Monthly Archives: July 2015

I Control the English Language, and I Say…

This article is old, but the comments section keeps on going, so I’m gonna tackle it. Says Amanda Kosior:

Dear journalists, scriptwriters, and other members of the media: I officially revoke your ability to use the word “adoption,” in any of its related forms.

No, Ma’am. You do not get to tell all the media in the world to never again use the words “adoption,” “adoptive,” “adopting,” “adopted,” “adoptee” and any others I might have forgotten. That would be a grotesque denial of reality. That would shut down any media, literary, or public discussion of the A-matter altogether, wouldn’t it? And nobody wants that, right?

I believe Ms. Kosior does want that (although I suspect she’d make an exception for ads suggesting women “consider adoption,” because she’s looking to A-word a second child right now). She says The lead story on CNN recently (which was not about adoption in any way, shape or form) pointed out not once, but twice, that a couple adopted their son. In one instance, they use the line, “…[She] carried him out of the hospital in her arms, as ecstatic as if she’d carried and birthed him herself.” A sensation, indeed: imagine, a woman whose name is on her own child’s birth certificate is over-the-moon at the anticipation of parenting her actual son. A banner day for mothers everywhere, to be sure.

Her name’s on the birth certificate. The child is hers. Why so defensive? Aren’t APs usually the first ones to insist that it doesn’t matter, that adoption is wonderful and love is love? Isn’t that what you’re saying? Yet you sound like you’re arguing that there is not enough secrecy in adoption, which is bizarre at best.

My favorite is when the article goes something like this: “Nicole Kidman will begin shooting her movie next week. Kidman, who has two adopted children, one biological daughter, and another daughter born by surrogate, cut her hair for the role.

As my many “celebri-tease” posts attest, I have a problem with articles about celebrity adoptions too: I think they’re insulting and exploitative and need to stop. But Ms. Kosior seems not to like the A-word in this context because she thinks it’s somehow a knock at her as a mother to have it said that raising adopted children is different than raising biological children, which is absolutely true. I repeat, this is absolutely true. Different does not mean lesser, it just means different. (And reducing it to extra ice cream sprinkles is not cute or funny.)

Here’s the thing: People want to know about celebrity adoptions because they want to know about celebrities, not adoption. They don’t care that one of Angelina Jolie’s children was literally stolen; they just want to see photos of her with her Majickal Rainbow Family. I, as an adoptee, am not angry because the adopted kids of celebs are called adopted, but because they are being exploited for entertainment, because their adoptions were often corrupt, and because these corrupt adoptions are being held up as evidence of the celebs’ humanitarian status and their extra-special capacity to love. And that’s fucked-up.

Of course, Ms. Kosior does have a point. It is hurtful as Hell to be referred to as adopted as if it means less-than. The problem is when she jumps from “this is hurtful” to “so shut up about it.” You skipped a step. That step is exploring why it’s hurtful. It’s hurtful because society still thinks deep down that being adopted is being less-than. And you know how you’re not going to change that? By denying adoption and never speaking of it. That’s how we handle things that really are shameful and less-than, isn’t it?

Like so many APs before her, Ms. Kosior is simply denying differences. Denying differences hurts adoptees, and we have known this for a long time now. It’s as hurtful as denying any other differences we’d rather ignore. It does, for instance, matter whether you’re black or white. That’s not a statement about the inherent quality of human beings, but about societal and cultural differences. It does matter whether you’re male or female. And it does matter whether or not you are adopted. Again, that’s not a statement about the quality of child or parent, but a statement about the reality of the way your family was formed.

Know how you can tell someone is really enlightened about an issue? They don’t flinch from talking straight about it.

Why does she deny the differences? As I said before, I think it’s because she thinks the A-words are a knock at her as a mom. She pretends it’s for the sake of her children, saying she wrote the blog post

out of the fear that one day another kid will tease him or her about something over which they had no control or participation based on some nonsense they read on the Internet or saw on Nick Jr.

Well, Ms. K, that’s gonna happen. That is absolutely going to happen. I mean, I think you’re dead-on when you say it’s inappropriate to use the same word to signify bringing a child into your family, acquiring a pet, and cleaning up a stretch of highway. People do say stupid, insensitive things about adoption. And I do sometimes get a twinge when I see someone’s child described in a newspaper story as “adopted” when it *doesn’t seem relevant. But demanding that the world stop doing that right now, and do it by blotting words out of public discourse, is insane.

Your son is going to hear the dreaded A-words, your son is going to be questioned and teased, and if you don’t prepare yourself to deal with that when it happens, you won’t be doing him any favors. Kids tease other kids about things they have no control over all the time. (I got teased about being adopted…and about having freckles and the way my mom chose to cut my hair and being female). Adults go so far as to kill each other for similar reasons rather often. This is the planet you live on. To pretend otherwise is to be the AdoptoLand equivalent of people who use phrases like “post-racial America” or “sexism is over” without a trace of irony (or self-awareness, or any sort of awareness really). And the adoption world is already so awash with such people and such levels of denial it’s hard to have a conversation about it at all, let alone examine it and see whether we can improve it. And you want to make this worse even though it directly hurts your son? Then it’s not about him, it’s about you.

I mean, how can you point out how crappy people are to adoptees without realizing that shutting down the conversation entirely is simply another and worse form of shaming? HOW? How can you make this all about you and your legal ownership papers?

The fact is, parenting is parenting. There is no asterisk next to my name on my son’s birth certificate. My “Mom” necklace is not surrounded by quotation marks. In the eyes of my country and God, I am my son’s mother.

Yes! Yes, you are! Why, then, are you so damned defensive about it? (Also, did anyone else read “ME ME ME ME REAL MOMMY ONLY MOMMY ME MOMMY ME ME ME!” just now?) I think somebody’s jealous. That’s a shitty thing for me to say, but it’s written all over this article. If you can’t deal with your child having parents who are not you, don’t adopt, because those other parents are part of the definition of adoption. And that’s why you want the words to go away, and that is so sad for your son (and so so so fucked up).

Say, you know what? I have a better idea. Since it’s the notion you didn’t give birth to your child that apparently distresses you so much, why not forbid the media to use the word “birth” in any of its forms? No “born,” “newborn,” “birthing,” “maternity ward,” or “midwife,” no birth notices in the papers, none of it. Your feelings about birth and adoption are more important than recording reality (and raising children to deal with it), so what difference does it make which words we ban?

Yes, let’s do it that way. Dear Media People: Quit Using the B-Words! Our society sometimes acts as if it is very ashamed about sex and how babies get into the world, so it makes perfect sense. It’s just as stupid as getting rid of the A-words and just as unlikely to happen.

 

*But why doesn’t it seem relevant? I hope to address this in my next post.

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Filed under AdoptoLand, The Adoption Process Moral Pedestal, WTF?!