Infant Body Piercing and Circumcision: What’s the difference?

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago intactivist Enedina Vance stirred up a substantial amount of controversy on social media with a left dimple piercing photoshopped into an image of her 6-month-old daughter, and then posted to Facebook. The story even made its way into mainstream news via CNN...Check out the rest of the article for more details. 


The Facebook Post

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago intactivist Enedina Vance stirred up a substantial amount of controversy on social media with a left dimple piercing photoshopped into an image of her 6-month-old daughter, and then posted to Facebook. The story even made its way into mainstream news via CNN. The sarcastic underpinnings of Vance’s post, which included hashtags such as “#sarcasm”, were largely overlooked by much of the receiving audience; something Vance had counted on. Indeed, the author was quickly on the receiving end of an onslaught of negative and threatening comments.


It was Vance’s contention that the majority of people expressing their outrage and disgust over the violation of her daughter’s bodily autonomy via a piercing, would react positively - or at least passively - to a similar post of a male infant in the aftermath of his circumcision. This was the point that Vance was attempting to showcase: the hypocrisy and inconsistency of those who oppose some forms of infant body modification - baby piercings - while supporting or remaining neutral on others - male circumcision.


The original Facebook post on June 28th was quite successful in reaching a large audience, receiving over 14,000 shares at time of writing. It definitely provoked a lot of debate, especially amongst parents with young children. Hitherto, they had not been aware of the growing controversy surrounding the topic. Considering the impact of her post, we must consider the advantages and potential pitfalls of Vance’s method for generating circumcision awareness.


Tackling the Aesthetic and Parental Preference Argument for Circumcision

Vance’s contrasting of baby piercing’s and circumcision was rooted in that both are body modifications carried out by parents for their own aesthetic preferences. Whilst the pro-circumcision group employ a number of arguments, the notion that it is a “parental choice” is perhaps their primary rationale. Vance wanted to illustrate the hypocrisy of supporting circumcision as a parental choice, yet rejecting baby piercing’s as a violation of their bodily autonomy.


In this respect, Vance’s strategy was success. This was evinced by many parents’ visceral reactions to her justifications, such as; “I'm the parent, she is my child, I will do whatever I want”; and, “I think it's better, cuter, & I prefer her to have her dimple pierced.” This begs the question, why are these parents content with a parent choosing to make one aesthetic body modification, but not the other? It is likely due to male circumcision being a firmly established tradition, which prevents modern day notions of bodily autonomy from being readily applied. In contrast, piercings, both adult and child, have never been mainstream.


The juxtaposition of these two reactions is striking, and in this she succeeds nicely. Furthermore, the sensational and provocative nature of a baby face piercing virtually guaranteed that this post would spread rapidly. That said, does the simple contrasting of a piercing and circumcision oversimply the debate? Consequently, does it miss opportunities for further education?


Opportunities for Future Education Pieces

Two obvious areas of inconsistency exhibited in the pro-circumcision community’s arguments, which are not addressed by Vance’s viral post, are the alleged health benefits and the belief that the male prepuce (foreskin) is essentially a vestigial body organ. These two arguments – particularly the latter – have arguably been the most devastating in perpetuating the practice, as it has undoubtedly given medical practitioners and parents a necessary rationalization (the health benefits), and the illusion of a simple choice (vestigial, so no harm to sexual function). These two arguments are best addressed with clear scientific evidence which refute them. However, provocative posts like Vance’s are far more accessible and attention drawing than a scientific journal.


For now, the undeniably provocative nature of Vance’s piercing post may be the right place to begin the conversation. As most people who circumcise at this point are likely doing it based on tradition, and a sense of “what is normal”. The most immediate way to challenge this belief system is probably to address the aesthetic and normative arguments through showcasing the inherent inconsistencies.


What are your thoughts on the author’s methods? Do you agree that this is an effective way to raise awareness about circumcision and start a debate? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!


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Author: David Marshall

Editor: Jay

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