With Privilege Comes Responsibility

I am privileged. It’s a fact we don’t often talk about or that we often don’t even acknowledge. However, whether we notice it or not, privilege is very much a part of our lives and impacts our decisions.

Photo by Brain Glanz

I am white. While that shouldn’t make any difference, in our society it does. It means I’m less likely to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin. It means I can walk around in parts of our country without being harrassed by police or having it assumed that I am a criminal or an illegal immigrant.

I grew up Christian. While, after years of careful study and scrutinization of world religions, I no longer lay claim to that label, the fact that I grew up Christian lent a privilege of its own. I was not discriminated against due to my religion at that time. At the same time, I often consider myself privileged because my mother encouraged me to question things. She stood up for me, when as a small child, I questioned Sunday school and church leaders about various topics or positions. It was her support that allowed me to study world religions and viewpoints as a teenager and come to my own decisions.

I am intelligent. While I may have grown up poor, I was able to go to college on scholarship. I breezed through classes without studying. I am able to research and make my own decisions. I can hold my own when confronted by those in positions of authority regarding my decisions.

I am middle class. I don’t have to worry about having enough money to feed my children. I am married to a wonderful man and am able to stay home with our children. I am able to keep my children with me rather than being forced to find alternative child care which may not be in accordance to my beliefs. I can spend the time needed to establish good breastfeeding relationships. I can afford food which I otherwise might not be able to. I have greater choices available. I am less likely to be affected by environmental pollution based on the areas I am likely to live.

I live in the United States NOW. I am not someone’s property. My children will not be ripped away from me. I am not forced to stay with an abusive husband. I will not be sold and treated as mere property. I am able to access resources and information.

I am female. While this normally does not allot privilege, being female in the US means that the idea of cutting my genitals when I was born never occurred to my parents.

I am an adult. According to US law, I became a person when I turned age 18. My voice counts. I can vote. I can make decisions for myself. It is a crime for someone else to hit me or abuse me. If I were to ever be in such a situation, I could leave.

For all of the ownership I try to take over the choices I make, I cannot overlook how privileges beyond my control, and often allotted me by those who have gone before me) have affected my life. To do so would be to discount those who do not have the same privileges and opportunities. As the saying goes, with privilege comes responsibility. I cannot turn my back on those who are less privileged…those who have been disciminated against…those who are just as deserving of opportunities as am I. That is why I feel I must speak up for others…why I speak against discrimation and injustice.

Foreskins are Functional

Foreskins are functional. Most parents wouldn’t knowingly cut off a functional part of their infant’s body. In fact, it’s illegal to cut off the majority of infant body parts, excluding foreskins. However, most people aren’t quite aware of the function of the foreskin, assuming that it’s just a piece of skin. What they don’t realize is that piece of skin is there for a reason.

Photo by Yuri Samoilov

The male prepuce, commonly referred to as the foreskin, has a high concentration of blood vessels, nerves, nerve endings, muscle layers, and skin.

Muscle layers protect the urinary tract from contaminants, thereby decreasing urinary tract infections. At the same time, the foreskin covers the glans of the penis, protecting it from abrasion and irritation, and keeping it moist, making it more sensitive to stimulation. The foreskin also contains glands in the skin which work to keep the penis clean. Similarly, there are glands which produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins which protect against infection. The pH of the foreskin also cultivates beneficial bacteria; without beneficial bacteria, men are at a higher risk for UTIs.

The foreskin contains approximately 240 feet of nerves and 20,000 nerve endings. Logically speaking, the loss of such can have a dramatic effect on sexual pleasure later in life. Three feet of veins are included in the foreskin, along with up to 80% of the penis’s skin. Altered blood flow due to scar tissue can affect urinary tract flow and result in more UTIs.

Removal of skin and veins affects erections. When a penis becomes erect, it grows in size due to blood flow. Removal of the foreskin does not allow the erect penis to become fully erect outside the body, effectively shortening the penis and at times causing pain or discomfort for the man. During intercourse, a man’s foreskin allows the penis to move in and out without abrasion, making intercourse much more comfortable and pleasant for his partner.

