When I joined the Executive Committee of Little People of America, I committed to raising positive awareness around people of short stature and the issues that we face. In the past three and a half years, I've rejected more opportunities to raise awareness than I have pursued. Perhaps that's because, in my opinion, we may have raised awareness about dwarfism, but it may not have been positive.
The latest opportunity came a few weeks ago when producer from Spike TV called and emailed. He told me about a reality program that follows a little person wrestler named Puppet. Long ago, he organized a group of wrestlers called The Bloody Midgets. That group often performed in Chicago. A few years ago, Puppet changed the name of the group to the Half Pint Brawlers. I never learned why Puppet changed the name, but considering that Puppet embraces the word "midget," I doubt the reason was to avoid the wrath of people who scorn the m-word. The producer told me that for the reality show, he wanted to stage a debate between a member of Little People of America and Puppet over use of the m-word. Puppet would argue in favor of the word. LPA would argue in favor of identifying the word midget as derogatory.
Last summer, LPA passed a resolution condemning the word midget, and pledging to raise awareness around language in order to help remove the word from common usage. A nationally televised reality show that features a discussion around use of the m-word is definitely an opportunity to reach thousands of people, and perhaps raise some awareness. Nevertheless, LPA turned down the opportunity for a number of reasons. First of all, the debate would have been filmed on the Mancow Morning Show. "We'll have a car pick you up," the producer told me, (how exciting). I haven't heard much about Mancow since he left Q101 in Chicago, but from what I know, he is a radio personality who raves about free speech. The brand he practices does not give voice to marginalized communities. Instead, he uses free speech as a shield to protect himself when accused of delivering hateful, harmful words. I pictured myself on the air, cowering in a chair as Puppet and Mancow reigned verbals blows upon me for suggesting that the word midget offends some people.
But even if the debate took place on what I believe to be more neutral air waves, it's still probably not a good idea. LPA pledged to raise awareness, not to entertain. Reality shows are designed and produced to entertain. With that in mind, no matter how strong the argument I, or anyone else from LPA would make, the final product on Spike TV would have been all about entertainment, not awareness. Who knows. It might have turned out okay. But I cringe to think about how bad it could be.
So for now, LPA has turned down the offer from Spike TV. In the short run, maybe we'll regret it. Maybe they'll dedicate that episode to verbal slurs against people of short stature. But in the long run, I think we're better off.