Karamo Brown's never been one to shy away from a discussion about respectful communication and the role language plays within upholding certain power dynamics, and the latest online discussion he's sparked is further proof of this.
On Thursday, the Queer Eyestar took to his Twitter to pose a question to his followers about using the common idiom "falling on deaf ears" — a phrase he thinks is ableist.
"Someone just said to me, 'I feel like my message is falling on deaf ears…' and I told them that I felt that 'saying' is inappropriate," Brown tweeted. "It seems disrespectful and rude to the deaf & HOH community. She said I was being over sensitive. Thoughts?"
Someone just said to me, “I feel like my message is falling on deaf ears...” and I told them that I felt that “saying” is inappropriate. It seems disrespectful and rude to the deaf & HOH community. She said I was being over sensitive. Thoughts?— Karamo Brown (@Karamo) May 23, 2019
And for the most part, many — especially members of the d/Deaf/HoH community — agreed with Brown, pointing out that the phrase implies a false equivalency between having issues with auditory processing and "choosing not to listen."
"Thank you! I don't like the phrase because it implies that deaf people can't listen," one person responded. "I put 10x more effort into communicating than hearing people."
Thank you! I don’t like the phrase because it implies that deaf people can’t listen.— Chrissy🌈🎬💜 (@life_laughter_) May 23, 2019
I put 10x more effort into communicating than hearing people.
Thank you for being aware & using your platform to recognize and elevate Deaf/HOH perspectives 💜
Deaf here! I think the saying is a bit ridiculous as being deaf isn’t a choice like ignorance. It depends on the person tho, I’m not TOO bothered by it. However, it does rub me the wrong way— Anderson “Andy” Pleasants (@pleasantandy) May 23, 2019
Thank you for being aware & using your platform to elevate Disabled & Deaf perspectives!
i also use it to identify myself. it brings up a good reminder that we are individuals and ok with different identities. good place to start with is asking.— seanna davidson (@seannalee) May 23, 2019
It depends... As a Deaf person, I’ve teased my friends & family, “You’re going Deaf!” If it’s light, I’m not offended. If it’s “He’s deaf & dumb!” That’s not okay ever. Or making up signs in the air. AND don’t tell me for the 100th time you want to learn sign (& not learn after).— Sheena McFeely (@SheenaMcfeely) May 23, 2019
Even activist Nyle DiMarco chimed in, writing, "I think it depends on the context. It also depends on deaf individuals. However if we can find a better word/idiom, then always go with that!"
I think it depends on the context. It also depends on deaf individuals. However if we can find a better word/idiom, then always go with that!— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) May 23, 2019
As a result, others also began suggesting alternate phrases to use such as "talking to a brick wall" or "talking to them is like trying to make a call in a cell phone dead zone."
One of the best I heard used the other day is, "Talking to them is like trying to make a call in a cell phone dead zone."— Matthew Wilson (@Matt82181) May 24, 2019
“Talking to a brick wall”— katie • MCMLondon (@katiejenmish) May 23, 2019
All in all, an extremely productive conversation. Read all the replies to Brown's query here.
Photo via Getty