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The Nudity Cut-Off, Circumcision Guidelines, and Rape as a Means of Conception

I’m trusting that we can all have a civilized discussion here on this tête-à-tête pu-pu platter. (I was just attempting to use as many hyphens as possible in a single sentence.)  I’m crossing my fingers.  Pretty please.

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I ended up with three browser windows open at once yesterday, my attention grabbed simultaneously by three controversial headlines, though I kept looping back to the same thoughts for all three posts.

The first window held a post by a father who had posted a picture of his child online and was now discussing the backlash that ensued.  The picture is of a father sitting on a porch swing, holding a beer.  His toddler-aged child is naked yet diapered beside him.  The comments he received on the photo insinuated that (1) sitting with your toddler while said toddler is naked except for a diaper makes you a pervert, (2) that he made poor judgment as a parent to post a picture of his child sans clothing because the pedophiles would all be getting off on the photo, and (3) that civilized people wear clothes.

I don’t post picture of my kids online, so I may not the best person to cogitate on this article, but I wondered how a toddler in a diaper was any different from a toddler in a swim suit.  Same amount of skin showing.  After all, what is a bikini — let’s say — except a set of underwear constructed out of lycra? (Is that what swimsuits are made out of?)  In other words, is it different?  If the toddler had been in a swim suit next to her father, would anyone have said anything?

But it also called up the question of where is this invisible line between okay and not okay when it comes to nudity and kids online.  I’m defining “okay” as “posting without the child being cognizant of the decision being made on their behalf” since I actually think it’s totally fine if people choose to post nude pictures of themselves online.  If you want to post a picture of yourself, and you’re making the decision knowing full well the possible repercussions of posting a nude photo of yourself online, go for it.  So I am solely looking at this from the angle of posting pictures of others.

At what age should kids be dressed?  Would a five-year-old sitting on the front steps in just a pair of Superman underpants be okay?  Preschooler?  Two-year-old?  Newborn?  Never?  At what age does your eye stop passing over the photo and suddenly you look twice and raise your eyebrow?  And if there is no agreement on what age raises eyebrows, should we ever comment on another person’s choice to post the picture?  I mean, obviously he thought it was okay.  If we don’t think it’s okay, is it our place to point out how we think it’s not okay, or should we just click away?  In other words, were the people who left those comments on the photo the ones who were out-of-line or was it the dad?  Or neither?  Or both?

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The second window contained the new AAP guidelines for circumcision.  As someone Jewish, it probably doesn’t surprise you that I fully support circumcision.  Which is not to say that all Jews everywhere in the world support circumcision.  Just as there are Jews who don’t keep kosher and others who do, or who have a mezuzah on their door frames and others do not, you could find Jews who do not support circumcision.  I have yet to meet one in my life, but I’ve read their arguments against it online so I know they’re out there.

So I read the article.  My thoughts aren’t really about the article but instead the comments.  Almost 2000 of them.  And it ties into the questions above because the comments were so rabid, but the reality is that the decision whether or not to circumcise only affects the circumcisee (what would one call the boy receiving the circumcision?) and perhaps the parents.  Arguing about whether insurance should cover circumcisions, whether they should be mandatory, whether they should only be performed in a hospital — these are all discussions that make sense to have because the outcome could possibly affect your life.  But whether or not your child gets circumcised doesn’t affect me except in the most roundabout sense of health care costs.

If a person has made it clear that they’re going to get their child circumcised — for instance, writing a post about the bris they’re planning — isn’t it the social equivalent of walking into a person’s house and crapping on their carpet to leave an impassioned comment telling them they’re going to hell for circumcising their child?  And equally, if someone says they’re not going to circumcise their child, isn’t it the social equivalent of walking into a person’s house and crapping on their carpet if you leave a comment telling them that you hope their child gets a horrific infection since their parents obviously don’t care about them if they’re not going to remove a bit of foreskin?

Let me try to explain this better.  There is a big difference between talking with your friends and telling them how you don’t like mashed potatoes, and it’s quite another thing to be served mashed potatoes at a dinner party and loudly announce to the hostess, “mashed potatoes are the nastiest thing in the world!”  Social rules dictate that we politely push the mashed potatoes around on our plate for a bit and pretend that we’re eating them.  If the hostess asks what we think of them, it’s also within the confines of social norms to calmly tell her that mashed potatoes sort of aren’t our thing, but we think the steak is divine.

So it would make sense that the same would hold for blogging.  It’s one thing to write a post on your own blog about why you don’t like mashed potatoes.  It’s your space and you should be free to express your viewpoint.  And it’s okay if someone else writes a long ode to mashed potatoes and asked you what you think of the mighty spud and you write a politely worded comment admitting that you personally don’t like mashed potatoes but it rocks that they’re so into them that they write a whole blog post about them.  But it’s quite another thing to have someone write a blog post about how they love mashed potatoes and for another person to come along and write in all caps: YOU’RE SO STUPID, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU ACTUALLY LIKE MASHED POTATOES!  I HOPE SOMETHING HORRIBLE HAPPENS TO YOU BECAUSE YOU LIKE MASHED POTATOES, YOU STUPID STUPID WOMAN.

