Ours is a culture in which occupying a dwarf body makes you a target.
April 24, 2018 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Eugene Grant on dwarfism. "I promise you: the best thing to call someone with dwarfism is *their name*. If you don't know their name, ask yourself why you need to refer to their body before knowing who they are."

See also his twitter thread on the subject.
posted by bitmage (14 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting read. Thank you for posting.
posted by greermahoney at 4:38 PM on April 24, 2018

That was informative. One of my favorite books is Stones from the River, a novel from the POV of a dwarf girl as she grows up (in 1930s Germany). It did a great job of portraying the heartache and isolation of being different from everyone around you (I am different in another way).
posted by AFABulous at 4:41 PM on April 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

Grant is one of the best non-joke Twitter follows I’ve lucked into recently. See also his more Troyer-focused Guardian piece and his article on radical Quaker abolitionist cave-dweller Benjamin Lay.
posted by Etrigan at 5:33 PM on April 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

This essay's writing was triggered by the recent death of Verne "Mini-Me"Troyer, about whom I must add


We've suffered too many deaths recently of celebrities who stood out for interesting reasons, including Carl Kassel, Harry Anderson, R. Lee Ermey, Art Bell, Mitzi Shore, Chuck McCann...

But I have been interested in dwarfism and cheered on veryshort actors ever since "Under the Rainbow", the odd 1981 comedy about the actors auditioning to be Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, where previously-unknown Cork Hubbard playing a 4-foot bumpkin from Kansas faced off against veteran performer Billy Barty, who I remembered from hosting a kids' show when I was a kid, and was totally playing against type as a nasty Nazi. Of course they were billed below the full-height stars, Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher.

There are a lot of good short actors out there; not all the good roles should go to Peter Dinklage.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:42 PM on April 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

Also related to dwarf actors: FanFare on Warwick Davis as "Willow"
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:41 PM on April 24, 2018

Thanks for this post. I've been trying to find a pithy response to complaints against so-called political correctness (aka speaking respectfully). This one will do for awhile.
No, it’s not the “PC brigade” or “PC gone mad”. Those are just excuses wielded by people with privilege who want to silence those with less privilege when the latter speak out. Denying experiences of prejudice is an act of prejudice itself.
posted by Thella at 8:37 PM on April 24, 2018 [25 favorites]

Thanks for posting this.

I've been trying to find a pithy response to complaints against so-called political correctness (aka speaking respectfully).

The other way to think about it is "people-first language." Grant uses it a lot in the essay (e.g, "people with dwarfism").

Relatedly, check out some of Kiruna Stamell's guest host spots on the BBC Ouch podcast:

Episode 26

Episode 28

Episode 38

Kiruna Stamell on Twitter.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:05 AM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've been learning about this for twenty years, when I was deeply in love with a woman who happened to be a dwarf. I did some research to see if there was going to be any problems with physical arrangements, just to be careful (I'm six foot four and at the time was three fifty; she was "four feet nothing" to quote her). One time someone yelled "dwarf fucker" at us from their car as we were walking down the street, and got two cups of Coke in their face - and she was more accurate than me.

(The best part was not telling my parents in advance about her and, when they met, my father at dinner trying not to explode with a comment. It was her idea, as she wanted to see how they reacted.)

But yeah, the one time someone asked me "what is she" I replied, "my girlfriend", and she told me that was the best answer.

(It didn't work out for a number of reasons, most of which being distance.)
posted by mephron at 8:23 AM on April 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

At risk of derailing, it's a mistake to equate political correctness – or, as I like to think of it, basic consideration and trying not to be an asshole – with person-first language. Different groups feel differently about it. People with dwarfism seem to prefer PFL. Other groups, such as autistic people and Deaf people, strongly prefer identity-first language (IFL).

Here are a few articles written by disabled people about IFL and PFL:
Why Person-First Language Doesn’t Always Put the Person First
Person-First Language and Ableism
A Brief History of Identity-First Language
posted by Lexica at 10:13 AM on April 25, 2018 [11 favorites]

I think Eugene Grant addresses that fairly unambiguously, if not to the same level of detail, in the tweet following the pull quote: you ask each person what they prefer as an individual and address/refer to them according that expressed preference. Even within a group there is bound to be variation. But I agree it's helpful to know the popular/majority preferences for certain groups.
posted by inconstant at 10:17 AM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

This article reminded me how much I hate beloved SNL character Stefon and his recurring jokes about little people. I'm baffled as to how those jokes are at all funny, unless you fundamentally do not view little people as actual humans. I'm also grossed out by how my favorite media website, the AV Club, fawns over comedian and former SNL writer John Mulaney, who created the Stefon character. Mulaney has a semi-famous bit where he argues that the word "midget" is not as bad as the "n-word" because little people have never been enslaved, so he should be able to use it in his comedy. (The punchline is awful so I'm not going to repeat the rest of the joke.) This tactic feels a lot like he's saying "See I care about Black people so you know I'm not prejudiced" to rationalize dehumanizing another group.
posted by lieber hair at 3:17 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Really, Mulaney? That's disappointing.

Counterpoint, the exchange between Daniel Woodburn and Roger Ebert: Dwarfs, Little People and the M-Word.
posted by Lexica at 4:03 PM on April 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Woodburn/Ebert exchange is fantastic.

Not to derail, but from Ebert's response in the exchange with Woodburn:

Words that cause pain should be retired, although perhaps during the transitional period they can offer a certain homeopathic relief. I have recently been in correspondence with disabled people over the ending of "Million Dollar Baby," and note that they sometimes use terms like "crip" and "gimp."

To be clear, the main problem lots of people had with "Million Dollar Baby" was that it was Clint Eastwood's revenge fantasy against people with disabilities - key message: "you're better off dead" - so he's a real piece of shit. For context on that, refer to Mary Johnson's Make Them Go Away: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Reeve and The Case Against Disability Rights.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:57 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I swear to god, kids these days all expect to be treated well and with respect. Like every person is some kind of individual with their own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and perspective on every goddamn issue. They want us to learn and use their names instead of referring to them dismissively by a few prejudice-laden traits. I don't know what's gotten into this generation, but if things keep going the way they are, eventually we'll all be expected to just treat one another kindly and with mutual respect.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:38 PM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

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