The goal of intactivism is to help keep babies safe from harm, it’s that simple! But some of the conversations on the subject end very badly because of misinterpretations and sadly, sometimes because of downright rudeness and aggression. Here’s some tips on keeping it low key, respectful, and hopefully for for creating a more #Whole Baby friendly world!
- Practice active listening: If someone says they are concerned about cleanliness, or health with an intact baby, acknowledge that. “So, you are concerned about the spread of AIDS? That’s a very common concern! Here’s some information about the science supporting that claim” then you provide links, and introduce them in a way that makes them seem interesting and relevant to the conversation, stating why you like each link is a good thing, but not stating that their concerns are invalid.
- Understand the pressure: Pregnant women and new mothers are really vulnerable. Understand that in many relationships there is a power imbalance between husbands and wives, and it’s not just as simple as telling your husband to back off. The best relationships are a process of negotiation, the worst ones have no negotiation whatsoever. Calling a woman in a powerless relationship names won’t help the situation, it will just compound it, and likely overwhelm her. You want to empower her to find her voice, at the same time as understanding that she may be feeling incredible fear at being unable to protect her baby, or fear of anger and aggression in her relationship. It’s a good idea to understand abusive dynamics and how they impact on people and impede their ability to think straight or act autonomously.
I know why women don’t just leave
- Take the conversation private: If you are on someone’s personal page on social media, or at their babyshower, it’s not a good time to engage in a great debate. Send a private message with some easy to read material, remembering to practice active listening, or phone them later and offer some resources via email. There’s no point discussing it with the friends or family of the mother / father to be, they aren’t going to be responsible for any decisions that are made, so don’t debate with them, just …. take it private.
4. Use “I” statements: “You” statements are too frequently interpreted as accusations. Using “I” statements helps keep the conversation free of accusations. I believe, I have read, I chose. It’s hard to debate with you when you are talking about yourself “I read |insert source here| and found it very eye opening. The things I believed about circumcision were largely based on my social beliefs rather than the scientific evidence”.
- Conserve your energy, know when to walk away: As utterly heartbreaking as it is, you can’t possibly save every single baby in a day, or even a year. When you know there’s no point because the battle is lost, walk away. Each time you expend your energy on a lost battle you lose momentum for the next one. Be very aware that you can get quite burnt out dealing with this sort of thing, and that can make you speak impatiently. Although you may have had ten conversations in the last week with different parents, the person you’re talking to may have never even considered any of it. If you become impatient with them you run the risk of closing the dialogue before you give them the information they need. So, if you’re feeling like you can’t stay calm, walk away. If the battle is lost, walk away and seek solace with people who understand your pain. Remember to replenish your own body and soul, or you will have nothing to draw upon.
- Be kind to regret mothers: They are some of the best allies! There’s no point being angry at regret mothers because the odds are good that they are angrier at themselves than you could ever be. After all, they are the ones who feel responsible for harming the people they love the most. Empathise with regret mothers, and thank them for sharing their stories. Alternatively, just walk away, because regret mothers are some of the most powerful voices intactivism has, you don’t want to alienate them. You might not like what they have done in the past, you might find it really triggering, but a mother who is considering circumcision may find what they have to say the most compelling argument they ever hear.
- Keep emotion out of it: Be factual, always be factual, but keep emotion out of it. For starters, some people will recoil in horror if you use emotion, they will feel as if you are trying to guilt trip them, or manipulate them. Also, inserting emotion can leave you feeling very vulnerable and unheard. Emotion can be appropriate in a discussion of personal preferences, but it’s best left out otherwise.
It’s really good to have a cause in life, so many people are just bobbing along without a purpose, but we have to recognise our strengths and weaknesses and use them constructively. We also need to care for ourselves along the way, so that we can be at our best, and really work effectively to protect babies from the unnecessary pain and suffering of genital mutilation. Remember, one baby at a time!