There’s Nothing Wrong With “Dwarf Pride,” But When It Means Making Sure Your Kids Don’t Grow, It’s Unethical

Yeah, I know I’ve been using this clip and the “Blazing Saddles” “You, know, morons” clip too often lately, but it is because people proclaiming objectively stupid positions that are being taken seriously is becoming an epidemic, and one that has the potential to do more damage than any virus.

Today’s example: a study published  in the journal The Lancet reveals that an experimental drug called vosoritide increases growth in children with the most common form of dwarfism, achondroplasia. Taken early enough and long enough, such children can grow at nearly the same rate as  children without the malady. Achondroplasia leads to eventual back pain and breathing difficulty in addition to guaranteeing that its sufferers will look up to jockeys and call Mickey Rooney imitators “Stretch” for their entire lives. Yet the existence of a treatment has sparked opposition among some parts of the “Little Person” community, which insists that being only four feet tall  is “a unique trait to be celebrated, not a problem in need of a cure.”

See Rationalization # 64, “”It isn’t what it is.”

Of course being abnormally short in a world designed for taller human beings is a problem.  In fact, the body itself is “designed” to be taller. “We’ve got 12- and 13-year-old girls who now for the first time can do their own feminine hygiene and don’t need to be helped by someone because their arms are longer,” one doctor administering the treatment told the New York Times. Good example, doc. Yet there are parents  like Megan Schimmel, who says she attributes “much of her strength, compassion and empathy” to living with the condition. Since she wouldn’t want to change herself (Excess self-esteem alert!), she sees no need to help her 2-year-old achondroplasiac daughter Lily grow tall enough not to be able to play a Munchkin when they remake “The Wizard of Oz.”

Good thinking there, Megan.Here is where I am tempted to use the “Blazing Saddles” clip.

Dr. Simone Watkins and her husband learned that their child  had achondroplasia.  She and her husband said over the infant: “We love you. You’re perfect. We are so happy you’re here. You’re going to have a great life.” That’s all wonderful, but I presume they would have said the same if he was missing his limbs, was a cyclops, had a tail or scales like a lizard. Now she says of Lachlan, who is two,, “I want him to have the best life possible with less complications and not to be bullied and to fit into society. But also, I don’t want to give him the message that he needs to change.”

The woman is a doctor, and she actually says this. Why did you toilet train him, then, if you didn’t want to send him the message that he needs to change? Would you feel that way if he had a cleft palate, a club foot, or a growth the size of a melon on his head?

The issue immediately evokes a similarly bats “debate” by deaf people over cochlear implants, with some being offended at the suggestion that not being able to hear is a disability to be “fixed.”  You know, hearing, not hearing, what’s the difference? Some deaf parents have refused to correct their children’s deafness, even accusing advocates of the treatment as promoting a kind of “genocide” by “wiping out the deaf race.”  This is supposedly just a differing point of view that society is supposed to respect. It is not, however a respectable opinion, and neither is the view that because “It’s OK to be short,” it’s also desirable.

The pro- achondroplasia/ anti-vosoritide position isn’t ethical and it isn’t rational. It is a purely emotional reaction that will harm the children whose lives are affected by it. Some alleged ethics debates are not ethics debates at all, but instead are objectively easy calls where the opposition has neither logic nor ethics on its side. As Captain Hook said when he played Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” “On the others hand…there is no other hand!” (He was not afflicted with “hook pride,” fortunately.) The  decision to condemn one’s child to being a four foot tall adult when he or she could grow to be five feet is indefensible. By the time  a child with achondroplasia is old enough to have a say in the matter, it is too late; crucial inches are gone forever. Such children will be the victims of their parents’ narcissim

There is no ethical defense of that.

30 thoughts on “There’s Nothing Wrong With “Dwarf Pride,” But When It Means Making Sure Your Kids Don’t Grow, It’s Unethical

  1. So, dwarfism is “a unique trait to be celebrated.”

    A modest proposal: Let’s ban the use of the word “celebrate” from the English language. I’m old enough to remember when a funeral was … funerial. Someone had died and people could be sad about that together for an hour or so. I remember in the 1990s going to the funeral of a law firm partner who’d died way too young of cancer, perhaps from Agent Orange exposure. I think it was the first time a funeral had been billed as “A Celebration of [the decedent’s] Life!” I felt bad enough at the funeral as it was but I sure as hell didn’t feel like celebrating anything.

