Have you ever walked down the street and turned your nose up at people. You know the homeless person on the street. Bit smelly, dog at his feet. Said to yourself, ” ….if he can afford a dog he can afford a job,” Or the Tattooed guy with the mullet. Snorted at him under your breath did you? Or maybe those Crocs with socks, shocker that hey? Yeah we have all done it. Me included.
Yet we like to see ourselves as open minded and accepting. Despite this we have these preconceived ideas about what makes an upstanding person. In your mind this might be a person dressed immaculately who speaks kind of plummy, walks gracefully and doesn’t have a hair out of place on their head. Good person that. The book and its cover and all that.
But you know that guy with tattoos and a nose ring might have a PHD and be working on the Human Genome Project. Paradoxically, that guy in his immaculate suit might be a drug dealer. You would never know.
But a books cover does not tell you if it is any good. The cover does not tell you the full details as to whats in the story. It might give you an idea that it is action or romance. Perhaps that guy in army khaki can indicate it’s about war. The reality is that until you open the book, you really do not know what is within. More often than not the book will be very different to what you perceived and throw up surprises. Generally this is what makes a good book. People are like that too.
I was reminded of this during the week. Of course Facebook was the catalyst. I was Facebook hopping. It’s a term I use for people that endlessly flip through their newsfeed in the vain hope that they will find something interesting. Every hundred or so posts something might grab the hoppers interest. In my case it was Deaf people swearing.
It was an advertisement for the ABC Tv show, You Cant Ask That. This is the informative ABC show that focuses on marginalised people and answers the daft and sometimes insightful questions that mainstream people want to ask the marginalised.
Like asking a gay man, ” Does it hurt when you have sex?” and the like. It is sad but true, people tend to focus on the insignificant.
So the swearing? Yep, its what I get asked most. How do you sign dick, cunt, sex, fuck and so on. People want to know. It’s the human mind that drifts to the filthy and irrelevant. We wish it wasn’t so, but it is.
I am always more than happy to oblige. Why? Because I know it is people just trying to engage with me. Trying to use humour to break down barriers. People trying to find a way to break down their discomfort with having to find a way to communicate. It is just people being people.
So back to the ABC advert. Swear words in sign. What better way to get peoples attention. Cocksucker, motherfucker, fuck, shit etc … Yup this is how the ABC drew people in to watch their show. Perhaps it was the shock factor that the ABC wanted to shamelessly exploit or perhaps they thought it just humanised things. I suspect it was the former but either way it worked. I took a look.
I rolled my eyes. I knew that this was going to make people watch. I knew that swearing in signs would ping their interest. I reasoned that this was not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps there would be other things that they would learn that would help to promote deaf people and Auslan in a positive light. Then I saw the comments from the Deaf community.
“This is a Disgrace! Some signs are not Auslan what were they thinking?????” …. “Horrific, shame on them” ….. “Are you joking?” …. “Using our language as a cheap party trick!!!” and so on and so on.
Basically the Deaf community members who were part of the show were lambasted for taking part. They were criticised for using the wrong signs. Criticised for using swear words. Criticised for cheapening Auslan and the Deaf community. In short they were given curry!
Why? Well because people judged the book on its cover. If they had watched the show proper they would have seen that the swearing was just a very small part of the whole story. Like the gun on the cover of the book. It provided just a small indication as to what was within.
I watched it and I liked it. What the show did was show that deafness comes in many shapes and forms. It showed members of the Deaf community. It showed a young deaf person. It showed people with an acquired hearing loss. It showed a person who was deafblind. It showed that deafness is like a box of chocolates – You never know what you are getting.
It touched on families, communication, bullying and adjusting. It showed positives and it showed negatives. But mostly it was positive.
It showed deaf people, including Deaf people, in their various shapes and forms enjoying life, confronting challenges and doing it with humour and grace. It showed them as human beings.
Yet on the basis of a short clip from the ABC that was designed to shock, the people involved with the show were judged. They were told to be ashamed of themselves. They were told that they were using the language wrong, using the wrong signs and so on.
It’s the use of language that really gets my goat because I don’t know anyone that uses any language properly. The English language is bastardised daily by people and often the bastardised versions become common and accepted parts of the language … Just watch how the Oxford dictionary changes every year. And so it is with Auslan. It is unavoidable and all part of the evolution of the language.
But mostly I am pissed because the people that took part were ridiculed and criticised. And the criticism was based on a very short clip that did not even come close to showing the content of the show. A content that was informative and exceedingly human. Never judge a book by its cover.
Shame on you people that attacked them. It was snobbery at its worst.