Saturday, December 1, 2012

Her Body, Her Choice

I have this memory of being really proud of my mother, in Portugal there is also a tradition to pierce the ears of baby girls, I was maybe five or six years old, we were washing clothes in the little river in the village and a lady from the village surprised told my mother: senhora Isabel you don’t have your little girl’s ears pierced?! And my mother answered: if she wants her ears pierced, she can do it herself when she is older. I didn’t want my ears pierced and wearing earrings, I was a tomboy! I pierced my ears here in America when I started dancing at the club at the age of 26 years old! So I could wear earrings like the other dancers. A worse custom some countries have is to circumcise baby boys. In her book “Banished Knowledge: Facing Childhood Injuries” Alice Miller, says: “As a rule, children who were once injured will later injure their own children, maintaining that their behavior does no harm because their own loving parents did the same. Historians and psychologists will long continue to ponder the reasons for this outlandish behavior because in their deliberations they overlook the only correct explanation. But in the long run this explanation cannot be avoided, and it becomes obvious the moment the question is asked: What eventually happens to the person who was mutilated as a child? When a small child is tortured by ignorant adults, won't he have to take his revenge later in life? He is bound to avenge himself unless his subsequent life allows the old wounds to heal in love, which is seldom the case. As a rule, children who were once injured will later injure their own children, maintaining that their behavior does no harm because their own loving parents did the same. Besides, in the case of circumcision it is a religious demand, and to many people it is still unthinkable that religion could demand cruelty. But what if the unthinkable is true? Are the children and children's children to be sacrificed because of the ignorance of the priests? It took three thousand years for the church to accept Galileo's proofs and admit its error. Today it is not a matter of theoretical astronomical proofs but of the practical consequences deriving from an insight that could save humanity from self-destruction, because it has already been proven that all destructive behavior has its roots in the repressed traumas of childhood. As soon as legislators become serious about the rights of the child to protection and respect as proclaimed by UNESCO, the fact will have to be acknowledged that ritual circumcisions
1.offer no advantage and are a mutilation;
2.prevent the relaxation experience and lead to over-stimulation with potentially destructive and self-destructive effects;
3.inflict a trauma on the child leading to an injury of his whole being, with the consequences of these injuries affecting not only the individual and his descendants but other human beings as well.”

Also in her book “Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth” Alice Miller speaks of the custom in some countries of female circumcision that also shows the same mechanisms perpetuating male circumcision: “Their consciousness, however, has not registered the realities of their situation. By repressing not only the pain but also their anger and desire for revenge, they have managed to banish consciousness, even idealizing the custom. Today, as a result of their repression, they can justify the procedure as harmless and necessary. They cannot recall their repressed anger and have never grieved about what happened to them. Consequently, they inflict the same ordeal on their children without wishing to acknowledge what they're doing to them.”

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