Dear Margaret Cho…

1 Jun

I’ve spent the afternoon trying to figure out how properly to respond to your “I don’t necessarily want to have a retard” statement you made on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” talk show.  As a mom of a child with special needs who’s dealt with the word “retarded” before, let’s just say it went over like a lead ballon in my house.

Words beginning with the letter F came to mind.  Okay, variations of just one F word.  I think you could figure it out which one. But that won’t make my point.

And then, I read up on you, on Wikipedia (yeah, I know, fabulous source) as people were all “Gee, and she’s usually so pro-acceptance” and was horrified to find that yes, indeed, you have won a slew of awards dealing with tolerance and acceptance.  Things like “a pioneer, has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” and “pressing us to see how false constructions of race, sexuality, and gender operate similarly to obscure and demean identity.” were written in the award listing.  Awards from the ACLU, GLAAD, and NOW.  You’ve toured with a group that helps the likes of the Human Rights Campaign. (at least, according to Wikipedia.)

So in reading all this, it sounds like you’re out there to Fight the Good Fight, making life fair and equal for all.

Unless they’re a “retard” I guess.

Here’s the deal – you can’t scream “ACCEPTANCE” and use the word “retard”.  Especially in a sentence like “I don’t want a retard.”

You’re all about acceptance.  Well guess what?  Most of us with children with special needs didn’t get a choice – but we accept them.  We love them.  We take joy and learn from them.  And in return, the special people in our lives will love us back.  Unabashedly.  Unconditionally.

If my daughter Maura met you tomorrow, she’d probably smile big, say “HI!” and then show off her shoes or go “ooo…pretty” at whatever jewelry you might be wearing. She would accept you instantly, without another thought.

Would you be as accepting of her?

Listen Margaret – the first lesson of parenthood is accepting what you get.  No one gets the perfect child.  No one.  Why?  Because the perfect child doesn’t exist.  And just because they’re born “normal” doesn’t guarantee they’ll stay that way.  Life has a way of going “Comfy?  Great!  Screw you!” and pulling the rug out from under you. Cancer, accidents, diagnoses long after they were born.  Maura was “normal” for the first fifteen months of her life. Yeah, guess what?  I gave birth to a “retard”, I just didn’t know it at the time.

You don’t get a refund if your child isn’t born perfect.  You don’t get to return them if they become a rebellious teen.  There are no take-backs in parenthood.

Having a child is a crap shoot.  If you’re not willing to embrace ALL the risks, then maybe you shouldn’t throw the dice.

I know you’re a comedian. I know that’s all about pushing the envelope.  But some things just. aren’t. funny.  And saying “Oh, was I not supposed to say that?” doesn’t make things all better.

You didn’t make a joke.  All you did was piss off a whole lot of mama bears.  Including this one.  Your ignorant words were extremely painful to many people. You caused people who deal with more than their share of trials pain.  You put the proverbial knife to their hearts, caused their stomachs to drop, shoulders to droop, and thoughts of “Great, another person rejecting a person I love, reminding me that MY child is worthless in the eyes of others.” go through their head.

But hey, you got the laugh.  You got noticed.

Was it worth it though?  For a laugh, was it worth stabbing a whole community of defenseless people in the back?  Was it worth the pain you caused in countless mothers’ hearts?

Was it?

And you should know better Margaret Cho – in a world where phrases like “that’s so gay” is unacceptable, as someone who has worked hard for equal rights for everyone, you should know better than to fling the word “retard” around.

It’s not acceptable.

It’s not okay.

It’s not funny.

Ever.

r-word.org

Update – shortly after posting this, Margaret Cho sent out an apology on her blog -

“I’m so sorry for my insanely offensive comments on Watch What Happens Live. I certainly didn’t mean to hurt anyone, and this is a good lesson for me to make sure I’m aware of the power of negative speech. Please forgive my ignorance as I have little experience with children and mothers and I’m often likely to act very childish myself. All my love and apologies to anyone who may have been hurt by my statements and my inexcusable remarks.”

 

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48 Responses to “Dear Margaret Cho…”

  1. Laura@Catharsis June 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    *Standing Ovation*. I’m tearing up reading this now. I didn’t know she said that, and now, I’ll add that to another list of reasons why she’s not my favorite comedienne. Except she’s moved to the not-my-favorite-people column now. My son suffered a stroke in utero and has hemiparesis and cerebral palsy. My uncle has Down Syndrome. This breaks my heart on so many levels and makes me want to lash back with my own slew of hateful, bigoted words. But that’s my instant reaction. Instead, I’ll mutter them under my breath and run them through my head. Because I don’t really mean them, and I’m not really a hateful, bigoted person. I have a filter. And a heart. Something Margaret Cho might invest in or, because I’m certain she has these things too, might activate.

