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.
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.
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”
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.