Sunday, March 11, 2012

The next move

Earlier this week, my friend asked me about Little People of America's efforts around the recent Rosie O'Donnell issue. Joking, I told him that LPA's efforts had driven O'Donnell from Chicago. Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported both that O'Donnell's show, "The Rosie Show," was having problems with ratings, guests, and management, and that O'Donnell put her Chicago home up for sale. Interestingly, in this housing slump, while many homes for sale have sat on the market for months, if not years, O'Donnell's home found a buyer in just one day. For a moment, my friend believed that LPA may actually have influenced O'Donnell's decision to leave Chicago.

Of course, LPA had nothing to do with the decision. But nevertheless, I believe the dwarfism community should be proud of the way it responded to the February 8th "Rosie Show."

Hundreds of people reacted to the negative message about dwarfism that were sent by O'Donnell and Handler on February 8th. Expressing outrage directly to O'Donnell, people sent emails, posted on Facebook, and produced youtube videos. In addition to individuals acting independently, the community also called for a unified message from Little People of America, which was delivered by Leah Smith in an Open Letter to O'Donnell. Whether it was in response to the volume of messages O'Donnell received, or one particular message that resonated with O'Donnell, she decided to address the issue on her show. She invited a little person named Chris Errera to appear on her show on February 29. On the show, O'Donnell delivered an apology and she talked about the issue with Errera.

Though O'Donnell gave the dwarfism community what it wanted, an apology and an open discussion about her 'discomfort' with little people, the majority of little people who watched the show seem to be unsatisfied with her response. Writing on Facebook after the February 29th show, people said things like 'too little, too late,' and that her apology didn't address the real issue of her biased behavior toward little people. I agreed with the sentiments and posted a blog on the Huffington Post. This post didn't generate much response among Huffington Post readers. Of the six people who wrote comments, only one supported the post. The others thought I should get over it, or wondered why I was making such a big deal if O'Donnell had already apologized.

But I think it was important to respond. O'Donnell did indeed apology. But she didn't apologize for what she did, and what she said. She apologized for making people feel bad. Her apology and her discussion with Errera never addressed the real reason that some many people were upset, the fact that she objectified and dehumanized the entire community of people of short stature.

Though we didn't get the apology we wanted, and though we have nothing to do with O'Donnell leaving Chicago and her show failing, the dwarfism community should be proud of what we accomplished. We forced O'Donnell to respond. Just as important, we came together as a community in a strong, unified way. Though it won't be easy to come together like that again, what happened with O'Donnell shows that, if we do come together, as a community, we have incredible potential.

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