Sunday, April 27, 2014

Adoptees Round Table Discussion - Adoptive Parents Boob Job Video

Prompt: Adoptive parents are sharing the Adoptive Family Public Service Announcement video in droves. After wading through the hundreds of comments they all seem to emote a collective "me, too!" or "I get that comment all the time!" The adult adoptees that make up The Lost Daughters had a round table discussion about the video and our comments deviate a bit from the ever present internet groupthink mentality. Take a peek into a conversation amongst a diverse group of adult adoptees. As adoptees in their adulthood struggle to be heard, perhaps you can imagine us as your adopted child in ten, fifteen, twenty years? Perhaps these are their future thoughts?

Amanda: Before watching the video I thought, "another one? Why do we need more of these?" These are by far among the most widely shared and written popular articles by adoptive parents. They tend to comically critique adoption faux pas with an underlying assertion, "so just don't say anything because we're not comfortable with it." Being a parent makes you an advocate for your child which means being willing to be uncomfortable for the child's sake. This means not shutting adoption discourse down when you have a chance to engage with people about real change that can make a more positive atmosphere for adopted people. And not treating us like invisible, unaware bystanders who aren't affected by these comments people make (or moreso).

Angela: Yes, the continued idea that adoptive parents are the ones having to do the tough and uncomfortable work is really dismissive to us adoptees. We grow up - and guess what? We still have to answer people's intrusive questions.

Amanda: This video does make an attempt to challenge microaggressions but it notably replaces them with more microaggressions in a way I found to be disrespectful. Foremost, can we stop exotifying both boobs and children? It's not funny.

Secondly, let's look at the microaggressions and microaggressive replacements:

Don't ask if an adopted child is real because they are clearly not a unicorn. Furthermore, he wants us to say "are they biological?" instead. Saying "are they biological?" is just as faux pas. Last I checked, I was made up of skin and bones and hair--all biological materials. Neither question suggests we are human; period.

He then says to replace "where did you get her?" with "where is she from?" No thank you. It is not appropriate to impose on children of color that their skin color must mean they are always "from somewhere else."

He suggests that people stop asking if a child is "one of your own" because it is insensitive to infertility issues. What about the insensitivity to a child who is essentially being told they don't belong because they were adopted? Yes, asking about infertility is rude. Insulting a child? Egregious. 

Angela: Regarding the infertility quip, he made it clear that when asking a question that may point directly to the adoptive parent ("did you adopt because of infertility?") that this is an out of bounds question - his reply "that's none of your business." But questions about my daughter? Here are some suggested ways you ask. See the irony there? Again, it's the refusal to consult adoptees as we apparently are always silent, abiding, "adorable," babies.

Amanda: I think the world forgets that adoptees offer keen insight on these remarks and they neglect to ask us our insight. As an adoptee, I have had almost 29 years of experience with these remarks. I can tell my parents how I'd like them to respond to questions asked about me. ......"Is she your real daughter?" Yes, she is real. She also has two sets of real parents. "Where did you get her?" I'm sorry, can you rephrase that? "Do you wish you had one of your own?" She has two families and both are her own.

Deanna: It seems this video makes the assumption that adoptive parents are to make the rules about adoption and how to respond to inquiries. It would be fitting to add the disclaimer: "No adoptees were consulted in the making of this video..." 

The crux of the matter so often is that we are not seen as the ones most affected by adoption. Rather than being considered, let alone being the focal point -- we are simply expected to be grateful. Many will say we just "can't take a joke" or "need to lighten up." But...this video clearly isn't meant as a joke, although it contains humor, it is designed with a very strong message, one that is resonating with many people -- mostly adoptive parent's. No doubt we will be accused of not being able to take a joke, being ungrateful for our adoptions, and being among those adoptees whose adoption situations are rare or "just didn't work out." Ummmmmmm, no.

Angela: The use of humor is evident and definitely works to the advantage for garnering wide interest in tough topics. It's just not as easily recognized that adoptees are all too often the silent and invisible focus point of the "joke.' 

Lynn: The first thing that screams out to me is sexism. Adoption aside, I cannot imagine this would be seen as funny if a woman was staring at a man's private area asking these ridiculous questions.

I'm certain that it is frustrating for adoptive parents to be asked inappropriate questions. However, what is obviously missing from this video is the child's perspective on how these comments make them feel. Is it really somebody else's business "where they are from?" How about we teach people to not ask personal questions in the first place, rather than make inappropriate videos that are not particularly helpful.

Elle: This really was so painful to watch, and it seems to me that the blonde guy in the video is trying to be funny. But comparing adoptees to boob jobs is really not nice. First of all, it's a female body part which means that I to see the uncanny sexism hints here. Second, adoptees are not items, we are human beings who have feelings who can cry and get hurt. I actually never heard of this video before-it's not ignorance - some pretty common US things escapes me (since I still mostly reside in Europe.)

Rosita: I viewed this yesterday from a Twitter post. Honestly, I was insulted by it. As a woman, a person of color and as an adoptee, this video again shows the misguided attempts by adoptive parents to address microaggressions their children face both with and without their presence. Also, we again hear the adoptive parents’ voices loud and clear while the adoptee must sit silent.

