Blog By Barry

January 15, 2009

Seda’s Coming Out Story

Filed under: Transsexual and Transgender related issues — Ampersand @ 12:46 am

From Fannie’s Room:

All that remained was coming out to my kids. We did that after Christmas 2006, about the same time I started hormone therapy. They were six and three at the time. My eldest is fascinated with science, so we put it in terms of clownfish and parrotfish, both of which sometimes change sexes naturally. We told them that I’d always felt like I was a woman inside, and I was now going to start the process of changing, including dressing as a woman. Sam took it in effortlessly. For him, it was the same absurdity that everything is at that age, and was just something else new. Trin, the elder, drew a very sad face.

“What’s wrong?” Tears in his eyes, he replied, “Now that she’s a woman, Maddy won’t want to wrestle anymore.” Assurances that I would, indeed, continue to enjoy our wrestling matches comforted him. In the summer of 2008, I overheard him talking about me with one of his friends. “Don’t you miss having a dad?” his friend asked. “No. I like her better as a woman,” he replied.

That’s just a sample; the whole thing is worth reading. Part 1, and Part 2.

Quote: A bit more on malebashing

Filed under: Anti-feminists and their pals, Feminism, sexism, etc — Ampersand @ 12:38 am

This post is quoted from “A Feminist Theory of Malebashing,” by Susan H. Williams and David C. Williams, published in 1996 in Michigan Journal of Gender & Law. The original article has lots of footnotes, which I have rather lazily omitted.

Nicholas Davidson, a well-known critic of feminism, opines in the journal Society that malebashing – he calls it “female chauvinism” – is inevitable in all forms of feminism. He begins by recognizing that liberal feminism rests on the claim that there is no essential difference between men and women. He calls this idea “unisexism” and acknowledges that it does not on its face bash males. But then he makes this startling leap of logic:

The original definition [of feminism] described feminism as “the theory that women should have political, economic, and social rights equal to those of men.’ This theory presumes that women do not, in fact, have rights equal to men…. If women do not have rights equal to men, the inescapable conclusion, which no feminist will dispute, is that women are oppressed…. From the perception that women are oppressed follows the perception that men are the oppressors. Society is held to be dominated by men for their selfish benefit. Note that the “oppressed’ and the “oppressor’ are moral categories – the oppressed are victims who have done nothing to deserve their fate, the oppressors are villains who have done nothing to deserve their privilege. The theory that women lack equal rights inexorably generates the proposition that women are oppressed and men are oppressors…. Reduced to simplest terms, this sets up the following equation: women good, men bad – hence women are better than men. Unisexism thus generates female chauvinism, despite the evident contradiction between these two points of view.

Again, Davidson cites no actual feminists to substantiate this tortured argument. Instead, he relies on logical derivation. He begins with the uncontroversial proposition that feminists, by definition, believe in equal rights for women. From this simple idea, he purports to logically derive his conclusion that all feminists believe all men are villains and all women innocent victims. Unfortunately, none of his logical steps follow from the premise. Attention to the actual writing of real feminists might have saved him from his logical errors.

Davidson’s first step is to say that feminists who believe women should have equal rights necessarily believe they do not presently have equal rights. That conclusion does not follow from the premise: one could believe that women do have equal rights, and they should have those rights. To be sure, many feminists do not believe women presently have equal rights, but perhaps some feminists do. Therefore, it is not the case that all feminists must follow Davidson even to this first step.

Davidson next argues that if one believes that women do not have equal rights, then one must also believe they are oppressed and men are their oppressors. Not only that – here the claims start to come thick and fast – women are not at all responsible for the present state of affairs and men are entirely responsible. Further, women (presumably all women, since they all lack equal rights) are victims, and men (presumably all men, since they all have superior standing) are villains. In short, “women good, men bad.” At this point, most feminists have already left the train at an earlier stop; Davidson is travelling alone with only a minute subset of feminists and mistakenly concluding that they represent all of feminism. Presumably he made that mistake because he never asked for any of the passengers’ names or their views.

