The Trouble with Jerry Lewis

Posted on 2 February 2009. Filed under: Advocacy, Announcements | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Subject: The Trouble with Jerry

Dear members of the Facebook group “Tell Oscar — NO humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis!” —

The Oscar Awards ceremony is now just 20 days away. As it approaches, “The Trouble with Jerry” campaign is mobilizing disability community leaders, activists, and allies to protest the “humanitarian award” to Jerry Lewis.

Here’s the latest news:

*We have a newly-designed, easy-to-navigate, super-jazzy website! Go to http://thetroublewithjerry.net and then tell everyone you know about it, post the link on your Facebook page, link your blog to it, etc. Remember, that’s
http://thetroublewithjerry.net

*We are seeking organizations to endorse The Trouble with Jerry campaign, and in particular the letter we sent to the Motion Picture Academy. Does your organization want to lend its official endorsement to the letter? If so, please message me back. You can read this letter at http://thetroublewithjerry.net%2Fletter-to-the-academy

*NOW is the time to start organizing an Oscar protest in your town. Contact me if you are thinking about doing this, and I’ll help you get started.

*Also, let me know as soon as possible if you’re planning to come to LA for the national Oscar protest actions on February 20, 21, and 22. We are holding a limited number of accessible hotel rooms, so let me know if you need lodging.

In solidarity,
Laura



The above letter was recently circulated to the Facebook group Tell Oscar — NO humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis!

People who have a Facebook account will want to follow the above link to join the Facebook group organizing protests against Jerry Lewis’ homophobia, sexism, and pity-drenched attitude toward people with disabilities. But if you don’t have Facebook, you can still get involved by visiting http://thetroublewithjerry.net/, or by sending an email to info@thetroublewithjerry.com.

Visit Bloggers Protesting Pity to learn why bloggers are protesting pity.

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Updates on Protests Against Jerry Lewis’ Humanitarian Award

Posted on 18 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy, Announcements | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Subject: Four Important Items

To members of Tell Oscar — NO humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis! —

I have four important updates to pass along to you:

1. HOLLYWOOD PROTESTS: We are still planning protests during Oscar weekend in Hollywood, on February 20, 21, and 22. If you can be there for any or all of those days, now is the time to start making travel arrangements. Airfares are still pretty reasonable. If possible, find lodging somewhere near the Metro’s Red Line, so you can get to the protest locations more easily.

2. DONATIONS: The Disability Rights Center has agreed to accept donations to support this campaign. If you want to contribute money to help with protest materials, or travel expenses for lower-income participants, it would be greatly appreciated! You can make a tax-deductible donation payable to the Disability Rights Center, and mail it to: Disability Rights Center, P.O. Box 313, Rhododendron, OR 97049.

3. LOCAL PROTESTS: Some people are starting to organize Oscar protests in their local communities. If you want to organize an action, feel free to use “The Wall” on our Facebook group page. You can post a message as simple as, “Anyone interested in an action in [your city’s name]?” And check the wall to see if anyone is doing anything in your area. Use this resource to connect with each other. You can also send me announcements about your plans, and when I get several, I’ll send out another message with that information. (Don’t rely just on Facebook, though…. Contact your friends and colleagues, urging them to join you in voicing opposition to this humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis.)

4. WEBSITE: We now have a website at http://www.thetroublewithjerry.com where we will be adding some information and resources in the weeks to come.

That’s it for now. Feel free to send Laura Hershey a message if you have questions, ideas, resources, or announcements.

In solidarity,
Laura Hershey

Join the Facebook groupSign the petitionread a short text about the protests that can be copy/pasted into an email message to your friends … Read what is being said by various bloggers protesting pity … or write a letter of complaint directly to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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Protesting Jerry Lewis’ Humanitarian Award

Posted on 17 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will award Jerry Lewis the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the upcoming Oscar award ceremony. Please join disabled people and our allies in protesting this.