While circumcision is not exactly mashed potatoes, it’s a common practice that has the support of the AAP.  So while you may or may not want your child to partake, and you may or may not want to write your thoughts on your own blog, is it really appropriate to write an all-caps-like response in another person’s comment section if they are expressing their viewpoint on circumcision?

Do you see the blog writer as the host of their blogging space and the comment box as the dinner party table?  If blog comment spaces aren’t going to follow the social rules of the face-to-face world, what rules will they use?  Or is the comment box just the wild west where anything goes?

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Lastly, I had open a post on the infamous Ryan comment that happened last week while he was being interviewed in Tennessee:

REPORTER: …but specifically where you stand when it comes to rape, and when it comes to the issue of should it be legal for a woman to be able to get an abortion if she’s raped.

RYAN: I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that—the position that—the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life. But let’s remember; I’m joining the Romney-Ryan ticket. And the President makes policy. And the President—in this case—the future President Mitt Romney, has exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother, which is a vast improvement of where we are right now.

Method of conception, you know, like intercourse, IVF, and… rape!  I know his point is that he believes that regardless of how a baby is created, that baby is still a person and should be subjected to all the same rules that he wants to place on all pregnancies.

But as we fight so hard to normalize alternative methods of conception such as IVF, IUI, and donor gametes (not to mention paths to parenthood such as surrogacy or adoption), to have someone tack rape onto the list makes my brain start hurting.  I mean, it’s Paul Ryan, so I’m not shocked by his comment, but as an infertile woman, I want politicians held accountable for all the various ways they set back public perception of fertility treatments from the support of personhood bills which would severely limit IVF to making rape a method of conception.

But again, I was distracted by the 3,500+ comments.  I almost never go into the comments, but I ended up going into the comments because the first post I read was specifically about comments which means I paid attention to the comments on the second post I read and that spilled over to the third post I read.  And while there were plenty of emphatic but politely worded comments discussing the quote, there were also exactly what you expect; mostly name calling and insults.  Just to be clear, I am fine with disagreement.  Tell me that you feel differently about the man’s photo, circumcision, or Ryan’s quote.  Just do so without devolving into name calling or insults.

This has been such an ugly election on both sides.  And it’s only August.

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I actually had a fourth window open: Jerry Nelson died.  He was a puppeteer for Sesame Street and the Muppets, and was specifically the puppeteer for the Count, who was one of my favourite Sesame Street characters.  What none of the articles said was that he also had a daughter, Christine, who died in young adulthood from cystic fibrosis.  I always wondered how that was for him; working amongst children day in and day out, having lost his only child.  It was this odd fact I picked up when I was in middle school — definitely too young to be thinking about parenthood — but it stuck in my mind, especially when I was a teacher, dealing with infertility.  And it just made my heart go out to him, to know how hard the world can be to navigate when you’re missing someone or they never arrived.

And luckily, the comments (at least the ones I saw) managed to be respectful and kindhearted.

32 comments

1 Anjali { 08.28.12 at 11:11 am }

The past few weeks have made me feel like we have regressed so much in our understanding of rape. Or, perhaps, we never understood what rape was to begin with.

Regardless, the whole thing makes me sick.

2 Amanda { 08.28.12 at 11:11 am }

The level of hate on the internet makes me want to crawl back into bed some days. And that’s about all I want to say, cause anymore would give me a headache.

3 tigger62077 { 08.28.12 at 11:16 am }

I keep Cole dressed, but that’s just me and how I was raised. I see no problem with parents letting their kids run around the house in a diaper, if they so choose. Around the yard, still okay but then I worry about dangers of branches and bugs – but this was the guys porch, so I still say fine. As for a cut-off age…I think once they are old enough to be AWARE of their own bodies, clothes are probably a good idea at least around adults. Not because it makes the adults perverts, but because I believe in respect for ones body and that you don’t go around showing to everyone on the street. I ALSO believe in being comfortable with one’s body, and for some that’s running around naked…but I still don’t think you should do so where someone other than your parents can see you when you are a child.
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People use the comment box as the wild, wild west, but they shouldn’t. There is a real person on the other side who is reading your words. They have real feelings and emotions. They bleed and they can be hurt. I try to treat the comment box as a way to hold an actual conversation with someone. I can’t tell you these things in person, but I can tell you them here. I may not always agree with you, but that’s no reason for me to scream at you and call down curses. BE CIVIL! Don’t say things in a comment box that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. And if you would be that mean in person? Perhaps you shouldn’t leave the house.
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Aforementioned section in mind, politics is one area where I have issues being civil. I try, and then I have to walk away. People’s stubborn blindness and refusal to even consider an alternate point of view just make me see red. I don’t generally start actual name calling, but I do start using descriptive words that aren’t very flattering and then I start being not civil and…I don’t like being that person. My communications class has helped me tremendously in being able to handle things like politics and religion with logic, reasoning, and research…but I haven’t quite figured out my temper.
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I often wonder about people who work around children all day. When we were in the pediatric unit with Cole this past week, I wondered: Were any of the nurses infertile? Had they lost a child along the way? How did they work around sick/hurting kids all day and go home to their own and not worry? The same goes for the maternity ward, the NICU. What happens when a nurse gets pregnant and then miscarries? Do they move to another section? We had some very helpful nurses and one not-so-helpful one, and I just found myself wondering about their stories.

