Should "circumcision" and "foreskin" be stricken from our vocabulary altogether?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-23-2010
Should "circumcision" and "foreskin" be stricken from our vocabulary altogether?
28
Sun, 05-01-2011 - 3:05am

Personally, I only see the harm that these words do. I think the word "foreskin" implies something extraneous or frivolous about it, and that it should be changed to "prepuce." I mean, do we call the clitoral prepuce foreskin? Do we call the labia majora/minora foreskin? No, we don't.

And while intactivists do push for the use of terms like "intact" instead of uncircumcised, and "genital mutilation" or "genital cutting" instead of "circumcision," I don't think it's done enough. There are still people who are against male genital cutting who call it circumcision while female genital cutting genital mutilation. Even though they may be well intentioned in trying to show the severity of female genital cutting, they're also denegrating the severity of male genital cutting in doing so. While I don't want to equate the more severe forms of FGM to MGM, I think when you create that separation of terms like that, you allow for some people to carry on with the irrational sexist double standards between male and female mutilation.

I think we need to be far more diligent in how we use our vocabulary, because people have very tame impressions when they hear the words "foreskin" and "circumcision." I even had a person tell me that the foreskin wasn't apart of the male genitalia, so circumcision doesn't mutilate the "genitals." We need to stop this madness, and I think completely getting rid of these words will help do that.

Pages

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-15-2009

I think when you create that separation of terms like that, you allow for some people to carry on with the irrational sexist double standards between male and female mutilation.

Very good point, because in North America there IS a huge double standard. Funny how people don't see it.

I even had a person tell me that the foreskin wasn't apart of the male genitalia, so circumcision doesn't mutilate the "genitals."

So what did they think a foreskin was??

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-23-2010
I think he thought that since it was "extra skin" (there's the problem right there) that it wasn't really part of the genitalia, which I assume he thought is strictly the shaft of the penis (which doesn't include the skin apparently) and the glans. I think it's important that we not only change the word we use, but also greatly educate people about the anatomy of the prepuce and that it's not "just" skin.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-01-2010

Along this same line of thought, I've noticed that the common perception of female circumciison is that it is always terrible and horrible and that it completely removes the sexual function.

Avatar for islaywhisky
Community Leader
Registered: 01-06-2002

"So what is the difference?

"Education is the discovery of our own ignorance." Will Durant


"Almost any manmade phenomenon i

Avatar for islaywhisky
Community Leader
Registered: 01-06-2002

Mark,

'Circumcision' means "to cut around" or more correctly 'around' & 'incision'. However we name it, the result is the removal of a genital part - male or female. (Males vastly more frequently.) It is an accurate description which cannot be bettered, in my opinion.

"Education is the discovery of our own ignorance." Will Durant


"Almost any manmade phenomenon i

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-23-2010
I'm not saying they're inaccurate words, I'm saying they don't have the proper effect on people, especially Americans who are still extremely ignorant about the intact male anatomy. These words have failed to impress these people accurately because of how uninformed they are about them.

Since female circumcision has been changed to female genital mutilation, it has given the impression to people that calling it circumcision does not convey it accurately because of its lack of perceived moral judgment in the word. So when we call male circumcision circumcision instead of genital mutilation, people are naturally going to assume that it's no big deal compared to any and all types of female circumcision. What's circumcision to people? Well, it's the most practiced surgery in America and no big deal. What's mutilation? Well, that's wrong. No one is going to argue that mutilation is wrong, so all we have to do is prove to people that it's mutilation, and all that takes is a copy and paste of the dictionary definition.

Why not use foreskin? Because this has obviously led to an impression that many Americans have that the foreskin is extraneous and not a real body part, just a chunk of vestigial skin. Since so many people still have absolutely no experience with the foreskin, whether it be educational or personal, the word doesn't sound like an actual body part. Prepuce on the other hand sounds like an important functioning part of the genitals.

I have no problem with using this words in theory, but we're dealing with extremely uninformed people here. It's easier to change perceptions by changing the language than it is to give everyone a thorough anatomy lesson.
Avatar for islaywhisky
Community Leader
Registered: 01-06-2002

Thank you for making your reasoning much clearer, Mark.

So you consider 'prepuce' for both male and female the better option. Fair enough, but of course we would have to use 'male prepuce' or 'female prepuce' if the single word 'prepuce' was not clear within a sentence. In practice, I do tend to use prepuce to indicate the foreskin's medical description.

I'm not sure, however, what success we would have among others who are so familiar with the use of the word 'foreskin'.

Mutilation

"Education is the discovery of our own ignorance." Will Durant


"Almost any manmade phenomenon i

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-23-2010
I think that would actually work in our favor, drawing as many analogies between the male and female genitalia as possible is a good thing, because no one is going to argue against the immortality and illegality of FGM. If they don't know what the prepuce is, then they'll have to question what it is and that gives us an opening. You say foreskin, and people think they know what you're talking about when they really don't. You use prepuce and they're possibly doing a google search of it right after they read it.

How do we cope with it? We continue to say it until the language is changed. How did female circumcision become FGM? Well, two ways, people kept calling it that, and people painted the scary imagery of dull blades cutting little girls and sewing up their vaginas. Perhaps we need to use more of the scary anecdotes that we have at our disposal with MGM.
Avatar for islaywhisky
Community Leader
Registered: 01-06-2002

Mark, looking at your last paragraph: that is a full-on, no holds barred approach... and one which would probably be met with an abrupt

"Education is the discovery of our own ignorance." Will Durant


"Almost any manmade phenomenon i

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-23-2010
Sorry, I meant to type immorality, not immortality.

I'm kind of thinking big picture here, and I think America responds to horror stories, they always have. It may not be the way we'd like to change minds, but it's typically how minds get changed on a larger scale.

Pages