at our friendship. God forbid she has another baby, and if she does, I pray it's not a boy.

    If she would cut another baby, I would tell her I will never be friends with her any more if she would do it again. That would be it, and I would not feel bad about doing it at all.

  15. I felt sad or conflicted about it for a few weeks..but have become settled about it and feel ok..sad to lose a friend but it's just so sad.

    She was my inspiration for the madebymomma shirt, "Baptism Not Circumcision"

    ...and that was before she HAD another son...

  16. It certainly is NOT easy.

    And I am not suggesting to others how they should or should not handle any given situation - it is likely the case that everyone's placement and relationship is different.

    But for me, because I know too much, I'm too ingrained in this work, and I cannot be advocating in ANY way for the harm of babies/children or the sexist treatment of either women or men when it is my life's work/career, it is virtually impossible for me to carry on a 'fake' friendship with someone who is unwilling to become educated on the subject.

    Several friends may not (yet) agree as per the severity of the abuse (for example, I see MGM/FGM to clearly be sexual assault), but I cannot have a heart-to-heart deep real-life friendship with someone who is capable of hurting their newborns even when it is due to willful/overt ignorance.

  17. Sometimes it seems like a friend totally gets what I am saying about circumcision, but then they enter some other territory again where everyone else is circumcised, and suddenly I am this hippie nutjob.

    Or they ask their old school doctor about it and get a whole spiel about infections, so they figure circumcision can't really be bad if some doctors perform it.

    It takes some critical thought and independence to go against subculture pressure, and sadly, some parents don't have the gumption or the world view.

  18. Doctors used to think that bleeding patients was good. Don't they know the whole reason circumcision was started was to punish boys for masturbation? During the Victorian era?

  19. I am so conflicted with this. Most of my friends and all of my family circ. My children are intact. My sister is intactivist as well, and my mom is now too, though she doesn't have young children (i'm her youngest haha).

    But yeah I feel conflicted. I believe to the core of my being that circ is not just wrong or unnecessary, but is a human rights violation, and as Danelle said, sexual assault on the victim.

    But, what do I do, cut off all my friendships? IDK. It makes me sad, breaks my heart in fact, to know that the children of friends and family were circed.. but what do I do. I try to share information, even though most probably ignore it. I try to be vocal about my opinions and that my son is intact (as well as my daughter). But I find it a very hard position to be in.

  20. I agree that doctors are unfortunately often not good sources of information on circumcision, since they are still part of a circumcising culture and don't even always have accurate advice on retraction, intact care, or the use of anesthesia during circumcision, let alone any of its drawbacks.

    I think some parents do take doctors' advice on circumcision as gospel, like they do with labor inductions and Cesarean sections. They assume that doctors know what is best for patients, but it isn't always true.

  21. "find out what was taken away from them.."

    They will NEVER really find out.

    This is why the handicap is more fearsome to the non handicapped.

    The only way to make them understand is to burst out in mad anger to them. A friend of mine did it and saved a baby.

  22. Sadly, I thought that my 'friend' would actually tell me before she would actually let them mutilate her preemie.

    I figured that after SHOWING her what a normal penis looks like (un-mutilated), giving her the book by Dr. Paul Fleiss, sending her multiple videos of the procedure, and telling her about it would actually make a difference.

    I underestimated her incredible stupidity. And also her secrecy about her own life, something that made me examine our relationship more closely. She wasn't as great of a friend as I thought she was, apparently.

    I guess her being a nurse in a pro-cutting environment was a bad thing as well, as I thought maybe she would be smarter about this sort of thing, but she's just a member of the church of this myth filled system.

  23. it is hard, but in south africa, many, many parents still do this and our asshole health ministry is now advocating it to slow the spread of hiv. so whenever i bring it up people say 'oh but it prevents aids.' i am not a scientist so my word is not law on this issue.

  24. Bronwyn, how does South Africa's health ministry explain the six African countries where circumcised men are MORE likely to be HIV+?

  25. i am not sure what the health ministry's official policies are on circing but our previous president and health minister denied hiv caused aids and told hiv positive people that the antiretrovirals were poisonous and they needed to eat beetroot, garlic and african potatoes to combat aids instead. so their policies are probably not evidence based either...

    one of my pregnant friends who is researching circing (it's her preference) was lambasted in the comments on one of my posts instead of gently educated. she wont discuss the issue with me again so will probably circ for sure. i try to be as gentle as possible for fear of offending and then losing a chance to save a foreskin.

