Dancing and Deafhood

some of the what is Deafhood and what isn’t Deafhood information and disinformation (and the link being at the end of one of Deaf Pundit’s thread) made me recall a comment i made in Deaf Pagan Cross roads a year ago that was so long she made it into a blog entry – smile

u might need to read the original blog posting sthat i was responding to for the full context
Deaf Pagan’s Original post
Hearing person’s inquiry

thanks again Deaf Pagan Crossroads for fostering that dialogue back then – miss ya

posted October 8, 2007


Patti Durr

“No culture can survive if it attempts to be exclusive”

– Mahatma Gandhi

I don’t think Deafhood is about enforcing who is big D Deaf and who is not. If folks read Paddy Ladd’s book where he introduces the concept of Deafhood – you will see that it is actually the opposite – it is about inclusivity… it is about examining that each of us have different points of entry into our spiritual journey as Deaf people.

It is not about denying, rushing, harassing, or shoving anything in anyone’s face.

It is however about evolution, empowerment, discovery and advocacy… and often advocacy gets chalked up as being just a bunch of ungrateful and unhappy folks.

So I’m really struggling as to how to respond to the above post – I feel saddened by it because it makes pretty broad sweeping assumptions about deaf people as a whole

I think if we examine ANY movement by disenfranchised people we will see that there was a period the people passed through where they said “NO! We will not take this anymore!” and as some of the folks transitioned and transgressed into activism others said “No…don’t make trouble, don’t make noise, leave well enough alone, don’t look so angry and hostile.”

African-Americans, Women, Native Americans, Japanese Americans, Gays and Lesbians have all faced disagreement in approaches in their effort for equality. That is why I’m uncomfortable with the poster suggesting that there is something bizarre about Deaf people that they insist on wallowing in their misery. I don’t think that is the case at all and I think it is a natural evolution process – read Fannon, Friere, Lane, Ladd for references of how disenfranchised groups pass through various stages in their effort for liberation (post-colonialism theories, etc.)

What is the cause you ask? This puzzles me that you cannot see it yet for yourself – the cause is EQUALITY plain and simple – this largely comes in the form of language rights.

The cause – not to be treated as second class citizens

The cause – not to be dismissed, minimized, wrongfully institutionalized, etc.

But if my review of history and movements is accurate – most disenfranchised people must pass through a period of shaking off the yoke of the dominant culture’s definition of who they are and what they can be before they can adequately come together and advocate effectively. It’s a messy process.

There is a bit of in-fighting in the Deaf blogosphere – it saddens me greatly but it is a very very very small amount considering the diverse backgrounds, educational experiences, belief systems, language use, etc that folks have had access to.

So if the cause of equality is not yet clear when we all know, breath and feel it – then we need to more clearly articulate this.

Re: can Deaf people dance? With great abandon, with great soul, with great enthusiasm.

They dance when they come together to protest injustice, they dance when they attend the funeral of a beloved community member, they dance at the wedding of two members, they dance at the birth of another Deaf baby into the world, they dance at almost every social gathering where they chat long into the night

I believe that we can embrace sadness and recognition of oppression and advocate for positive and peaceful change while at the same time acknowledging all the beauty that surrounds us.

Emma’s response to “the cause being thrown in her face” was more in response to someone trying to impede her joy and even perhaps to get her to act more like a lady and more like a revolutionary.

She chose instead to act like herself.

It is my hope that we will each try to stop popping holes in the groundswell that is Deafhood and our collective consciousness and instead plant flowers and shower it with love and positive intentions.

Emma never interpreted the chastising she got to mean she should not continue to be an advocate or a radical.

Deafhood is being tugged in both directions –

Camp A abusing it to mean Big D Deaf police
Camp B abusing it to mean bunch of angry #$%&@#!

Really Deafhood is neither.

We need to form an Camp X where we all decide – Deaf is BEAUTIFUL and Deaf people are born with the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Emma’s quote was not to be applied to folks who tried to stop her from being an advocate but rather towards advocates who tried to stop her from having fun at the same time.

There is a big difference.

Would that people try to stop me from having fun instead of trying to stop me from being an advocate – I really can do both really well but I have gotten much more grief for the latter than the former.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. BR
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 00:27:04


  2. pdurr
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 05:24:27

    OMG – BR just uttered a prayer

    we have all gone off the deep end


    thanks very much BR – im being serious

    i do appreciate ur taking the time to read this and to comment

    may the spirit move us such that we all can rejoice – get busy and of course dance

    (pls note all – i do realize that some folks will not want to dance or be associated with dancing – that is ur right – when i say “it would be nice” i aint trying to put u under my spell

    im just having a happy moment – that’s all

    much peace


  3. BR
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 10:02:29


  4. Dianrez
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 11:06:24

    “Really Deafhood is neither.

    We need to form an Camp X where we all decide – Deaf is BEAUTIFUL and Deaf people are born with the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Maybe what is needed is to let go of the word “Deafhood” entirely and call it something like “Deaf self actualization” because of previous usage of Deafhood as a credo. The undercurrent of “groupthink” in Deafhood (i.e. we all must be united behind the cause) is what turned off many people.

    They would probably accept a more individually centered, self-development concept better.

  5. brenster-
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 15:04:03

    form Camp X where we all decide? let’s look at our DeafRead & DVTV. that’s a tall task.

  6. BR
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 17:51:20


    Don’t you see what’s happening? No matter how the issue is phrased, the people trying to spread awareness will be attacked and the issue critized. Don’t forget that the term Deaf culture used to be under attack (Read Smith and Campbell article, 1986, I think)

    The bottom line is that there is big money to be made on the part of people who are afraid of losing it if empowering concepts become more widespread and accepted. There will always be some groupthink on the part of some. That fact shouldn’t be an important issue or be magnified into a bigger issue than it is.

  7. pdurr
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 17:55:58


    my fear is whatever word we use – there will be folks who oppose it cuz i dont think the conflict is solely rooted in the word choice

    brenster – i wrote that a year ago. I was a hopefully young thing


    i still have hope but now i know that if ALL means we advocate for being NOTHING than im ok with it not being all

    ive also been reading up a bit more on African-Americans, Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender, Women’s struggles for equality and i see there is alot of diversity in thoughts, goals, strategies, and approach

    so all was probably way to ambitious – smile



  8. Ocean
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 18:32:10

    Heya Patti ~

    Thanks for mentioning my site and those posts… wow, has it really been that long ago?

    I’m still around, although I confess I am not posting as often at the Crossroads as I did, and I haven’t done anything deaf-related lately. Hmmmm….

    I’m now living in the Central California Valley area, and just trying to stay afloat in the rat race.

    It’s hard to be a rat.

    ~ Ocean

  9. patti
    Oct 10, 2009 @ 06:22:13

    Oh Ocean

    thank u so much for stopping by

    i miss ur musing re: Deafhood, Deaf culture, ASL

    i think perhaps u were ahead of all of us with the choice of the word CROSSROADS

    i think we are at a major one right now

    i miss ur light that used to serve as a jumping stone as a tried to cross the treacherous flood of B.S. in the blogsphere

    always felt good when i landed in ur space

    oh u r deafinitely not a rat

    swim girl swim

    be a salmon going up stream to spawn

    we gotta a right to be in these waterways and we gotta make sure they are as clean and as healthy as possible

    we r treating the toxicity in these natural discourses with a healthy dose of the truth

    again and always thanks for having been a source of light

    the rat race stinks – hope u find something that feeds ur soul, creativity, communing with nature, a good cup of chai with a pal, reading “their eyes were watching God”


    u r dear to me


    thank u again for all u have done, do, are and for stopping by here

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