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February 26, 2009

Stupid Protest: Cerrie Burnell

Just a quick hit today on yet another group of stupid people outraged over nothing. We caught wind of this one on Feministing (via The Independent and Alas, a blog)...

A lot of parents are really not happy that Cerrie Burnell is a host of the BBC children's show CBeebies. Not because she's doing anything wrong - you'd think she was promoting drugs and unprotected sex by the way people have reacted - but because she is disabled. Yes, that's right. Parents have been leaving negative comments on the channel's website and even complained to the broadcaster all because Burnell happens to have been born missing the lower section of her right arm.

Complaints from parents have included claims that Burnell's disability might frighten their children, given them nightmares, or even - gasp! - make them ask "difficult questions". Oh no! What are we going to do if our children ask questions!? How bout fucking answer them! This is a clear case of parents not wanting to... parent.

Burnell's arm may in fact scare some young children, which is all the more reason we need to educate them about the different abled. Television needs more role models such as Burnell, so that kids can learn that we all come in various shapes, sizes, colors, etc. and "different" doesn't have to mean "scary" or "bad". If you just cover your kids' eyes and rush them away into their sheltered little worlds where everyone is exactly the same - instead of simply educating your kids about the various forms human beings take - then you are going to raise kids who are as prejudiced and closed-minded as you are.

They're trying to justify their disability prejudice with the idea of "protecting" their children from reality.

Burnell herself put it best:
“I think the negative comments from those few parents are indicative of a wider problem of disabled representation in the media as a whole, which is why it’s so important for there to be more disabled role models in every area of the media.

The support that I’ve received … has been truly heartening. It’s brilliant that parents are able to use me as a way of talking about disability with their children and for children who are similarly disabled to see what really is possible in life and for their worlds to be represented in such a positive, high profile manner.”
As you may have already noticed, I have a different approach to parenting than the "oh no! questions" stance. I would encourage my children to watch a show with differently-abled characters or actors. (In fact, I had a hell of a time coming up with even a few that I could remember and they were all on adult shows. I think there's a cartoon character on Nickelodeon, but I hate most cartoons so I haven't seen it).

Anytime I come across a show that has someone on it who is... "different"... I automatically want to watch it with my daughter and I truly believe that it will help to make her a more open-minded and respectful person. She already knows all the intricacies of same sex marriage law and she's got a clearer understanding of the difference between a "transgendered person" and a "drag queen" than the media does. That's in part due to the fact that we used to watch TransAmerican Love Story together (and now we watch RuPaul's Drag Race)... but more due to the fact that I answer her questions and I also teach her things before she asks.

She may not cross paths with someone disabled or gay or transgendered for quite some time, but when she does they won't be weird or different or scary. They will just be people.

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Betsy said...

I am a wheelchair user, and I encourage questions. I've even gone into elementary classrooms learning how machines (i.e. bicycles) work, and taken my chair apart piece by piece, explaining what each part is and how it works.

If I am not embarrassed by my canes, wheelchair or disability, then no one else need be.

Rehctaw said...

Your daughter is fated to compete with the mouth-breathers for the rest of her life. I admire your willingness to swim against the current.

My kids "suffered" because they didn't have the right apparel, the right Beenie babies, a cell phone, ski vacations in Europe, a sporty car for their 16th birthday or a condo in Cabo for graduation.

They've grown out of the slight, or perhaps because of it? They now choose their friends and interactions without the distraction of the facade.

Still, they are competing with cheaters, short-cutters, line-jumpers and entitled little twits on a daily basis.

I raised two chumps? Hardly.
They are self-motivated and aware activists. Seriously fun and socially adaptable.

And for now, we outnumber the mouth-breathers. So we have that going for us.