Why is there uproar over "Dirty Signs with Henson"? (Kristin Henson)
I have been reading information about Henson's videos out of curiosity. There are tons of articles out there covering various sides of the issue. Some articles which I have read that were written by deaf people are nonchalant over the issue because "dirty signs (in ASL)" do exist. It is dangerous to think like that because in any other language, at any time a 'dirty words' book comes out in another language, the books are written by people who are culturally and linguistically tied to the culture/language that they write about.
It is natural that we humans are attracted to the dark side of our lives and any dirtiness in our language is cheerfully promoted.
So why is the Deaf community in an uproar? If you answered 'hearing', yes; however, that is only one part of the story. If a CODA wrote a book on dirty signs, it would not be a big deal. There may be a few objections here and there, but nothing like on the current scale with Henson. How about someone who learned dirty signs from a few deaf students at RIT and is in the process of going to beginners ASL classes in order to help her write the book? Henson plans on having an expert with her when people who have replied to her YouTube videos with slight criticism (by both deaf and hearing) were shut out.
Written in Daily Dot: "The dirty words are the first things anyone learns in a new language, which is why I started with these." For me, the fact that someone wants to learn 'dirty signs' off the bat is a red flag in the characteristic respect towards language and culture, basically none. In my experience growing up, when peers came to me to learn sign language and they asked to learn the bad language that was all they wanted to learn. For someone who is bilingual and exhausted from nodding and faking communication in spoken English, the fact that someone wants to learn ASL is a thrill. Until they ask to learn the bad language in ASL.
I am not the only one who feels like this as well. I am sure countless other deaf people have gone through the same thing. It is not about 'dirty signs' but how the concept is being applied in the real world which contradicts with the boundaries that drive individual cultures and languages. I do not think I would want to meet someone in a restaurant and have them sign 'dirty' to me while I am eating meat, vegetables, and dessert. Not only that, but how would this approach impact my children?
So why should someone who has minimal experience with the deaf community learning the bad/dirty aspects of the language, willingly share them with the world at large (with little to no cultural/lingual references). Why would that person shut out the deaf community to be allowed or given permission to write the book? Why not allow a deaf person, who is culturally and linguistically linked to the deaf community, write the book? Oh I forgot, it is highly probable that the publishers are not going to bother working with a deaf person (other than academia publications).
And one has to wonder why?
AllDeaf (petition posting and discussion)
Daily Dot (two articles pertaining to this issue)
TruBizMe (Tavian Robinson)
To Be Whole
Currently I am an ASL teacher at a local college and at an high school. I received my Masters in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University. At home, I am an activist within the community, Northwest Indiana. My son is in first grade and my daughter goes to E.C.L.I.P.S.E. ASL Preschool. Change begins with you and change is effective with a team.