Perhaps the overwhelming majority of feminists agree that some men have acted in ways that oppress some women, to sustain the system of unequal rights. But that limited conclusion does not drag us by force of logic to accept “women good, men bad.” First, consistent with their fundamental commitment to equality, feminists may believe that sexism is a system of role socialization that oppresses us all. Under this view, men are victims along with women, even though they may wield more power and disproportionately support the system of unequal rights. Others may believe that men bear some responsibility but role socialization offers a partial moral excuse. Still others may believe that some men are oppressive villains, but they oppress both men (especially gay men and men of color) and women. Still others believe that some or perhaps all women have internalized some or most of the sexism in their society, and so they are complicit in the system of gender hierarchy. Other feminists may believe all or some combination of the above, and still others may not be sure what they think. Of course, some feminists may also adopt the view that Davidson ascribes to them, but to tell, one would need to consult their writings, rather than relying on caricature. In short, the issue of moral responsibility for the present state of affairs may be enormously complex for feminists.

January 14, 2009

Award-Winning Film Can’t Be Distributed Because It Used 80-Year-Old Music

(You can download higher-quality versions of the above trailer here.)

I’ve been a fan of Nina Paley’s comic strips for years, but I didn’t know she’s also an animator. Josh Jasper recently gave me a head’s-up about her full-length, unreleased film, “Sita Sings The Blues.” It’s a bit hard to describe what the film is about, although Roger Ebert, who absolutely loved it, gives it a try.

She begins with the story of Ramayana, which is known to every school child in India but not to me. It tells the story of a brave, noble woman who was made to suffer because of the perfidy of a spineless husband and his mother. […] Paley synchs her life story and singing and dancing with recordings of the American jazz singer Annette Hanshaw (1901-1985)[…] In San Francisco, we meet an American couple, young and in love, named Dave and Nina, and their cat, named Lexi. Oh, they are in love. But Dave flies off to take a “temporary” job in India, Nina pines for him, she flies to join him in India but he is cold to her, and when she returns home she receives a cruel message: “Don’t come back. Love, Dave.” Nina despairs. Lexi despairs. Cockroaches fill her apartment but she hardly notices. One day in her deepest gloom she picks up the book Ramayana and starts to read. Inspiration begins to warm the cold embers of her heart.

There are uncanny parallels between her life and Sita’s. Both were betrayed by the men they loved. Both were separated by long journeys. Both died (Sita really, Nina symbolically) and were reborn–Sita in the form of a lotus flower, Nina in the form of an outraged woman who moves to Brooklyn, sits down at her home computer for five years and creates this film.

The 80-year-old recordings by Annette Hanshaw which Paley used in her film are now in the public domain. But the songs themselves are not, and the owners — who are large corporations, not the songwriters — demanded about $20,000 a song (about $220,000 total) up front before they’ll give permission for the film to be commercially distributed or sold on DVD — much more than Paley is ever likely to profit from the film, if it’s distributed. (Paley may get them to agree to “only” $50,000 for a limited-run DVD release). Negotiating that much has cost Paley about $10,000 in legal fees.

(Paley has offered to pay royalties from the film’s hypothetical profits, but the music corporations don’t find that acceptable.)

The supposed purpose of copyright law is to encourage artists to create. “Sita Sings The Blues” shows how copyright law fails to achieve this purpose. Rather than encouraging Paley to create, the law makes it as hard as possible on her. And for what? Does anyone believe that the people who wrote Hanshaw’s songs, 80+ years ago, would have chosen not to write the songs had they known that almost a century later, Nina Paley would use the songs in an animated film? Does anyone believe that Annette Hanshaw would have preferred that her songs not be listened to?

It’s not just Paley who loses out. It’s us, as audience members, being deprived not only of a chance to see “Sita Sings The Blues,” but also deprived of the chance to see the films or comic strips that Paley could currently be putting her energy and money into — energy and money that is instead being diverted into trying to get permission to legally distribute “Sita.” Furthermore — much against Paley’s wishes — her story is now being used as a cautionary tale, telling artists to limit themselves, to censor themselves before the big corporations do it to them.

Copyright has become, for artists, principally a barrier to creation.

Response to Christina Hoff Sommers, Part 2: Do Feminists Hate Men?

Filed under: Anti-feminists and their pals — Tags: — Ampersand @ 12:53 am

Self-described “conservative feminist” Christina Hoff Sommers delivered a speech outlining her primary objects to contemporary feminism. Item one: “Today’s movement takes a very dim view of men.”

And here is the problem with the play and with the gender feminist* philosophy that informs it: Most men are not brutes. They are not oppressors. Yes, there are some contemptible Neanderthals among us, and I have no sympathy for them whatsoever. But to confuse them with the ethical majority of men is blatantly sexist.

