Apparently I ruffled a few feathers last week. Upon seeing the Avengers movie I was moved to write a post on my 73adoptee blog, “Avengers: Why Is Making Fun Of Adoption Still A-OK?” From the post…
So there I am, forgetting my woes, laughing at the gang and drooling over Chris Hemsworth, when we get this lovely little tidbit. Thor is trying to explain to the others that Loki is his brother and his responsibility.
Black Widow points out, “He killed 80 people in 2 days.”
Thor explains, “He’s adopted.”
Cue entire theater laughing…. except for me. (And my husband, who knows better.)
I missed the next 15 minutes of the movie because I was seething. Joking about adoption isn’t funny. Joking about being adopted isn’t funny. Making fun of a late discovery adoptee is especially not funny.
The 73adoptee post went viral, generating thousands of hits in less than a week. I must have struck a nerve because people responded in droves, primarily to tell me to fuck off.
Given that’s exactly how most of them phrased it, I think there’s a demographic going on here. I’m guessing most Avengers fans are male, ages 18-25. The majority of adoptee rights activists, myself included, are female, ages 30+. Adoptees typically do not search until their twenties, thirties or even older, and it’s not until they search that they discover they are second-class citizens regarding their own rights.
What you fanboys may not have realized is that I am a fellow fangirl. I’ve loved science fiction and fantasy all my life. I’m a time-traveling, cosplaying, fantasy-writing geek girl, and I am also a comics fan. I’m such a big comics fan I close every plastic bag in sight with two small pieces of Scotch tape. I mostly make mine Marvel, but I also read some DC and a smattering of Dark Horse, IDW, and others. Comics are a regular part of my world, as adoption is a regular part of my world.
This is my rebuttal to the snarky remarkers. Let’s analyze the negative comments I’ve received since I went up against the Avengers. The comments tended to group into several categories.
“How dare you moderate comments!”
I moderate comments on all of my blogs. I’m a computer security professional and I’m not about to deluge my readers with spammy comments. That’s how we spread malware, boys and girls.
I received hundreds of comments to my first Avengers post. I approved close to 50 as of this writing. I didn’t agree with all of them, but the one thing they had in common was that they were polite. Some who disagreed asked intelligent questions. I welcome that. But if you’re going to come to one of my blogs and be a dick, I’m not approving you. There’s enough dickishness on the Internet without adding to it.
“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
I challenge you to check this out: Black Images In The Comics. It’s a book about the last 100 years of black characters in comics. Go look at the early ones. Find yourself cringing much? We’re at that point with adoptees. Yes, it’s a valid comparison. We’re talking about minority groups who are ostracized, stereotyped, and discriminated against merely for being who they are.
So, yes, discrimination against adoptees is a big deal. Civil rights are a big deal. Gay marriage is a big deal. Equality is a big deal. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s typically what the Avengers fight for. And the X-Men, and Spidey, and everyone else.
Quite frankly I am ashamed at the sf fan community. I thought we were the genre that welcomes “cripples, bastards, and broken things.”
“Nobody discriminates against adoptees.”
(primarily from the non-adopted) Uh-huh. Let’s see…
- Adoptees adopted by abusers, serial adopters, and pedophiles.
- Adoptees abandoned under “safe haven” laws.
- Adoptees dumped on planes and returned to their countries of origin.
- Adoptees born in other countries and later deported due to errors they had no control over in their childhood adoption paperwork.
- Black market baby selling.
- Adoptees routinely banned from their original birth certificates, and subjected to severe fees and restrictions while the non-adopted pay a token fee with no restrictions.
- Adoptees subjected to what amounts to restraining orders, merely for wanting equal rights.
- Adoptees made the butt of jokes on sitcoms, the stereotypes in made-for-TV movies, and the villains in horror films.
- Adult adoptees left out of legislative discussions of adoption and access to records.
- Three words: adoption reality TV.
- Three more words: reality TV reunions.
- The blatant bias against adult adoptee and first parent voices in the media. Read my analyses (here and here) which clearly show that adoptive parents and adoption professionals are the exclusive voice of adoption. If your knowledge of adoption is solely based on the media, you have no business discussing it.
