Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Down Syndrome and Sweetness Porn

It's possible that I am a cynical, grumpy, overly critical, person. I accept that criticism ahead of time. This may come off as a little bit of a rant. Blogs are good for ranting. Ranting is good for the soul. 

Here's my take: The unbearable cuteness of kids with Down Syndrome is real. It's fun to see or to experience. It makes for great blog posts. I often think that many more people would read and share my posts, which of course is something that I want, if I put more cute pictures of Nico on them.

Look! It's Nico cheering for the Red Sox along with the Cat in the Hat
Sweet, right?

But I get tired of it. I get tired of the gushing over how kids with Down Syndrome are such cute, sweet, angelic, perfect, darlings. I get tired of the constant attempt to deny our difficulties by some of the most prominent voices in the Down Syndrome world.

Because it means that when you encounter problems, and you will encounter problems, the message is - deny! Deny that disability is real. Deny that you need accommodation. Deny that inclusion takes HARD WORK from everyone.

Also, people with Down Syndrome grow up. Kids are cute in general, no matter how many chromosomes they have. Adults with with Down Syndrome are adults and should not be treated like kids, should not be cooed over, but still need to be included, accommodated, engaged.

In my writing about Down Syndrome, I'm trying to play the long game here. And that's why I write against positive stereotypes just as I do against negative ones.

In the original draft of this post, I linked to a lot of examples of what I'm calling sweetness or cuteness porn (a riff off of "inspiration porn," a topic well known to writers on disability. Here's a good link to start). But I don't want to call anyone out, and the people I would want to call out don't read me anyway - I'm not in their league.

So I'll just end with this mantra: Cuteness might help open the door, but inclusion cannot be based on cuteness. Inclusion comes only from building real understanding about our shared humanity.

5 comments:

Mardra Sikora said...

I agree with your summary most definitely. And when it comes to adults, well it's a super touchy subject still. But I also hope that having all these cute kids blogs and pics and flash is the start to everyone being less afraid of adults with disabilities. There's so much ground to cover, I'm delighted to see so many families going about it in their own voice and their own way, really.

Jisun said...

The long game. Exactly.

David Perry said...

I agree with all of this. Anything that helps a family figure out this world and talk about it and build awareness, anything to open the door, I'm totally for it!

It can start with cute. It just can't end with cute.

And most of all it REALLY can't mean that the parent who is staying up at night weeping, trying to figure out how to get his child to eat, or to get through a day at school without being violent, or any other real problem, feels like a failure because they aren't relentlessly positive every day. I've seen people who feel like that and they become isolated, while everyone else is all smiles and sweetness. We need to include them too.

David Perry said...

:)

Unknown said...

My favorite as a parent of a child with DS. Because they are all angels right?
http://www.babble.com/babble-voices/living-and-loving-with-down-syndrome-eliana-tardio/my-kids-have-down-syndrome-but-that-doesnt-make-them-angels/