    • Johanny June 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

      My daughter too has hemiparesis due to brain cyst. Have u looked into cord blood for treatment of cerebral palsy and hemiparesis

  2. Bella June 1, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Oh my goodness, this post is powerful! Good for you! My hat comes off to you for calling out Margaret Cho and anyone else who doesn’t have the common decency to be respectful of others. Indeed one cannot preach acceptance and tolerance and then incur in unacceptable behavior. Thank you for creating awareness and for spreading the word that it’s not funny when you hurt others simply to get a laugh.

  3. Mac June 1, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Love it!

  4. Jessica Cash June 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    To me, this is no different than using the ‘n’ word. My son is on the spectrum and his IQ tested 15 points above the cutoff for MR. He’s been called the ‘r’ word before and It never stops hurting him… I have grown a thick skin (sometimes) to seeing it in people’s FB statues and usually correct people and ask them to please not use it. However, Ms. Cho’s statement made me vomit in my mouth a bit. May she never have a child born with different abilities; it takes special families to raise our kids and she’s obviously missing what most of us have in abundance for our children and others- compassion.

    • Melissa June 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

      No these are the people who should be blessed with such, so that they may eat their words and suffer the same fate of listening to ignorant people say things they have no clue about. At least that is what I wish on everyone who I hear make a stupid comment.

  5. Sheila Weinberg-Cowdrey June 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Another accolade shout -out to YOU for speaking on behalf of our precious special population and those who love them unconditionally. I am curiouis how & if Margaret responds. Hopefully, it will be from her heart & not her press agent . Unfortunately, I know see her in a different light – as I do Andy Cohen. The “word” never should have gotten by the censors. However, maybe in this case it was a good thing it did, so now we see what Margaret Cho’s heart is really made of! Not nice Ms. Cho!!!

  6. lalx11 June 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    I Have worked in adaptive learning environments for over twenty years now with all to teeny tiny to loving-the-play-doh granddads.
    My people. My Huge family.
    There were a few vicious words thrown around here today when I saw your tweet. Not friendly. To quote the comedienne Francesca Martinez ‘Normal is a cycle on a washing machine.’ And SHE should know…

    Sorry this happened you ‘hugs’ xxx

  7. Wendee Vincent June 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    All i can say at the moment is Amen Sister, that was very powerful and made my heart ache for you and all the other parents that had to hear such ignorance. I pray that this gets to her and others out there like her and makes them realize that such comments are just not acceptable or funny. I’ve never been a big fan of hers to start with and for good reason apparently. While my son was not considered a “special needs” child he did have a learning disability and it took lots of research, pushing and patience (well not really) to try and figure out what the learning disability was because no one had an answer for me for years other than he had a learning disability…well duh, i figured that one out. I do understand alot of frustration that parents have to face to get someone to listen and i really wish i would have your blogs to read back then but i have them now and i thoroughly enjoy them.

  8. Name June 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    This is mostly a great response, and overall it slams the nail squarely on the head. But as a father of a daughter with Down syndrome, I see — yet again — that this kind of thing is only understood as pissing of “mama bears.” We papa bears are pissed off, too.

    • phoebz4 June 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      Oh! I am sorry! There are many MANY Papa Bears out there! I am married to one of them :) You Papa Bears are a fantastic group in your own right.

      (and also, Family and Friend Bears – where would I be without my pack o’ bears?)

      • Denisa Grimm June 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

        I think we ALL need our “Bear -Pack” of LOVING & CARING & HELPFUL people around us…I understand that she did apologize, but the fact of the matter that she said it at ALL….means it is EXACTLY what she feels….Personally, I think she is nothing but a Hypocrite….never liked her …probably won’t ever….I am the VERY Proud cousin of twin women with downs syndrome….they live together in their own “apartment” that is attached to my aunt & uncles house….go to work every day & are the BEST FRIENDS a cousin could ever ask for!!! Keep GROWLIN’ Mama Bear!!!!!