And it’s not just the adoptees. Let’s talk about the widespread and deliberate coersion of mothers, then and now. Let’s talk about the Dan Rather report on the Baby Scoop Era, and Ann Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away. Let’s talk about the current battle for father’s rights in Utah.
See any discrimination yet?
“I’m adopted and I thought it was funny.”
Again, let’s look at demographics. How old are you? How much do you know about your adoption? Have you thought about it much? Searched? Reunited? Ever had problems with your paperwork? Know the difference between an original and amended birth certificate? What are the adoptee access laws in your state and/or country?
Most adoptees don’t start truly thinking about adoption and its consequences until they’re older. I certainly didn’t start thinking about the mechanics of it until I was over the age of 25. Some statistics suggest that it’s when we start thinking about having kids that the question becomes relevant. On the other hand some people think about it their entire lives. It doesn’t matter how old you are, at some point you and adoption are going to have it out.
So if you flung back, “I’m adopted and I laughed my ass off,” return to this question when you’ve been around the ring a few times with whatever bureaucratic entities happen to be in possession of your paperwork. Trust those of us who have been there, it’ll be a humbling experience.
I would also like to suggest that this is the knee-jerk reaction of the Good Adoptee, a term coined by author, adoptee, and activist BJ Lifton. Good adoptees are not supposed to search or ask questions. When confronted by the suggestion that adoption is not all positive, they tend to react with, “I love my adopted parents! I think adoption’s great and I’m grateful I’m adopted!” To do otherwise is to threaten one’s existence in the adoptive family, sometimes literally in the case of disowned adoptees.
Maybe you really feel this way, but you won’t know for sure until you start to shrug off the conditioning. As adoptees we are used to dismissing our own feelings to achieve expectations for others. We don’t want to upset our adoptive parents by asking about our birth families. We’re afraid to rock the boat. Be sure your feelings are your own and not the ones you think you’re expected to have.
Even if you think about it and decide you honestly believe it wasn’t offensive, you have no right to tell other adoptees how they feel. And some of us found it highly offensive.
“You’re just angry. You must have had a bad adoption experience.”
Whether or not true, it’s irrelevant. See also my article about dismissing adoptee experience as anger.
“This is why the world hates adopted people.”
“No wonder your mother gave you away.”
“You’re a fucking bitch!”
Personal attacks are a great way to deflect. The suggestion that the Avengers adoption joke was discriminatory against adoptees must really have bothered you. I wonder what you’re so afraid of?
“How dare you! Avengers was the BEST superhero movie EVER!!!”
This is relevant to adoptee discrimination how? The movie was fine. The one-liner at adoptee expense was a low blow. That’s what we’re talking about. Geez, from the reaction you’d think I said, “Galactica 1980 was SO much better than the BSG remake.” I love comics as much as the rest of you but just because it has Marvel’s logo on it doesn’t make it sacrosanct.
Last, a couple of singular but amusing comments:
“Your husband’s nothing but your trained dog.”
Because he didn’t laugh when the joke was at his wife’s expense? If he’s trained, he’s obviously well-trained. I’m a lucky girl!
Is that “you’re gay,” in which case I guess you saw I unlocked Leliana’s achievement in Dragon Age: Origins? Or is it “your gay,” then which one’s mine and when should I pick him or her up? If I get to choose my gay, I want John Barrowman!
For contrast, here’s what some adoptees and others in the adoption community are saying about the Avengers adoption “joke”. If you’ve blogged about it, especially if you are an adoption community blogger, feel free to post in the comments. Others feel free to comment as well – assuming you pass my criterion of not being a dick about it.
- The Declassified Adoptee: Why I Found “The Avengers” Line Offensive
- Land Of Gazillion Adoptees: MY THOUGHTS ON THE “HE’S ADOPTED” LINE FROM THE AVENGERS/I’M AN ANGRY ADOPTEE
- AdoptionTalk: The Avengers Make Fun Of Adoption
- AdoptionTalk: ”He’s Adopted,” Adoption Stigma & Missing Adoptee Voices in Media