On March 21, 2016 I posted the following rant on my Facebook page about the odd socks campaign on Down Syndrome Day. This year I thought I’d try and add some further reflection.
“Here’s why I won’t be wearing mismatched socks on Down Syndrome Day:
- Because odd socks do not foster diversity.
- Because people with Down Syndrome are not odd.
- Because associating odd socks with a group of people is insulting and a bizarre, f*$@’ed up marketing strategy designed by someone who clearly has some odd, bizarre, insulting and probably unconscious beliefs about people with Down Syndrome.
- Because the clumping together a group of people who have nothing in common with each other besides a chromosome is foolish.
- Because people with Down Syndrome share their entire genetic make up with every other human on the planet – this doesn’t make them odd or mismatched.
- Because promoting genetic diversity is bunk science based on trying to debunk the junk science of eugenics. And I choose to be smarter than eugenicists and you should, too.
- Because I have never met a person with Down Syndrome who wanted to be understood or celebrated because of their genetics or their differences. Every single person I have met (whether they have Down Syndrome or not) wants to be understood and accepted because others identify with them as being the “same.” Check out the online dating scene if you think this isn’t true. Finding commonalities and ways of identifying with each other is the basis of relationship and acceptance – not difference. We want matches in life; we want to fit in. A good fit with school, in our workplaces. We want a matches in our friendships and in love.”
The theme this year for World Down Syndrome Day is #MyVoiceMyCommunity. Now THAT I can get behind! Instead of socks or ribbons or other odd gestures designed to get people talking about Down Syndrome, let’s listen to people with Down Syndrome and people who love them talk about their lives, their dreams, their hopes, their goals and their communities. I’m not suggesting you approach people randomly and ask them to talk about their personal lives. That’s weird. And rude. Don’t be that person.
Lots of people are choosing to talk about their experiences publicly. Check out what people have to say. There is this super-adorable-make-you-smile video of Ollie and Cameron. Then there is the thought provoking TedTalk by Karen Gaffney, a skilled presenter who has Down Syndrome. There are additional links below. Take a few minutes today to listen. Through the rest of the year, consider how people who have a disability are treated in your community. Do people have a voice? Do people have equal opportunities in your community? What can you do about it?
You may disagree with me about the sock thing. That is okay. We all have to do what we think is right. But whether or not you choose to wear odd socks today, I encourage you to think bigger. Think about how you can contribute in meaningful, effective ways to supporting people to have a voice and to be truly included and valued in community life. Support the theme #MyVoiceMyCommunity.
Genia Stephen is a registered midwife and lactation consultant with Generations Midwifery Care. You can learn more about Genia here.