  9. Russty June 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    Thank you for posting this! I have wanted to like Margaret for her stance on equal rights, but things like this truly bother me. Way to bash a whole community of wonderful people who you don’t even know! I was born with a brain disorder and grew up when it was okay to call someone the R word. Thankfully I had parents like you who said no that was not okay! My two youngest brothers never even knew that I had brain damage till I was older, even though it was physically obvious. In our house just because I was different didn’t mean I had something “wrong” with me. Everyone should be treated that way and celebrated for their uniqueness.

    Thank you for speaking out about this. I’m also a mother with a child with different needs and it helps to know there are other mothers out there speaking up for our wonderful kids.

  10. C.Heck June 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    BRAVO!!! From one Momma Bear to Another. It is so easy for people to say one thing and do another. I saw this so called “funny lady” twice on TV and ended up turning the channel the first time and walking out of the room the second. It is amazing to me how it is ok to make fun of people in a world that claims to hate bullying. But there are people that think it is ok to make fun of others and so they raise their children that way. If i am correct letters like yours will just become part of her sick act because “it’s all about the money.” Again BRAVO to you for writing what was in our hearts.

  11. denverlori June 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Brilliant!! Buckle in for another viral post sista!!

  12. Denise June 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Well said!!! You were articulate and forceful! Margaret Cho’s apology is a step in the right direction, but you can’t unring a bell. Now she’d better do more.

  13. denverlori June 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Perhaps Ms Cho can fund Maura’s schooling as an appropriate apology?!?

    • phoebz4 June 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

      LOL! Let’s not get crazy here ;)

  14. Sherry June 1, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Thank you for expressing my heart so well <3

  15. doulaaimee June 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Thank you for once again putting perfectly into words my feelings and thoughts (once again). How very sad that someone who says she stands for tolerance and equality would be so cruel. Just a few days ago my daughter came home telling us that some kids didn’t want to play with her and after they told her that they said “we know you are retarded” My sweet girl with the beautiful brown eyes looked at me and asked “why are they so mean?”. This happened on our own street and broke my heart. The parents when confronted claimed to not understand what I was talking about….
    It’s so very sad to me that in this seemingly politically correct world the “R” word still gets flung around with no thought. I don’t know if you saw it but on HBO’S new series the first episode was full of people calling each other “retarded”. Both my husband I were shocked as we watched and wrote to HBO right away.
    Thank you for speaking up for us mama bears! I love your blog as does my husband and our oldest daughter

  16. smalltownjules June 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Reblogged this on smalltownjules and commented:
    First, I am not the parent of a special needs child. However I am an advocate and an educator for those who learn differently, think creativity, act freely, and love abundantly. The “r” word is never acceptable. Ever. Please read and share.

  17. smalltownjules June 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    Thank you for your wonderful, powerful, and honest reaction.

  18. dolly June 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    I think you misunderstood. I agree that Margaret used poor word choice, but I have a question for you. Please be honest. If you could have had your Maura, but developmentally “normal” — so you wouldn’t have to put in extra work, have her undergo all that testing, etc, wouldn’t you want that?

    That’s all Margaret’s saying, I think. It may be childish or immature, but I think that if we’re all honest, no one goes in to pregnancy hoping for a disabled child.

    • phoebz4 June 2, 2012 at 4:33 am #

      Did I misunderstand? No. She stated she doesn’t want a messed up kid. She doesn’t want a retarded child. She’s older, risks go up. I get that. Everyone does want the best for their child. However, there are hundreds of ways to express that without hitting below the belt like she did. As someone who has had words hurt her, she should have known better than to use such hurtful terminology.

      “Last one out’s a retard.” Really? “I don’t want a retard.” Really? If that’s just childish and immaturity, then maybe she should think twice about becoming a parent. Not to mention, my 11 year old knows better than to use language like that. So let’s not call it “childish”, shall we?

      The issue here isn’t about what she meant – we get what she meant. It’s about how she said it. For someone who is an advocate for acceptance, for stamping out hate, she should know better than to use such a hateful term, to announce she “doesn’t want a retard”. Replace the word “retard” with any other hate term, it’s all the same.

      As for “Would I change Maura” – you know what? I’m far beyond that. I can’t. I accept the child I have. I accept all the children I have, with all the challenges they bring me.

      Oh, and there are people who adopt children with disabilities. So yes, there are people who chose to bring a child with disabilities into their lives and love them with all their hearts. So don’t say “No one wants a child with special needs.” Because there are people who do.

      • dolly June 2, 2012 at 10:04 am #

        Okay, I understand that your issue with her statement was her hurtful word choice. I never said “No one wants a child with special needs.” I am sure that many who feel prepared to care for such a child are lining up to adopt them. I only said “no one goes in to pregnancy hoping for a disabled child.” I still think that is true. Everyone wants the best possible life for their kids, and that’s all she was expressing.