4 a { 08.28.12 at 11:25 am }

Ugh, I just saw that Ryan comment. I guess it was the most roundabout way for him to say that he doesn’t care if your pregnancy was the result of a rape, he still wants you to have the child. I do not agree with him. Do I think he should have his feet held to the fire over that sort of remark? Probably yes, because he is running for the second highest office in the country, and being misguided about things can have dangerous consequences.

I don’t know why the intactivists get so upset about what other people are doing. I don’t know why the pro-life people are the same way. I guess it’s…nice (?) that they’re so passionate about their moral code? I’m gonna mangle the quote I see all the time about these issues – the thing required for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. I’m beginning to hate that sentiment, because it presumes that we are all operating under the same moral code and that’s just not true. But those who are so passionate about their moral code cannot see any other point of view.

And the nudity – how many people have naked photos of their babies taken? I’m going to guess all of them at some point or another. Whether it’s a professional shot or something from the bathtub, I would bet every person has at least one naked shot of their child. I understand the fear of the pedophile, but I believe that fear has far exceeded the bounds of rationality. The photo in that article was very sweet to me. I don’t know when the naked child cutoff is – little boys and men continue to run around without shirts. My child is not one to go out and about naked, because I’m repressed and prudish. I’m just rambling because I really don’t have an answer. I just wish people would get a grip (i.e. think like I do :) )

5 JustHeather { 08.28.12 at 11:28 am }

Ugh! First off, I find the picture of the dad and daughter to be quite cute! I’m not sure at what age a kid should have clothes on when pictures are taken, school age, maybe? But if they are not being photographed, what goes on in your own home or yard is your choice, at any age.

I couldn’t agree with you more about how to approach commenting on something you don’t agree with. It can be politely said (if it needs to be stated at all) and there is no need for name calling.

6 Josh { 08.28.12 at 12:11 pm }

Parenting and the Internet, Circumcision, the Politics of Rape and Abortion…what? You didn’t have time to include something on Breastfeeding?

7 tigger62077 { 08.28.12 at 12:22 pm }

*snerk* Laughing at Josh! You really DO want to get her riled, eh? ;)

8 Michele { 08.28.12 at 1:04 pm }

I’m infertile and a rape survivor and the child of rape, so yes, rape is a way of conception: an awful, ugly, horrific way but still a way. Is it up there with IVF and donor gametes- I think that depends on whether or not you think IVF, etc, is immoral, which, as a practicing Roman Catholic who follows the RC Church’s teachings on the morality of IVF, etc, Ryan is saying is. He was asked a question about where he (personally) stood on his prolife issues with a rape exception and gave his answer. I dont take issue with it; it’s his stance and his opinion, and while politics always leaves me with a sick taste in my mouth regardless of who it is, I hope that our politicians are at the very least honest with their personal beliefs.

9 It Is What It Is { 08.28.12 at 1:24 pm }

Wow, so many possibly polarizing topics packed into one post! On the issues of nudity and children and posting said naked child’s picture, I found the picture of the father and his daughter quite endearing. I’m making some assumptions (that this father spending time with his daughter is not a one-off thing) but if more father’s sat on a swing with their daughters and without an electronic device in their hand, the world would likely be a better place (and I’ll even allow him his beer). My son is 5 1/2 and I dare say there are likely different standards applied to boys than to girls, but I have posted pictures of my son in his underwear doing whatever funny thing he happened to be doing. And, just yesterday, when he got home from camp, grubby from ankles to elbows, he wanted to run around in our backyard naked (I mean sans any clothes) in the hose. Now, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it, but our backyard has some areas where you can see through to our neighbors backyard and they have 3 girls (a 9 year old and twin 2 yr olds) and out of respect for them, should they also be out in their yard, I told my son he had to at least wear underwear. He was fine and no harm, no foul.

I have come to the point where I can barely stand the sound of Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan’s voices. I know how I am going to vote, I know which policies I support, so why bother listening to them because my interest in “what stupid thing are they going to say next?” has waned. What incensed me as much as Todd Akin and Paul Ryan’s comments was this exchange with Tom Smith, GOP Senate candidate: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/tom-smith-rape_n_1834234.html. And here is the thing for me…I’ve long believed that many of our conservative (male especially) politicians have held these antiquated and offensive beliefs about women (conception, rape, incest, abortion, etc). But, prior to our 24 hour news cycle, most of what they said wasn’t caught on tape. They maintained the dome of silence of the old boys club. To even draw the loose comparison between rape and pregnancy out of wedlock is ludicrous. LUDICROUS! But, he did.

And, oh boy, the subject of circumcision, wow. I knew when the new AAP guidelines came out there would be s shit storm and their was. There doesn’t seem to be a way to render an opinion on the subject, especially if you are the mother of circumcised boys, that doesn’t draw backlash from those in the no-circumcision camp. At the end of the day, Americans seems to never want to face having to pay for their decisions, and I mean in real hard health care cost dollars. Whether we’re talking about smoking, alcohol, obesity, or circumcision, the decisions that others make impact us all. But, we so conveniently turn a blind eye to that.