Jerry Lewis’s MDA Telethon, rather than working for equality and social inclusion of disabled people, portrays us as hopeless, pathetic, eternal children. Lewis has said, “My kids cannot go into the workplace. There’s nothing they can do.” He has said that a disabled individual is “half a person,” and [If] you don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!” His telethon reinforces the notion that cure and prevention are what disabled people need, not social change. The LBGT community has protested Lewis’s numerous anti-gay slurs–recently, he referred to cricket as “fag baseball.” Lewis has also stated that he doesn’t like women comedians because he thinks of a woman as “a producing machine that bring babies into the world.” These statements are de-humanizing; the one who uttered them should hardly be given a humanitarian award.

Please sign a petition protesting this at:Jerry Lewis Protest and please forward this email to others. It has been less than a week since we put this petition online, and it has already gathered more than 1900 signatures–including that of Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer!

Thank you!

Anne Finger

You can also join a Facebook group devoted to protests against Jerry’s award. Also read what is being said by other Bloggers Protesting Pity. Or write a letter directly to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

I first found this email from Anne Finger at Planet of the Blind.

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Protest Pity! Sign the Petition!

Posted on 10 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

PROTEST PITY!

Deaf people, Autistic people, people with Muscular Dystrophy, and people with ALL disabilities are joining forces to take a stand against PITY. At best, pity may trigger a momentary impulse to donate a few dollars to charity–for example, via Jerry Lewis’ annual US telethon for Muscular Dystrophy. But the pity remains entrenched long after the fund raising events are over. People who pity people with disabilities usually never think to challenge the assumption that we should be passive recipients of charity. They don’t think to question why we don’t have better access to full participation in society. Fueling pitying attitudes undermines progress toward social equality for people with ALL disabilities. This same pity also harms Deaf and Autistic people, whether or not they consider themselves as people with disabilities.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on February 22, 2009. Disability rights activists object to this award. During his decades of hosting the Labor Day Telethon, Jerry Lewis has perpetuated negative, stereotypical attitudes and PITY toward people with muscular dystrophy and other disabilities.

Read and sign the petition protesting this undeserved award at: http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html

Join the Facebook Group that is coordinating efforts to protest the award: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40538392681

Read this blog post on the petition campaign; on the important difference between “pity” and “empathy”; why Jerry’s brand of pity is destructive; and why real empathy is more likely to lead to human rights: https://reunifygally.wordpress.com/2009/01/10/protest-pity/

Read what other bloggers say about the award, and why the disability community is enraged, at https://reunifygally.wordpress.com/bloggers-protesting-pity/

Please circulate this text freely. Thank you.

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Protest Pity!

Posted on 10 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Whether you’re Deaf or hearing; old or young; poor or rich; have muscular dystrophy or not; gay or straight; male or female; have disabilities or not—chances are, you would never want someone to pity you. Yet, too many of us think pity is okay as long as we do it to someone else. Meaning someone who leads such a pathetic life that they “deserve” pity. And, not so incidentally, charity.

Jerry Lewis is someone who perpetuates pity against all people with disabilities–and, yes, against Deaf people and Autistic people as well, even if not all identify as having disabilities–every time he runs his annual telethon for people with muscular dystrophy on Labor Day weekend. For his annual task of attacking the dignity of millions of people, Jerry is about to receive a humanitarian award.

There is now an on-line petition campaign against Jerry’s humanitarian award. If you already know you want to sign it, then skip the rest of this post and follow this link to the petition signature page! (Be sure to use the Comments line to explain, in your own words, why you support the petition. This will vastly strengthen the impact of your signature.)

Not sure yet? I will explain more about the petition and why all Deaf people, Autistic people, and people with disabilities should sign it. But, first, I will share a few words on why we all should take a stand against the destructive force of pity where ever we find it–whether it’s perpetuated by Jerry or by someone else (see “Protest Pity“). Then I will talk about why Jerry does not deserve a humanitarian award (see “Protest Jerry’s Pity-a-Thon“). Last, I will explain about the humanitarian award and the effort to protest it (see “Join the Petition Campaign!“)

Protest Pity

Those of us who are Deaf, or who are Autistic, or who have muscular dystrophy, or who have disabilities, all know first hand how pity can damage lives. It undermines our efforts to seek out access to our environment; to full, independent lives; to our basic human rights; and to our fundamental freedoms. People who “pity” us don’t think about things like supplying us with closed captions (for Deaf people), or a quiet, dim environment (for Autistic people with sensory issues), or ramps (for wheelchair users). People who pity us are more interested in putting a quarter or two in our begging cup (because, surely, we must have one, don’t we?) so they can go away feeling good about themselves. Never mind whether our lives are truly improved by the charity they bestow upon us. Because, unlike empathy, pity doesn’t really have anything to do with providing the kind of help that people necessarily want and need to receive. Pity, and the charity it triggers, is really about the giver and their need to see themselves as kind and generous. By definition, it is never about the recipient.

