Is it possible to change ourselves? Change others? Change the world? I like to think some of that’s doable (well… maybe not others). But I’ve come to realize that it’s not possible if you stay in your comfort zone. If you’re willing to step outside that box, into that potentially scary area of discomfort… well who knows what’s then possible.
I was never really good at that. But I’m trying to take more risks…into that area of discomfort and vulnerability. It’s not easy to put yourself out there. You have to be willing to feel the fear and then carry on regardless. But maybe, just maybe…change is possible.
I read a blog by Baby Sideburns that showed up on my Facebook news feed earlier this week. It’s a ‘mom blog’ (if you will) and she writes some funny stuff on the daily shenanigans of being a wife and stay-at-home mother to young children. I was giggling to myself, reading along when all of a sudden she mentions a little person (not actually meaning someone with dwarfism)…so she then clarifies that she doesn’t mean “…little person like a midget”. Argh. There’s the ‘m word’ again this week!
I read this right in the midst of the pickle drama. Well…it irked me. And I thought if one mom can try to change a label on a national brand of pickles… I can write a friendly email to this Baby Sideburns lady in the name of education.
So I wrote something. And then I second guessed myself. Was I being silly? Over-sensitive? Yep…it’s hard to step out of your comfort zone. I didn’t send it right away. I read what I wrote again the next night…took a deep breath and then stepped outside my box, and hit ‘send’. I think I was scared she might tear me apart for being an annoying and overly politically correct crazy lady (after witnessing the ugly and ignorant comments after Adelaide’s mom’s pickle plight hit the news… I was expecting the worst).
This was my letter to her…
Hi Mrs Baby Sideburns!
One of my friends ‘liked’ your blog about Jennifer Garner on my Facebook feed yesterday, and for some reason (I guess I had a moment in between my whiney, sometimes (okay all the time) needy children pestering me 😉 ) I chose to click through and read it. Very funny stuff. You had me grinning until you used the word ‘midget’ to describe a little person. Now, after going through your FB page and skimming some of your other posts and blogs, I realize much of what you write is for a bit of shock value and anything to get a good laugh. Of course, you’re free to say what you like…and plenty of it is really, really funny.
However, maybe that wasn’t your intention with this particular word…and perhaps you just do not know. I would like to share something. The word ‘midget’ was declared a hate word in 2009. It is a derogatory term, typically used with negative connotation, to describe a person of small stature. It dates back to the PT Barnum days when individuals with dwarfism were put on display (a la the freak show/circus era). Most people in the LP community find it an offensive term and prefer the terms little person, dwarf, LP, or person of short stature.
You may be thinking ‘Why do I care?’, especially so much so as to write you this letter. Well I wasn’t aware that the word ‘midget’ had become slander in the LP community. I had no idea. I also didn’t know much about any of it (dwarfism, little people…). That is until just over a year ago when my son was born. He was born (surprisingly) with rare genetic condition…a form of dwarfism. I’ve suddenly been thrown into the position of advocating for my son…who some people, I’m sure at some point in his life, will refer to him as the ‘m word’. I would only hope that it’s because they are uninformed…rather than of malicious intent. And so my quest to educate about dwarfism starts and continues.
Hopefully you’re still with me and not totally rolling your eyes at me. I’m not trying to be a crazy politically correct super mom on a ‘ridding the word midget from the English language’ mission. If you would not write/refer to someone with intellectual disabilities as the ‘r word’, I ask that you question yourself next time you find yourself wanting to use the ‘m word’. Times change, language evolves, and while these words were once acceptable vernacular, now…they are not.
And this is what she wrote back…
So good to know Tammy. Thanks for making me aware. Seriously. The truth is, I used the term little person at first, but then added midget to clarify and now hearing your side of it, I realize it was wrong. My apologies! I would never use the “r” word and that analogy is a good one.
I wish you luck in your mission to educate people about this! And lots of luck with your kiddo. With your good parenting, he’ll be able to face anyone who accidentally or maliciously uses this word or anything else!
Thanks for reading, laughing and sharing!
I was surprised! An accepting, sympathetic response. Score 1 for this POLP!
I think I second guessed myself because my cynical side likes to sneak in every once in a while. One person? Really…an email to just one person is going to change anything? Well this one person happens to have over 50,000 followers on her FB page, not to mention many more that read her blog and the Chicago Now site. And if my little letter makes her think twice about using the ‘m word’ ever again, well it’s one less place in society that her tens of thousands of followers will read it. And the fewer places that the word is used (on pickle jars, in a blog post), the less acceptable it will become.
It might not be possible to change the world overnight, but one person at a time, one company…well I (my non-cynical self) would like to believe that anything’s possible. We just have to be willing to get a little uncomfortable.
And now for a couple completely unrelated photos. I was playing around with my birthday gift this morning (a new lense! THANK YOU MOM!).
Breakfast (don’t you just want to nibble on those fingers? Okay.. maybe it’s a mom thing)