10 Jendeis { 08.28.12 at 1:50 pm }

I feel like all three of these subjects deal with the tragic loss (or at the very least, huge reduction) of civility in our society. It seems that the allure of near or total anonymity overpowers the senses and allows vitriol that most would never dream of speaking in public.

To add breastfeeding into this, my approach to it (and to most things, I guess) is make the informed (that’s the key, informed) decision that’s right for you and your family, and I will do the same for mine. Of course, when you deal in absolutism, that’s a tad more difficult.

Now, add in the “turn it off” argument. Don’t like an opinion/picture/whathaveyou? Turn if off, click away, or mute. You don’t have to accept every “comer” into your living room.

I keep LM in clothes most of the time because I bought the clothes and by G-D, he’s going to wear them. My husband and his family, on the other hand, have difficulties (read: are lazy) with putting LM’s pants on after a diaper change, so he spends time there in a shirt and a diaper. Nothing significant to add here, just wanted to use my opportunity to express a pet peeve of mine with regard to my husband and in-laws.

Incidentally, I am now craving mashed potatoes and insist that you must deliver some to me before the next dose of Zofran wears out. Thank you.

11 jjiraffe { 08.28.12 at 2:03 pm }

Laughing at Josh’s comment. Yeah: this is pretty much the unholy trinity of things that rile people up on the Internet. We had a bris so, yeah. No one in our circle of friends said a word about it. But I feel like this debate has intensified in the last few years.

Here’s a trial balloon: remember how obsessed after 9-11 everyone was with nesting and remodeling? A reaction to the horror? Now with the economy in the crapper, are people obsessing about parenting and women’s roles as perfect mothers because it’s mostly men who have suffered from the downturn? I have no idea but I think about that Atlantic article a lot (The Downfall of Men, which came out last year and was barely discussed as opposed to the infamous Mom Enough Time Magazine article which got about 2 million times more attention)

Just throwing that out there. Prepared to duck ;)

12 KeAnne { 08.28.12 at 3:02 pm }

Wait – you couldn’t include a blurb on working moms vs SAHMs too? The one negative comment I ever received on my blog was in reference to my son’s circumcision. The post wasn’t even about circumcision; it was his birth story and happened to mention it. I was infuriated by the anonymous comment and wrote an entire post addressing it. I do think people forget that there is a person behind the blog and to be civil in their comments. Another blogger I read had three people call her fat in their comments on a post in which she posted a picture of something she had eaten for lunch. I was shocked by those comments.

13 Audrey { 08.28.12 at 3:44 pm }

So, I actually thought the complaints about the dad photo were going to be about the beer. What does that say about me? I mean, my husband has put a beer in the pouch in our sling and walked around the block with him and I always blush over it when it gets mentioned. I would say there’s nothing wrong with that toddler being photographed in her diaper. I think the problem is it doesn’t actually look like there’s a diaper in the photo. Smallest diaper ever. And still, it’s not exactly full frontal nudity or anything, she’s got her toy against her body. It’s a sweet photo, frankly. But I can see paranoids going frothy over it. I think there is a point when you have to stop posting pics of your kids in their undies, but it’s when it makes you uncomfortable (or them!). I posted one a week or so ago that had my son in the pic in his undies..it wasn’t the point of the photo, he just happened to run in the room when I was taking it and since he was mostly pressed against his bed I didn’t see the harm. People are afraid and their fear for their own children makes them judgmental of people who are not afraid or who they think are careless. Plus the internet makes being an asshole easy.

Re: the circumcision thing. I got told too many times to count how “gross” and “ugly” uncircumcised penises are when that topic came up on my birth board way back when. But, it’s a birth board, I expect stuff like that. My son is not circumcised and neither is my husband. So far, neither has had any health issues because of it and no, I don’t think it’s gross or ugly looking. A little weird the first few times you see an adult male penis that doesn’t look like the drawing in health class or what you tend to see in a porno..but not gross. And since I don’t want people inundating me with vitriole because of our decision to not circumcise, I would never in a million years think to do so to anyone else. That’s a private matter. And when it comes to a bris…well, that’s between you, your Rabbi and God. I like to think if I respect that for other people, the world will return that respect to me when we make our decisions.

14 Stupid Stork { 08.28.12 at 3:48 pm }

Eee gads!

I have to stop myself from reading any comments on yahoo news because it’s masochism to do so seeing as how they usually make me burst into flames.

I genuinely don’t understand why people are so hostile about circumcision. I wholeheartedly agree that that is one of those rare topics where you just keep. your mouth. shut. What you choose to do with your child is your business, what they choose to do with their child is theirs.

Which sort of ties in with that effing senator – I don’t like it when anybody tells anyone else what to do with genitals/reproductive organs. A blanket rule.

