This post isn’t about adoption. It’s about a certain white Western mentality that contributes to attitudes about international adoption, and the way this mentality is displayed in an ad for a charitable organization called Feed A Child.
This ad is terrible. The only thing worse than this ad is what some are calling the apology for it. It is not an apology. It is nothing like an apology. It is a long version of the old derailing tactic that says “Pointing out my racism makes you racist, so you should feel bad, not me.” And it has the gall, the unmitigated brass-balled nerve, to ask for money while it’s busy not apologizing.
And goodness knows it isn’t Alza Rautenbach, founder of and spokesperson for Feed A Child, who should feel bad. The entire so-called apology is a glorification of Alza’s miraculous, impossibly racism-free mind, which is stunningly similar to the minds of “color blind” white liberals everywhere. This ad is a window into the minds of the people who will make any excuse for any international adoption, no matter how corrupt. “If one child is saved”…”Like a child, I don’t see color…race, or politics”…”Be like me and look past the racial matter.” Because I am wonderfu–I mean, saving little children is wonderful! Aren’t you ashamed, just a little bit, for not being Above All This, like me? [beatific smile]
No, she actually says “Be like me,” a white Western woman who’s never missed a meal in her life. She has also never been compared to animals because of her skin color, been perceived as representing the entire white race wherever she goes, or been asked to play the part of a servant crossed with a begging dog in an ad that could have made its point in countless other ways. What she has is “a deep-rooted affection for all children,” and this is very unusual in human beings. We must stifle our gag reflexes, because we can’t perceive her ad is so much better than we unenlightened, non-child-loving people think it is.
The white woman’s burden is so heavy. So very heavy. Alza bears it gladly because, unlike so many of us, she knows that all children are children. They are all equally deserving of care and respect. (That’s why her ad only shows a black child being fed puppy treats by a white woman.) But she won’t bear it alone: Alza wants your money! Send it now, lest she run out of Scooby snacks for the children!
I really wish this ad were its own opposite. I wish it were a commentary on how shitty and wasteful and condescending white people can be, and how we think everything and everyone else revolves around us…but it isn’t, even though it might have been (sort of) intended to be. It certainly intends to make viewers ashamed of ourselves, but only just ashamed enough that sending a small amount of money will make us feel better. It says “It’s perfectly fine for South African children to live off the scraps from your table. The scraps are all they need (whereas real children also require air, shelter, love, water, an education, and human dignity), and here you are throwing them down the Disposal when you could save a child instead! Text this number to send children who are so hungry they don’t care what they eat your garbage now! You’ll feel so good about you.”
If I’d made an ad that misfired this badly, and which seemed likely to dissuade people from helping the children I wanted to help, I’d issue an actual apology. An actual apology contains ingredients like these:
1) Remorse–the realization that one’s actions have hurt others.
2) A public admission that one was wrong and/or hurtful, intentionally or not.
3) Some kind of reparation; at the least, an assurance that one understands one’s offense and promises not to commit it again.
If you see any of those in the “apology” video, please tell me. (Seriously: This video made me so angry I kept cussing it out, so I may have missed the actual apology.)
Also, is anyone else tired of having Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata ruined by people who use it as a cheap, cheesy emotional device to get us to turn out our pockets?
Also-also, what’s “connotivity”?
*”Vomitrocious” is a word I learned on the AAAFC forum. I wish I knew who invented it, because s/he deserves the credit.
So there was apparently this…thing going around these…places online that is Very Clever and Funny and not at all demeaning or sexist. It’s a fresh! new! take on Positive Adoption Language, which totally exists only to spare the feelings of adopted children!
Sure it does. Here’s what it’s teaching me now:
Adoptees are blobs of silicone or saline designed to look like human breasts. Our composition doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is that being implanted into our families made us real breasts forever and OMG YEY that’s tits!
Isn’t that just fucking perfect? Probably unconsciously so, but perfect. Adoption gives you fake breasts which are completely your real breasts. They are neither better nor worse than your own breasts are/would have been, which is why you went to all the trouble of surgery. They’re put on your chest without any input of their own and are expected to enjoy the attention they get, which makes them doubly boobs. (Seriously, what kind of adult calls breasts “boobs”? And why does breast augmentation surgery have to sound like something a prostitute might get paid to do for a man? as in head job/blow job, hand job, BOOB JOB? I suspect my readers know very well why; but I digress.)
