How old were you when your ears were pierced? I stress the were pierced part because most of us weren’t involved in, or even aware of, the decision to pierce our ears. But, I’m okay with that. I didn’t grow up angry at my parents for mutilating my perfect little ear lobes and forcing their gender-biases on me, did you?
In my experience, piercing a baby’s ears was normal procedure, and it was only until recently that I realized that this was a cultural custom. I didn’t realize that some people believe it is cruel to pierce a hole in a baby’s ear without their consent. Instead, they wait until the child is old enough to decide if they want to or not.
I can understand this point of view, as it shows respect for the child, which I believe we sometimes lack or tend to ignore as a culture. Through this perspective, piercing your child’s ears without asking permission is just as bad as our tendency to say No, because I said so, instead of explaining to the child the reasons why.
And yet, even while understanding their point of view, I still don’t see the big deal in piercing a baby’s ears. It’s not like it’s irreversible. If they decide that they don’t want pierced ears when they’re older, they can just let them close up. Y ya! Like it never even happened.
Perhaps this is why I was shocked when reading the comments to one mother’s account of piercing her six-month-old baby girl’s ears. People were calling it an atrocity, an ancient tribal practice, comparing it to genital mutilation and Chinese foot-binding. They even said that only low-class people pierce their baby’s ears.
It’s strange to see such outrage over an issue that to most of us seems insignificant. We probably don’t even think twice about it when we do it: it’s that ingrained in our culture. Maybe if we had more of a backlash from our daughters, we’d put more thought and consideration into what she would want when she gets older. But, most of the time, women who didn’t get their ears pierced as a baby get it done as an adult anyway.
Calling the piercing of a baby’s ears an atrocity is going overboard. There are real atrocities happening to children, such as child abuse and neglect. Is it vain, and stereotypical, to want my baby to “look like a girl” and “look pretty”? Maybe so. But, if piercing my baby’s ears is the worst thing I could ever do to my child, then so be it.