15 Sunny { 08.28.12 at 6:30 pm }

Although I don’t have much insight to your questions (my brain is on the lowest level of functioning right now), I did have to comment because I could really relate. As far as nudity goes… one of the other moms in our preschool class hosted a playdate the other day, with 4-year-old girls and boys present. Her son kept taking off his clothes, and she dressed him several times, and then said, “Oh, forget it!” She then let him run around the playdate naked. We were eating food… she was holding him… it made my highly uncomfortable. I wish I could go back in time and say something about it to her, but honestly I was so shocked and taken aback that I couldn’t find the words. It’s a tangent to your topic, but I’ve been mulling over the situation so much lately, that it just connected for me. The other topic — circumcision. I keep the status of my boys’ body parts to myself (unless a friend asks directly) because it just one of Those Topics that cause people to drop all common decency and attack one another. I stopped posting on a mothering board because the women put such strong anti-circ messages in their signatures, I felt very uncomfortable. I am fine if someone wants to spread facts about the decision — awareness is good, right? But there’s a line between education and aggression.

16 persnickety { 08.28.12 at 7:30 pm }

It feels like a lot of this is competitive overparenting. Even as a non-parent I can participate in that (although I am trying very hard not to).

The internet allows us to make the comments would have previously been uttered in a small group (and potentially quashed) to be broadcast. Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad.

I know one person on FB that constantly posts anti-circ articles- I foolishly responded when they were bashing mothers in South Africa who encouraged their teenage boys to get circumcised, as there is (some) evidence it may reduce HIV transmission. I was told it was bad science, not a valid reason. So no more engagement from me- I don’t know one way or the other, but it is a factor for some.

It took me a very long time to understand the religious wars in Europe (history geek), but I eventually realised that it was fear- the fear that someone who was so similar except for a minor difference in religious practice would have the right key to getting into heaven rather than the other person. So the solution was to kill enough of them that there was no potential other way (that is a simplification,). This feels very similar- if it is okay to let your 5 year old run around with no clothes then my decision to force mine to wear clothes from 4 (and the attendant battles with the kid) was pointless. It is fear that we have made the wrong decision- and so we go on the attack in an attempt to validate that decision.

Maybe the way we define and teach tolerance should be considered- we say that skin colour or religion should not be a reason for discrimination, we don’t discuss the concept that we need to be tolerant of ideas and opinions that differ. (I think I know one reason- it would encourage kids to disagree with authority) Add in a political and media culture where absolutes are the defining modes and instant conflict.

17 Questioning { 08.28.12 at 9:45 pm }

Circumcision ? Really? Do you also support girls circumcision ? Just can not get my head around it. Read it all and am not coming from any particular view point. Just common sense, it’s wrong isn’t it? It’s interference, isn’t it? Tell me it’s not a religious thing…..please. I would never get that. Awwww so wrong. Since when is wearing a nappy “naked”? My head spins.

18 Justine { 08.28.12 at 10:15 pm }

I’m laughing at Josh’s comment, too.

And grateful to Michele for putting her voice out there … I can only imagine what it’s like to talk about that position in this political climate.

That said: when I left my last place of employment, they had (or rather, my friend, who also resigned, had) just started a two year program called Project Civility. It was co-sponsored by some big names, including the NYTimes and the NEH, and was billed as an attempt to get college students talking about what makes our world a civil place, and what our responsibilities are as civil people. As fate would have it, Tyler Clementi committed suicide on campus not long after the program’s kickoff.

I think that the programs were decently attended (or at least as well attended as anything can be at a university where programs are always competing for audiences), but unfortunately, when my friend left, they decided to leave the program in the hands of students.

We were shocked. Yes, students have great initiative and ideas. But what did that say about the administration, the faculty, the institution? That they were willing to abandon the project and leave that kind of important conversation to chance?

I do think that we have become a less civil society, and I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s easier to hide behind electrons. We say things that are hurtful because it’s faster. Like shorthand. Explaining our position in a respectful way, and listening to someone else’s position, takes time … and it’s time that most people are not willing to spend in conversation. Easier to be loud, and stomp all over someone else, and leave the conversation feeling like you’re the superior human being.

I worry for the future, especially since people are giving up talking with our youth about being civil people.

19 Alexicographer { 08.28.12 at 10:19 pm }

I’m about with @Questioning on the circumcision thing, I mean, it’s permanently surgically altering an infant’s body, right? Now, there seem to be arguments for and against and given that, sure, OK, fine (but really — would we similarly accept female circumcision? I would not). I’m not saying I think this applies to circumcision, but I don’t think that as a general principle it’s OK for parents to do whatever they want to their kids (neglect, abuse) on the grounds that “no one else” is affected.

Also, I’ll note that, ahem, I’ve had precisely one partner who wasn’t circ’ed, and let me just say that the experience (you know, THAT experience) was qualitatively different and, well, better. I know we can’t generalize from N=1, but the few other times I’ve posted on the internet, other women have chimed in and said, “me too.” So other people are affected (and of course this extends, too, to the concerns about whether uncirc’ed men are more prone to catching, and thus spreading, STDs, though in the other direction).

As for nudity, I’m in favor of it; see my comment (and a number of others) on AskMoxie’s post on exactly this subject today. Less enthusiastic (but not horrified by) about posting pics on the internet (in plain view), but, whatever…

Oh, and I am in favor of politeness.

20 geochick { 08.28.12 at 11:12 pm }

Wow, the trifecta!

Well, I have no opinion about naked babies wearing diapers other than what’s the big deal?

As far as circumcision, well, all over the map over here. Our pediatrician kind of shrugged and said they had no opinion one way or the other. Really not helpful for decision making!

