Does This Feel Ableist To You?

10 Mar



This London mural of Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage has been around for a while.  Dinklage’s success and visibility has generally been great for the dwarf community.  Most of this is thanks to professional decisions made by Dinklage himself.  He suavely excoriated dwarf-tossing last year when accepting his Golden Globe.  He starred in the only good film about a character living with dwarfism in the real world.  And his famous “I don’t have dreams with dwarfs in them!” rant continues to provide me with a perfect answer to those who still snicker about midgets on Facebook.  But now that Game of Thrones has helped propel him into the mainstream, not all the attention given to his dwarfism is good.

Fantasy traditionally exiles men with dwarfism to the Friend Zone and Game of Thrones has finally taken a hammer to that.  But it doesn’t feel like progress when shallow discussions of Dinklage’s sexiness treat him like a novelty.  (And invariably trigger jokes and a sick fascination with the effect of height on certain sex positions.)  In her superb list, “Things to Keep in Mind When You Come Across a Person with Dwarfism,” the girlfriend of a dwarf writes on Tumblr:

Don’t go out of your way, if they’re male, to affirm their masculinity by attempting to ‘bro down’ by gratuitously using words like ‘boss,’ ‘man,’ ‘sport,’ ‘champ,’ etc. in your interactions with them.  It makes it obvious that you’re uncomfortable with their difference & are attempting to overcompensate.

Her complete list is definitely worth your time.  (And oh man, do I remember the high-fives… )  But I’m not going to decide just yet whether the above mural embodies the patronizing attitude she describes.  I want to hear what you think:



Feel free to explain your answer in the comments.







5 Responses to “Does This Feel Ableist To You?”

  1. Mike March 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Just like beauty – ableism is in the eye of the beholder. I feel that way about racism, sexism, homophobia, gender-identity-ism, nationalism etc etc etc. Where is the border between being the king of edgy-humour and being offensive? Surely that lives in the moment and in the minds of those present. With something like this, which is a semi-permanent artwork it is too simplistic either to call it offensive or not. I can easily see how some people would interpret it as a playful compliment towards a sexy man, while others would see it as being of questionable taste, while others may focus on the ‘imp’ reference and therefore find it offensive. Urgh… hence my vote for ‘it’s complicated’!

  2. QoB March 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    I voted ‘no’ – I see it as taking what could be an insult to the character (‘imp’) and turning it into admiration, as much as I dislike the use of ‘pimp’ as a term of praise (and it’s not like Dinklage’s character in Game of Thrones is one, unlike some other characters!) it’s not an insult here. I do think, though, that you’d have to know the series to have that interpretation. If you didn’t know Dinklage as an actor in that series it could be interpreted very differently. Looking forward to hearing what others think.

  3. theedgeofoz March 14, 2013 at 3:00 am #

    The only way to answer this question honestly is to put yourself in this scenario … If you were walking down the street with a friend who was a little person and the two of you saw this, would you feel uncomfortable looking at it with your LP friend next to you? The answer would be YES so the answer to the question posed by this post is YES as well.


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