So an advocate, and activist and an asshole walk into a bar... There is no punchline here, just my growing realization that there is such a huge difference between advocacy and activism. I think our society is really getting these two activities confused. Everyone likes to think they make good choices in life. Some people even like their choices so much that they want everyone else to make those same choices, regardless of whether those choices are a good fit for those other people's lives.
The difference for me lies withing the expectation of the A-person. An advocate seeks to inform, educate and most importantly, EMPOWER others to make well-researched decisions based on balanced, unbiased data. An activist most often seeks to have everyone make the decision that they, the activist agree with, regardless of the individual circumstances of the decision-maker. A lack of ethics leads activists to masquerade as advocates. A perfect example of this would be a Crisis Pregnancy center (anti-choice activism) giving a woman false information regarding the safety of abortion - they are giving information, but it is not the kind of data that an empowered decision can be made from.
One step farther from misguided activism is just plain being an asshole - bullying, derisive behavior meant to demonize those who are 'other'. Clinic protesters, 'intactivists' who post abusive Internet comments, sanctimonious parents who pity children born in a different manner than the way their children were born. These behaviors do nothing to further a cause, and most often alienate the very people that are trying to be reached.
I've come to believe that if I feel so strongly about an issue that I can no longer advocate - that is, detach my self from an outcome I disagree with, it is time to move to useful activism. That is, taking concrete steps to change the cultural and societal framework, or legality of the issue at hand. For example, I truly believe that routine infant circumcision is not a 'choice' for a parent to make. I find it disturbing that my daughter's rights to bodily integrity are protected but my son's rights are not. So instead of being an asshole online, or in person, I do what I can to change the laws regarding male genital mutilation. And until certain frameworks are changed, I advocate by sharing information about the issue. Because until the larger societal issues are addressed (think formula company lobbies and parental leave in regards to breastfeeding, myths regarding male cleanliness and prepuce function for MGM, hospital maternity policies driven by liability rather than informed consent in birth), individuals should not be crucified for making decisions based on bad information, habit, or pure survival.
These are really large issues, enough to make my head spin. I think though, moving forward as an advocate and an educator, it's important for me to reflect and examine these issues carefully.