How Not to Handle Your Own Ignorance On the Internet

Now I know how adoptee Laura Dennis felt when she was called adoption’s “house slave.” In an ironic turn of events — considering that Laura and I work together to promote adoption ethics and adoption awareness — yesterday I was called out as a leader of a “lynch mob.”

My last post was picked up by the Huffington Post, which is great because there it’s more likely to reach an audience that may not already have an understanding about adoption. From there, a woman named Bethany Ramos wrote a post in response on a site called Mommyish.

But before we go there, let’s talk about the word “ignorance.” The dictionary version of the word is is less emotionally charged than the way we often use it.

definition of ignoranceWhen I say “ignorant”, I simply mean lacking knowledge, with no intended slam against one’s intellect. With that in mind, we can now address…

How TO handle your own ignorance about a topic

My friend, Lisa, a birth mom, wrote on Facebook that the Kay commercial triggered her. Others began talking about being triggered, as well. Lisa’s friend Angela, who seemingly has no personal connection to adoption, began to remedy her ignorance by asking questions of the people on the thread.

Why can’t we see a loving family celebrating becoming parents? Why do you refer to it as separating mothers and their babies. I have not been in the situation and am trying to understand.

And people responded respectfully to her questions. Angela, open to listening, now has more understanding about  why this commercial was triggering, especially to birth parents and adopted people, and she also has greater awareness about what goes on in an adoption from the three main points of view.

In contrast…

How to use your own ignorance as a billy club

[lynchy-snarky portion edited after a taking few calming breaths]

Post writer Bethany Ramos demonstrates  her ignorance with her post’s headline:

“The Adoption Lynch Mob Needs to Take a Chill Pill Before Freaking Out About This Commercial”

Melissa of Stirrup Queens calls Bethany and Mommyish out as linkbaiters:
Do you know what a lynch mob is?  Wikipedia sums it up nicely: “Lynching is murder by mob, often by hanging, but also by burning at the stake or shooting, in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate, control, or otherwise manipulate a specific sector of a population.”  It’s a means for a dominant group to control a weaker group.

Bethany then goes on to gloat about her ignorance. I have no personal experience with adoption, but I always have thought it to be a wonderful, selfless act.

Being able to imagine herself in only one of the three positions of the adoption triad, Bethany says,

Apparently, this touchy-feely commercial overlooks all of the heartache that goes into adoption, i.e. hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatments, as well as emotional pain and stress. I’m not denying that all of these things are true, but why are we looking a gift horse in the mouth here?

Yes, she’s able to feel the heartache from the adopting parents point of view, but had she read the Huffington Post article with an open mind, she would have remedied her own ignorance about the presence of placing parents and adoptees in every adoption situation, a stereotype that Kay’s commercial was effective in solidifying in her.

And who, exactly, does a “gift horse” represent?

Many of Bethany’s commenters go on to prove my point about ignorance, that the commercial perpetuates the myth that adoption is “wonderful” to all involved. The comments below show that like Bethany, the commenters are able to see only the adopting parents’ perspective. They’ve been further brainwashed by the commercial! They can’t seem to get that there are other people involved in every adoption, people who hurt. People who may still be hurting.

After each actual comment, you’ll see in bold how it may come across to those who were triggered.

  • Seems to me because of all of the heartache and difficulties they suggest come with adoption, being happy and celebratory IS the right reaction. For the adopting parents.
  • Anti* adoption people make me sick. What do they want to do with unwanted children? Execute them? Put them in labor camps? Hello perpetuated adoption stereotype! People who place babies do so because they don’t want them!
  • God forbid some family take them in and actually love them. All hail the selfless adopting parents, taking in the unwanted babies!
  • Bringing a child home is a culmination of struggle and heartbreak so I agree with Bethany – buy some damn jewelry and celebrate!! Culmination and celebration for the adopting parents!
  • Just look at the cute commercial and smile at a couple of new parents being happy. Yeesh talk about sensitive. Again the smile and the happy are adopting-parent-centric, only a fraction of a  whole adoption scenario.