  26. No offense Bronwyn, but it sounds like she's just genuinely into cutting babies. A rational person doesn't just shut down because of one bad incident.

    But then again those who want to cut babies are never rational.

  27. Jami - I feel for you. I hear Danielle's points - and like you I do agree, and I find this trickier. Since researching the issue when I was pregnant (we had a girl), my hubby and I have become intactivists, and we've found it SUCH a difficult position because we assumed that everyone armed with information would naturally choose not to circ - but no! Of three sets of people we've shared information with, none changed their minds...and to make it worse, all three circ'ed their PREEMIES. We've only cut ourselves off from one of the three sets, those whom we weren't very close with to begin with. The others, it's been really difficult, because cutting outselves off from them would impact larger friendship/family circles (eg one set are cousins of mine; I come from a very close-knit family, and there is NO WAY we could cut them off without alienating ourselves from everyone and never taking part in family gatherings again, which I am not willing to do - plus, our daughter would lose access to all of her cousins that way, which is not fair to her. And the other set of friends are part of a larger circle of friends that I cherish, and despite my horror about this issue, I don't want to create a monster rift between everyone). It's not so easy.

    But it's HARD TO DEAL WITH. We CANNOT comprehend how or why these people decided to go ahead with it - but we've chosen to just never bring it up again, to preserve our space in these larger circles.


  28. Wow, Stephanie - cutting our full term babies is disgusting enough, but to cut apart a PREEMIE!? It really does seem evil.

  29. I lost a friend one time because I chose not to vaccinate my kids but that friend eventually saw the error of her ways. Anyway, us natural parenting types lose friends sometimes to our granola ways and mainstream parent types can lose friends because of their nonpeaceful parenting ways. It's for the best anyway, it's bound to happen sooner or later. I have a friend who I warned about circing and she still did it. I'm still friends with her. I feel so sad that she thinks circ is the way to go, she is so blind, but I can only hope she will never discover the depths of despair that realizing what you did to your baby brings--she probably never will, so she is at peace with circing 3 of her babies. I don't understand it but she is so brainwashed that that is just the best way to be for her sons in her mind. It's just how it is. I will be around when her sons have children and I will make sure they keep them intact. There are benefits to sticking around in this type of friendship because you are the only one who can help the future generations when the circed kids have the opportunity to keep their kids intact. We can be a light in the darkness. Jesus went amongst the sinners, he didn't avoid them, he was the salt of the earth and spread salvation to those who needed it most. This is a good analogy whether someone is Christian or not. If we turn our backs on these people they may never be brought to the light. That said, if they are so irreverent of human rights of children, sometimes you just have to save yourself. You know how to make the call when you need to!

  30. The only friends I have who had their babies cut did it for religious reasons. I'm not from a cutting religion and don't understand this AT ALL, so I don't know what to do with these friends in my heart.

  31. I am so glad some one from Saving Our Sons pointed me to this article. I was feeling so conflicted about my own daughters who circumcised our Grand sons, and feeling like I just didn't know them if this is who they are now. It made me so sad to feel this way. It is a shameful mindset, and it is one I do not understand. I hoped my smart, college educated daughters would be better informed, but despite all I say and show, they still are in favor of circumcision. I told my husband that if there is one more grand son born into this mindset, I will offer them $$$$ and hope they will take a bribe! I mean it. When I don't stick to what I know to be right by babies and be silent, I feel even worse! I never expected to be in this situation.

  32. I could have written this. I feel exactly the same way. And no, it is NOT judgment--it is taking a stand on a human rights issue that is really important to me. Not just important, but basic common sense. This is my pet cause because I think EVERY baby has a right to start life with the whole body he or she was born with, without a violent unnecessary assault to their most sensitive organs. I have had friends back off of me once they know how strongly I feel about this, and I am fine with alienating the willfully ignorant.

  33. I completely agree with your take on FGM/MGM. I am writing in because I was shocked to see this: "I might cloth diaper, you use disposables;....There are many differences among us that do not violate basic human rights."

    Using disposables does violate human rights...just because the effects of disposable diaper production and disposal are not directly visible in front of you, like a cut penis, does not mean the effect is not there. The mining and chemical production of the materials needed to produce a disposable diaper sicken, kill or permanently damage humans and ecological systems all over this planet every day. When you use disposables, you harm children and promote war, famine, and disease. If you don't believe it, research it. Educate yourself...just like we all did about circumcision.

