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Russell Crowe might have starred in A Beautiful Mind, but his recent comments condemning circumcision have many wondering whether the Oscar winner should keep a little more of what goes on inside his noggin to himself. Late last week the outspoken actor and father to two young sons created a mini media frenzy by Tweeting several messages harshly criticizing the practice, only to delete them a mere day later.
“Circumcision is barbaric and stupid. Who are you to correct nature? Is it real that GOD requires a donation of foreskin? Babies are perfect," was one of the tamer messages the actor Tweeted last Thursday. In another he called upon his Jewish friends to “stop cutting yr babies.”
The next day the offending messages were gone and although he later Tweeted that, “I can’t apologize for my heartfelt belief,” he did acknowledge that “my personal beliefs aside I realize that some will interpret this debate as me mocking the rituals and traditions of others. I am very sorry.”
Crowe’s comments come at a time when people seem to be contemplating the appropriateness of the practice more than ever. As iVillage recently reported, the effort to ban circumcision in San Francisco has gained momentum — its proponents echo Crowe in believing it is akin to male genital mutilation — and its citizens will vote on a ballot measure to ban the practice for minors this fall. But on the other hand, religious groups like Jews and Muslims consider the practice sacred, while research has shown that circumcision has some health benefits and may help protect against the spread of certain STDs, like HIV.
My husband and I agonized over the decision to circumcise our son. Even though we knew for months we were having a boy, we were still on the fence even after his birth — we just kind of looked helplessly at our OB when he asked what we wanted to do, somehow hoping he would make the decision for us. He didn’t, so in the end we decided to go ahead with the circumcision, in part as a nod to my Jewish relatives.
Unlike the seemingly sanctimonious Crowe I’m not super-clear on where I stand in the circumcision debate. But there’s one thing I do know for sure: this is a complex and deeply personal issue, and Crowe’s comments against cutting just don’t contribute to a healthy debate. We're talking about babies, but let’s make sure we discuss the issue like grown-ups.