It’s like Bethany and many of her commenters are living in Pleasantville. They love the Beaver Cleaver neat and tidy style of the 1960s, where things are in black and white and they don’t have to do with the unpleasantries and complications of too many other hues.

I ask Bethany and her myopic commenters to take a cue from Angela and allow those of us who live in color to bring shades of reality to your lives.

What responsibility does an advertiser have regarding stereotypes?

One commenter said, They’re supposed to show the multi-faceted heartbreak of adoption? It’s a bloody commercial, not a documentary.

I don’t expect Kay to teach the complexities of adoption in 30 seconds. But neither should it sell a fantasy that’s full of stereotypes and misconceptions. Yes, adoption can be something to be celebrated. But we need to see it in its wholeness, from 360 degrees, and not just the pretty Pleasantville parts. Yes, there are gains, especially for adoptive parents like me who end up with what we want. Birth parents can also gain a way out of a tough situation, and the adopted person gains a family.

But each of these positions has also experienced loss. Loss of dreams, the pruning of a family tree, the loss of a genetic line and all that was familiar. Visceral, deep, profound losses. This ad was dismissive of the loss — if the ad people even knew there was loss in adoption — and it perpetuated myths for all three parts of the adoption triad.

In the pursuit of a link-baity headline, Bethany and her frenzied followers completely missed that point.

How could the ad have been improved? I would like to have seen a set of birth parents present. Of course, you can’t give the placing mom jewelry without creating another crapstorm, but Don Draper would surely be able to figure out something, even drunk and in the 60s. Many of today’s adoptions include adoptive and birth families coming together with open hearts, connecting with each other as extended family members.

That’s something Kay Jewelers could more authentically link with its open heart collection.

The Internet sometimes makes people forget they are talking about real people

I suspect that Bethany and many of her readers are pretty nice folks. They might open the door for others, pay it forward in the Starbucks drive-through, and volunteer to help their kids’ teachers with the upcoming Valentines Day parties. They probably speak nicely in real life to most people most of the time.

But some switch gets thrown when they play in the faceless Internet playground. They forget that they are talking about real people.

  • Some people need to be punched in the neck, for realsies.
  • On what planet is this acceptable to say to a total stranger on the internet? Seriously, you’re an idiot.
  • F**k you!
  • The implication: If you disagree with me you are part of an angry lynch mob.

Bethany’s post title itself is inflammatory and offensive. Lynch mob? Chill pill? My Huffington Post piece was not designed to convert anyone to my way of thinking, but rather to show how Kay told only part of a story, badly so, while feeding stereotypes.

Bethany’s title and post indicate there’s no room in her world for people who don’t share her opinion. She tells me I need to do something. With her first dozen words she deliberately  creates a frenzy. Her followers follow and feed the frenzy shutting down the likelihood of actual dialog. There’s a whole lotta shouting going on over there and not a whole lot of listening.

And, as Angela demonstrated, being open and listening is how to remedy ignorance.

* I’ve been called “anti” before.

44 thoughts on “How Not to Handle Your Own Ignorance On the Internet”

  1. Excellent points, Lori. With just her headline it is clear she is interested more in inciting than conversing, in judging than understanding. The ignorance is astounding. Unfortunately clicks to her site will probably only further encourage this type of baiting.

  2. Well, to be fair…advertising is all about selling the fantasy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion on a commercial, especially if it’s a trigger for you or a subject that’s close to your heart.

  3. Oh, Lori, such a well constructed, thoughtful, rich post in response to what you already know I felt was a completely cavalier post on Mommyish (and, can we just take a moment to quizzically wonder what that term means, anyway?) and an even more cavalier AD from Kay.

    What I admire most is how measured your response is. Other than to share my thoughts directly with Mr. Light, I just cannot muster the energy to sweat the ignorant. I.just.cant. It is exhausting just looking for compassion and open-mindedness when the contrary is so much more prolific.

    BRAVO! And thank you for speaking my mind and heart and for carrying the torch (no ‘lynch-mob’ pun intended) for those in the adoption family who don’t feel like they have a forum or a voice.