For starters, note that “the boob job things” are things said to “Us, or adoptive families that we know.” Not to “our adopted children,” the ones who are truly in a position to be hurt by insensitive/lying adoption language; to butthurt grown-ups. (Yes, “adopted families” is supposed to include the adoptees…just like “and the rest” was supposed to include The Professor and Mary Ann.)
So the metaphor works beautifully: Adoptions are breast augmentations because bad things said about your/your wife’s breasts cannot hurt the feelings of said breasts. Breasts lack emotions. Things said about them can only hurt you, the human.
To be fair, the maker of the video has adopted a child who looks too young to comprehend what’s being said about her. That changes nothing about the fact that adoption is always firstly, foremost and lastly about the adopting parents and not the adopted children. Also, IME, people talk about us in front of us long after we’re old enough to understand, and that shit does not hurt adoptees one bit less if (Example One) a word like “biological” is substituted for a word like “real.” But I guess it makes Mom and Dad feel better, and that’s the point.
Example Two: “Where’d you get her from?”
Daddy protests that his daughter is “not a trendy accessory that you get from a boutique” and suggests asking instead, “Where is [she] from?” Why? I had to think about this one, and I think this: They’re the same question, but one version has an active subject, “you,” the adoptive parents. The preferred version does not. In other words, the Good sentence says a baby teleported herself from one family into another, perhaps by magic, and the Bad one says you adopted her. You’re not ashamed of having adopted, are you, Pastor Boob Job Baby? Because you sound here like you’re ashamed of having adopted.
Maybe you should be. In the first place, of course your daughter is a purchase you were able to make from a privileged position. If she weren’t, anyone would be able to raise her, perhaps her own Ethiopian family. In the second place, I repeat: Your daughter’s feelings will probably never be spared by this distinction, only yours. And by your feelings I mean, of course, your defensive attitude about having done something you very probably should not have done. Because we’re all supposed to congratulate you 24/7, not bring you down with reality.
And you’ll never celebrate your daughter’s “Gotcha Day,” right? Because damn, would that ever make her seem like a trendy thing you purchased.
“‘Did you, like, get to pick out the kid that you wanted?’ …The question you probably wanted to ask is “How does the adoption process actually work?” (or, “How Are Sausages Made?”)
In the first place, they didn’t mean to ask that at all. Nobody gives a flying fuck how the adoption process works. My experience in being adopted, talking about adoption, and blogging about adoption is that how it works is the LAST thing anyone wants to know. I tell them how it works and they jam their fingers in their ears and sing love songs to the US of A. What they want to know is how they can get a baby. Now.
In the second place: Again, you certainly did choose her. People with less money have to settle for older children from countries that are not so very trendy. Some of them have so little money and influence that they have to settle for USAian kids who are old enough to know they have other parents. (Ewwww! Kids who really need to be adopted are such a buzzkill.)
In the third place, Pastor Boob Job Baby, one does not only “choose one’s orphan” in Hollywood musicals. PAPs who want to see kids in need of adoption performing for them need only go online, or attend one of those horrible “picnics” where they are not only permitted but encouraged to choose the spunkiest, singing-est, most optimistic, tap-dancing-est orphan that strikes their fancy.
Example Four: Couldn’t have your own? You should have asked “How almighty are your gametes?” because infertility is apparently some kind of personal failing. (Hint: It isn’t.) Looking back, I realize how fortunate I am to have been raised by two people who truly didn’t give a flying fuck I wasn’t “their own.” I saw zero evidence my dad ever felt “less-than” because he had the mumps as a teenager, ever. I mean, yes, this is a rude question, but unless you do think infertility is a personal failing,why would it bother you? Just say “She is my own,” and let the jerk who thinks infertility is so important stew in his/her juices.
Example Five: asking to touch the baby
Yes, there are some people who want to touch and hold every baby they come across. I’ve never known this to hurt any parent’s feelings. (Maybe it does, but I’ve never seen anyone respond to “Can I hold the baby?” with anything other than “Sure! Isn’t she adorable?” In fact, when I meet people with new babies, I am very often invited to hold the baby. I’ve held many, many babies, and I’ve never once asked to hold a baby.)
If an actually outlandish number of people are asking to “touch” your adopted daughter, Pastor Boob Job Baby, it’s not because you adopted. It’s because you adopted a black child. The older she gets, the less likely white people will be to even ask before they touch her hair, because racism exists. If you don’t understand this yet, you need to work on it, NOW. No, yesterday. No, last year. No, really, three or four years before you adopted. Because being black in a white culture that does not value black people is going to be your daughter’s life, and you made that happen. If she comes home crying from elementary school about how someone called her the N-word? That’s your doing, and you show no sign of being ready to deal with it.