    Let’s just stop celebrating every damn thing. Ban the word. It’s an attempt to turn us all into inert blobs incapable of taking on any challenge life presents. Dumb. And cloyingly annoying. Another case of “It is what it isn’t.”

    • Celebrate

      cel·​e·​brate | \ ˈse-lə-ˌbrāt

      \
      celebrated; celebrating
      Definition of celebrate
      transitive verb
      1
      : to perform (a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites
      A priest celebrates Mass.
      2
      a
      : to honor (an occasion, such as a holiday) especially by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business
      The nation celebrates Memorial Day.
      b
      : to mark (something, such as an anniversary) by festivities or other deviation from routine
      celebrated their 25th anniversary
      3
      : to hold up or play up for public notice
      her poetry celebrates the glory of nature

      A celebration can be as much a solemn time as a happy one. To bill a funeral as a celebration of someone’s life falls properly under the second definition – to honor the deceased and his life, by saying goodbye in accordance with whatever traditions are appropriate. I don’t think that’s how it comes off to a lot of folks, though. It’s an attempt to sugarcoat the fact that the person has died and to bury the emotions that go with it. Not that saying “he’s dead, isn’t it awful, boo hoo hoo!” is much good, but it’s ok to acknowledge grief and loss.

  2. (sigh) This is a tough one. Physical disabilities that can be corrected are the low-hanging fruit. There is no benefit to remaining too short for society, or walking with a permanent limp due to hip dysplasia a la Kerry Weaver on ER (who had it fixed in universe because it was causing REAL problems for the actress to constantly mimic the condition), or being deaf. That goes double if there is little to no risk associated with the corrective surgery. If there is risk or potential trade-offs involved, then that’s a different analysis. In this case it sounds like dwarven folks are condemning their kids to the same fate as them out of pride, though, and that’s never a good reason.

    That said, what about mental disabilities? I submit that you really can’t tell someone with a mental disability, whether it be profound and fairly obvious, like Down’s Syndrome, or so (relatively) invisible that some don’t believe it’s there, like Asperger’s Syndrome, that they need to change. They can’t. The issue isn’t one that can be corrected with a one-time operation, or a prosthetic, or by therapy. Sometimes medicine helps. Sometimes it helps but there are side effects. Sometimes medicine does nothing to correct the problem. I know because I’ve been there. My parents originally thought that dosing me with Ritalin (never have I taken a more vile-tasting syrup in my life) was the thing. Oh, it kept me quiet all right…by making me essentially catatonic. Unfortunately there is no drug to stop me going on about a pet topic. or to keep me on task, or to make me get interested in things I’m not interested in at all, or to prevent “absent-minded professor” moments. If there were, I’d take it though. These are the times a little more acceptance is needed.

    • The drawfism treatment is still experimental and has not yet received FDA approval, so some amount of caution is appropriate. The drug has been proven to increase height and apparently improve body proportion, but it is unclear if other symptoms caused by the underlying genetic defects are obviated.

  3. I think this is true of most things.

    One of the (many) reasons I refer to Sally Kohn as “The Dumbest Lesbian on The Internet” is her op-ed opining that she would like her daughter to also be gay.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/im-gay-i-want-my-kid-to-be-gay-too/2015/02/19/eba697c2-b847-11e4-aa05-1ce812b3fdd2_story.html

    “I’m gay. And I want my kid to be gay, too.

    Many of my straight friends, even the most liberal, see this logic as warped. It’s one thing for them to admit that they would prefer their kids to be straight, something they’ll only begrudgingly confess. But wanting my daughter to be a lesbian? I might as well say I want her to grow up to be lactose intolerant.

    “Don’t you want her to be happy?” one friend asked. Perhaps he just meant that it’s easier to be straight in a homophobic culture. But this attitude complies with, even reinforces, that culture in the first place. A less-charitable interpretation is that he thinks being straight is superior.”

    Can we cut straight to the quick?

    Being straight *is* superior.

    Not like…. a straight person is better than a gay person in any inherent way, but the experience of being straight is superior. Even if you could shoot yourself through time into a future where there is no homophobia, being straight is objectively better. Being straight gives you a wider pool with which to seek a companion that might reciprocate your attraction. Being straight means that you can naturally have a child with the person you care about. There are benefits to being straight. Being gay means…. Free birth control? I guess. At this point in my life, I’m comfortable, and I’m settled into my identity well enough that even if a magical “fix the gay” pill came into the market, I probably wouldn’t take it. That might not have been true 40 years ago when gay people were being Chemically castrated in England or beaten to death in America. But now? I can take the current level of discourse. But if I had a kid? I would slingshot that pill into my kid’s mouth a la Dennis The Menace and not feel bad about it.

