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Being an activist doesn’t make one very popular in some circles. Especially if one of the things you speak out against is child circumcision. Especially when you are an American, in a culture very uneducated about foreskin, with a long history of children’s rights violations (indeed, many scoff at the idea of children even having rights autonomous of the ones their parents grant them).

So why bother? Why risk damaging relationships because those around you think cutting the healthy genitals of children is no big deal? Why risk isolating and offending people you love? What is the benefit of being dubbed the “crazy anti-circumcision nut-job” among friends and family who don’t share your conviction?

I’ll tell you. The benefits are not worth it in the short term. In the short-term, I make a lot of enemies, I hurt a lot of feelings, I isolate a lot of people. I make a lot of people uncomfortable because I will not stay silent about a moral wrong our society is only comfortable discussing in terms of “medical benefits” and never “medical ethics.” In the short-term, the risk of intactivism is much greater than the benefit.

In the long term, in the marathon of social justice activism, in the end, when the story is written, when parents choose to leave their sons exactly as their DNA intended, when circumcision rates fall to nil, when the Supreme Court rules that cutting the genitals of children without the presence of pathology violates medical ethics and human rights, it will be worth it. That’s the day I work toward. That’s the benefit that will likely not bring me to celebration, but to weeping for the hours, the relationships, the loss I’ve endured in the short-term.

Apathy is the human condition. Conformity is how the masses are controlled. Most people live much of their lives never questioning the status quo. In fact, that’s why social justice is such a monster. The status quo is in charge. When we think about other social justice atrocities throughout human history, hindsight is 20/20, but it was those who questioned and risked it all who moved humanity forward.

This is why I care so much. This is why I am okay with being the crazy anti-child genital cutting, thorn in everyone’s side, always talking about children’s rights, family embarrassment. Because someday children will be granted their human right to bodily autonomy and intact genitals, regardless of their parents religious, cultural, or personal ¬†beliefs, and I want to be on the side of history that brought about that human progress.


  1. Yes! Yes! Yes!

  2. Can I just say, this article is so amazing, not just because it is about our precious children but because the way you speak reaches far beyond circumcision. Such a beautiful message to remind us all to break free from mass condition and to carry on with our evolution. I literally had goodsbumps all over and was in tears. What a beautiful human being you are to stand in your absolute truth and bare all, to carry humanity on your shoulders through a dark era, where light is slowly being shined upon. If it wasn’t for people like you I would not have kept my boys intact, I would have listened to all my family and plod along with the herd. Your words are not unnoticed, continue your great work. Thank you, you wonderful person. :)

    • Thank you. Your comment brought me to tears. I know I am not alone in this journey toward human progress. Many have walked before me, many walk beside me, and many will come after. But it is the soldiers of social justice who bring about change.

  3. christina on said:

    Thank you this article portrays exaxctly the way I feel and encourages me to continue speaking intactivism.

  4. Miriam Pollack on said:

    I feel like this voice came straight from my heart. I am deeply moved by the passion and courage of all those who will not be silent, who risk precious relationships to speak the truth for our voiceless infants. Thank you for this forum. An article I wrote, published in the Huffington Post about a year ago, entitled, “Circumcision: Identity, Gender & Power” may be of interest to some of your readers, particularly the Jewish ones. You can access it at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miriam-pollack/

    • Miriam, I am honoured that you have found my blog and felt compelled to leave comment. I am very familiar with your article, and have referenced it when having discussions specific to the Jewish perspective. Thank you so much for your courageous intactivism, I can only imagine how much more unpopular intactivism makes you and others in your own Jewish communities.

      • Miriam Pollack on said:

        HI Maria,

        Thank you so much. I am always glad to hear that my article has found meaningful channels to further disseminate the complex truth about circumcision. Yes, being Jewish and an intactivist is a very hard road. I deeply appreciate your support.

    • roger desmoulins on said:

      A lioness has entered the room and opened her mouth.

      Ms Pollack understands how male circumcision insults women and mothers, perhaps more deeply than any other person to date.

      Miriam, speak, speak! Even if your voice shakes. Even if people look at you with faces filled with silent reproach. Even if afterwards you go home and weep alone.

      But rest assured of one thing. This hatred of normal sexuality must come to an end. In your own way, you are as revolutionary as Sigmund Freud.

      And never forget the last sentence of the voiceover of the film “Cut.” That sentence changed my life, even though I am a political conservative. Injustices require us to be disobedient.