  34. This situation is exactly what my husband and I are dealing with. 3 weeks ago my sister informed me that she would be having a bris for her son when he was born. I just looked at her and said "you aren't really going to do that are you?" I got what amounted to a shrug, my husband informed her of how barbaric it is, she gave the "that's your opinion" response. I emailed her info, she told me to butt out, I made non specific facebook comments and posts, I was told not to communicate with her anymore and "unfriended" my husband tried the anger/yelling tactic- this resulted in my family calling the police to provide security for the bris. I have been alienated from almost my entire family for standing up for my nephew's rights. I have a 2 year old who asks me everyday for at least one of those family members, and the most heartbreaking part is my niece, who is 1 yr older than my son, and the two of them adore each other. I cannot get past my anger at her refusal to recognize basic human rights, but its my son and niece who are suffering the most for it. I honestly don't know what to do!

    1. Open you heart to Rebecca Schwartzman Wald on Facebook. She founded Beyond the Bris. Your situation is quite serious.

    2. It's far too late for this now - but there is a wonderful community of Jewish parents at the Intact Jewish Network -

  35. Our nice had a boy i spent months educating her and her boyfriend about circumcision i sent them a packet from saving our sons, i sent her many messages on facebook explaining the facts and asked her questions many i got no response, I sent her many websites to visit one included a circumcision video. I begged and pleaded, when i asked her if she what she was planning on doing she responded we haven't really talked about it. She did it anyway i told her that it made me feel sick inside that she did this to her baby after all the information i gave her and that parents should not have to make this decision he should make it when he is an adult. she responded she did it because he (the father) is and for potty training... I was so looking forward to her having a intact baby boy and me being a proud uncle and me being part of it... But i don't feel that way i do not want to see them, hold or see the baby i cant stand being in the same room with them. they came over and spent the night i was not happy about it, i barely talked to them i worked more hours and had nothing to do with them they went home early and i was happy they did... I wish it was different... I do not think i will ever feel the same about her again...

  36. Can anyone explain to me how anyone can actually do the research (I mean real research, not the BS propagated by idiots like Brian Morris) and still decide to circ?

    Research shows circumcision to be damaging, dangerous, and unnecessary.

    A simple search will show that STD's are more prevalent in the U.S., with our high rate of circumcised sexually active men.

    More simple searches will reveal:
    the functions of the foreskin,
    descriptions of the circ procedure
    evidence that infants feel pain more acutely than adults
    evidence that the infant "sleeping through" circ is really dissociation
    stories of deaths due to circs
    and much more to support our cause.

    What in the world are they reading to convince themselves that the risks are worth it?

    1. The AAP's "Technical Report", dated 27 August 2012.

  37. This is very tricky for me because I live in the state with the highest rate of circumcisions in America. The most recent statistics are 86%. :( Our four sons are intact, and I never dreamed of amputating a healthy body part of theirs, but apparently most people just go along with the crowd and don't think for themselves. I do not understand how so many people consider this normal and acceptable.

    As for Glen's comment above about his niece who circumcised her son for potty training reasons, well that's a new excuse I had not heard before. Too late now, but when a circumcised young boy tries to sit on the toilet to pee, his penis points straight out so that the urine will spray out as well. This is why they put urine guards on potty chairs. An intact boy's penis naturally has enough length for it to hang down when they sit to pee, and the urine goes into the toilet.

    1. I live in an English speaking city outside the USA, where RIC is no longer performed. I am one of a number of American expats here. While I have only daughters, a number of other expats have had sons. I have never heard of an American family asking that their sons be circumcised, or annoyed that RIC is not the done thing here. This is very telling; Americans of child bearing age often circumcise their boys, mainly so that they will look like other boys in the locker room and bedroom. If they will grow up among intact boys, they are happy to leave them intact.

      The first commandment of American social life must be: "Suffer not a Weird Dick."

  38. There are two types of ignorance. 1.) Ignorance because no information or only wrong information is available. 2.) Ignorance when correct, adequate information is easily available but it is ignored or rejected. I have total tolerance for the former because that was where I was at one time. I have no tolerance or respect for the latter. I have had to distance myself from friends who have chosen to have their sons' genitals cut even though they have been supplied with extensive information. This has been one of the most painful experiences for any intactivist.



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