    Because believe it or not, even administered by a slingshot, that’s the *less* psychopathic thing to do to your kid. “I want my kid to have less opportunity than his peers, because I did, and I turned out ok” is something, but it ain’t good parenting.

    • Same deal with being neurotypical. It means you will fit in, make friends more easily, be more likely to have a romantic relationship, be able to play a sport at a reasonable level of competence, be able to advance more easily in your career, and so on. I’m 50 and very unlikely to have a child at this point, and I’m ok with that. I wouldn’t want to pass this problem on and condemn my son to a childhood of struggling to fit in and knowing he was “different,” even with the availability of counseling, Individual learning plans, and so on, and then an adulthood of being at best tolerated by others and probably being alone.

      THE ONE WHO CAN’T BELONG

      See the boy who stands apart, as others play their games,
      Who’s present, yet he’s absent, for he hears a different song.
      He looks the same as all the rest, and yet he’s not the same,
      Try or not he knows he’s just the one who can’t belong.

      His imagination’s huge, and yet it can’t stay in one place.
      He does his best to stay on task, but never stays for long.
      He just can’t hit the target, he’s the last in every race.
      Do his best or worst, he’s still the one who can’t belong.

      The teachers want no part of him, he just gets in the way.
      His family keeps asking “just where did we go wrong?”
      The other kids just see him as a target for cruel play,
      Which he falls all the time for, since he still can’t belong.

      As everyone grows older, he just falls farther back,
      Though he’s no longer a target, loneliness prolongs,
      While others find their true loves, he only finds his lack
      Of social skills means he’s still one who can’t belong.

      He does his best to fit in, but every day he fails.
      Sometimes he wishes life just wasn’t quite so long.
      While others achieve greatness, he progresses like a snail
      And everywhere he goes, he still just can’t belong.

      No one really notices the day he isn’t there,
      Since no one wants to see him when he comes along.
      That might not be too nice to think, but hey, life isn’t fair,
      And no one cares about the one who can’t belong.

      Eventually someone will go knock upon his door
      If only when the bills remain unpaid too long.
      And there they’ll find he’s left the world that treated him so poor
      And passed beyond the place where he could not belong.

      The church will be quite empty, if there’s anyone at all.
      Why treat him well who when alive you treated wrong?
      They close the grave, where never any mourners come to call,
      It’s better now he’s gone, who never could belong!

      • Good example. There are so many ways that society or biology rewards people that don’t deviate very far from the mean. And while we can try to work on society, and we can nudge systems and infrastructure towards giving everyone a similar level of opportunity and access, you just can’t beat biology.

        Being born “cis” instead of “trans” means that you don’t have to go through multiple surgeries to get a body that you feel comfortable in.

        Being born with two functioning legs means that you probably won’t be confined to a chair, or rely on some kind of medical equipment to get around.

        Being born able to see, hear, or speak will always be superior to being blind, deaf, or mute.

        This isn’t complicated. This shouldn’t even be controversial. Social justice refers to ways that your life is better than someone else’s as “privilege”, they identify it *explicitly* as a superior experience.Trying to disenfranchise your children because you think it builds character or because you want a smaller, younger clone of yourself to let loose on the world, quality of life be damned, is abuse.

        • I can’t leave this alone…. I hate this so much.

          I’m not a believer in Christianity, but I’ve read the book. And I’m going to draw some inspiration from the prodigal son.

          The story of the prodigal son goes that a father has two sons, which he gives a certain amount of money to, and lets them loose in the world. The older son invests his money wisely and works on his father’s farm, which he will eventually inherit. The prodigal son, and it bears note that “Prodigal” does not mean “beloved”, “prodigal” actually shares etymology with “prodigious”, meaning excessive, and in this context, he did an excessive amount of hookers and blow, blew through his money, and lived in a gutter until he hit bottom and crawled back to his father’s farm. The father is overjoyed, his son, the prodigal one, has returned! He was worried about him! He immediately welcomes the son back, hugs him, shushes him, and throws a party with non-alchoholic wine and only the most modest of women.

          The older son takes his father aside and says, “Where the hell’s my party? I did everything right, I didn’t fall nose first into a pile of coke and showed up to your doorstep debased, where’s my reward?”

          And the father says, “You’re going to get the farm. you’re going to get the fruits of your labor. What’s he going to get? Probably the clap from all those hookers. Let him have his party, there’s something righteous in redemption.

