About a week ago, the short video, "IF YOU WOULDN'T SAY IT ABOUT A BOOB JOB..." started popping up on blogs and on Facebook feeds of adoptive parents and non-adoptive parents alike. Several friends shared the link with me, asking if I'd seen it and what I thought.
I didn’t initially recognize that the video was related to adoption, as I was a bit confused by the title, so I didn’t know what to expect when I started watching.
After I got over the awkwardness of it all (I mean, come on, hearing and watching a grown man and father say the words boob job is just uncomfortable!), I was able to watch through the end.
The guy was obviously using humor (or what he sees as humor) to make a point. That humor wasn't lost on me, but I also didn't think the video was all that hilarious. And it isn’t something that I’d feel comfortable posting as a PSA on my Facebook page.
A few reasons this video didn't sit well with me:
- Comparing and contrasting adoptees to boob jobs. Weird. Icky. Odd. Sorry, but (surprise!) boob jobs are not what I want to be compared to, and definitely not what I want others to think about when they consider asking me a question about my kids. I know the guy may not be saying that adopted kids are just like boob jobs, but it comes out all wrong in the way he frames his compare/contrast idea.
- This video’s place in the broader, macro conversation about adoption. This video is being well-liked and enjoyed by many. Adoptive parents (and those who know them) are cackling with laughter. I realize that, yes, it must get old when people ask you about your children all the time, though parents did sign up for this when they agreed to adopt. Further, I know that when adoptees have chosen to share perspectives about uncomfortable questions and/or sensitive areas about adoption (just as this father is doing), their voices are sometimes quieted by those who question their happiness or wonder if they love their adoptive parents. The father in this video, on the other hand, is able to create this film, and my guess is that few folks, if any, are wondering if he loves his daughter or are assuming that he’s an unhappy father. In the broader conversation about adoption, adoptive parents’ perspectives are widely accepted, while adoptee perspectives are still being challenged with unfair assumptions about adoptees. This is not okay.
- He’s still saying it’s okay to ask intrusive questions. Initially I thought I liked how the guy offers viewers other ways of asking sensitive questions, but when I watched it a second time, I realized he is essentially making the point that it's still okay to ask intrusive questions... well, as long as you use the right words and ask in his accepted format. I don't agree. Some of these questions just shouldn't be asked. And, the question, "Where is your daughter from?" is just as bad as, "Where'd you get her from?" Equating skin color to "otherness" and insinuating that one may not be "from here" based on skin color is faulty.
Additionally, as my husband and I were talking, he pointed out that most of the people posting and watching this video are likely already connected to adoption in some way. It’s mostly adoptive parents or friends of adoptive parents sharing the video because they think it's funny, because they’ve experienced the same questions, or because they want people to stop asking them questions. So if these are the people posting and watching, they already know not to ask these questions. At least we hope. So the fact that this guy frames the video as a PSA maybe kind of works -- but is it really doing much good otherwise? Or is it just a funny way to make a point, maybe get a little online attention/props, and make people laugh?
On my Facebook page, I shared a post from The Lost Daughters blog, prefacing the link with, "I'd urge you to also read the perspectives of several adult adopted women who converse about the video and its implications in the broader, macro conversation about adoption. Perhaps they mention something you have not yet considered. As adoptive parents, let's keep listening to and learning from adult adoptees."
In this Lost Daughters post, several female adoptees converse about the video. They make some of the same points that I mention above, along with others with which I whole-heartedly agree. The use of the word biological. Making infertility the only question one really shouldn't ask, yet please, go ahead and ask intrusive questions about adopted children and their place in my family. The reality that some adoptive parents just don't want to deal with these comments when it's ultimately the adoptees who are affected.
Do I think you're a terrible adoptive parent if you watched this video and laughed? Nah.
Do I know that some adoptees watched this video and found it hilarious? Of course.
Did some adoptees tell me that they thought this video was far from funny but would never say so out loud, as they don’t want to be seen as an “angry” adoptee. Yes.
These questions that our children overhear can be deeply internalized without authentic conversation and discussion between adoptive parent and child. When educating families about how to talk with their kids about adoption, I include a part not only about responses but also a part about the importance of talking with their children after overhearing a question related to the child’s race or adoption. So as you and your seven-year old get into the car after grocery shopping, you might say, “Sweetie, I was thinking about the question that gentleman asked about where you’re from…” Or, “Honey, do you know WHY people ask us if you’re my real child?” Or, “The reason some people ask where you’re from is because many people assume…” Or, “Sometimes people may stare at us because…”
Humorous attempts at making a serious point sometimes work. In my opinion, this one falls short by using offensive ideas and language and fails to address some important underlying issues related to transracial families.
Humor may be comfortable (and yes, sometimes it is used appropriately), but let’s also remember the more important work that needs to be done in respecting our children’s privacy, talking with our kids about these very comments, empowering them to handle the questions in a variety of ways, and finally remembering that our uncomfortable and frustrating encounters as adoptive parents likely pale in comparison to the experiences and losses that our children navigate throughout their lifetimes.