  5. Beautifully put, Maria. I couldn’t possibly agree more. Statements like this renew my optimism that justice can be broadened, wounds healed and that a deeper awareness of human experience can be lived. We know so much now about the harm this practice brings into our lives- and know there is much more to know. We’re on a roll, it’s more and more international and those of us who’ve found a voice will never, ever shut up! Not until the last scalpel is put away will we let up. There’s no going back now!
    I’ve lost some relationships from this and struggle with others, too, because I cannot be silent any more. It’s hard- but I’ve never once felt that I could go back to ignorance, even if it is an easier life.
    Keep up the good work. You’re awesome.

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  7. Thanks for articulating it so well.
    I have been struggling with this so much. I am a doula and my job is to be supportive of the parents decisions regarding birth and newborn care. This is one topic where I cannot be, and I do advocate for intact babies, however I often find that I risk loosing clients or offending them and getting a bad reputation is something I cannot afford.
    I have a particularly hard time arguing religious reasons. it’s such a hot topic. How do you tell someone all the info they should know about the dark side of circumcision and still be respectful of their beliefs?
    I found that is quite easy to convince parents who just don’t know better, but the religious ones or ones who follow family traditions even if they don’t practice the religion is touchy. How do you go about it?

    • It depends on the religion. For the majority of Americans who follow the Christian faith, pointing them to Galatians 5 and explaining some of the roots of modern medical circumcision, as well as the dark and ignored American Christian history of female circumcision, are good places to start. The Rape of Innocence might be a good book for you to read.

      If a client is Jewish, it may not be a client who you can reach or a son you can save. I would inform them and give them information about Jews who are questioning circumcision and choosing to leave sons intact (Beyond the Bris & Jews Against Circumcision are good resources). Miriam Pollack wrote a great article in the Huffington Post about circumcision from the Jewish perspective, and she’s commented on this post, with a link to that article, so I would print that out and give it to Jewish clients. I also would suggest they watch Cut the Film, which was produced by Eliayhu Ungar-Sargon.

      For Muslim clients, I would point out that circumcision isn’t in the Quran and the Quran states we are born perfect. Some of the work from Sami Aldeeb would probably be a good resource for you.

      I think as intactivists we have to accept that we won’t be able to save every boy. We won’t be able to reach every person we come in contact with. We will mourn the circumcision of many sons. But we will save some. And more importantly, we are working toward a larger goal, where child circumcision is not practiced.

  8. Thank you for being a fellow intactivist. I have been fighting this battle for 25 years. My family thinks I’m nuts. This is the same family that mutilated me and sentenced me to a lifetime of sexual dysfunction, so I really don’t give a rat’s ass.

    I have been laughed at, taunted, cursed at, etc. Again, I really don’t give a rat’s ass. I have also saved many babies and educated many parents, which is very satisfying. What I find most effective: a bumper sticker on my car that says “Circumcision is a Phallusy”. You won’t believe the comments and questions I get. It disarms people with humor, but it also gets them thinking. People behind me at stoplights laugh. Then they search the Internet when they get home.

    I have another bumper sticker that says “Shoot the Doctor Who Circumcised You” next to the silhouette of a gun. That also gets a good laugh, but again, it gets people thinking.

    I pass out baby and toddler t-shirts to friends who are expecting, which have the word “CIRCUMCISION” with a red slash through it. They put the shirts on their babies prior to doctor’s visits, and it makes a point. Again, people who aren’t familiar with the issue find it humerus, and they ask questions.

    I find it more difficult to talk to religious people, but Christians often do pay attention to Galatians. I am absolutely adamant about refusing to participate in baptisms and refuse be a Godfather to kids whose parents insist on circumcision. I will not compromise on this: if they allow their kid to be mutilated, I will not enable them in any way, even if it means loosing a friendship. That often gets their attention. I absolutely will not participate in a bris. I have lost friends that way, but I don’t care.

    Thanks again and keep fighting the good fight.

  9. So true! Thank you for this.

    So many people have died and are still dying to do what is right. I consider social ostracism and loss of relationships a privileged set of consequences for what I do.

  10. All of this speaks so directly to my own heart. For such a long time I felt like I was almost the only person in the world who cared. There have been many heartaches along the way. I’m so glad that today there are so many others out there who have taken intactivism so much further than I ever could have alone. All baby boys who are spared the clamp and scalpel will begin their lives in peace because of us. Rosemary I am sharing the link to my website (which also has links to many other valuable resources.) http://peacefulbeginningsrosemary.wordpress.com/ Keep up the good work!

    • Rosemary,
      I just wanted to say that “Circumcison: The Painful Dilemma” was excellent. I really enjoyed it back in the late 80s when I became an intactivist. Your book reached many people and changed many lives. There was no internet back then, and little information about the subject compared to today. Thanks for writing it.

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