In the video clip (but not in the transcript), Sommers is more over-the-top in defining feminists as male-haters, going so far as to express pity for boys whose mothers are feminists.

I’d like to see a serious discussion of male-bashing in feminism. Unfortunately, Sommers’ treatment of the subject isn’t serious. She cites one, and only one, source to show that “the gender feminist philosophy” considers “most men… brutes”: Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues.

But The Vagina Monologues isn’t a non-fiction essay. It’s a play about women’s experiences surviving rape and abuse. That’s not the sole subject of the play, but — just after the importance of women loving their bodies — it’s the primary theme. Complaining that a play about the abuse and rape of women has too many abusive men in it is unreasonable and unfair.

There is a positive male character in The Vagina Monologues, a man who so loves vaginas that he teaches his girlfriend to love her own vagina. Sommers dismisses this character entirely, for the transparently ridiculous reason that the character is describes as being bland on first meeting (although he later proves to be an unusually great lover, because he loves women’s sex parts so much). It’s hard to respond to Sommers’ argument, because it’s not even an argument; it’s just an irrelevant statement. He is a positive character; he doesn’t mysteriously cease being a positive character because he seems bland at first, or because he loves vaginas.

In this speech, that’s Sommers’ only evidence that contemporary feminism considers most men brutes — in one popular play about rape and abuse, many but not all of the male characters are negative. I find that evidence underwhelming.

Note what Sommers doesn’t include: A single recent quote from a feminist leader saying “most men are brutes.” If this is indeed the common viewpoint of contemporary feminism, I’d think that Sommers would be able to find a dozen such quotes easily; yet Sommers doesn’t provide even one.

* * *

Sommers’ case is ridiculous, overstated, and the “evidence” she introduces is embarrassingly weak. But I’d like to consider the question of feminist hatred of men a little bit more.

In the comments at Feminist Law Professors, David Cohen writes:

I strongly contest her theories about feminist hatred of men. For the past two decades, I’ve now been a very outspoken feminist man on three very different university campuses, within one prominent feminist legal advocacy group, and as a frequent blogger on this blog. With the advocacy group I worked for for 7 years, I worked with many other feminist legal advocacy groups. In none of these settings was I ever once treated in any way that made me feel that the (mostly all, but not exclusively so) women hated me or men generally. They (as do I) hate men who do bad things to women (and other men). But, there is no general hatred of men. Sommers’ claims to the contrary are just wrong. In fact, I often found (and still find) myself in a position I didn’t want to be in — being praised for my feminist work because of the work but also because I was a man. I appreciate the first part of that but feel like the second part is wrong-headed and unnecessary.

That seems right to me. I can’t claim to have worked as much with feminists as David Cohen; but I’ve been a women’s studies major, occasionally volunteered for feminist causes, and virtually all my friends for the past 20 years have been feminists. And, with one exception, my experiences have been similar to David’s. If man-hating is so pervasive in contemporary feminism, why don’t men in feminism encounter it more?

Furthermore, in my experience, feminists are more likely than non-feminists to be supportive if I say men are screwed over by sex role expectations; that the targeting and bullying of wimpy boys is a real and significant problem (non-feminists are more apt to respond “boys will be boys”); that being cut off from feeling free to express ourselves emotionally does real damage to men; that men who go into traditionally female fields like child care are unfairly looked at with suspicion; and so on. Again, with one exception.

That one exception is, the internet. Years ago, on Ms Magazine’s feminist bulletin board (this was in the dark ages, before blogs even) I met a handful of self-proclaimed radical feminists who’d say genuinely man-hating things: men are biologically inferior to women, all men consciously plot to keep all women in fear of rape, and so forth. These women were a minority of posters on the Ms boards (and a minority among the radical feminists there), and many other posters objected to these statements.

Nonetheless, these bigoted, anti-male views do exist among a small minority of feminists, and ever since the Ms Boards I can no longer say I’ve never encountered any genuinely man-hating feminists. But to claim that such views are the dominant philosophy of contemporary feminism is nonsense.

