(originally published Nov 21, 2007)
Like the rest of the (connected) world, I’m on facebook about 36 hours a day. This morning I noticed a reminder that November is Adoption Awareness Month. I clicked on it and this is what I saw:
Like so many other things on facebook (giving candy corn, throwing turkey legs, giving growing plants), adoption has become something that you can reduce to an online application (built byHoliday Gifts), a mindless gift sent from one person to a huge mass of people by clicking the “Send to All Friends” option. The icons completely infantilize adoptees by using a smiling baby face, baby footprints, animal doll, and pastel colors as if adoptees remain infants and never grow up into adults. And maybe it’s just me, but the thought of being able to “send” an image of an infant reminds me of the thousands of Korean children sent to the US by proxy adoption, and the images of thousands of adoptable “waiting” children circulating online today.
I’m also bothered by the wording: “support adoption” “adoption awareness” “adoption is love.” What exactly does it mean to support adoption? Support the one-way flow of children to wealthier/white/western nations and the reverse flow of money to poorer/nonwhite/nonwestern nations? To raise awareness in a post-closed adoption society where it’s quite obvious that the little Chinese girl is not the biological child of her Jewish American father? And if adoption is love, then does that mean that birth parents do not love their children because they didn’t keep them?
Recently there was a fiery censorship scandal where the New York Times removed adoptees’ comments on its Relative Choices blog, thus silencing their voices and basically saying “Your opinions, even though you were adopted, don’t matter and aren’t welcome here.” The blog contained language such as “if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!” The author also mentions “a recently published book in which many Midwestern Asian adoptees now entering their 30s and 40s complain bitterly about being treated as if they did not come from a different cultural background.” If adoptees (and people with common sense; did she really make that factory comment to her daughter?!) cannot respond to blogs such as this in the allegedly democratic space of the internet or within their own publications, then where are they to turn?
I wish I was artistic enough to create a new icon: “support adoptees.”