    (And, again, knowing a little about history in this country, I must again say how offensive and insulting her use of ‘lynch-mob’ is. We have a history of hanging and burning people at the stake and taking offense to an insensitive commercial is neither of those things).

  4. Bravo Lori!!! You point out so many important points that the average person fails to think about because if the misconceptions surrounding adoption. Thank you for confronting the bullies who clearly have a lot to learn, if only they would open themselves to this process. But then again, as the ones who are screeching have never nor will ever go down this path, it remains to be seen if they will.

    As far as Kay jewelers: please pull the ad and apologize. It’s clearly causing harm.

  5. Well measured and written, Lori. Having never been closely involved with an adoption, I am guilty of not truly looking at the placing parents’ point of view. Thanks for sharing that perspective. What a shame that others weren’t able to see their way to different point of view, or at least be respectful of one.

  6. Awesome post!! It is also kind of what you would expect from an “object”, rather than a person– the lack of empathy and inability to see all sides of the coin. We all have a social responsibility and it is posts like this that hopefully touch people and allow them to step back and see adoption for what it is in its entirety– instead of completely Pleasantville.

  7. Brava. So well said. Truly.

    Not that that inflammatory diatribe deserved such a thoughtful, measured response, but I’m glad you wrote it. If you can help make even one person understand, it will have been worth it. And if this doesn’t make people understand, nothing will.

  8. Fantastic post! I don’t think it’ll change the minds of Ms. Ramos and her crowd, but it may get someone thinking. The HuffPo piece did, apparently – and that’s all for the good.

    The phrase “lynch mob” in that context? Just made me laugh out loud. Somebody has no idea…

  9. So very well said! I am so proud to know you, Lori. I also admire you for taking this on in the name opening hearts and minds to the various perspectives in the adoption triad. I think you have handled this situation with grace, humility and respect for everyone involved.

    This is my favorite part of your post:

    “I don’t expect Kay to teach the complexities of adoption in 30 seconds. But neither should it sell the fantasy that’s full of stereotypes and misconceptions.”

    Thank you for taking the time to write such thoughtful response to a person who could stand to learn a lot about being open minded/hearted and more respectful of others, especially those who see things differently than she does.

  10. Such a well-reasoned and level-headed response to a post that was anything BUT. You are, as always, a class act.

    The Mommyish post reminded me that we as humans have two choices when we are confronted by something we know nothing about: empathy or callous dismissal.

    People should always try to choose empathy. Or, as a bumper sticker I saw today said: “You don’t always have to believe what you think.”

  11. I don’t pretend to be an expert in adoption either. But I know I was very sad in reading all the pieces and comments related to your article. It is just a damn shame that grown women would be so critical of other moms. Lori, you are wonderful. I thought your opinions on the commercial were eye opening to me as it wasn’t something I had considered, and I appreciated your point of view. Different views without slamming moms – that is what makes us grow. While I don’t mind her voicing her differing opinion, the language she chose in many cases and by those commenting displayed thoughts that I found shocking. Why can’t we all just get along? :( I bet it would be better for our kids too.

  12. SO, I’ve had my head buried in other stuff all week and I’m just now getting caught up. I know what it feels like when the flying monkey chill pill slinging trolls swarm in and boy howdy, it ain’t pretty. Lori, you are one of the MOST kind hearted, sensitive, brilliant voices of truth in the adoption universe. If you call, “FOUL!!” it’s no lie. Good for you for taking the stand (I HATED THAT COMMERCIAL, TOO BTW.. load of crap) .. I can’t even MAKE myself read negative comments aimed at you as my blood would boil.

    You RULE. They SUCK. The End. :)

  13. A big thank you Lori for educating the masses on the true reality of adoption! The entire process is based on loss and follows all involved their entire lives. You responded with grace and class!

  14. Awesome! I just love when people that have no connection with adoption feel they are experts. Btw…I would have loved the commercial if the dad gave both mommas jewelery.