Foreskins serve many roles. Say no to circumcision and protect a healthy body part.

The Care of Newborn Babies

Newborn babies are wonderful. They are snuggly and tiny, elliciting kisses and cuddles from their parents. Surprisingly enough for such tiny little people, they also are capable of making remarkable messes. Parents gingerly hand over these new little bundles to eagerly awaiting relatives with the warning to watch out for spit up. Many is the person who has had to go change shirts after holding  a baby.

Photo by Nina Matthews

The there are the diaper changes. If you are a parent, you’ve been there. All of my children have managed to pee on me at least once during the early days of changing diapers. The dirty diapers are even worse. Those first few days of meconium diapers have the consistency of tar. My husband once referred to it as toxic sludge. Good luck getting it off your hands without copious amounts of soap and water. Once that is past, those early breastmilk poos begin. The only times we have ever dealt with diaper blow-outs have been in those first few months, when the poo just tends to go everywhere. My husband only changes boy poo diapers. He’ll quietly whisper that “The poo goes everywhere. You’re a girl. You know how to deal with it.”

 The poo does seem to find it’s way everywhere. It’s manageable. You just have to keep wiping and hope that another round isn’t on it’s way in the mean time. Extra towels underneath help. However, for those parents that have chosen to have their male infants circumcised, they also have to deal with bleeding and open wounds. Just as poo goes everywhere, it will also end up on the circumcision wounds.
 
Any open wound is a possible infection site. Because circumcision wounds are located in a diaper which is continually being soiled, infections are quite common, including staph infections with the ever rising rates of staph in hospital settings, where most babies in the States are born. The new immune systems of newborn infants are less equipped to deal with infections. Antibiotics which are often used to treat infections have their own issues, killing good bacteria along the way and often resulting in thrush for the baby and nursing mother.
 
The truth is that any body part can become infected. However, choosing to cause an open wound in an area which is routinely in contact with feces doesn’t seem a prudent decision, especially when the alternative is to not do anything except wipe the area, intact penis included, with a wet wipe.

The Locker Room Argument

One argument often given for routine infant circumcision is the locker room argument. Parents are worried that their child might be teased. After all, everyone else in the locker room will be circumcised, they think. What if their decision is the reason for their son’s teasing?

Photo by Jenni C

There are a few problems with this argument. The first is that the majority of men are intact. Over 80% of the human male population on Earth is intact. While the US’s rates are a bit depressing in comparison, having once dipped as low as 15%, the percentage of intact males in the States is on the rise. As of 2009, US circumcision rates were down to 32.5%, leaving 67.5% of males born in the US intact. That number continues to climb, as more parents learn that there are no medical reasons for the procedure. While the actual distribution of percentages which make up that average vary across the country, chances are very good that your son will not be the only intact male in the locker room.

Secondly, is that the enormity of teasing going on in locker rooms is a myth. How do I, a woman, know this? Well, I have brothers, a husband, brothers-in-law, and friends and I asked them. They all laughed when I asked, claiming that any teasing because of intact status is proposterous. While some guys may check out the competition, so to speak, it’s taboo to be caught doing so and even more so to comment on it. Any attempt to make fun of one for their intact status would immediately be shot down with a quickly asked, “Dude! Why are you checking out my penis?”

Thirdly, and on a lighter note, it’s cosmetic surgery. If you are agreeable to cosmetic surgery for your child to avoid any teasing, where do you stop? What if your daughter is teased for having smaller breasts? Do you rush her off to the plastic surgeon? Later, when she develops more and is teased for having larger breasts, do you go again? When your son inherits Uncle Billy’s ears that stick out, do you help him deal with that until he grows into them or run out and have them tucked? Cosmetic surgery for infants? What’s next? What is that teaching our children?