          One of the unanswerable questions is what makes for a better person; The person who never screws up, or the person who screws up and is able to redeem themself. It’s unanswerable because while there is something absolutely righteous in redemption, and redemption is indicative of good character, there’s nothing saying that the person who didn’t screw up wouldn’t also redeem themself if they did. There’s also nothing saying that they wouldn’t curl up and die instead. This is “Schrodinger’s Redemption Arc”. One thing that is answerable is the obvious truth that redemption *is* good. Not everyone has the moral fortitude to survive their redemption arc, which is why redemption is so virtuous. It’s hard.

          Megan Schimmel is a prodigal child that had a redemption arc and came out stronger on the other end, and is using cocaine as baby powder on the hope that her child is able to handle adversity as well as she did.

    • I think the question of “superiority” here is mostly subjective and dependent on what a person wants for themselves. For a person who doesn’t really care about establishing romantic relationship and does not wish to have children, it may not be superior per se.
      Also, I think the analogy with homosexuality does not quite fit for the simple reason that homosexuality is not inherently negative for the individual in the way that maladies and defects are. And even in the presence of homophobia – I’ve gone to prison because a policeman “suspected” I was gay because I was catwalking. I’ve had guns to my head and been beaten many times for my sexuality, etc – I would still not want to be straight. Even if it was possible to change sexualities with a finger snap.

      • So… You’re telling me that I’m wrong, and that the experience of straight life is not objectively better than experience of gay life, and to prove your point, you’re citing your life experiences of assault and battery that you experienced due to being gay?

        No, it’s objectively better because there are more options, whether those options are important to you or not is subjective, but the fact that the options exist is objective.

        • If the extra options available in heterosexuality are not important to you, how then can it be better?

          If a person who has long resolved to not have children later gets to learn that they are infertile, then fertility is not superior for them, even if it might be superior for people who want to have children.

          • So if someone isn’t interested in walking, being paralyzed from the waist down isn’t a handicap? Speaking from that individual’s personal perspective, maybe not, although not having an option seems like a disadvantage to me. But being unable to walk is still a disability as a general proposition.

            • But Homosexuality is not a disability.

              Unrelated: I like to think that it is in the context of the homosexual-heterosexual spectrum that the term “Differently abled” could be more accurately used.

              • Pick an argument, because your goalposts are moving.

                “If the extra options available in heterosexuality are not important to you, how then can it be better?”

                Because having options is always better. The choice not to exercise an option is still a choice.

                “But Homosexuality is not a disability.”

                I never said it was, I said it limits choices. As an example; If you, as a gay person, do not want to have children with the person you love, that’s cool, but it’s not a choice, it’s a physical reality that doesn’t upset you. You have no choice. Let’s say that tomorrow, you had an epiphany, and suddenly really wanted kids: What are you going to do? There are options; Adoption, Surrogacy, In Vitro (possibly). You know what you can’t do? Have sex with your partner until it happens.

                • Okay. I admit your argument and concede to it.

                  But do you realise that gay men actually get married to women and have kids with them. Family pressures, socialisation into heterosexuality, etc. Not bisexual men, Homosexual Men.

              • You realize that is the same argument that the Dwarf Pride advocates make, or the deaf. It’s naturally occurring, it doesn’t harm anyone, and people can live fulfilling, productive lives who are in that group. That’s a definitional objection.

  4. I hate to say this, but this is where the whole “differently-abled” nonsense gets you — a place we metaphorically call the State of Denial. Look, I appreciate the contributions people with physical disabilities have given us, and I appreciate and approve of the message that people with disabilities and other physical abnormalities should expect to live as happy a life as they are able.

    But the world is not made to accommodate disabilities and abnormalities. We have adjusted the world as much as we can in the name of civilization, compassion, and a desire for all our fellow humans to be as happy as possible. And no doubt, some people suffering abnormalities and disabilities may be even happier than many of their “normal” peers.

    But the best opportunities for a fulfilling, happy life in this world is those for those without abnormalities and disabilities. That’s not by my design, but it is an objective fact to anyone not brain-damaged by Leftist dogma. That doesn’t mean others with them cannot be just as happy, but it is certainly more challenging for them to get there. In my opinion, it is also objectively insane to for a parents with an opportunity to fix a congenital or genetic problem in their children to refuse to do so on the grounds that they are somehow discriminating against those with disabilities or abnormalities.

