Las Vegas, NV – A couple of days ago, Cynthia Maloney came across the ALS Association’s popular “Ice Bucket Challenge.” ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease) in which patients lose all motor function as the disease progresses. “Ice Bucket Challenge” participants record and share videos of themselves dumping buckets filled with ice water on their heads, including the hashtag #icebucketchallenge, to raise awareness of ALS.
Maloney thought that it would be great if the genital autonomy movement came up with something similar to get the word out about children’s rights to bodily autonomy – to protect male, female and intersex children from genital cutting.
Two days later she woke up and read an article about a women’s campaign advocating against sex discrimination and for bodily autonomy. The article included a photo of a young woman holding a sign reading, “#IF I WERE A BOY – I’d be able to make choices about my own body.”
Maloney jumped out of bed, hastily scribbled out a sign, grabbed her roommate and headed outside in her pajamas to have her photo taken.
She posted her photo to a number of intactivist Facebook groups and pages and received a suggestion to start a Facebook page of her own.
Soon Maloney was hastily inviting everyone on her friends list and hundreds agreed to add their pictures. “Since then it just took on a life of it’s own,” she says. As of today there are nearly 100 individual submissions.
Reflecting upon her initial reaction to the women’s #ifiwereaboy campaign, Maloney says, “I am enraged because many women ignore the fact that so many men have never experienced their whole body. And I am doubly enraged that many women consent to the circumcision of their own newborn sons without realizing that this is a violent sexual assault that will permanently alter his body, his sexual experience and the way he will relate to the world.”
After the #ifiwereaboy campaign went viral, Maloney “remembered thinking how intactivists needed something like the ALS challenge and here it was! I’m very excited by the number of people who are taking action to stop the forced genital cutting of infants and children.”
Maloney has long been involved in children’s health and human rights. For the past 10 years, she has been working in the Boston area as a birth and post-partum doula, a childbirth educator, and as a personal care attendant for a special needs child.
Educating parents about the unnecessary and harmful practices of circumcision and intersex surgery is an important part of Maloney’s work. In the past year she has attended several births, one birth professionals conference and many public demonstrations advocating for children’s rights.
For those wanting to get involved in her campaign, Maloney advises the following:
“Create a sign starting with ‘#ifIwereaBoy’ explaining how your life would be different if you had been subjected to forced genital cutting. It’s really about getting all kinds of ideas from all kinds of people so make it your own. After taking the picture, share it to the Facebook page or any other site. Be sure and use the hashtag #ifIwereaBoy when posting. Feel free to use additional hashtags such as #i2 #rethink #circumcision or any others that you feel are appropriate.”
In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its circumcision policy statement concluding that “the benefits outweigh the risks,” causing uproar amongst intactivists and the international medical community. In response, intactivists launched a viral campaign, “Wash your hands of the AAP,” a campaign that also inspired Maloney.
While ALSA’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” campaign has garnered the attention and support of celebrities, only a few have come out against circumcision.
One such celebrity, Alicia Silverstone, famous for starring in the 1995 hit film “Clueless,” recently published a book entitled “The Kind Mama,” and included the story of how she kept her son intact. Alicia Silverstone also happens to be Jewish.