Hanna Rosin at Slate addresses the controversy over Dr. Dix Poppas of the Weill Medical School at Cornell hacking away at the clitorises of little girls because he's determined that they're too big. Rosen, in typical Slate-style, finds fault with everyone involved—myself included—and concludes that while Poppas may have behaved unethically, the surgeries are sometimes necessary and his critics are being hysterical. I'm swamped today and can't unpack the piece at length... but quickly...
1. The vast majority of the girls Poppas is hacking away at do not, per Rosen, have clitorises that look like penises. Most have slight enlarged big clits—an inch, half an inch. Rosen sounds like she's afraid of big clits or offended by them. That's Rosen's problem. These little girls' clits—and their adult sexual health—should be should not sacrificed for Rosen or Poppas's comfort.
2. Rosen: "Savage calls this a conspiracy of 'out and out homophobia.' He claims the medical establishment pushes these operations because girls with bigger clitorises are more likely to be lesbian. This claim is a stretch; girls with CAH are only slightly more likely to be lesbians or tomboyish when they are young. The vast majority are heterosexual and comfortable as girls. Gender norms have shifted pretty drastically in the 40 years that this operation has been performed, and still more than 95 percent of parents choose it for their children."
Rosen confuses sexual orientation and gender here, which is stoooopid. And while most girls with or without enlarged clits do not, in fact, grow up to be lesbians, many parents are opting for this surgery because they fear their daughters will grow up to be lesbians. (There's more info on this aspect of the Poppas scandal here, here, here, and here.
3. Rosen makes the point that Poppas did not have institutional ethics board approval to do this and then moves briskly along. Um... this is huge. Poppas is violating federal regulation and, more importantly, violating these girls' rights. For Rosen, though, this is a minor issue. It won't be for Poppas: the feds have been notified—the Office of Human Research Protections—that these girls' are being treated as research subjects without their consent, or their parents' consent, and there will likely be hell to pay. This is not the trivial matter Rosin makes it sound like.
4. Rosin skips over the fact that Poppas is also touching the girls' clits and labia minora with Q-tips. Doesn't find this creepy? Would she want her daughter to go through this "clitoral sensory testing" and "vibratory sensory testing"? Adults who endured tests like this as children report that they were highly traumatized by it.
5. Feder and Dreger never called Poppas a child molester. They called him unethical. And creepy. But not a molester.
6. Rosen doesn't address the biggest issue here: it should be up to these girls, when they reach adulthood, to decide for themselves if they want to undergo surgery to reduce the sizes of their clitorises. Their clitorises are theirs—they do not belong to their parents, or their doctors, and their parents and doctors should not be subjecting these girls to unnecessary and risky surgeries that have done irreparable damage to other women.
Dreger's take on Rosen's story can be read here. My head is exploding but I have to run.