As far as Ryan’s comment….I am so fucking SICK of the Government getting all up in my goddamn reproductive system. Let the religions take care of that. It should be a non-issue politically in my view.

21 Trinity { 08.28.12 at 11:35 pm }

What kills me about the Akin “method of conception” comment is that dude totally supports a personhood bill that would make my child’s method of conception (IVF) illegal or overwhelmingly more difficult for me to access should I need this to further grow my family.

WRT to circumcision, I absolutely respect another parent’s informed decision to circ or to not circ. The trouble here with the revised AAP policy is that it is NOT informative. It confuses parents. It repeatedly contradicts itself. How is this organization helping parents with muddled research and conflicting assertions in this policy? How does that best serve children and their parents? I really appreciate this critique of the new policy, which does not take a parent-bashing tenor: http://www.drmomma.org/2012/08/aap-circumcision-policy-statement.html (Fair warning, however, this particular blog supports keeping babies intact and the post is written by an individual who believes the same…still I think the critique is well-reasoned and researched.) Bottom line: parents need quality resources from reliable sources to make informed decisions for our families.

22 battynurse { 08.29.12 at 12:41 am }

Well said. I have a hard time with how hateful and rigid people can be. I can’t say I know an answer. It would be so nice though if we could all agree to disagree.
I like Josh’s comment, made me laugh.

23 Natalie { 08.29.12 at 2:22 am }

I am really struggling with this right now – this hate and anger that exists everywhere I look online. I feel so sad by it all. It wasn’t always like this. I am afraid to speak an opinion for fear of getting someone freaking out about it. I guess I avoid conflict. Somewhere along the way it seems people lost their understanding of respect and how to treat other people.

I don’t consider a diapered child to be naked, I don’t see the issue. If the chikd were actually naked it would be a little inappropriate to post, but like you said, a diaper covers the same as a swimsuit. I too thought the issue was going to be about the beer, guess that tells you something about me!

Circumcision still makes me feel mildly uneasy. I am definitely on the “no” side for my own child, but at the same time I don’t run around calling people names… not that it would be okay to do that anyways.

I won’t even comment on the rape bullshit the republicans are putting out there other than to say that it entirely disgusts me.

24 Elizabeth { 08.29.12 at 5:54 am }

I’m going to bypass comment on all the content topics and go straight to the meta-question – the ubiquitous vitriol all over the internet, any time there is disagreement. It’s profoundly disturbing and I don’t understand it very well. I read through comments on a news item about immigration, for example, and 95% of the comments are so filled with shouty all-caps hatred that it makes me feel physically ill. There is no discourse. There is no reasoned discussion (not even impassioned reasoned discussion) about issues in a way that would move anyone productively forward. At least, it seems to be rare. For the most part it’s just people shouting at each other competing to make the most extreme statement possible for their position. Polarizing. Is it just because we’re not face to face? I don’t understand.

25 Beth { 08.29.12 at 8:47 am }

I completely agree with how vitriolic comments have become – really on any topic. I was recently reading a popular mommy blog that was poking fun at people who would download unbabyme. When some infertiles (politely) mentioned in the comments section that they would use the app, the comments that they got back were so mean spirited!…”Cry me a river”, “grow up”, “life’s not fair” and comparing not having a baby to not getting to go on vacation are just some of the examples. It made my head spin as to the lack of empathy people could have for one another.

As for naked babies – in my mind – your baby, your business. But if the word “baby” still applies, I think it is probably ok. Why the government should monitor my reproduction, I have no idea. And circumcision – I think there is a BIG difference between female and male circumcision (since some have pointed out that if not okay with one, why should we be okay with the other), but I am still not sure where I fall on my own beliefs with that, or what I will do if we should have a son some day.

26 Bea { 08.29.12 at 9:54 am }

Boy, you are… really game tonight. Ok. So am I.

The idea that we should only intervene if we are affected personally – either directly or indirectly – is horrifying, frankly. Of course we should also intervene to protect innocent parties, if the situation demands it. And that holds regardless of differences in culture or moral/religious code.

BUT first of all the situation *should demand it*. There is always going to be a huge grey area here with lots of edge cases and shifting opinions over time, and due to context. (Contrast the circumcision issue in the context of regions of Africa where HIV is rife or for military personnel serving in tropical regions where infection is a bigger risk and more complicated issue, vs the debate for your average western suburbanite who showers daily, has safe sex tools/education, lower STD rates, medical care is better, etc.) But to speak for here and today… sheesh people. Nappy. Foreskin. Get a sense of perspective.

Secondly there are ways and means. Why on earth do you need to use capslock when you can more constructively use lower case?

I once saw someone on a message board post about the nudity issue. She was talking about an older child, a girl, about 5 or 6 from memory, and it was full nudity, on a public internet forum. The person posting had suffered sexual abuse as a child. She was wanting to know if she should say something to the child’s parent, and if so, what. So, ok, even without the issue of her own sexual abuse, this is fine as far as I’m concerned. She is worried. She has every right to say, “I’m worried. I just want to make sure you’re thinking about this. Have you considered facts a b and c?” Done. No problem. No caps locks. Personally, my children run around in their underwear all day unless we are actually going out and I’m pretty sure they will get uncomfortable with that before I do. I find the whole toddler-in-nappy thing amusingly prudish. (That said, I wouldn’t post an actually naked photo of them online, and I am on the shy side when it comes to posting pictures online generally.) But if someone wants to make sure I’ve considered my position correctly, I’m all ears.