    Identity politics is a sickness, and if not treated, it could become deadly. I weep for those poor kids afflicted with parents with damaged cognition due to a dangerous infection of identity politics and Leftist nonsense.

  5. I keep listening to people try to figure out what has happened to our society and I am really leaning towards the idea that we have separated into one group that believes emotion should decide everything and the other group that believes in evidence and reason. This has been a long time coming, but I think it has been brought to prominence because we also realigned politically. When Trump was elected, the governing class circled the wagons and joined forces. We are used to describing people’s political views in liberal/conservative terms, but that is long gone. In the old system, Rand Paul (as a liberal Republican) would be considered close to Hillary Clinton (a moderate Democrat), while George W. Bush would be on the opposite end. In reality, Clinton and Bush have stand for almost identical policies while Paul is very different. Our new alignment is along authoritarian/libertarian lines. This explains why leftists have attacked Rand Paul 3 times in recent years. He is the Republican most extreme from the Democrats, it also explains why the neocons went to the DNC not the RNC. The Democrats/Authoritarians are the party of emotion and the Trump Train (I don’t know what you call the Trump/Cruz/Paul etc group of the Republicans) is the party of order and reason. It isn’t a perfect explanation, but it seems close enough in the insane world we live in. A world where Donald Trump is the leader of the party of reason and order is a strange world indeed, but here we are.
    (I hope the stuff below formats OK)
    Authoritarian Libertarian
    Antifa/BLM neoliberal/neoconservative Donald Trump Rand Paul

  6. This topic has similarities to the fetal tissue debate in that we are asking what is the value of a life as it is. Is it better for society that certain human lives don’t exist altogether, and if they do, should they be altered to fit society?

    Recently I read a story with a title I don’t remember. A husband was born with above average intellect and some government ministry forced him to have a variety of loud and jarring sounds transmitted every so often into his ear, so he would be more like everyone else. The above average in attractiveness received the same treatment and had to be made less good-looking. The physically strong, same thing. The exceptional walked around with weights on their bodies, covered faces, and ringing ears. Eventually his own son – attractive, smart, and strong – danced in the air with an above average girl for all to see on their TV’s. They were killed, for the betterment of society.

    And the son’s dad received a particularly loud noise, rendering him senseless. He forget he even saw his beautiful child die. The mother simply wasn’t smart enough to even register it.

    This discussion feels like the flip side of the above story. Should we fix our kids (or ourselves) to fit in or not be a burden? Is that mindset an emotional one based on prejudice? The utilitarian brutality of where these sorts of things could go, gets more interesting as we see transhumanism increase in philosophy and tangible science (or scientism). So much could be great if only someone was taller, heterosexual, or smarter, right? Maybe we can even “evolve” to “upgrade” our bodies? Jeffrey Epstein certainly though so as did some of his powerful friends. A gander at some of the medical patents Google’s parent company has pending, is head scratching at best.

    There is some documentation that kids suffer from some of the most brutal of experiments in the name of “better.” From medication for ADHD to Autism or circumcision to cutting off the healthy breasts of a twelve year old girl who thinks she may be a boy. Some have undergone serious side effects, further disability, and regret over permanent damage. If we don’t abort we cut. If we don’t cut we medicate. If we don’t medicate, we are a burden. If we are a burden, what is our value? Can we trust those who believe they know the answer absolutely?

    Sorry but my answer is hell no.

    • But there is a gaping divide between allowing a child with a 65 IQ to get to 100, and to use drugs to raise a 120 t0 180. Is a cochlear implant that cures total deafeness no different from giving a normal person super-hearing? Being 4 feet tall or less is objectively a handicap, and fixing it is objectively a benefit. Sure, if the drug isn’t safe, it’s not safe, but so far, nobody seems to think that’s a issue. In Europe, sufferers of dwarfism undergo painful and expensive bone lengthening surgery that takes years, and results in legs and arms out of proportion with the body. Yikes. Give me the drug.

    • “Should we fix our kids to fit in and not be a burden” is a tragic re-framing of the argument, “Should we fix our kids to give them the best life possible” is better.

      Should we vaccinate our kids? I mean, it’s doing something to them that isn’t natural. It’s medical. “Hell no”, I think you said? What’s a little polio or measles when faced with a fundamental opposition to “upgrading” our bodies?

      What about prosthetics? Hell no! Right? They can just crawl on the ground. They were born that way.

      Pacemakers? Hell no! Right? Their heart gave up on it’s own.

      Cleft lip surgery? Cochlear Implants? Voiceboxes? Hell no! Right?

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