Piercing a Baby

Dear Vered,

My husband has started to insist, as though there were never any question, that we’ll be piercing our newborn baby girl’s ears shortly after her birth. Apparently, his culture does this and it’s considered normal. It’s not my culture, and something about this rubs me the wrong way, but I’m having a hard time explaining it in a way that doesn’t come across as racist. After all, we’re not talking FGM here, it’s just ear piercing, but it still feels wrong. Help.

Don’t Pierce My Baby

Dear Reader,

There are a lot of reasons I personally think that piercing a baby’s ears is wrong. While I can’t be sure exactly why you think it’s wrong, maybe sharing some of my thoughts on it will help you identify exactly why you’re uncomfortable with it. You’ve written in to get confirmation that you’re right and your husband is wrong, though, so let me be clear: I think your stance is correct, but if I didn’t, I’d call you out on it. So, on to the topic at hand.

I think the key thing that makes it wrong to pierce a baby’s ears is that a baby cannot consent to what is essentially a non-medically-necessary permanent body modification. As an imminently new mom, you already know that your baby only wants a boob, a nap and a clean diaper. Everything else is pretty much optional. Some people dress their babies in strange costumes and take pictures of them in baskets, but once the photo shoot is over, the baby is naked as a jaybird and all the decoration is washed away clean, leaving a precious unadorned baby.

You’re right that comparing ear piercing to FGM is wrong and a false analogy. You don’t mention the culture that your husband is from, but I don’t know of any cultures where ear piercing of infants is a tool of oppression of women and girls. But just because it is not oppressive doesn’t mean that it’s right to make what amounts to a permanent change in your baby girl’s appearance needlessly, even if there is cultural relevance to it. If she needs adornment on her ears, there are other options, like sticker-earrings, henna, and even gentle clip-ons for short-term wear.

That’s just the first part of my opposition, though. The second part is more practical. When babies’ ears are pierced, they tend to be done with a piercing gun. Do you know how awful those are? A plastic-and-metal gun, which cannot be autoclaved (sterilized), covered in other peoples’ body fluid mist, punching a spring-loaded “sharpened” earring through delicate body tissue, amounting to small-scale blunt force trauma. Other people have written more eloquently about this, but here’s a short article with sources on what piercing guns do: http://wiki.bmezine.com/index.php/Piercing_gun

So, that’s why I’m against getting your newborn daughters ears pierced. Maybe one of those reasons resonates with you. I urge you to stand up for your newborn daughter’s body integrity by saying no to piercing her ears.

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