It’s also through the internet that I first encountered men’s rights activists, also known as MRAs. MRAs, of course, are extremely sympathetic to the idea that boys and men are being harmed by contemporary sex roles — but for many, their sympathy is exclusively for males. Their is a tone of bitterness and hatred in how many MRAs discuss women and harms to women, very similar to the way some feminists on the Ms Boards discuss men and harms to men. The difference is that those feminists are, in my experience, a small minority among all feminists; but a huge portion of MRAs exhibit rage towards towards women in general and feminists in particular.

* * *

There’s a more subtle form of sexism against men that I think is much more common than the “men are mostly brutes” mentality that Sommers criticizes (but provides no examples of). In the last 20 years — and due, in my opinion, to the growth of the MRA movement (which was itself strongly influenced by Sommers’ book Who Stole Feminism?)– too many feminists have developed a knee-jerk resistance to discussions of how sexism harms men.

This is understandable. After a hundred conversations with MRAs, feminists have learned that when someone begins talking about how men are harmed by sexism, they’re often leading up to the anti-feminist conclusions that women have nothing to complain about, and feminism is a morally terrible movement. Concerns about harms to men are sometimes use by MRAs to crowd out discussion of harms to women. Feminists, frankly, have become defensive, and in some cases have circled their rhetorical wagons.

But although this is understandable, I also think it’s unfortunate. Men are harmed by sexism, and although I wouldn’t want that point to crowd out discussions of harms to women, it should be part of the spectrum of issues feminists discuss.

(*Although Hoff Sommers uses the term “gender feminist,” which she coined, she never defines the term in the transcript of her speech. (In the video, she says she uses the term interchangably with “victim feminist.) For more about the term “gender feminist,” see this series of posts. Although she wouldn’t put it this way, in practice Sommers categorizes all feminists who aren’t libertarian conservatives as “gender feminists.”)

To allow intra-feminist discussion, comments on this post on “Alas, a Blog” are limited to feminist and feminist allies only. However, the cross-post at “Blog By Barry” is open to feminists and non-feminists.

January 11, 2009

Response to Christina Hoff Sommers, part 1: Ovulars instead of Seminars?

Filed under: Christina Hoff Sommers — Tags: — Ampersand @ 11:45 pm

Christina Hoff Sommers criticizes feminist professors for using the made-up word “ovulars” — but in the last quarter-century, practically the only person who’s used the word is… Christina Hoff Sommers.

Feminist Law Professors has posted the text of a lecture by Christina Hoff Sommers, entitled “What’s Wrong and What’s Right with Contemporary Feminism?” (There’s also a video, here. I’ll mostly be critiquing the text version, which is much easier to quote.) Despite the title — which is, Sommers notes, a softening from her previous title, “Reject Contemporary Feminism” — Sommers has almost nothing positive to say about contemporary feminism. The lecture (which can be read here, in pdf format) is 23 pages long, of which a page and a half is what’s “right with” feminism; the rest is what’s wrong. (In Sommers’ opinion, anyway.)

This is the first of a planned series of blog posts responding to Sommers’ lecture. In some posts I’ll be directly criticizing her arguments; in other cases, I’ll use her arguments as a springboard for thoughts of my own. I actually agree with a couple of her criticisms of contemporary feminism, and I’ll note those areas of agreement as I go along. By and large, however, Sommers’ arguments fall apart under examination.

Sommers opens with a funny anecdote about her dad, which I won’t discuss here, but David reprints it on his blog.

I think Sommers — who quit academia years ago to work for a right-wing think tank — may suffer from spending too much time talking to people who agree with her. (This is a very common flaw among both feminists and non-feminists). This lecture was originally written for the Federalist society; I doubt that they blinked at all upon being told that it is her “bias toward logic, reason, and fairness that has put me at odds with the feminist establishment.” Nor would they have been bothered by her expression of pity for boys with feminist mothers. But if she’s sincere about wanting to have respectful dialog with mainstream feminists, snarky comments like that are counterproductive.

On to the critique.

* * *

Sommers uses the timeworn technique of quoting something silly-sounding an academic once said, and using this to generalize about the whole of “contemporary feminism.” For instance, to show that “feminism was being hijacked by gender war eccentrics in the universities,” Sommers writes:

To give one quick example, one of my colleagues in feminist philosophy referred to her seminars as “ovulars.” She rejected the masculinist “seminar” because the root of that word is associated with, well, the very essence of male power. It is actually very funny when you think about it. But this woman was not kidding.

