Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It’s Little People Not Midget

Those that walk through the world with privilege have always had the ability to name regardless of how the marginalized group feels about said label.  In recent years people that have bodies that have historically been considered spoiled identities, have been very vocal about publicly rejecting labels that are harmful. The trans community have rejected “tranny”, and the differently abled have rejected terms like lame. 

The Little People of America are attempting to get the word midget declared a slur.  They are currently petitioning the FCC, after a particularly insulting episode of The Celebrity Apprentice.

During the episode of Celebrity Apprentice which aired on the NBC network, April 05, 2009 at 9 pm EST, people with a form of dwarfism (Little People) received a tremendous amount of ridicule and humiliation. NBC decided to air a program which continuously mentioned the word “Midget” by many of the cast members. The word “Midget is considered and recognized by Little People of America (www.lpaonline.org) as highly offensive and obscene to the dwarfism community.

During the program one of the cast members mentions “the word midget could be considered offensive to the Executives” and “ I think the appropriate phraseology would be Little People these days” bringing it to the attention of those responsible for editing and broadcasting the show. Yet it continued to be used throughout the show and used in the final title (Jesse James and the Midgets) of a viral video produced by the cast members.

Another of the cast members says: “They know that people point and laugh at them and they are comfortable within themselves and they have fun right back”, informing the general public that it is acceptable to ridicule a person with this difference or disability.

The cast member Hershel Walker says: “What about if we use little people and let them wash themselves in ALL detergent in the bathtub…and you hang them out to dry” (Portraying people of short stature more as an object rather than people).

Response: Joan Rivers “HANG THEM OUT TO DRY!”

Response: Clint Black “I don’t know…I mean…I am trying to envision how we hang them.

Response: Joan Rivers “Well…I have a terrace. We can hang them out on my terrace.”

The above content is mentioned in the program along with the 12 times during the program the word “Midget” was used with every attempt to humiliate people of short statured and those involved.

As is so often the case those with privilege have decided that it is acceptable to make a mockery of someone’s life.   It is not funny or amusing to use a term that is hateful and “other” for the sake of profits.  No matter how accustomed one becomes to being considered a second class citizen, it still hurts to walk through this world with the knowledge that you are devalued as a person.

Like any other stigmatized group Dwarves are subject to discrimination in hiring, violence and public ridicule.  Those of us that are of “normal” stature have a long history of infantilizing Dwarves to promote our undeserved privilege.   Even taking the time to learn some basic 101 knowledge regarding terminology or life experience is often deemed unnecessary because it is not deemed necessary to have a conversation that is not centered on dominant bodies.

According to The Little People of America, “midget is the term used for a proportionate dwarf. However, the term has fallen into disfavour and is considered offensive by most people of short stature. The term dates back to 1865, the height of the "freak show" era, and was generally applied only to short-statured persons who were displayed for public amusement, which is why it is considered so unacceptable today.”

Little People are not being to sensitive when they demand that the term “midget” cease to be used and yet this was continually  the complaint that I read in the commentary on this issue from average sized bodies.   It was often based in a rejection of what is deemed “PC” speech and no acknowledgement was given to the cost that such demeaning language can have on Little People.

Whether it is tranny, nigger, lame, faggot, dyke or midget, what cannot be denied is that these terms exist only to mark difference for the purposes of expressing power coercively.  It is not difficult to refrain from using such language and an insistence on perpetuating behaviour even after becoming aware that said terms are highly offensive, is not only rude; it is an expression of privilege.