  15. Let’s face it. Your post, as are most of your posts, so far above Ms. Ramos’ post that she could never compete. You aim for quality- always. I think using the term “lynch mob” is ignorance in its worst light. Glad you defended yourself and others in the adoption triad. On another note, several adoptive mothers I know saw your post on Blogher and thought it was good that adoption is atleast being recognized even though they acknowledge that the commercial does not show most of the story. But, again, they are the adoptive mothers.

  16. Well said! One of the things about adoption that I have a hard time with is that all children given up are unwanted which is equal to unloved. This is so not true in so many different situations. Also in truth often the “unwanted” children (no I don’t see them as unwanted but as more difficult to place) aren’t the healthy newborns pictured in ads such as the one that started all this. They are the older who have already lived a lifetime of trauma, medically fragile or sibling groups.

  17. I believe Bethany’s post shows what’s wrong with this world. Your sensitive words were a chance to look outside the glaring assumptions and narrow-mindedness. What saddened me is the name-callling when she noted, “I have no personal experience with adoption, but I always have thought it to be a wonderful, selfless act.” I wondered why she felt the need to put someone else down to sound ignorant. I am clueless, so maybe Bethany could enlighten me.

  18. Point #1: Is there a Kay Jewelry charm for adoptees? I fail to see the adoptee in this commercial, I don’t see the adoptee’s point of view in the discussion about the commercial, and I wonder if society even has an inkling of the discrimination perpetrated upon adoptees that this commercial glorifies. I think Kay Jewelry missed a big chance to influence many people.

    Point #2: I wonder if Kay Jewelers would consider making a Chapter 2 commercial that starts: ….and 30 years later…baby has grown up into an independent, thinking adult and searches for her bparents…and gives them some Open Hearts jewelry so that “love can flow in” and aparents are just as excited about the reunion as they were during the adoption. That could take some of the sting out of the first chapter of this commercial.

  19. Thank you for this post, Lori. I have long respected you and have benefited greatly from your views, so eloquently expressed. You’ve done it again with this post.

  20. “Adoption Lynch Mob”…

    “Take a chill pill…”

    Emotional energy is very limited to deal with people who respond in such a fashion.

    Thank you, Lori, for taking this response on — and absolutely nailing it!

    Much love & respect,
    Deanna

  21. If this is the article about ignorance about the internet, I’m in the right place. I’m an OLD adoptee and coming to blogs that you youngins write makes me feel like I have ADD! Where do I find a place to respond?
    Oh, wait…..someone wrote about a charm for adoptees? Ever seen the “Engraved on My Heart” jewelry? Its beautiful necklace with a fingerprint.
    Love you Lori…..keep up the great work:-)

  22. I see both sides as valid, however like you said, I found the other blogger’s tone of voice disrespectful. If anyone said the things she (and her commenters) said to my face, I would ask them to leave. Simple as that. There’s a way to disagree without all the “puh-lease” eye-rolling disrespectful talk.

  23. I could have sworn I commented on this but maybe I just read it from my phone? You’re so brilliant and elegant, my lovely friend. Seriously, I would have been such a b!tch back.
    As somebody who is adopted, and have met a lot of my biological family, I see how much grief not having me in their lives has caused them. I, personally, wouldn’t trade my situation for anything, as I grew up in a wonderful family and see them as my family and the bio family as well, a bio family, I guess. But I do see how much heartbreak my bio mom underwent and the first time she met me, one of her first questions was whether I hated her and was angry with her for giving me away (no). I feel for her. And for my 1/2 bio sister, and aunts, and their entire clan.

  24. Wow, I’m just reading this crazy firestorm. I clicked on the huff post article and saw the 90+ comments and decided to not even waste my time. You did a fabulous job with both posts (the original one and this one). Some people are just never going to get it and are going to continue to act like ostriches. It’s very unfortunate. Thanks for being such an awesome voice in this community, with your first-hand knowledge (the opposite of ignorance) and articulation. They are gifts to us. Thank you for using and sharing with us.

  25. This post was an eye-opener in many ways. Thank you for sharing it, and for explaining how it could be a trigger, and for calmly explaining why the approach of the blogger who so vehemently disagreed was likely something she would never say/do face to face.

What say you?