Pity can frequently masquerade as more benign emotions such as “sympathy” or (better) “empathy.” But unlike empathy, pity dehumanizes the target. We feel empathy with our equals: empathy implies that we identify with the pain of someone we perceive as being mostly like ourselves. Empathy also implies that we believe the target deserves all the same kind of support we would want for ourselves if we were in the same situation. But we feel pity only for people we perceive as being, not just different from us, but beneath us. Maybe even contemptible, or less than human. Empathy binds people together and drives people to fight for things like justice, equality, and human rights. Pity separates us and stratifies us into “superior” beings (people who should never be pitied) and “inferior” beings (people who should be pitied, or who should be passive recipients of charity).

When we empathize with someone, we recognize their fundamental dignity. We may not necessarily share all their values and interests, but we acknowledge that they deserve to have access to all the same services, human rights, and freedoms that we do. If someone we empathize with is denied the right to informed consent to medical care (because they are denied the interpreters they need to understand the treatment options being offered to them), or the right to read an important brochure on HIV/AIDS prevention (because it is not available in Braille), then we become enraged on their behalf. We take as a given that they deserve the same things that we do. And we stand in solidarity with them when they fight for their human rights.

However, if we pity them rather than empathize with them, then it doesn’t occur to us that the barriers they face to full participation in society are a travesty of justice and human rights. Instead, we simply say, “How sad that they have disabilities.” Then perhaps we throw a few dollars in their general direction so we can move on and forget about them. Pity does not inspire people to support enduring equal access to the environment. It only inspires short-term, feel-good charity.

Protest Jerry Lewis’ Pity-a-Thon

If pity is such a terrible thing, then why do some people, like Jerry Lewis, do so much to encourage it? It can be tempting to fall into the trap of promoting pity for two reasons. One, too many people still confuse pity with its more productive counterpart, empathy. Two, pity does happen to be very effective at luring people to donate millions of dollars, in charity–which can do a lot of short-term good, even if the pity itself can do so much harm.

Hence, Jerry’s annual “pity-a-thon,” which has raised enormous amounts of money to support medical research. However, many people question whether the harm caused by Jerry’s pity-a-thon justifies the ends. They point out that events such as Jerry’s telethon can generate massive amounts of pity that last well beyond the event ends, with all its destructive implications. Last year, dozens of Deaf people, hearing people, Autistic people, non-autistic people, and people with various disabilities wrote about why they oppose Jerry’s telethon: you can read those blog posts at http://karasheridan.com/?p=164. And in case you were wondering: yes, there are people with muscular dystrophy who don’t like Jerry’s telethon either.

Join the Petition Campaign!

So what about Jerry’s upcoming humanitarian award, and the petition campaign protesting it? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscar Awards ceremony on February 22, 2009. This is largely for his work raising money by entrenching negative, stereotyped attitudes toward people with disabilities. Most people with disabilities do not oppose the need for more medical research into muscular dystrophy, or for services for people with muscular dystrophy. What we object to is the destructive means by which Jerry raises these funds.

Read and sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html. Please be sure to use the Comments line to explain, in your own words, why you support the petition. This will vastly increase the impact of your signature (because it shows you feel very strongly about this subject.)

If you’re on Facebook, you can join the Facebook group organizing efforts to protest Jerry’s award at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40538392681

(If you’re not in Facebook yet, it’s pretty easy to set up an account for yourself, and it is free.)

Please do blog the petition campaign (be sure to link to the petition and to the Facebook group!) And please do twitter it as well.

You can increase the visibility of this blog post by “Digging” it–go to http://digg.com/arts_culture/Deaf_and_disabled_people_urge_others_to_Protest_Pity, then click on where it says “Digg it” (if you don’t already have a Digg account then you may need to create one, which takes just a few minutes).

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