Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Power Of Language

There is the old story that I heard when I was in my teens. It was in a class where the teacher, along with teaching English, was trying to teach about the power of language, logic and thinking on one's feet. She told us that story and we had fun with it for the hour we were in her class. It was about a psychiatrist who asked a man to give him only a "yes" or "no" answer to a one-sentence question. The question was, "Have you stopped beating your wife?"

The man was at a loss. If he said "yes" that would imply that he had beaten his wife which would have been a lie. If he said "no" it would sound as if he was currently beating his wife. He decided that, since he had never beaten his wife, the only honest answer was "no" and the psychiatrist had him committed for wife-beating.

We Moms often get those kinds of questions from facilitators such as "why did you DECIDE to place your child for adoption?" The only honest answer for most of us is, "We were given no 'choice' in the matter so there was no decision made." But, on the questionnaires they have, there is no room for the honest answer.

That is the power of language. In using a term to describe a pregnant woman as a "birth"mother, she is already placed in the position of having made the "decision" to "place" her child. To use the term "place" or the phrase "make an adoption plan" makes it sound so much more like a thoughtful choice rather than the truth which is that most of us, especially from the BSE SURRENDERED our children....meaning, giving into massive, constant pressure, waving the white flag, going out in defeat. Surrender of one's child is an act of desperation, one where the mother can see no hope. And the facilitators and social workers will do all they can to foster that false notion of no light at the end of the tunnel.

This is also why many of us refuse to use the term "adoptive PARENT." If they can verbally lop off our parenthood at the moment of birth, why would we want to see them as "parents?" Hence, the proper term (it's in the dictionary), "Adopter." While I respect the fact that my adult children do see the people who raised them as parents, I am not required to see them in that light and I don't. My children know how I feel and we have decided that our relationship is more important than arguing the fact.

The use of Honest Adoption Language can go a long way towards showing more respect for mothers, adult adopted people and the trauma they have endured. It shines the light of truth on the fact that adoption is messy, painful, selfish and not the wonderful solution to "social problems" it was thought to be. It is actually a big business that preys on the vulnerable and threatens the fabric of the natural family.

Sometimes, even those of us on the same side can argue over language, especially the "b" word. One Mom and I got into a discussion where she stated that she didn't mind being called a "birthmother" and I, most adamantly, stated the opposite. I will stop someone in their tracks if they use that word. Her response was, "well, you say 'potato' and I say 'potahto.' It's all the same thing." To which I replied, "it most definitely is NOT the same thing."

There are those that claim to be advocates of "adoption reform." I find this as specious as trying to reform the cobra to keep it from biting. You don't reform the snake, you pull its fangs and, by doing so, it's not really a cobra, anymore. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus is quoted as saying "Not every one that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.... In that same vein, not everyone who talks big about reforming the corruption of adoption is in it to help the mothers and their children escape the big "A." Many times, the only kind of reform they want is that which makes it easier for people to adopt and for agencies and other entities (CPS) to break up natural families. There's a simple, English word for that, too. It's EUGENICS. Look it up.

It's getting bad out there, people, and language is adding to the confusion. It seems that any pregnant woman who appears to be young or may not be wearing a wedding band is prey to the b-word title. One pregnant women, who happened not to be wearing her wedding band at her job as a waitress, was solicited, outright, by a couple at a table she was serving. You can find the story at, Adopter Trolls. Just by being young, pregnant and not wearing her ring to work, she was spotted, labeled as prey and the predators circled.

Speaking of language, adoption advocate, Adam Pertman, in referring to this outrage, was quoted to say:"Generally, people should not go up to someone on the street who happens to be pregnant and ask her if they can adopt her baby." First of all, by saying "generally," does Mr. Pertman imply that there are times when such behavior is acceptable? And, Adam, old boy, it happens more often than you know. I know one young mom-to-be and her mother, who were out shopping for baby items, that were followed all through the store by a potential adopter who was trying to give the young lady her card.

Yes, language is important and has been throughout history. Spin doctors and Madison Avenue know this and use it. It behooves us to use it as well, with honesty and clarity and courage. And remember that other people with their own agendas will still try to twist your words and make their own meanings out of what you said. Stand your ground and call them on it. Don't let the language/emotional bullies fool you or confuse you. Stick with your message, whatever it may be, and stand proud.


Cassi said...

Great post, as always, Robin. And it sickens me that our own children are raised to refer to us with the "b" word. It's cruelty at its finest.

Anonymous said...

What IS it with this "b" word argument??? What part don't people get?? My MOTHER is my MOTHER. PERIOD. No explanation required! It simply IS. Now on the other hand... my adopters did just that, they ADOPTED me. Ergo... they are ADOPTERS! The ONLY explanation that MAY be required: they were desperate for a child, and persued ME, purchased me, and brought me home.

Interesting isn't it -- MOTHER requires ZERO explanation. But tell someone you've been adopted, and suddenly an explanation is necessary in their eyes!

What a damn eye opener to them when I GIVE the explanation -- IN FULL no less... detailing my mother's (and father's) experience in the social climate of the day, the lack of support ect ect ect. Now... was there anything further - dumbass??

hahaha... can't tell you how many shocked and started persons have walked quickly and far away from me after THIS explosive conversation!