Example Six: Do you love her even though she’s not yours? Doesn’t it bother you you’re different races? How much did she cost? Pastor Boob Job Baby says the answer to all these questions is “Just don’t.”
I’ll admit that being asked whether or not one loves one’s child is the kind of thing that would upset any parent, and I’ll admit the other two questions seem rude. I don’t care. As long as the child doesn’t hear them, I don’t give a single damn how often people who set themselves up to be asked these questions feel about being asked these questions, because if they are not constantly asking themselves these same questions, they’re fucking it up . It is in fact very important whether or not you can love her. It is very important that you’re different races. It’s very important that money is driving adoption. But not to Pastor Boob Job Baby, who doesn’t understand many things about adoption or society. For example, he doesn’t grok that objectifying women is neither a joke nor a compliment:
Example Seven: “It’s not polite to stare…unless it’s at my butt.” See? A man’s staring at the fresh new double-dees you paid thousands for is wroonnnnnnng, but only because it reminds you those breasts aren’t your original, natural breasts. Certainly not because being yelled at, threatened with rape by, and reduced to a fucktoy in the minds of many heterosexual men who see your breasts is bad, oh no. That’s good! Because staring at Pastor Boob Job Baby’s ass is awesome.
This man is raising a daughter. A black daughter. If she ever asks him for help dealing with the double dose of objectification she will face for being both female and black, Daddy will just tell her that she’s real, that she’s not an accessory, that he didn’t pick her out, that he loves her….and that the thousands of people who will judge and profile her by her femaleness and blackness all her life should simply be directed to look at Daddy’s ass instead. Problem solved!
BTW, you know what it’s appropriate to say to someone about the “boob job” you think she may have had? Nothing, EVER, unless she brings it up. That’s not how conversations about adoption work or should work.
I now throw this post open to comment. But remember, readers: If You Wouldn’t Say It About a Snotty Little Privileged White Male Pastor, don’t say it about adoption. Go!
I’m starting this video a full minute in because I care about my readers. You’re welcome.
Nevertheless, I am very, very sorry, and I hope you can forgive me. I’m not doing it just to bring your attention to this hideous book-song-thing, although it is hideous.
I’m doing it to bring your attention to the banal terror of adoption. Watch the kids when the camera goes over to them around twenty seconds in. Now read the lyrics. Now try to convince yourself this work and this performance is intended to assure children their new parents love them unconditionally and want them to be happy.
Try very, very, very hard to make your face look as if that is what you believe as you listen to this song.
Now imagine realizing, before you’ve even hit puberty, that your life depends on this performance, and that the people who demand it of you are not only dead serious, but will exercise control over you until you’re eighteen…if you’re lucky. Because if you disappoint them, you could be out of their house and in the hands of a pedophile tomorrow.
Imagine your mom wrote the song your life depends on.
Imagine knowing very well that getting old enough to know better does not absolve your from honoring this narcisist bullshit your life depends on as if it were unconditional love. Imagine you barely have the power to mock it in the dark.
Imagine your life depends on this stupid fucking song and dance. For many adoptees, it does…literally. For many more of us, childhood only felt that way.
What a novel way of being told to be grateful.
I don’t know what a “whiny, self-righteous, blame-shifting…First Mother” is. I’m sure that, as with any other group of people (like Senators or PAPs), some first mothers do fall into that category. But sue me if I suspect this phrase is synonymous with “first mothers who makes P/APs uncomfortable.”
This graphic bugs me for a lot of reasons. In the first place, it seems a bit…violent. Is it necessary to use the word “bullet,” a crime scene victim outline with tire treads on it, and a blood-dripping font for the “professional victim” concept? Doesn’t that work against the designer’s point by making such first mothers seem too much like actual victims? Doesn’t it suggest someone wishes they would just die and get the fuck out of the way if they can’t shut up? Maybe it’s just me, but if I wanted to picture a professional victim, I’d look for something like a funny/exaggerated picture of someone crying. In fact, if you image search “professional victim,” some funny and appropriate things come up, like this:
Why not that instead?
Secondly, it’s presented as being aimed at adoptees. “I hope you feel the way I want you to feel about these obviously horrible people,” it says. Why? Because Good Adoptees feel the way their APs want them to feel about being adopted, and that way is, of course, grateful. We are to read this and run right off to Mom and Dad saying “Gosh, Mom and Dad, I might have been raised by one of those ca RAY zay people on the internet! Thank you so much for adopting me away from that professional victim! You’re the best mom and dad ever!” I see no other message here for adoptees at all.
