I think it’s great you’re doing an advice column for us skeptics. My question:
My wife’s office has become a maternity ward. Of the 10 eligible women, 5 are pregnant. In the last couple of weeks, they have begun passing books around and talking about their plans for their newborns. Unfortunately, one of the books they are reading is by the leader of the pro-disease movement Jenny McCarthy. These are all smart, educated women, but the fear mongering of McCarthy has them second guessing the need for vaccinations. Whenever I’m in the office, I hope to start up a conversation about vaccines, but with no luck so far. I asked my wife permission to write an open letter, but she asked me not to. I value the friendship they have with us, and don’t want to alienate them. How can I, or should I, start a conversation about vaccines with these ladies?
Sick About Vaccines
It’s often a delicate matter to intervene and correct the erroneous ideas of indirect friends, (friends of a close friend or a spouse) because the indirect, second-stage relationship you have with them increases the likelihood that they will see it as an intrusion, and take the attitude, “Who the hell are you? Mind your own business.”
Your wife’s reluctance to have either herself or you educate them with an unsolicited opinion may be about the complexities of office politics as well as the intricacies of friendships. She has to be their co-worker as well as their friend, and such dual roles often have conflicts of purpose. I know that you are concerned for the health of the babies, but at the same time that is the mothers’ final responsibility, and your wife’s comfort and standing in the office is an important factor that you should take seriously, which I’m sure you do.
Since the precedent has already been established in the office about sharing prenatal and child care books, perhaps there is a book or some kind of literature written in lay terms that refutes McCarthy’s ideas, one that your wife could casually offer to them, suggesting that knowing both sides of the issue is a good idea. Since they are smart and educated women, this approach might work.
Another way would be to discretely leave that material somewhere in the office for the mothers to find. I don’t really recommend this, because such backdoor tactics often backfire. Definitely do not do anything without your wife’s agreement. Your relationship with her and your respect for her situation should take precedence.