Seriously? It is tiring to be continually shushed and silenced. What adoptive parents, and especially White adoptive parents, should know is that these attempts at addressing the issues we as adoptees of color face everyday fail to truly understand our experiences.

Perhaps if the parents would listen, consult and work together with adult adoptees to change the language and attitudes of the world, we might make some headway.

But to compare us to a woman’s breast is just downright insulting.

Mila: This video basically commits every faux pas surrounding adoptees, two of the most common ones being: 1. It absolutely objectifies adoptees (By comparing us to boobs--seriously? Why did anyone think this was a good idea. It's not even funny. It's disgusting on so many levels as it dehumanizes women and adoptees.) 2. It centers all attention around the adoptive parents. And really it feels like a tasteless attempt to simply get attention at the expense of adoptees.

Julie J: This "educational" video was designed just like the positive adoption language lists, which is to promote what makes the adoption industry & adoptive parent's the most comfortable. As an adoptee, I found it offensive on all levels.

Samantha: If we're going to be compared to a boob job...let's look at it more closely. Boobs are sought after and paid for to enhance someone who needs them; who isn't content with that they have. They are not actual flesh, but hoped to be seen as flesh, even though they aren't, and never can be. There are risks involved, but may not be communicated clearly, or heard, because of the desire of the surgeon to profit, and the customer to gain something they desperately want. This comparison they use only solidifies the fact that adopted people are seen as extensions. Without flesh enough to warrant our identities as human beings...and like others have said, like a boob job, we are defined (amended birth certificate and all) as an extension of others, rather than as a separate entity with rights of our own. 

Karen: I just know we are going to hear from people who will tell us to lighten up, that this video is intended to highlight the rude things people say to adoptive parents about their young children, that adoptive parents must speak for their children while they are too young to speak for themselves. 

So let’s consider for a moment what the reaction would be if an adult adopted person made a similar video about the offensive things people say to her, in which her adoptive and biological parents were compared to “boobs.”

Don’t like that? Yeah, I didn’t think you would.

Lynn: I was thinking the same thing Karen. They will all say we can't take a joke!

Karen: I also anticipate that some people after reading our reactions here will think, "I never thought about how an adopted person might feel about this." And that is exactly the point. This video and other efforts like it consider only one point of view, that of the adoptive parent. They perpetuate the idea that the adoptive parent is the most important person to consider when thinking about adoption, when the reality is that it is the adopted person who should be forefront in the mind of anyone having a dialogue about adoption. Don't misunderstand--I'm not saying that adoptive and original parents are unimportant or that their experiences should be discounted. I'm saying that adopted people are the ones most affected by adoption and, therefore, must always be considered in every conversation about adoption.

Angela: "I've never thought about how an adopted person might feel about this." Ouch! 

Rosita: I hope that those who shared the video also are empathetic enough to take our views and share those as well, just as Karen points out. Just the mention of the word “boobs” makes me shudder.

Deanne: Karen, what you just said, is so key: "Don't misunderstand--I'm not saying that adoptive and original parents are unimportant or that their experiences should be discounted. I'm saying that adopted people are the ones most affected by adoption and, therefore, must always be considered in every conversation about adoption."

Julie J:  Some comments have asked why Adoptive parent's are so sensitive, to which the pastor replies, "“The truth is, we’re not being sensitive for us. It doesn’t hurt my feelings — I’m trying to be incredibly protective of my daughter who doesn’t understand [the comments] yet. But at one point, she will and the last thing I want her to feel is that she is a lesser member of my family,”

I beg to differ. They ARE doing it to protect themselves, and to control the way adoption is viewed as being adoptive parent-centric. Adoptees have said they feel differently about the boob-job approach, and I don't see the Butterworth's making any changes for the adoptees' who do understand the comments. A video like this will only reinforce all the adoptive parent's along similar lines. If it were really for the adoptees, they would ask, listen, and appropriately adjust the message.

For example: They prefer to be asked, "Are they biological?" That's not really what adoptees want to be asked. Everybody is biological because they are born and currently living. They know the person is asking if the children were born to the adults. The answer is no. Why not just say so? People are always going to be curious. If they don't want to be asked such questions, then perhaps they should have thought of that before embarking upon international or transracial adoption.

"Where did you get her?" and "Where is she from?" basically sound like the same question. A better rule of thumb is if you wouldn't ask families where their children who resemble them are from, then don't ask non-matching families that either. If anyone wants to tell you, they will volunteer that info. Otherwise, it can stay on a need-to-know basis. By the way, many adoptees do see the actions of adults going to 3rd world countries to get babies for themselves, very much like picking up souvenirs from there. They could have donated money to help the people there, or they could have gone in person to do humanitarian work, but they didn't. They did pay & they did get to bring back a little human for themselves who looks different. Of course other people are going to ask about that.

Angela: I have no doubt why people found this video to be funny, but now that you've learned some thoughts from adoptees, can you watch the video again from the perspective of an adoptee and understand how we may feel a bit irked? And for the record - we are able to take a joke.