I’ve seen P/AP blogs that made my blood run cold, made me terrified for their children, made me want to call CPS. Should I be thankful I dodged those bullets? The graphic doesn’t say, so I guess not. I’m simply supposed to be glad I’m adopted, because some first mothers who blog are professional victims and adoptive parents are necessarily superior to them (which is easy, because it doesn’t take much virtue to be better than a professional victim, absolutely none of who ever adopt).
The third thing that bothers me is the implication that giving up a child for adoption should be no big deal, something only a “professional victim” would see as a negative event in her life. Can’t she just shut up and move on? Can’t she just be glad someone bailed her out of trouble? I mean, relinquishing a child have a bad effect on a woman? Don’t be silly. She was Like That before and the miserable creature will be Like That until the day she dies. That secondary infertility they documented in some relinquishing mothers? Either imaginary or a product of the women’s being so self-righteous and whiny that their ovaries stopped working because even they knew such creatures shouldn’t be mothers.
Your first mother has to have been fucked up beyond repair no matter what, because some APs need this. She would have ruined you had she kept you because that’s what some APs need to believe. Her crimes? Why, no doubt they include thinking the same things about your APs they think about her: that they aren’t raising you as she would have. How dare she. And how dare she “shift blame” when everyone knows adoption is never coerced anymore? Economics? Social pressure? Gaping rents in a societal safety net? Pre-birth matching? Trickery at pregnancy crisis centers? All stuff I made up just now. Horrible women like your first mother dump babies all the time, which is why adoption is so easy and fast and cheap! …Right?
Of course if someone worthy of keeping a baby were to lose a baby, through its death or miscarriage or kidnapping, or were to want a baby and never get one at all, that would be different. That woman would merit sympathy and counseling. She would be understandably traumatized, probably for the rest of her life. First mothers aren’t supposed to be real women with real feelings. When they act like they are, some people get really angry, because some women must be better than other women in order for any adoption to happen.
Now, the graphic doesn’t say all first mothers are broken, wretched monsters who would have ruined any child they encountered, only certain ones. And how can we tell a first mother is this sort of creature? She blogs, and in a way P/APs don’t like. In other words, she refuses to keep her trap shut, which is the only decent thing she can do in the eyes of the world. Because if she is not “self-righteous, whiny, blame-shifting,” she is the opposite: the woman who follows orders to “act like nothing ever happened” and “get on with life.” And does that make her good? No! It makes her a heartless monster from whom a child should have been removed, of course. What makes her good is her shutting up and disappearing.
Here’s a fourth thing that bothers me: the notion that the “whiny, self-righteous” first mother isn’t anyone’s mother at all, and never was. Because we don’t talk about people’s mothers that way, at least not to their faces. When a couple divorces, if they have any human decency, they don’t trash-talk the other parent to their kids. They don’t do this because they know a child identifies with the other parent, is literally composed, fifty per cent, of the other parent. To insult someone’s mother is to insult them. Worse, it’s to insult them for what they essentially are, something they never had control over and cannot change.
And that’s mean. It hurts. It’s not what people who love each other do to each other on purpose, let alone on Twitter. I wouldn’t talk about your mother that way. Maybe APs need to learn a little gratitude, because without that horrible woman, they wouldn’t be parents at all. But no. Instead, some of them apparently they wait for the wonderful day when their adoptee will say “Gosh, I sure dodged a bullet!” because that’s when they will know they have Won, even though they obviously “won” when they adoption finalized and they became a family. So whence the insecurity? Could it be that we know adoption is not the ideal, win/win/win solution it’s made out to be?
I’ve almost done a “search terms post” here a dozen times, because I get some very strange ones. (I think it’s because I cuss a lot.) This one caught my attention for a different reason, though:
“why wont my adopted son believe his life story”
(I’ll be making some assumptions as I try to answer this question. I’ll do my best to recognize them and point them out when I do.)
Mr. or Ms. Search Term User:
I’m guessing by “his life story” you mean “the story of how your son got into your family.” (That’s interesting, because it’s usually non-adoptees who tell adoptees we need to call our adoption a one-time, safely-in-the-past event instead of our “life story.” But never mind.)
