Friday, June 29, 2012

Help Stop Audism Right Now!

Hello to everyone,

I want to point out the recently added widget that you should see to the right on this page. It is a link to sign a petition against author Kristin Henson and the involved publishing companies for publishing the book "Super Smutty Sign Language". What sounds like having fun with ASL has turned out to be a really bad idea for Henson.

This was something I had read about on Facebook through several people in the Deaf community. Apparently, Henson is a hearing person who has only taken a couple of beginner ASL courses, and is now suddenly ready to publish this book. How would you like it if you were Chinese and some random American who took a beginning Chinese language course decided to make a book about teaching Super Smutty Chinese, as if they had any credentials to do so? This is right there as another example of Audism. Let me explain;

We define Audism as "The notion that one is superior based on one's ability to hear or to behave in the manner of one who hears."(Thank you Tom Humphries) If you ask me, only knowing some very basic, and I mean VERY basic ASL does not grant you the right to go ahead and make money off of your limited knowledge. It's a bug snub to Deaf people, and many that I know are not happy about this. It's a hearing person with no real tie to the Deaf community or no identity within the community (by that, I mean CODAs and some ASL interpreters, etc) making money off of something very central to it. Earning a profit for this is absolutely waving the flag of Audism in all of our faces.

Many Deaf people began to respond with their own comments on this website, . You can click the link and go see for yourselves if you'd like. In fact, I encourage you to do just that. Here is one comment that I find explains this far better than I ever could;

dagrushkin said:
Thank you for the contact info, Octavian. This is what I sent:
Dear Editors:
I am an Associate Professor of American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Studies at the California State University – Sacramento.  I am Deaf and have been an ASL speaker for more than 30 years.  
I was appalled to find out today that not only is Kristen Henson doing her “sign language” instructional videos on You Tube, she is now in the process of having a book published of her highly dubious work through your publishing company.  I urge you strongly to discontinue any plans to publish this book, which the Deaf community finds extremely demeaning, for a number of reasons, which I will enumerate below:
First, Kristen is NOT a fluent, competent signer.  In watching her videos, it is immediately evident that she not only produces a number of formational/articulatory errors, but she is also often grammatically incorrect as well.  As anyone knows, if you are going to teach a language, it should be taught correctly, and preferably by native models, which Kristen is not, by any definition. 
Second, the “sign language” that she is teaching has no practical use for any sort of regular contact with Deaf people. Random sentences of a sexual or stereotypical nature are not how one typically initiates contact with a Deaf person.  Moreover, were someone to use these phrases with a new acquaintance, if they were not immediately slapped or punched, they would not understand anything that was signed back to them, since they obviously would not have learned any form of normal discourse. 
Third, ASL has had a long history of being banned, dismissed, diminished and in general, disrespected by professionals and lay people alike.  To produce a series of ungrammatical and articulatorily incorrect videos (let alone a book filled with the same) perpetuates the notion that ASL is not a language deserving of respect and that where ASL is concerned, any sort of movement of the hands means that one  is using “ASL”, when this is clearly not the case. 
Moreover, the Deaf community has had a long history of Hearing people profiting off not only our bodies, but also our language.  Kristen Henson is just the latest of such profiteers, and it is doubly insulting that there are many highly qualified, competent, Deaf people who are not being offered any sort of lucrative publishing deals, while a person like Kristen, without any training or cultural understanding, is being endorsed by your company.  
I am sure that there are some who may think that Kristen Henson’s work is intended in a humorous vein.  However, given the history of disparagement of ASL, any such humor is immediately lost and instead it becomes yet another example of belittlement  of a culture, people, and language.  I am sure that many other cultural and linguistic groups would also find it insulting to have a non-native speaker publish work in their language consisting solely of sexual, racial and stereotypical concepts. 
I could go on, but I think you get the basic idea here.  Kristen Henson’s work is highly offensive, inappropriate, and should not be financially or otherwise rewarded by your company or anyone else.  So once again, I urge you to immediately take action and discontinue any plans to publish this (or any similar) work. 
Donald A. Grushkin, Ph.D.

