To set the scene for the ridiculousness that is about to unfold, let me explain my position. I am a girl; now, I am a woman. When I was a baby, my parents were missionaries in South America. At that time, my mom bowed to cultural customs and decided to get my ears pierced when I was only six months old. In all actuality, she was gently forced by other women in the church to nurse me while they popped a needle through each of my ears. I have no memory of this. I cried, I nursed, and then I had beautiful new earrings. Yay, me.
As an adult, I am really happy that everything went down this way. I don’t have any kind of residual scarring from this event, physically or emotionally. I also really love earrings. If you want to read into this more, I grew into a typical child of the 90s who bought a piercing gun at Walmart and proceeded to pierce my own ears upwards of 12 times. I eventually let those holes close over to remain hip and relevant. Thank God for that.
I am a mother of sons. I do not have any daughters. I recognize that it is a cultural norm to pierce women’s ears, especially young girls as infants. If I had a daughter, you better believe I would carry her right into Claire’s Boutique and pop a few shiny gold studs into her baby ears. I’ve also toyed with the idea of piercing both of my sons’ ears, but unfortunately, ‘N Sync caused that trend to crash and burn for men in the late 90s.
I’m mostly kidding, but I still don’t consider piercing a baby’s ears, regardless of gender, to be child abuse. The Alpha Mom disagrees:
One of the biggest issues in the piercing debate, and arguably the most important, is the question of consent. A baby who has their ears pierced and grows up with earrings has no memory of the procedure, and no opportunity to protest. Some parents argue “my baby, my choice. It’s none of your business if I get my baby’s ears pierced”, but as I have maintained before in relation to infant feeding (here), if a parent is acting to a child’s detriment, it is everyone’s business.
The NSPCC defines physical abuse as “inflicting pain or injury”. It has been observed that the ear piercing procedure “is painful and often performed without anaesthesia or analgesia, and because of the pain it constitutes an immediate harm” (Holm. S). Piercing may not be on the same level as some cruelty that sadly occurs, but not all forms of abuse have to be to the extreme. It is naive to suggest that because piercing is significantly less serious than sexual abuse, torture, etc that it can therefore not be abusive whatsoever.
You may agree with these sentiments, but I definitely do not. I am rolling my eyes so hard right now that it is difficult to type. I sorta, kinda get what the Alpha Mom is saying, but I still don’t agree. I believe in respecting and loving and protecting my children, but there are many, many times when parents can read too much into a simple act that really isn’t that big of a deal. This is one of those times.
Yes, piercing a baby’s ears technically violates their autonomy since they can’t speak for themselves. However, from my personal experience (and from most of my female friends), I’m glad ear piercing was done for me when I couldn’t remember it. As far as piercing falling on the abuse spectrum, COME ON. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Don’t read abuse into something that isn’t there. Don’t shame parents for partaking in a simple cultural custom like baby ear piercing.
(Image: Gelpi JM/Shutterstock)