Informing Mothers on Effects of Circumcision on Breastfeeding

La Leche League, an organization dedicated to providing information and support for breastfeeding mothers and families has historically claimed that their only interest is in providing information to and supporting mothers in regards to breastfeeding. In an effort to reach as many women as possible, they supposedly do not mix causes.

Image from Circumstitions

I can understand the point of not mixing causes, although the statement that they don’t could be argued. I could even agree that the ethical and moral decisions surrounding circumcision should not be discussed in a La Leche League meeting any more than any other morally volatile or personal decisions should be discussed. However, La Leche League’s offical stance took the subject of circumcision even farther. They removed any information about the effects of circumcision on breastfeeding from their book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

I take no issue with the fact that La Leche League does not wish to engage in the moral and ethical issues involved with routine infant circumcision in an attempt not to alienate mothers who may need help with breastfeeding. However, by withholding information pertinent to breastfeeding, the topic at hand, not only do they fail to give women all of the information needed to make informed choices regarding their breastfeeding relationship, but by removing factual information regarding this matter, they are inadvertently supporting circumcision.

Read more and sign the petition to La Leche League regarding this matter here.

Top 10 Reasons to Leave Your Son Intact

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Photo by Beth

10.  80% of the world’s male population is intact.

9. It is easier to clean an intact infant’s penis than to deal with open wounds in a diaper which is routinely filled with urine and feces.

8. Foreskins are functional, protecting the glans while containing sensitive nerve endings and blood vessels.

7. It is a parent’s duty to protect his/her child. Circumcision is painful.

6. Pain and shock from circumcision disrupt bonding, breastfeeding, and sleep patterns in newborn infants.

5. Complications include infection, abnormal bleeding, removal of excessive amounts of skin, loss of part or all of the glans, urinary issues, and death.

 4. It is illegal in the United States to circumcise a female against her will or who has not reached an age of majority. Circumcising infant males is discriminatory.

3. There is NO medical benefit to routine circumcision. Removal of the foreskin does not prevent STDS. It does not lessen the chance of developing penile cancer.

2. Once done, it cannot be undone.

1. If it isn’t your body, it’s not your decision to make.

Circumcision is a deeply personal decision. Let’s leave the decision to the person who owns the penis. Say NO! to routine infant circumcision.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 8 with all the carnival links.)

today’s kids…

Photo by Annette K

Gone are the days of silent children standing still in a line at school. They no longer blindy accept just any order from adults. They have opinions and a voice. I often hear parents, or grandparents, or the gentleman at the grocery store complaining that kids today aren’t the same. Back in their day, kids did what they were told without question.

It’s not that children have changed. Society has changed, and frankly, that is a very good thing. Growing up, my house was silent. My father believed that children should not be heard and we tiptoed around silently until he would leave. Then everyone, kids and mother included, would run around to practice piano or listen to some music. My mother refused to tell anyone, especially my father, for whom she voted because she remembered a time when a woman’s vote was controlled by her husband. My grandmother rarely voted because that was a man’s job. Other families recall stories of not being able to ride at the front of the bus or drink from the same water fountains or pursue the same jobs or education. Abuse from those in control was accepted and not spoken of.

The “good old days” were only good for those who held the control. Children were subservient because subservience was modeled. Wives deferred to their husbands, who deferred to their bosses. Only a small portion of the population had rights and everyone else was kept in line. The paternal hierarchy was held in place and the rest of society amounted to little more than property.

We no longer see legal slavery in our country. All adults now have the legal right to vote. People are supposedly equal to one another and we are seeing minorities step up and expect to be treated as equals. While discrimination still exists, on the surface no one questions an adult who expects to be treated as a person.

Children haven’t changed. Society has changed for the better. Fewer people live their lives in fear and submission. While society hasn’t yet reached the point where children, the very future of our civilization and species, are treated as people, we are closer. I am happy to listen to my children’s thoughts, to work together with them to solve problems, and to share our journeys together.

Check out the Carnival of Feminist Parenting at: