When Addressing Audism Becomes Audism Itself
First, let me state clearly, for the record, that I take the general concern of audism seriously. I think ASL signing, non-speaking Deaf people do tend to encounter more prejudice than do deaf/Deaf people who can speak at least somewhat well, who have usable lipreading skills, and strong English. To some extent this occurs even at Gallaudet in that some DPS staff, upon whom students depend for their safety, do not have strong enough ASL skills (as opposed to sim com skills) to communicate competently with nonIspeaking ASL users.
I also believe audism can go in the other direction: people who are hard of hearing, or who have and use cochlear implants, or who grew up oral (or even hearing), or who might have strong sim com skills but not so great ASL skills, often face their own problems with prejudice from Deaf ASL users who grew up in the Deaf community.
So: audism must be confronted and uprooted where it exists. But when does confronting what one considers “audism” cross over the line from legitimate action against bona fide acts of genuinely oppressive prejudice to the other, equally ugly side of audism? That is to say, can the term “audism,” even if very legitimate in a great many contexts, be abused in a way that it starts to reinforce prejudice against people who, according to some narrow definitions, “aren’t deaf enough”?
Writer Shane Feldman recently made a blog post, entitled “Abusing Audism,” that presents his own perspectives on these issues over at http://www.deafde.com/blog/shane-feldman/2006-12-28/abusing-audism/. What do YOU think?
I’m hoping to obtain permission from Shane Feldman to post his essay here (I’ve sent him email and am awaiting his permission). But meanwhile, I welcome essay submissions from other people on the different dimensions of audism and your thoughts on when “audism” really is “audism” and when audism might become a slur word used against people who don’t fit the perfect model of a non-speaking, ASL-using Deaf of Deaf from Deaf schools.
Essays can be submitted to me at ashettle (at) patriot.net. Please check out the guidelines for guest bloggers (see links in the right hand column on this page). In addition to audism essays, I’m also interested in essays on racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other “isms” at Gallaudet and in the deaf community generally. I also welcome essays on healing and reunifying the wider Gallaudet community in the aftermath of the protests.