As for circumcision, for the average western suburbanite (and this is consistent with the recently-publicised AAP view, which is as others have said horribly vague and probably for the best there) I think the only real reason to circumcise is tradition/religion. You have to look at the recent debate with the knowledge that American doctors are notoriously intervention-happy (the work in the context of a medical and legal system which encourages it) and even they are kind of either/or broadly speaking with doctors in other countries being pretty clear that medical benefits don’t outweigh risks. (That’s only the shorthand way to come to the conclusion, of course.) So the question really is whether religion a good enough reason to perform that sort of procedure, which brings me right back to perspective, people. Perspective. Little bit of foreskin. And again, absolutely lay out those facts or your cultural/religious perspective and then, you know. You’re done. No capslock.

As for blog comments (or article comments) they sometimes make me ashamed of the human race. Of course if you’re leaving comments on you need to accept that people might say any old shite on your blog. It’s not exactly the same as a host/guest relationship, where the host(ess) hasn’t exactly invited you around so you can comment on her mashed potato. When you write a blog, you are pretty much asking people to comment on your metaphorical mashed potato. But why people take that as cart blanc to use capslock all over the place (amongst other things) I’ll never know. It really makes me despair of human nature. I would say blog rules… well like *the conversation* at the dinner table. You can more politely disagree with your host’s political views than criticise her mashed potato. The mashed potato is a gift for which you should at least feign gratefulness. Nobody should expect your political views to be bought and sold so cheaply.

Oh! I missed one! Rape. Gosh. You really were itching with controversy. Maybe this one is missing me because it’s not my government we’re talking about. The guy is obviously saying rape victims should have the child, but is grudgingly signing up to a different consensus because at least it’s closer to his view than the other offerings. I am… deeply unshocked. I note that he also doesn’t seem to think that the idea would get him enough votes to actually push for legislation that supports his ideals, figure he is trying to hedge his bets by winning both groups at once, wonder briefly how much of the political spectacle is real and how much is political spectacle, and move on. But either way, it doesn’t affect me much from over here so that probably has a lot to do with that.

Just adding to the debate started in the comments now: there is a big difference between male and female circumcision. There’s a grey area in between them, but I have no problem putting one on one side of the line and the other firmly over on the other side. It is just a big difference between risks, benefits, and long-term outcomes. But this is an example of why the “we can’t touch this because it’s someone’s culture/religion” argument is bunk. I mean, sure, if someone wants to harm *themselves* because it’s their culture or their religion, although I have every right to talk it over with them (sans capslock), ultimately competent adults make their own decisions. Harming a child or another party (including but not limited to yourself)? At some (unfortunately murky) point I gain not only the right but the duty to step in. Happily, different cultures and religions actually agree on core moral issues more often that not (example – the “golden rule” of treating others as you’d like to be treated). Disagreements happen around edge-cases, with the odd tradition thrown in here and there for colour, quite a few basic misunderstandings, and lots of politics mucking things up for everyone.

It’s hard to proofread all that in this tiny comment box, so I’m feeling pretty nervous about hitting submit given the topics, but here goes…

Bea

27 Bea { 08.29.12 at 10:02 am }

Ooh! Can I do breastfeeding??

Bea

28 Bea { 08.29.12 at 1:08 pm }

Ok I’m not going to do breastfeeding, but I’m going to redo the mashed potato metaphor.

So. I still think blogging is not exactly like a dinner party. I still think a dinner party is a gift/recipient relationship. But I think a better metaphor for blogging would be a restaurant/patron relationship. It is more equal footing/mutual transaction than a dinner party.

So if you were at a restaurant and there was a problem with the food you would still be an arse if you strode into the kitchens and started shouting at the chef, but it would be entirely appropriate to see if you could work something out politely by speaking to the waiter. Whereas if you are at a dinner party you are pretty much pushing those mashed potatoes around and feigning gratitude.

Bea

29 Mali { 08.29.12 at 6:59 pm }

Wow. You do realise that the lesser blogging mortals of us would have taken each of these issues and made a separate post, and then added another one on the commenting issue? Voila! Four posts in one.

I can’t believe people were shocked at a photo with a baby in nappies (diapers). It’s hardly naked. I guess (if I had kids) I’d try to work on the basis of “what would my child be horrified at if they were seeing this photo as a 10 year old, teenager or adult?” (Especially important given that images on the internet can last forever). A baby in nappies – nope, that wouldn’t bother me. A fully naked photograph, with genitalia, yes, I think that’s out of line at any age. Naked bums however are cute. But once they’re not babies or toddlers, anything other than clothes or swimsuits (and even then, discretion is advised) is pretty much out of line till they’re drunk at college and making their own (chemically-impaired) decisions. You might think your daughter looks adorably chubby or gawky or whatever in her pink bikini at 8, but when she’s fifteen and her schoolmates see the photo, she will be mortified.

