Miriam Pollack

Presented at the Fourth International Symposium on Sexual Mutilations,
University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, August 9-11, 1996.

Circumcision, both male and female, is a relic from our ancient past. Even though female genital mutilation is far more destructive than male forced foreskin amputation, the issue cannot be reduced to one of competitive suffering. The questions posed by genital mutilation are larger and more fundamental than simply which gender has been more damaged. To challenge circumcision is to fundamentally challenge what it is to be human. It means that we must acknowledge our babies' rights to their bodies. It means that we must acknowledge that babies do experience pain and that pain is violence. Circumcision is deeply traumatic and it is the responsibility of the parents to protect their children from violence at all costs. Challenging circumcision is revolutionary because it forces us to validate and allows us the possibility of celebrating the full sexuality of our children as part of their sacred inheritance. Challenging circumcision inevitably means challenging the ancient notion of what is sacred. Re-naming the sacred is the task which awaits us as we enter the Twenty-First Century. It must be for life.

[The complete paper is published in Sexual Mutilations: A Human Tragedy, New York: Plenum Press, 1997 (ISBN 0-306-45589-7).]

Miriam Pollack earned a B.A. degree in English and Judaica from the University of Iowa and a M.A. degree in English and Education from the University of Wisconsin. She has been an educator for more than twenty years, mostly in the area of Jewish education, as a principal, curriculum writer, educational consultant, teacher of Judaic studies, Hebrew, English literature, American Jewish literature and history. Her original work, "Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective," was presented at the Judaism, Feminism and Psychology Conference in Seattle in 1992 and at the Third International Symposium on Circumcision in 1994, and was published as a chapter in Jewish Women Speak Out: Expanding the Boundaries of Psychology, 1995 (Canopy Press).

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