“Maybe you’d be happier with your hoodie on,” said a reporter who was concerned about my toddler’s refusal to wear a jacket on an unexpectedly windy Wednesday.
The irony of his statement was completely lost on him. After all, we were standing together at a demonstration against routine circumcision — referred to more commonly and, quite frankly, accurately by definition, as “genital cutting” by many of those holding up signs of protest around me.
It was a scene that certainly didn’t feel like the right time or place to indulge in gentle euphemisms.
A group of activists who boldly aim to make unconsented genital cutting illegal in America for boys (the practice was banned by federal law in 1997 for girls), called the Bloodstained Men and Their Friends, made a unique impression on the Texas leg of their southeastern tour last week. Intact Texas’ Houston chapter and other local intactivists joined them in our city on Wednesday and Thursday.
BSM’s approach? Make the message impossible to ignore!
Though the grisly truths about routine circumcision have sat under-rug swept from the public eye for far too many years, it seems the mainstream media has finally begun to take notice of what should be an obvious problem.
In this video (aired Wednesday night on channel 39 NewsFix), myself and two Bloodstained Men spoke without censor to the reporter about our cause. Though, as a former features intern for the Houston Chronicle and a degreed journalism major, I can’t quite say the finished product met my standards for investigative media. The piece’s light-hearted puns downplaying the seriousness of this issue and references to biased, scientifically illogical claims of “medical benefits” are cringe-worthy at best. The protest was covered with similar overtones in this article on the Houston Press blog.
“Most parents have no idea what they put their babies through,” Brother K informed the NewsFix reporter. “People are shocked to learn what Americans do to their babies.”
So what’s the deal with the dramatic, red-stained jumpsuits?
The cause is a protest against rather than a promotion of violence. Sometimes it takes a visual reflection of circumcision’s aftermath to truly allow onlookers to see this ancient practice for what it is. It’s about getting people to confront what happens every day to thousands of baby boys in America without legal reprieve or cultural support — and touches upon the countless adult relationships negatively affected by forcible amputation of healthy genital tissue (the billion-dollar market in America for sexual lubricant, Ribbed For Her condoms, and Viagra is but one slice of the circumcision profit pie).
BSM co-director Brother K told Intact America last year:
“The bloodstained symbol cuts through all the clutter and rhetoric that surround this issue, and gets to the heart of circumcision. It’s a bloody wound that men reject when given a choice.”
Another BSM member Brian Herrity explains:
“The Bloodstained Man suit is for everyone, cut men and intact men, cut women and intact women, and anyone who has felt the negative fallout of both circumcision and a cutting culture in some way. Whether the wearer of the suit has experienced direct or indirect harm to their physical being and/or soul, the outfit represents the stain that American doctors have inflicted upon our nation.”
But… isn’t it just a tad extreme? Those red paint-splattered signs… they’re a bit much, right?
It IS extreme. It IS a bit “much.” And that’s precisely the point.
Every intactivist in these photos is also wildly offended… by the sad fact that our presence on a busy street corner is even necessary. We think it’s far more than “a bit much,” but it suits the situation in kind.
If we can hardly tolerate the sight of grown men standing splay-legged and visibly upset with red paint on their pants, we should find routine infant circumcision — which requires the forcible strap-down of innocent newborns in similar splay-legged pose to cold, stiff boards in preparation for the unnecessary amputative surgery — to be substantially more sickening, no?
Especially since none of these babies get away with just a silly red splotch of paint.
How can our nation be so repulsed and offended by the sight of red-stained pants, but so easily accept the actual bloodshed of thousands of babies every day as “normal”? Many Americans are substantially offended by a mere symbol of the truth, but continue to lie to themselves about the reality.
The cognitive dissonance is bafflingly thick — for many people, gentle education simply does not work. We’ve been trained for generations to not see the blood, to not hear the cries, to silence the survivors who might offend us all with their admittances of regret, post-traumatic stress, or questioning the necessity of a routinely-inflicted injury as the common first experience among American male newborns.
Despite the recent increase of evidence exposing circumcision as a great medical fraud, (*TRIGGER WARNING*) just over half of newborn American males are still strapped down to Circumstraint boards to have part of their genitals manually stimulated, then forcibly probed, torn away from its adhered body like a fingernail off its nail bed, then crushed and held that way for a full minute with a metal clamp to prevent excessive bleeding out, before cutting a slit downward, then chopping away circumferentially in final amputation — with absurdly insufficient or (more likely) no pain relief, plus short-term and long-term risks and negative side-effects, and a lifelong loss of what would have been an important, multi-functional, sexually responsive organ.
If my description was a “bit much,” remember: It’s just a collection of words. And it’s a perfectly accurate description of the process; not sensationalism. It’s as sugar-coated as it gets (though, perhaps not as sugar-coated as the pacifiers given to the majority of newborns during their circumcisions as “pain relief”).
Likewise, the red ink stain that’s considered “a bit much” is just a symbol; it’s a reflection of the reality that Brother K has called a “profound bloody spectacle.”
If you feel overcome with anger at the sight of these words or those signs, you’re experiencing the natural, humanely correct reaction — perhaps though, it’s directed at the wrong enemy.
If the sight of a circumcision protest angers you, shakes something in your core, incites a latent rage against someone or something you can’t quite put your finger on — you’re on the right track. It may seem like it’s the red paint stains and harsh language stamped onto the signs that bothers you, but this is only because our culture has been conditioned to make an unseen ghost of the true horror.
I’ll tell you what, the true horror is not standing peacefully on the street corner, red-crotched like a warning sign. Indeed, this thing — it is, in reality, “the elephant in the hospital.“
See the full photo albums from the Houston demonstrations on Intact Houston’s Facebook page here.