Misinformation and rudeness abound when addressing or referring to people with dwarfism. This week Twitter users got a lesson on the sensitive subject from writer and activist for the Restricted Growth Association (RGA) Eugene Grant — and it went far beyond the do's and don'ts of nomenclature to reveal a deeper perspective and offer food for thought.
It all began with this tweet:
The word "M*dget" is deeply offensive to #dwarf people.— Eugene*Grant (@MrEugeneGrant) February 27, 2018
It comes from the word 'midge' (i.e., a gnat) - something you can squash.
It is associated with the historical 'Freak Shows' - at which we were paraded and abused.
It should never be used. Tell your friends. #dwarfism
For some people, this was new information:
Wow...I didn’t actually realise that’s where the term came from 😭💔— Ash Kerali (@acenkerali) February 27, 2018
Lots of people don't unfortunately. It has strong historical associations with 'Freak Shows' of the past - a dark chapter in dwarfism history. Strangers in the street still shout it at us and our families. It's a horrible slur.— Eugene*Grant (@MrEugeneGrant) February 27, 2018
The tweet led many to wonder what the correct term for people with dwarfism is:
Thank you for telling us this. What is the appropriate/acceptable term? Is there one?— C.H. Armstrong (@C_H_Armstrong) February 28, 2018
What is an acceptable 'descriptive lable' to use? Im genuingly currious. 😕— Gwydion_Wolf (@ShadowWolf81) February 28, 2018
'short person' seems almost as demeaning as midget to my mind, and Dwarf just makes me think of Gimli from LOTR 😇
Thank you for this post— 40ouncesandamule (@40ounceandamule) February 28, 2018
For future reference, what is the preferred nomenclature? Little person, dwarf, person with dwarfism, or something else?
Grant had a lot of insights on the subject. Everyone should read the full thread to help those with dwarfism not feel marginalized.
Here are some highlights:
3/ Know their name? Good. Then politely ask them how they like to refer to themselves.— Eugene*Grant (@MrEugeneGrant) February 28, 2018
It's for them to decide, not you. They are the author of the dictionary that defines them*
Don't know their name? See 2/.
(* I stole this from Zadie Smith)
6/ 'Little Person' is preferred by some - especially in the U.S. Personally, I don't like 'Little Person'.— Eugene*Grant (@MrEugeneGrant) February 28, 2018
It suggests I have less innate power and value than a 'big person' and I don't believe I do (although society tries to make me believe it). See 7/
7/ Think about it. Synonyms for big - huge, grand, giant - and synonyms for small - tiny, petite, miniature - all imply *power*.— Eugene*Grant (@MrEugeneGrant) February 28, 2018
The media is besotted with this power disparity: "little people, big world", "small person, big dreams", etc. Blah, blah, blah. It's nauseating.
People were grateful for Grant's perspective:
if it’s quite all right i’d like to refer to you as “that super cool guy who explains things calmly and effectively”— christian crumlish (@mediajunkie) March 1, 2018