The other issues I sense you’re asking for comments on the comments, rather than our comments on the issues. And so I’ll keep to that. I think many people who comment on the internet are hecklers, sad people who have found a way to bully and voice their worst thoughts, without any intention of engaging in a conversation. Let’s face it, they’re probably incapable of engaging in a discussion, looking at pros and cons and taking into account other people’s points, listening to new facts. (I actually wrote a little about this recently looking at our online reading habits – http://aseparatelife.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/read-all-about-it/). And I treat their comments as such. Yes, I get a bit angry at them, but it’s not worth engaging.

I think a blog is a different place from an online magazine/newspaper site. Even then though, people seem to have forgotten their manners. Aren’t people taught manners anymore? Treating others as we’d want to be treated? Isn’t that one of the basics of human interaction?

A blog I think is more personal, more of an invitation to readers to drop by. Where you’ll get to know them personally, and they’ll get to know you. Perhaps less of a dinner party and more of an open house, one where you’re welcome to pop in if you’re passing or a friend of a friend. But still one where you’re in someone else’s space, and you need to be polite and respectful. It’s fine to voice disagreements – I think healthy debate is to be encouraged and fostered, as long as everyone is respectful. Saying “I disagree” doesn’t mean we don’t like you, we don’t think you’re bad or stupid (and vice versa). It can be an opportunity for us to see other points of view, and to grow. But yes, that is lost on some people.

30 Sara { 08.29.12 at 10:40 pm }

Regarding circumcision–I think that sometimes Anglo-Americans forget that children don’t exist in a vacuum, or even just in a family. They are part of a wider community, and that community matters. So, for example, Native American communities may forbid the adoption of their children by non-tribal-members because it impoverishes (culturally, spiritually, emotionally, and demographically) a whole people, not just the parents, to lose their children. I respect that. Along the same lines, if ritual circumcision is one of the ties that connects a people together, then there are issues beyond the individual child at play. Obviously a ritual that is very harmful to a child is unacceptable. However, if the issue of harm is debatable, then I really don’t see how people who are outside of that community are in a position to judge. Female “circumcision” is not usually physiologically equivalent, as most practices performed on females involve the cutting of tissues well beyond the clitoral hood–the analogue of the foreskin, is profoundly harmful as generally practiced, so this caveat doesn’t apply there, although even in that case, respectful discussions are much more likely to change minds than shouting matches.

31 Manapan { 08.30.12 at 8:20 pm }

1. I’ll post whatever pics I want to of my kid and I think others ought to do as they please about their pics. Within limits, of course. Babies with bongs are clearly unacceptable. :)

Babies in just a diaper are adorable. Toddlers in just undies are also adorable. I get a little worried when I see kids above preschool hanging out mostly nude though, because it makes me think they’ve got boundary issues. I grew up in a bad neighborhood where I didn’t know even one kid who hadn’t been molested at some point. It started so early for most of us that none of us had any idea the decorum associated with who could ask you to be nude, or where, or why. So when I see an older child hanging out in public in skivvies, I always get my hackles up and wonder who’s hurting them.

2. I get kind of heated about circumcision. We didn’t have a religious or cultural reason to have it done, and we weren’t convinced of sufficient medical benefits to justify the risks, so we chose not to. After battling with our NICU about refusing a circ, then having them try to schedule one with my husband while I was away (had to be in my own room for monitoring), I deeply distrust the profit-driven motivations of the doctors who would be performing the procedures, aka, the AAP doctors. I’d like to see it covered only if there’s a distinct medical reason for it to be done.

But even then, I won’t tell someone that they shouldn’t have it done. I will tell them what I know about it if they ask. And I will tell them that circ rates are dropping if their whole reason for it seems to be “zomg, yucky! He’ll never fit in with a turtleneck dick!” That might come off as judgmental, but I don’t intend it to be.

3. I’m scared you’re going to hate me for this, Obama Mama… but I can’t do politics any more. The first election I was old enough to know and care about was Bush/Gore. And then Bush/Kerry. I had so much hope for Obama, but he’s had a long road of cleaning things up and so much vitriol and racism to face that he can’t really make things happen either and I’m afraid he’s out of here because of people’s perceptions that “nothing has changed”. I’m just waiting to see how long it takes after he loses for our long-awaited health care reform to get tossed out the window in favor of more corporate welfare. Watching the country get screwed over and over again has made me cynical and apathetic. I’m not even registered to vote now, because a blue vote in South Dakota is just an immediately-cancelled waste of my time.

4. I never knew about his daughter. I always loved the Count. Now I’m just in awe of the man behind him. How incredibly difficult that must have been for him.

32 Lucy { 08.31.12 at 5:57 am }

Hi Mel, I think it’s all a metter of perspective. I am mexican but live in Switzerland, and while in Mexico you qould never see a naked child out in public (with diapers yes, naked never) here in Switzerland (and most of Europe) is the norm. If we go to a public swimming pool, you would see both boys and girls naked swimming. I am not saying toddlers, but kids much older than that. They arrive with their parents, undress right next to the pool and swim. Same at the beach.
It took me a while to feel comfortable around so much nakedness, so many questions arose, but then I just realized that they just have a completely different approach than we do. Doesn’t mean it is better or worst, it is just different.

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