        I also don’t think she meant it in a hateful way. If you watch the whole segment, she’s hating on herself, if anything.

      • Melony Tallarek June 2, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

        We have two girls and a third on the way! Our oldest, Gracie, is now 17 our second, Eliza, is 6 and our third has 20 more weeks before she gets to meet her wonderful sisters. Our Eliza has whatever she has, she is perfectly normal on paper…all tests (and have we had many) have come back fine but that is far from our reality.

        When Gracie was 13 and Eliza was 2, Gracie wrote Eliza a note stating, “If I could have you any other way or just like you, I’d take you just like you.” I love how kids can put into words, simply stating their truth better than most adults. A wonderful lesson for the blanket statement ‘yeah but if you could have your child normal wouldn’t you choose that ….for your child’s sake?’ We have heard that from well meaning people and I always cringed and had a twinge of guilt for whatever reason….like all I had to do was wish hard enough and Eliza would be ‘normal’. This is our normal and I am so proud of Eliza and all her accomplishments and how hard she works for skills that come naturally to her counterparts.

        Thinking about our next daughter….if she is average, praise God. If she is special needs, praise God! God has given us enough grace and mercy to deal with who He chooses to place in our lives….and He has brought many wonderful people to us by means of our Eliza Mae.

      • Amy June 4, 2012 at 8:57 am #

        Hi, Phoebe. I’ve been reading your blogs for a few months…
        I am a special ed teacher in Georgia. I have struggled with the word “retard” and my friends’ use of it. (As I have struggled with my use of the phrase, “that’s gay” to describe something silly.) Language is so permanent and can be so hurtful. I really think most people do not realize how their words can cause so much pain, lasting pain. But I do believe Margaret Cho knew what she was saying… and you’re right, it’s not immaturity. The 6th graders in my school know better. It was a cheap laugh and it sounds like, from her response, she may get it now. Thank you for continuing to spread the word about THAT word. Posts like this one and the original blog you wrote regarding the word “retard” can change a person’s outlook on how they speak and that’s a great thing!
        Amy

  19. dianne sullivan (i'm half irish!!!) morton June 1, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your articulate and powerful message to Ms. Cho. I don’t know how she, or anyone, could have sounded more ignorant or insensitive. It is truly mind boggling that people can think or speak like that. SO. NOT. FUNNY.
    …Oh, and I love my new title: Auntie Bear. Shout out to my AWESOME nephew, Ben, who has the most AMAZING smile on the planet!

  20. Janice June 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I did a much less nice post about this whole topic this morning. You did a good job, and congratulations–whatever you might have been thinking, you expressed yourself very well here. Check out my post if you can–I’d love to have your feedback.

  21. Brilliant post, and yes, I am one of the people who chooses children with special needs. I have 5 children, 4 of whom are adopted and have significant special needs. My life is complete *because* of my children, not reduced because of their needs. I want more – hell, I’d even take Ms. Cho’s if she were to have a child she “doesn’t want.”

  22. Donna Beckmann June 2, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Thank you. I had not heard Ms. Cho’s comments initially. Your response sums up my feelings so succinctly. In case you have not checked her blog, she issued another, lengthy statement.

  23. David June 2, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    I like Margaret Cho,but she crossed the line here.Good for you for calling her out.Now,would you consider being an AM hate radio monitor and doing the same for some of these neocon talk show hosts?

  24. gary June 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    Wonderful post. You can add Jennifer Aniston to the list. Lost all respect for her after watching an interview on Live with Regis and Kelly.

  25. Holly June 3, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    Thank you! I am a mother of a special needs child and I am so happy you were able to address this. I actually went to a show of hers about 7 years ago with some friends. As I am not easily offended, I have never walked out on a comedian. The thing is…she wasn’t funny. We walked out with several others, and it was a small venue. I have a small list of things and people. With this “list”, I promised myself to “enlighten” others with the truth about these people and things. She has been on that list for 7 years. But it looks like I have one more reason to dislike her. I’m not really sure why she’s a comedian. Does she actually tell jokes or just use her platform for a personal advocacy agenda? Wake up Margaret Cho. You are not funny. If your apology really means anything, then perhaps you will do some charity work that will help stop the use of the R-word and
    maybe do some work to advocate for a global acceptance of special needs people!

