I’ve had some really interesting conversations over the last couple of days, and while these conversations are resulting in a “musing” more than a “social media” or a “marketing” post, I wanted to share the results of what I have been talking about with various friends and family members.
It all started on Saturday. I was conversing with several people on a thread about Pinterest and once again mentioned the fact that I hate generalizations. Dan Perez pointed out that I say that an awful lot. In a sort of blink response, I said that I probably hate generalizations because I have been dismissed so often as a result of generalizations having to do, quite simply, with the fact that I’m about a foot shorter than the “average” bear. As a kid, doctors showed me chart after chart showing how my height was “below normal.” My pinky fingers are curved and therefore I must have *something* wrong with me. At restaurants I often get skipped over even though I’m next in line because people assume that I’m somebody’s kid (increasingly enchanting as I get older and older).
I don’t like being victimized by these generalizations, and therefore, I do my best not to lump other people together based on other generalizations. It’s a gut thing.
The next series of conversations occurred last evening during the Golden Globes. Peter Dinklage won a Golden Globe for his role in Game of Thrones. I noted how wonderful and gratifying it was to see a Little Person earn kudos for acting, and not for a show like “Little People Big World.” As I was feeling like maybe the tide was finally turning for Little People, a friend of mine posted to my Facebook page a link regarding the “shout out” that Peter included at the end of his thank you speech. He mentioned a guy named Martin Henderson, and as the music was cutting him off, he asked the audience to “Google him.” My friend had. As it turned out, Martin Henderson had been standing outside a pub when a gang of miscreants picked him up and tossed him into the air (because dwarf tossing is a good hobby). Henderson may have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
The high and the low of these two conversations is creating quite a whirlwind in my head today. So I thought I would talk to you about it.
Compared to a lot of people who are categorized as “Dwarf,” I am very fortunate. I am 4’5, which is on the tall end of dwarfism. I do not have Achondroplasia, which means that my body is proportional and I do not have any bone or muscle problems tied to my condition. That being said, I am enough “below the norm” that my experience, I find, is more relatable to Little People than it is to just “people.”
That being said, I have been acutely aware, my whole life, of how poorly Little People are treated. Whether it’s Hollywood, TV commercials, or people posting ads to Craigslist asking for “midgets to perform at parties,” I have always been amazed at how little society seems to care about the fact that Little People are so often abused and maltreated. In fact, more often than not, these sad occasions are greeted with laughter as opposed to outrage. People laughed at the “Dwarf tossing” jokes in Lord of the Rings, which were completely gratuitous. Another friend of mine even informed me that a politician is arguing that government has no right to ban dwarf tossing. Really.
What do I do?
When I was in college I went to see a presentation by an artist who happened to be a Native American. His art was not what we *generally* think of when we think of Native American art, and he said he got a lot of crap from his people about that. “Why aren’t you representing our culture now that you’re finding success?” He just wanted to express himself. He didn’t want to be a Native American artist. He wanted to be an artist.
Similarly, I do not want to be “that Little Person blogger.” I don’t want my whole life to be summed up by the fact that I’m under 60″ tall. In fact, I’ve been trying to separate myself from that reality for years. However, there is also the startling fact that kids who are growing up as Little People right now have precious few people they can look to as role models in the public space. Billy Barty was my main role model when I was a kid, and my experience didn’t really relate to his at all. Over the years there have been a few Little People, like Robert Reich, who managed to make it big without just being “that Little Person.” By being out there and doing his thing, he made a point, maybe without even trying to.
I’m thinking there may be some value to that.
There’s another factor too, though, and that is that the prejudice against Little People is so embedded and so strong in our society that it is a more dangerous world for Little People. I don’t like to go out in a city by myself because you never know when you’ll meet that big group of jerks who wants to harass you – or worse. It’s embarrassing. It’s frightening. And it’s so unnecessary.
What can you do?
If you are interested in this issue, there are two super easy ways you can help me and other Little People out. First- be vocal. If you see someone using the word “midget” suggest that they could choose a far less offensive word. If you see a Little Person being harassed, speak up.
Also, I created a Facebook page awhile back called Spread the News: the Word Midget is Offensive and Hurtful. If you are of a mind, show your support simply by liking it. I don’t converse there much anymore, but 1,495 people like it as of today. That’s a brightly shining star.
There are, of course, tons of groups of people who receive similar treatment. I hate all injustices. But for today, I’m focusing on one that affects me directly. And on Martin Luther King Day, I’m going to go ahead and fling out a dream that one day Little People will just be “people” who happen to be little.
That will be a great day indeed.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clobby/379764 via Creative Commons