I’ll assume that your son was adopted at a very young age; otherwise he’d remember his own story. So, look: Why should he believe “his life story”? “His life story” is bullshit. No matter how much you know, no matter what you tell him, if you leave out the important part everyone leaves out, his life story is bullshit. He doesn’t believe it because it isn’t true. I’ll get back to the important part.
Meanwhile, if his adoption resembles mine (closed), he doesn’t have much of a story in the first place. He has a very vague story with no details and zero evidence to back it up. Why should he take anyone’s word for anything? He can’t even prove he was born. Non-adopted people have details: Their mothers were in labor for X hours at Y hospital, etc. Their birth certificates don’t lie.
What little your son has of his story is probably not what he wants to hear. The story I got was “Your parents weren’t married, so she couldn’t keep you: The End.” True, but only a fraction of the story, and a not very satisfying one. I didn’t want to know why I was given up; there are many reasons society provides for a woman to give up her child if someone else wants that child. I wanted to know why I wasn’t kept. There’s a difference. Maybe your son doesn’t believe “his life story” because it’s incomplete and doesn’t tell him anything worth knowing.
Maybe your son’s story, no matter how much of it you know and/or he knows, makes him sad. Again, assuming this is a closed/sealed records infant adoption, that should be easy to understand. A boy very possibly doesn’t want to be reminded no name was passed down to him for him to pass down in turn (not one that reflects reality, anyway). I think that matters to boys and men a lot. I’ve never met a female adoptee who rejected the reclaiming of the word “bastard” as vehemently as some male adoptees I’ve met do. Men don’t get raised, as women do, to expect to surrender their names when they get married anyway.
Of course, bloodlines and names are important to everyone. An adoptee’s story is the story of not having these things, of not belonging to one’s own people. Nobody wants to believe they’re that outcast. Perhaps your son doesn’t believe “his life story” because it says nothing good about him or where and whom he came from.
Maybe “his life story” is something that has never been your son’s to tell because everyone knows it. (Maybe he doesn’t look like you, so everyone can tell he’s adopted.) Maybe it’s easier for him to believe something he makes up. (And really, when one’s birth certificate is a falsehood, maybe one feels entitled to any number of imaginary parents and their stories. Why not? If he has to act in your play in order to earn your love, why shouldn’t he write his own script and expect others to go along with it?) Maybe your son doesn’t believe “his life story” because inventing his own helps him feel powerful, if only just a little. Maybe he feels that, from now on, if anyone is going to tell lies about him and his life, it’s going to be him. Not believing “his life story” may be his one way of feeling in control of his life.
I keep putting “his life story” in quotes for a reason: it isn’t his. He doesn’t even get to be its main character. Adoption stories start when Someone/s Want/s A Baby Very Much, or when a woman Makes a Loving Choice. They end when the Someone/s get/s A Baby. Other people’s stories start when they are born (or perhaps when their parents meet) and end when they die. Your son doesn’t believe it because it’s not “his story:” it’s yours, and, to a lesser extent, his first parents’.
I’ll ask again: Why should your son believe, if “his life story” resembles mine (you know, the one about the Someone/s Who Wanted a Baby Very Much and the Woman Who Made a Loving Choice)? I’m pretty sure he has senses and a brain and friends whose parents displayed their love by keeping them, not getting rid of them. The whole world tells him his story is a lie. That’s because, in ninety-odd per cent of the cases, the story about the Someone/s and the Woman is bullshit.
Almost all of us adopted as infants have the same real, true “life story.” It’s a story about a person or people who wanted a baby and had enough status and/or money to buy one, and a *woman who had a baby but not enough money or status to keep it. That’s the important part everybody leaves out, because nobody wants to be any character in that “life story.” One is either a victim, a purchaser of human flesh, or a purchased product. It’s a sucky, stupid, evil story that should be prevented from happening to anyone whenever possible: The End.
In short, Sir or Ms., if my assumptions hold, your son doesn’t believe “his life story” because it isn’t true, it’s incomplete, it tells him nothing worth knowing, he didn’t ask to be in it, it isn’t his story, and it isn’t even about him, let alone “his life.”
*Yes, I’m sure some few women wanted-really-wanted to undergo nine months of life-altering, perhaps life-threatening pregnancy only to give the baby away, but I’ve never met one. We have fewer adoptions now because there’s less pressure on single women to relinquish. Absent any pressure at all, adoption as we know it would surely be vanishingly rare.
And even if one is the exception, who wants to have come from people who would willingly bring a child into the world for the purpose of giving it away? Nobody, not really, not deep down. Nobody.