INTACTIVIST OF THE MONTH: Cynthia Maloney
One of Intact America's greatest strengths is the diverse and supportive intactivist community. Our "Intactivist of the Month" series highlights some of the most ardent opponents of infant and childhood circumcision, whose tireless efforts will ensure a future where all babies are kept intact.
SEPTEMBER 2016: Our Intactivist of the Month for September is Cynthia Maloney.
The youngest of five children, Cynthia was raised Irish Catholic in Boston. In 1977, at the age of 11, she saw a Saturday Night Live skit spoofing an ad that promoted a smooth ride by showing a jeweler cutting a diamond in the backseat of a Lincoln; the SNL spoof showed a mohel — also in the backseat — performing a bris as the car careened around corners and navigated potholes).
She remembers talking to her mother about it, and her mother saying: "Catholics don't do that. Jesus came to end our suffering, and that means circumcision."
"All of the men in my family are intact," says Cynthia. Anything else was unthinkable. So, naturally, when her son was born in 1988, she passed, saying, "Why would anybody do that?"
Cynthia's first "outspoken moment" occurred one day when she was in her early 30s. She was sitting at a bar in Boston, and somebody mentioned circumcision. "I just popped up from my barstool, and got on my soapbox."
But becoming an "out" intactivist took more time.
Over the years as she was raising her son and daughter, Cynthia worked in a variety of jobs, including 11 years as a researcher for a pharmaceutical company. Her true interest, though, was in peaceful childbirth and protecting children, and in 2004, she became a doula. "Even though I talked a lot of people out of cutting," Cynthia says, "I still thought it was a parent's choice."
That changed in 2008, when an expectant father asked her about the African studies claiming that circumcision prevents HIV. "I knew the claims from Africa were BS," she says, and remembers telling the couple, 'You can't avoid a virus by cutting off a body part.' Then another mother-to-be asked her about the functions of the foreskin; in researching these parents' questions, Cynthia discovered the Intact America website, with data and analysis debunking the African HIV claims, an informational video, and a foreskin-facts flyer. "Neither couple cut their sons."
In 2010, Cynthia began identifying as an intactivist and speaking out more systematically. One of her first intactivist posts on Facebook began, "If I could save one boy...," and within days, a dozen people wrote to tell her she'd saved their sons!
In 2014, Cynthia sold her house to free her up to work on the cause. Shortly thereafter, she saw an online post from the news site Elite Daily, which asked its women staff members what they would do differently if they were male and posted photographs of the women holding their answers alongside the hashtag #IfIWereABoy. Among the responses was one saying, "#IfIWereABoy, I'd be able to make choices about my own body." Cynthia was galvanized by the absurdity of making such a statement in a country where more than a million boys experience forced circumcision every year. She posted a photo on Facebook and encouraged other intactivists to do the same. The site was soon overwhelmed with photos of women holding signs denouncing male genital cutting, and Cynthia was featured in the British publication Inside Man.
But that's not all.
In 2016 alone, Cynthia started the "50 States" page on Facebook, featuring intactivists from around the United States; she appeared with the BloodStained Men — the first woman to have "suited up" and done an entire tour; she organized the intactivist presence in the Boston Pride march, and walked in both the Boston and NYC events; and she produced a video called ABCs of Intactivism.
Newly certified by the Association for Perinatal Psychology and Health, Cynthia plans to supplement her work as a doula by teaching — parent support groups, classes at sex-positive stores, anywhere she can find people eager to learn the truth about intact genitals and the harms of genital cutting.
"Everything I've ever done, everything in my life, has led me to intactivism," says Cynthia. The first stop in my research was Intact America. Finding IA absolutely reframed the way I saw circumcision. I no longer believe it is "a parent's choice." The information packet I got from the website was invaluable, and I've used IA as a resource many, many times since then. I am so grateful they were there with the information just when I needed it."
"Cynthia Maloney combines single-minded dedication to intactivism with warmth, intelligence, and openness." says Georganne Chapin, Intact America's Executive Director. "I had the honor of spending the day with her in this year's NYC Pride march, as she floated down Fifth Avenue with her angel wings (given to Cynthia by an Arkansas intactivist) and their His Body His Choice message."
Visit our Intactivist of the Month Archive page to read about previous intactivists we've highlighted.