All-white shirts and pants with a big red stain on the crotch around the zipper. That’s the uniform protesters wore today on Madison’s east side, on the intersection of East Washington and highway 51.
The protesters are the Bloodstained Men, a non-profit organization and activist group devoted to ending circumcision. The uniforms, the founder says, are one of the most powerful protest symbols in human history.
“I don’t see any protest symbol that is as powerful because we are wearing a stain on our pants right over the injury that it represents underneath our pants. It’s brilliant.”
That’s Brother K. He led today’s rally in Madison, part of a twenty-day protest tour throughout the Midwest.
And yes, Brother K is his legal name. He had it changed in 1986 when he realized that he didn’t want to be the name given to him at the time he was circumcised. A decade ago, he founded Bloodstained Men, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the practice of circumcision.
David Atkinson is the CEO.
“Sure. My sign here in my right hand says ‘Stop cutting baby penis’ and on the other side it says ‘intact genitals are a human right’,” says Atkinson.
Bloodstained Men are leading the charge for intactivists – a term that merges “intact” and “activism” in the fight to end circumcision.
Intactivists see circumcision as cruel and worthless. They claim that foreskin is important for male sexual satisfaction and health and they counter claims that circumcision promotes cleanliness and reduces the chances of disease.
You might wonder why, among all other fights right now over bodily autonomy, one would take up this specific issue. Brother K says he’s aware that there are other issues – but he’s been at this a long time, and took his inspiration from the civil rights movement decades ago.
“The Civil Rights movement, which I grew up during the civil rights era. The movement for gay rights, the draft, woman’s rights. All the civil rights movements that happened in the 50’s and 60’s set the example for me,” says K.
But it’s certainly not without skepticism. Brother K says he and others have encountered pushback. He says he’s had bibles thrown at him during rallies. Today, a car passenger driving past the protest yelled expletives that I can’t air on the radio. But Brother K says it’s an issue that intersects with human rights issues, and he’ll keep protesting.
“I don’t think injuring men when they are newborns is beneficial for society. I think that I would like to see what America would be like without a nation of circumcised men. I think it would be a more peaceful society. I don’t think we would see the kinds of bizarre random violence that we see. People of compassion and humanity would agree, let’s stop circumcising boys and see if it has a beneficial effect on society. The answer will be obvious in a hundred years,” says K.
He continues, “They say that wisdom is men planting trees in whose shade they will never sit. We are planting trees for the future. I’m going to break up talking about this… because it’s a future we will not see. But I believe in it. We believe in it. I believe in that future. I believe there is a better future ahead for the American people, and I am working for it.”
The Bloodstained Men will protest in Janesville and Rockford tomorrow.
Image courtesy of Cameron Costanzo.