Male Circumcision, Social Media, Intactivism, Privilege


Social media has become a primary way in which various social movements may attempt to gain traction within larger frames of cultural discourse (Obar, Zube, and Lampe 2012). However, not all movements that profess human rights and equality goals are truly egalitarian in their orientation. Many men’s movements are ostensibly about gender equality but fall short of their claims because they fail to come to terms with issues of privilege (Messner 1997, 1998). While the male anti-circumcision movement (sometimes referred to as the Intactivist movement) is less radically anti-feminist and has utilized social media to develop and maintain connections with other human rights movements, it has broadly continued to resist feminist critique and has limited its own achievement of human rights goals. We argue that, by using social media as a way to gain a wider audience and following, many tactics of the Intactivist movement have also alienated many potential supporters because of its fractured message and misalignment with actual equality, which has inhibited its overall growth as a social movement. We draw on Messner’s (1997) model of men’s movements to reflect on the limitations of the Intactivist movement. Through a discussion of examples of such tactics and a case study analysis, we suggest recognizing privilege as a way to align the movement’s interests in human rights and gender equality.