A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for April 3rd, 2019

C for Choice

Posted by Pepper on April 3, 2019

A few days after CottonCandy were born, people started presenting us with an imminent question. When are we going to get Candy’s ears pierced? After all, our culture deems it necessary for baby girls to get their ears pierced. Almost all women have pierced ears. It is the norm and it was universally assumed by all that we would get the ear piercing done soon.

I hadn’t given this much thought. Like the rest of the world, I assumed we would do this once Candy was a few months old. When I discussed the idea with Mint, I realised he was vehemently against the idea of piercing her ears. He said we should not do any piercing on her body just because it was a cultural norm. This had to be entirely her choice.

I am surprised I hadn’t predicted this line of reasoning from him. I should have. I mean, I know my husband is a feminist. And he never does anything without giving it thought. Doing something because the world does it never works for him.

But I wanted to get her ears pierced, simply because baby girls look so cute with earrings and studs in their ears. When I said this to him, he seemed more offended. Are you saying she doesn’t look cute enough without earrings? Are you saying she needs a piece of jewelry in order to look her best?

He insisted this had to be her choice. Piercing was a permanent modification. He said our little girl had to get complete autonomy of her body right from the time she was born. Nobody would touch her unless she wanted it. If and when she was slightly older and did indeed want to get her ears pierced, then we would go ahead and get it done for her.

So I made another argument. That it is apparently more painful when you do it at a later age. And the odds of her wanting her ears pierced are far greater than the odds of her not wanting her ears pierced. So if she is going to make that choice anyway, why not make things simpler for her by doing it now when she is not conscious of the pain. Also, in the scenario that we did get her ears pierced now and she didn’t want it, she could always leave it alone and the piercing would close in no time. Fair enough?

Nope, he said. The piercing would leave a permanent scar. And why would we subject her to any kind of pain, keeping in mind the possibility that she may not have chosen it? Even if it was slightly more painful at a later age, we would make her aware of what it would entail and she could really choose whether or not the pain was worth it.

I wasn’t convinced by him. He wasn’t convinced by me. I told him I was a parent and I had some say. He told me was a parent too and had equal say. Since we couldn’t see eye to eye, we decided to take a month off and think about each other’s points of view.

In this time, I decided to read up and find as much information about this subject as I could. I tried to understand how society shapes our ideas of ‘beauty’. To my surprise, the more I read up, the more I began to see and even agree with Mint’s perspective.

Other than it being a matter of choice, it looked like it was also considered a matter of safety, of lack of it rather. I read stuff like ‘ many parents and caregivers easily forget that any cosmetic piercing carries inherent dangers and health risks‘ Some were even petitioning to make the practice illegal and calling it physical abuse and child cruelty. What? I think using those words was a bit too strong. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also did not support this cosmetic procedure done on infants and called it ‘unnecessary’. I’m not going to link up to all the articles I read, but if you are interested in reading more about this, look for ‘infant ear piercing’.

By the end of it, I decided it was safer and more logical to go with what Mint wanted. Unlike most Indian baby girls, Candy does not have her ears pierced. Maybe one day when she asks us for earrings, we will tell her that the procedure could be painful and if she still wants it, we will get it done for her. It’s really going to be about giving her a choice. But as of now, our little girl still looks just as cute without earrings.

PS: Usual disclaimer – Ear piercing like most other things is a personal choice and I do not judge any parent who made or wishes to make this choice for their children. I was that parent a little while ago. This post is only about our experiences and thoughts.

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