That does sound eccentric. But is this a substantive critique of feminism, or just a cheap shot? If you flip to Sommers’ endnotes, you’ll find a citation to a use of “ovulars” by Professor Joyce Trebilcot 25 years ago. Googling shows that the word has hardly spread to common usage — Google knows of only 300 times the word has been used on English language webpages.

But isn’t 300 a lot? No, not really. For comparison, “heterocentric,” a feminist neologism feminist academics actually use, is found 14,000 times. And 130 of the 300 usages of the word “ovular” are times when Christina Hoff Sommers used the term. If any contemporary feminist is using the term, it’s not the feminists Sommers criticizes; it’s Sommers herself.

(Most of the other usages are irrelevant to this discussion: references to a radical lesbian photography collective from 1979, right-wingers making fun of feminism, medical discussions, a women’s center newsletter from 1974 (pdf link). I found only one instance of the word being used by feminist academics to refer to classes taught: an experimental UK program called “Ovular” which existed for a couple of years and offered “seminars”.)

“Ovulars” is a term that was used by a handful of feminists in the 1970s, and by a single feminist professor in the 1980s. I’m not aware of a single relevant use of the term that’s less than 20 years old. So it’s obviously unfair and illogical to use “ovular” is an “example” of what’s wrong with “contemporary feminism.” ((To be sure, Sommers did say this was just “one quick example.” But I assume that she wouldn’t have chosen such a lousy example, if her other examples are all much better.))

This dispute is not, in and of itself, an important question. But I’ve spent this post discussing it because “ovulars” is an excellent illustration of three consistent flaws in Sommers’ criticism:

1) Cherry-picking wildly unrepresentative examples.

2) No acknowledgment of differences between 1970s/1980s feminism and contemporary feminism.

3) Important context (in this case, that her example is a quarter-century old) is either omitted or buried in endnotes.

These flaws came up again and again in Sommers’ book Who Stole Feminism, and they are unfortunately present in this lecture, as well.

(Hmmn. Over 700 words, and I’m only as far as page 2 of her lecture. I’ll try to pick up the pace.)

January 10, 2009

Video: Unarmed Palestinian-American Activist Confronts Israeli Soldiers

Filed under: Palestine & Israel — Ampersand @ 12:21 am

A clip from a Korean news show:

I could never, ever do that.

This is an extreme case of “information via internet.” Is any of this information reliable? Who knows?

According to Juan Cole:

She is being identified by my facebook friends as Huwaida Arraf, a Detroiter married to Adam Shapiro, a University of Michigan Poli Sci graduate, and a founder of International Solidarity Movement, a nonviolent activist organization.

A comment on the Youtube page:

This is the town of Balin near Ramallah. Every week a demonstration is held there protesting the wall being built around the town. Usually with heavy presence of Israeli and western peace activists.

And sadly, although the protests are usually peaceful, there are multiple cases of rubber shots wounds and suffocation of tear gas every week.

This video is not new, it was shot at least one year ago.

Eurosabra, in Feministe’s comments, says that the red tape on the soldier’s magazine cartridge indicates that the gun is firing rubber-tipped bullets.

David Nett, in Juan Cole’s comments, writes:

What strikes me in this is how casual the soldiers are as the aim and prepare to fire. Clearly they are in no imminent danger — as they are being confronted by the brave girl, they are not taking cover behind rocks or barriers. They are standing in the open, up straight, on top of a rock in one case, and carefully taking aim to fire at the demonstrators. Their body language is clear — they are not afraid for their own well-being. And yet, absent this girl’s intervention, they seem to have no reservation about casually firing into a crowd that poses no threat to them.

Of course, as I’m sure people will point out, the Israelis could have done far worse than they did — they did not shoot or beat Arraf, they were using rubber bullets, etc.. I don’t believe that “they could have done worse” is the appropriate measure, however.

Curtsy: Flip Flopping Joy.

January 9, 2009

House passes Fair Pay Acts

Filed under: Gender and the Economy, In the news — Ampersand @ 1:49 pm

Some good news from Emily at RH Reality Check:

The House passed both the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, restoring and establishing basic protections for employees who are subject to wage discrimination. The Ledbetter Act repeals the 180 day requirement, while the Paycheck Fairness Act protects employees from retaliation by employers if they bring complaints and allows them to sue for compensatory and punitive damages. With news today that unemployment this month has hit 7.2%, a 16-year high, any protections for workers are welcome.

