Thursday, February 3, 2011

Just Thinking

Something hit me tonight. Not hard, but more like a nudge. I wonder about my sensitivity to terminology. I wrote this yet-to-be-published-and-I'm-not-sure-why post last week about usage of the r word and how I react differently to its usage now than I did even six months ago.

I still don't think it's ok, but it doesn't hit me in the same way as it did before. To clarify, still don't like, but won't cry over it. I totally have cried over it in the past.

So, seemingly non-related, over the weekend, I watched a movie. It was released in 1934. Imitation of Life. If you've seen it, you know how big a role race plays in the film.

I've loved Imitation of Life for years and years, but not this version. I always watched the one from 1959. But, since BD opted in on a Netflix trial recently, I thought I'd finally give the original a try.

Lemme tell you something: HUGE DIFFERENCE.

I was like "whoa" and cringed quite a few times at the portrayals and the verbiage used in the 1934 version. I'm not naive. I know that was a very different time, but still. Whoa. I found it hard to watch.

At one point, two girls are playing and one begins to cry because the other called her "black." Except, to me, today, she was black. Then, that was an insult. The mother of the little girl who said it told her to apologize immediately for saying such a cruel thing to her friend.

What does this have to do with the r word? Well, nothing really, but it's the terminology that struck me.

Tonight, while in the car, I was listening to Dr. Berman's show for a minute. I came in just as a lady who had called in for some advice was talking about her daughter. Apparently, she wanted Dr. Berman's help with her dating methods. She felt like she was, in her words, "a very good catch" but she had concerns related to her "special needs daughter." She actually said, "She's special needs. She's Down syndrome."

I cringed. Just like I did while watching the movie.

I mean, there's nothing inherently wrong or evil about what the caller said. It's just not what folks in my generation typically say when describing their child. These days, people I know are all about People First Language. I would never (ever ever ever ever ever) say that Playette is Down syndrome. Ever.

I don't really know my point about all of this. I don't have a conclusion, really. I just felt like sharing.

I don't know how not to cringe and I'm not sure if that will ever change.

But maybe it will.

There are just no absolutes. That I do know.


ks_kristi said...

I totally get this post. I finally (thanks to Netflix too) watched the movie Precious. I didn't know about the little daughter in the movie or what she was named, that stopped me cold. Keep in mind there is SO much more going on in this movie but that's what stopped me. It jumped out at me. I would say it's a direct reflection of your advocacy and bringing awareness to my world. I understand somedays and some situations maybe don't result in tears but still.

jonashpdx said...

so right there with you on this one... I feel like it's still A thing, but it's not THE thing that gets to me.

AZ Chapman said...

If i knew u wanted to see the orignal verson I could have told u that it is on youtube for free
ps why haven't u friended me yet

Beth said...

I am with you on this. It's my worst pet-peeve: Hannah is Down syndrome. Argh! I don't have that much of a problem with people getting terminology incorrect if I know they mean well, but just don't know how to say things "correctly".

I over-reacted a couple months ago when my mother said that So-and-so is Down syndrome. I corrected her immediately and strongly. Enough so that I felt guilty. Mom was so taken aback. She's 77, and she's always been so supportive and positive--I shouldn't have reacted so harshly. A little nuance in speech shouldn't make me flip out. I mean, we say "He is blind", He is autistic."

I get that these are adjectives, and when nouns (deafness, autism) replace them, it doesn't work.

But I never think that my kid equals Down syndrome.

Not a Perfect Mom said...

before Brooke's DS comes Brooke...I believe that too...
and when we found out about the DS my hubs and I were all-oh, the r word isn't going to bother us, people say it and don't even know what they're saying...
well, it did bother me, a lot, and now I just kind of cringe, I don't feel the need to preach...
and I guess I have no conclusion either

Tara said...

I feel like I've gotten less sensitive to language, too. It still bothers me when I hear the r-word thrown around, but it doesn't hurt like it used to. Now I'm just more irritated than anything.

Christina said...

Well said my friend!

I just sent you an award!


rastagalnj said...

I feel you totally! It is like nails scratching on a blackboard for me. It also hurts my heart that my sweet baby is seen as a diagnosis first. I know if people could see our babies in action they would know.