Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Power of Words

“The word "birthmother" is a derogatory, degrading and inhumane term which was devised by adoption professionals to relegate a natural mother to a biological incubator for
adoptive parents and further to imply that the sacred bond of mother and child ends at birth in order to facilitate and further the adoption agenda.”
“Language is powerful. It is a tool of oppression. Groups that control the lexicon (words people use) can control a society’s thinking subversively” 

AAAHHHH. . .here it is, a post on Respectful/Appropriate Adoption Language, otherwise known as RAL. Before diving into the 2012 National Adoption Awareness Month, I was clueless to the countless conversations and raised hackles regarding the words used to describe adoption and families who have been touched by adoption. As I stumbled across Facebook site after Facebook site, there was a unifying theme--language and how upset people were when they felt inappropriate language was used. I posted questions on a support group site in the attempt to learn more and was given these articles to read: Honest Adoption Language, Why Birthmother Means Breeder, and the Language of Adoption (quoted above).

Through reading these articles, I learned I was being offensive in using the term “birth mother/family.” Instead, I should be saying natural mothers/family. I love this quote: “We are mothers. We are simply mothers... and if differentiation is required, we are natural mothers” (Language of Adoption). From each of the articles, the case was well made that when you refer to natural families as birth families, it sounds almost as if the families were breeders.

In attempting to identify the usage of the word, “birth mother” Diane Turskey wrote, “Investigating, I learned that U.S. social workers had collaborated about 30 years ago to invent their own list of contrived terms to appease their adopting clients. Adopters no longer wanted anyone to use the original term "natural mothers." Why? Three reasons:
  1. it indicated respect for the mother's true relationship to her child - she could not be written-off .. . whose only value was reproduction,
  2. it recognized that the sacred mother/child relationship extended past birth and even past surrender, and
  3. it implied that the adoptive mother's relationship to the child was unnatural.”

With that said, there is an RAL term that I strongly disagree with. According to RAL, Frank and I  went from being “parents” to adoptive parents. My girls went from having a sister to having an adoptive sister. This absolutely makes no sense to me, nor do I feel it is honoring to the family we have now. As far as I am concerned, Sage has 6 siblings-5 from her natural family and 1 from our family. I don’t feel as if I should introduce my children as my adopted children. One article’s rationale is: “This presents a false picture that the adoptee was born to the adopters.” Okay I’m sorry but my little girls are Taiwanese and I’m about as Caucasian as they come. No one is going to think that my angels were birthed by me. Even so, why does it matter? I would not introduce a biological child as such, why would I refer to my adopted daughters in that way?

I think it is important to use language that is as inoffensive as possible and I am happy that a group of people have come forward to support natural families. However, I think we all need to be careful that the pendulum doesn’t swing too far in the other direction. Why do we have to negate the importance of one relationship to build up the other? Is it about competition, or is it about love and family? 

“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.”   Desmond Tutu

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