College. A place where freedom of thought and expression is explored to its greatest potential. No longer are students and professors limited by curriculum’s that restrict the exploration of ideas or concepts that some might consider too controversial.
From topics like sex to racism, there has been a consistent effort to push the boundary of acceptable discourse when it comes to opening dialogue. The idea is to gradually push the boundary of acceptable discourse further and further. There was once a point when women’s rights were a controversial topic. Now, even topics like genital cutting that once would have been considered taboo, are being regularly discussed and explored on college campuses.
I remember one of my first college classes we explored the topic of female genital cutting. How it was a gross violation of human rights and infringed on a person’s autonomy and self-determination of their own bodies. How it was done to contain woman’s sexuality and if done incorrectly, could lead to a multitude of different issues, including death. Thankfully our culture did not practice female genital cutting. But, it was pointed out to us that these sorts of things were still being done in places like Africa. I don’t know about my fellow male classmates, but this felt old-hat to me. Just another example of how men can take advantage of women. How we have often victimized women and were, in a way, “above them” on what I call “the victim seesaw.”
It seemed to me that men taking advantage of women was a recurring theme throughout history. The idea that this situation might actually be reversed, and in our modern world no less, would have seemed preposterous to me at the time. However, I am here to tell both men and women that it is indeed the situation we’re in. Men are being taken advantage of and it needs to stop. If we wish to succeed in this mission as a society, we must approach this issue with the correct mindset and strategy.
What are you talking about?
Fast forward to about a year ago when I discovered Foregen. The organization that opened my eyes to how male and female genital cutting are one in the same. It was crazy how every reason that made female circumcision awful also applied to male circumcision. I didn’t even know that female genital cutting could also be referred to as circumcision. Wait...Is circumcision another description of genital cutting? It was as though people labeling it as circumcision instead of what it actually was, genital cutting, neutralized the impact of it. It made me ignorant of the topic and contributed to some denial and repression even when I was confronted with the truth. I had been told this lie my whole life and just because I could now see through it did not make it any easier to readily accept.
It’s not easy to come to terms with the fact that I am missing out in a big way through my mutilated genitals (NOT my “circumcised” penis). However, as I have progressed down this journey of self-enlightenment I found myself harkening back to the images of those first college classes where we explored the topic of female genital cutting. How ironic it is that we were talking about female genital cutting on another continent, while the majority of the male’s in the room were the ones that were actually mutilated (at least I know I was/am).
At other points, I have found myself looking down at my penis and reminding myself in a sort of self-affirming way that I am indeed the one who is mutilated. MY RIGHTS were infringed upon. I still find myself having to repeat that because my mind has such a hard time believing it. But, when I am able to convince myself of this a new emotion emerges, rage. Rage at the doctor who performed this procedure. Rage at my parents for not protecting me against this. Rage at society and the mass media for making it so difficult to accept the fact that I might be the one that is actually being oppressed. I imagine many men who have gone down a similar path to me have had similar thoughts and emotions. However, I would caution my fellow men to take a step back and think about the bigger picture. About how we do not want to perpetuate the cycle of “the victim seesaw.”
How do we talk about this?
The old expression “it’s harder than it looks” applies well here. Sure, it would be easy to imagine how we would vehemently express our anger as victims. We would be exorcising some deep-seated demons like being withheld valuable information, rage, and self-repression. We could feel vindicated in our new position on the “bottom of the seesaw.” There is nothing wrong with having those kinds of feelings. It is normal and healthy to feel this way, but that should not translate into hasty actions. We should think, what implications could that anger have? Do we just want to make people feel guilty, or turn them into our enemies if they don’t agree with us? Perhaps some diplomacy and genuine actions would do the trick.
What is the bottom line though? What do we ultimately want as victims of genital mutilation? We just want our whole bodies back. I know that if I could look down and wave a magic wand to restore my foreskin, I would do it. I would not need any sort of revenge or validation for wanting my foreskin back. Our driving force should be to attain the intact penis we were robbed of. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t hold accountable those who have and actively do subject males to this unethical practice. However, the main goal we should strive for initially is to heal our wounds physically as an impetus for change.
We as men need to convince the world that this is an issue that needs to be talked about., but how do we do that? Another good old expression “actions speak louder than words”. We need to support organizations like Foregen which are proactively looking for solutions for circumcised males. We need to spread awareness not through unbridled rage and “victim seesawing”, but through understanding and unity. That does not mean that we repress our feelings, it means that we will not let them control us. If we honor what our feelings compel us to do, then we will engage in more meaningful and effective actions. There is no shortage of people with opinions on the injustices of the world. Action is what will propel us further in our path.
If we are to bring widespread awareness to this issue, we need to realize that even the smallest action will make a difference. That might mean supporting Foregen or just simply talking to people about the very real dangers and harms of male genital cutting. Who knows, maybe there are people in your everyday life that may have heard about this issue, but never heard anyone talk about it personally. They may have disregarded it as an “unimportant” or “irrelevant” issue. The act of speaking out in public will help raise awareness and show people how serious the issue of male genital cutting and restoration is. Anything less than that and we will only be delaying the process of physical and mental healing. Showing our conviction in this way can lay the foundation for years to come. Remember this quote by the artist Vincent Van Gogh “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”