    Ok, thanks for letting me get that out. My rant is over. I thank you for once again sticking up for our children.

  26. Life's Unexpected Blessings June 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    You ROCK!! You have such a way with words, you speak for so many of us. I’m glad she took the time to apologize but I wonder if she really “get’s it” or if it’s just to cover her public persona.

  27. Marissa June 5, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I still do not like her…. It will take a while for me to forgive this one ….

    • phoebz4 June 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

      I’m trying to be a bigger person here by forgiving…she screws up again, and I’m personally going to have to hunt her down and a chat with her.

  28. Angela P June 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I have never read your blog before but I saw your letter on the National Down Syndrome Congress fb group and had to come here to leave a comment. . Your letter was beautiful. I am the mom of a special needs child and I thank you for writing such an amazing response to the hateful words of Margaret Cho. Your words were absolutely perfect.

  29. Gabrielle W. June 5, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    As the mom of an ASD son, your comments were on the mark for us too. YAAAY! ( and if I hadn’t seen her mea culpa, I was ready to “slap-a-Cho”….)

  30. Shelby's Mom June 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    As a fellow “mama bear”, your words about how it feels for a person who loves someone with special needs to hear those words of hate really are so accurate. My 9yr old daughter, who happens to have Down’s Syndrome is a joy and a blessing to us. There have been times when she has been ridiculed on the playground at her school, and it truly CRUSHES my soul that I can’t protect her. And though it is coming from children, it is showing me that those children are not taught by the adults in their lives that the behavior is wrong. Margaret Cho, who I have never personally cared for as a comedienne, IS a celebrity nonetheless and has a huge outreach. If she makes statements like this, it reaches MANY, in a negative way. Thank you for standing up for all of our children and calling Margaret Cho out, because using that word, even to be funny, is unacceptable.

  31. Angela Brooks June 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Bam! Thank you so much for taking the words swirling around in my head and putting them to “paper”. We didn’t pick T21 – it picked us for a reason and I really don’t care what that reason is now because I love my son so much it doesn’t matter any longer. No one in this world is perfect.

  32. Kristin Parde June 5, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    My heart broke with your words, “Great, another person rejecting a person that I love.” You are a great writer and a great voice. I was happy to see her apology.

  33. Pamela Wilson June 6, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    I read Margaret Cho’s blog post “More Apologies” and it helped me understand how otherwise admirable people and even human rights advocates can still thoughtlessly use hate language and make such awful remarks – and also how far wrong preteens and older adolescents can go on the spur of the moment among people they are trying to impress.

    http://www.margaretcho.com/2012/06/01/more-apologies/

    These were remarks that cannot be unsaid or forgotten. But I can forgive Margaret Cho after reading her apologies. Enough celebrities and punks have defended their right to use hate language that I am relieved when anyone apologizes. I don’t like to use hate language myself when protesting offensive language – a lesson I learned in part by being quoted in a Seattle newspaper while protesting the movie “Tropic Thunder.”

    Maybe I can forgive Margaret Cho because she apologized, and promised to try to be a better person after becoming aware of how her comments hurt families and her community. I would expect her to be among the first to protest comments like that if she had not been the bully who made them.

    Your letter made a big difference and I am grateful that you wrote it.

  34. Deanne Medina June 6, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    Amen. You said exactly what I was thinking (although much more eloquently). I have a sister who is a lesbian. I have a daughter who has Down Syndrome. Neither of them had a choice in this; it’s simply nature.

    It pisses me off when people champion for change of one type of hatred but then spew hatred for other groups who are equally disadvantaged.

    I seriously hope she’s learned her lesson.

    And by the way, my sister and my daughter are two of the coolest people I know.

  35. Lynda Sabo June 7, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    BRAVO!!!!!

  36. kelly June 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    It’s interesting that Cho cannot connect the dots on this one. Does she think that when her mom discovered she was expecting Margaret she was hoping for or wanting a gay baby?

    As soon as scientists discover a “gay gene” it will get added to the prenatal test line-up and then Margaret will be in the same boat as our kids.

    Hysterical isn’t it Margaret?

  37. Amanda June 14, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    “You put the proverbial knife to their hearts, caused their stomachs to drop, shoulders to droop, and thoughts of “Great, another person rejecting a person I love, reminding me that MY child is worthless in the eyes of others.” go through their head.”

    This. This is exactly how I feel every time. Thank you for putting it into words for me.

  38. Bobette June 14, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    Thank yo for speaking out for me and for my beuatiful Down SYndrome SOn.

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