Here is a dialogue between two people in the comments section. I think it's important to show this as well so you can all see differing points of view;

I was born deaf – i think youre all over reacting. If you dont like it….write your own stupid book. Some of these long winded and asinine comments about culture and blah blah blah just makes you look ignorant. You dont like a book…shut up and get another one. I quit using sign language because youre all too obsessed on controlling how its used in your “culture”. You wont use it like a language but more like abbreviated yoda…which NO ONE talks like in real life, books, or tv. Youre all just LAZY not to use complete sentences. But you will raise a stink over what is free speech farce comedy.
  • You are entitled to your opinion. You might want to take some time to educate yourself on the real issues at hand: cultural appropriation, exploitation, systems of power and privilege, oppression, and the content which is racist and sexist. Along with linguistic research in ASL.
  • oh, how did i “quit” sign language…i got a cochlear implant…wow oh wow how awesome it works…and the so called “community” is offended and determines that i couldnt accept myself or some stupid thing like that. The fact is…no one should be blind, deaf, or anything…but a lot of deaf people i meet are so anti technology or enhancement but its ok to use their pda, chatbox, videobox, or any of that…but God forbid i try to hear things, speak orally, and not use sign language.I thought i should clear that comment up.
    • JJ,
      I have no problem with Cochlear Implants. I understand your decision to get one and respect your right to get one. It is unfortunate that you feel you cannot remain a member of the deaf community despite having a CI. Attitudes are changing. I wrote a blog post about my feelings about Cochlear Implants last year and got a lot of positive feedback. The general sense is the real problem is language and education deprivation that accompanies the decision to give a child a CI at an early age without a guarantee that it works and without a guarantee that the child will learn language, become independent, and economically self-sufficient.
Tavian, Educate myself? Are you FKN kidding me? – This whole setup of how the deaf community believes it should function in terms of how to react to polarized issues is so elitist its stupid. Ive been trying to “educate” deaf people to quit pigeonholing themselves into being the victim and change their approach to ASL linguistics. Why have a signed language thats so abbreviated that half of the comments deaf people post online display poor grammar because they write the same way they sign. If they werent so hung up on their “internal” idea of how “deafies” should function maybe their “culture” can start addressing how it can be easier to function in society with a few changes in attitude. And because arguments with deaf people always never get resolved…I am outta here…and good luck wasting more time over a stupid free speech item.
No I am not kidding you. The issues I listed for you are issues of concern to all minority populations including African-Americans, Native- Americans, Asian-Pacific Islanders, the overall disabled community, and so on forth. I agree that we should stop seeing ourselves as victims. That is WHY we are objecting. Because we choose not to be victims and to demand equal, appropriate treatment which includes respect of our culture, our language, and our personhood. Best, Tavian

To me, it seems clear that JJ, despite being born deaf, has come to the conclusion that ASL is not a real language. It's a shame. He compares it to English grammar and structure, and since they aren't the same, he says that ASL is stupid. His last words mention this whole thing as being a "...stupid free speech item." Here's what I need to say about that -

Freedom of speech is a right for everyone. The U.S. Constitution grants it. That is why people can say whatever degrading racist, sexist, etc etc, anything they want and not be penalized under law for it. That much is true. That same principle applies here, I suppose as well. However, anyone has a right to respond and stand up for themselves as well. It's nice to see so many in the Deaf community doing just that. When I was younger I saw a lot of Deaf people just sit back and be passive regardless of how offended or hurt they were. Historically for Deaf people, that's how it's always been. What's worse is that most of the hearing world has little to no idea about these things, and therefore, any one of them who could show their support don't even know it's needed.

It's my goal with this post to let those of you who would otherwise never know of this become aware and informed. Granted I can't give you every detail about this issue in a blog post, and that is why I encourage all of you to look into this for yourselves. If you feel strongly enough that St. Martin's press should not go through with this, and that Kristin Henson should not be able to profit from this venture, then share your thoughts in the court of public opinion. Click on the's petition widget on the right hand side of this page so we can let those people know what they are doing is morally wrong, and while you're at it, show those in the Deaf community that even though you are a hearing person and know little about them, you support their rights. Deaf people need to see this from hearing people now more than ever. It's a good time to start, and if you take that time, I thank you from the bottom of my half-Deaf (CODA) heart.

Until next time,

R. M.


  1. Hi! I am a new follower from GoodReads. I would love a follow back at

  2. Candace take a look because I believe I already am. If not, let me know and I will head on over.