The Senate is expected to take up the equal pay legislation next week. House supporters of the legislation predicted that it could be among the first bills President-elect Obama signs into law.

Last year, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed the House but was killed by a Filibuster in the Senate, although a majority of Senators supported it. It stands a much better chance this time. There’s a letter you can send your Senators (via an easy form) here.

For more background, read the RH Reality Check post, and also this post at Write Like She Talks.

The Democrats Should Not Give Republicans A Voice In The House

Filed under: Elections and politics — Ampersand @ 1:34 pm

Radley Balko declares Nancy Pelosi a “hack” because in 2004, she proposed a “bill of rights” for the minority Party in the house; but now that the Dems are in power, Pelosi is locking the Republicans out in the cold.

But Randy’s post, although it quotes a good chunk of the 2004 article, didn’t quote the article’s essential second paragraph:

In keeping with the general atmosphere of the House these days, aides to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said he will not respond to the two-page proposal from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

What Pelosi proposed in 2004 was a mutual laying down of parliamentary arms, so that the parties could revert to (say) Ronald-Reagan era levels of partisanship. This was, of course, a self-serving offer for the party that was out of power — but not an unreasonable one, since both Democrats and Republicans, if they want long careers in Congress, can reasonably expect to be spending some time out of power. And if both parties could agree to this, our system might be better off.

Republicans rejected Pelosi’s offer. To expect Pelosi to abide by it now is to expect Democrats to unilaterally disarm. Why should Pelosi agree to a “Republicans can beat up on Democrats all they want, but Democrats will always play nice” rule? That’s not fair, and that’s not what Pelosi was suggesting in 2004.

Quote: Kyriarchy, Not Patriarchy

Filed under: Feminism, sexism, etc — Ampersand @ 12:22 am

Sudy at My Ecdysis writes:

Let me break this down for you. When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination — they’re talking about kyriarchy. When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that’s kyriarchy. When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that’s kyriarchy. It’s about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid. At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it’s more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they’re not the ones I find most dangerous. There’s a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down.

Who’s at the bottom of the pyramid? Who do you think are at the bottom of the pyramid who are less likely to scheme and spend extravagant resources to further perpetuate oppression? I think of poor children with no roads out of hell, the mentally ill who are never “credible,” un-gendered or non-gender identified people, farm workers, modern day slaves…But, the pyramid stratifies itself from top to bottom. And before you start making a checklist of who is at the top and bottom – here’s my advice: don’t bother. The pyramid shifts with context. The point is not to rank. The point is to learn.

It’s about recognizing the power-over relationships that exist because of property, religion, security, economics, citizenship, and geography. Let’s not pretend that just because there are not many propertied males mucking around the fem blogosphere, there aren’t queen bees and wanna bees exercising the same kind of behavior. So when we talk about woman asserting power over other womyn, we’re talking kyriarchy. When you witness woman trying to dominate, define, outline the “movement” or even what an ally should be – that’s the kyriarchal ethos strong at work.

Via Daisy’s Dead Air, which is also a post well worth reading.

January 7, 2009

Male circumcision could be outlawed in Denmark

Filed under: Sexism hurts men — Ampersand @ 12:59 am

Via BigFred:

The Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper has reported that several parties in the Danish Parliament are considering legislation that would ban circumcision on boys as well as girls. After an intense week of discussions by MPs, it appears that the proposal for a ban covering both genders is gaining traction.[…]

At the centre of the debate is the question of religious freedom. Female circumcision was outlawed in Denmark because it was deemed a too-common practice among some Muslim immigrants. But Jewish tradition demands that boys be circumcised, and many Christians and Muslims support the practice as well. Denmark’s Ethics Council has criticised the practice, suggesting boys should wait until 15 to decide for themselves, the age at which a child has sole legal control over his or her body in Denmark.

I probably favor this ban, and think Jews and others should begin using alternative ceremonies. The main reason I say “probably” is that I wonder how effective the ban will be; if the only effect is to make religious minorities feel unwelcome while they have circumcisions performed anyway (either illegally or by making a day trip to Norway or Germany), then a program of pubic education to convince people to voluntarily move away from circumcision might be more effective.

(On the other hand, if an actual ban persuades all but the most orthodox members of religious minorities to leave their sons uncut, then good.)

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