Australian advocate Jonathan Meddings has authored and self-published an impressive, succinct, well-written book about male genital cutting (MGC). The book’s production values are high. One of the first things one notices about the book is its short length. That is not necessarily a bad thing! This subject can draw so much lengthy vituperation and sometimes pointless elaboration of the most peripheral of topics that focusing on the essentials is a far from unwelcome approach. (Full disclosure: I met Meddings in Boulder, Colorado at the 2014 symposium on genital cutting. I was very impressed by him.)
We find ourselves in a time when seemingly countless books either have appeared or are projected to come out in the near future on various aspects of the topic including two memoirs from leading activists. Inevitably, I suppose, any book with this remit must in some sense justify its existence. Meddings has resoundingly succeeded at doing so.
I found Chapter Three in particular, addressing the countless attempted medical justifications for the procedure, to be badly organized and to lack a much needed introduction setting the stage for, and overviewing the topic of, these medical rationales. As is, many of the arguments are recounted but without an organizing structure to bring it all together. At the same time, the author’s summary of the numerous incoherencies in the HIV/AIDS discussion as it relates to MGC is both succinct and accurate. For the later version of his book with the above publication date, the author graciously addressed the two legal points I felt were in outright need of correction in the earlier version.
Less importantly, Meddings’ extended meditation on pp. 64-65 “imagin[ing] if people acted the same way about art as they do about genital cutting” strikes me as quite strained, as I see more differences than similarities between the topics. The analogy on page 70 to hair cutting feels more apt to me, and I loved the author’s original (as far as I know), tongue-in-cheek suggestion (page 86) analogizing medicalization of MGC to bringing people “to police stations, so that they can receive ‘milder’ beatings by trained professionals (police officers) in controlled environments (police stations) to minimize harm.”
Jonathan Meddings has written probably the best short, factual, overview of MGC that will ever be written. I highly recommend that everyone with any interest in the topic read it at their earliest convenience.