The M-Word

My policy on the word ‘midget’.

Most people with dwarfism dislike the term 'midget' (m-word) immensely and recognise it as a hate word. It has a history of, and continues to be used as, a term to demean, dehumanise and ridicule people with dwarfism. If you need to discuss my stature, please refer to me as a ‘person with dwarfism’.

The truth about the m-word…

The m-word has never been a medical term. While ‘dwarf/dwarfism’ is medically accepted and refers to people under a specific height (approx 4’10”). There are over 200 types of dwarfism, with different environmental and genetic causes.

The word was invented in the 1800s by the freak-shows of the time. It derives from the word ‘midge’, meaning a small sand fly. Not very nice connotations, expressed there.

Myth associates the m-word with ‘proportionate’ dwarfs because of the way it was used in freak-show advertising. There is no such thing as a ‘midget’ it was a freak-show advertising concept that became misappropriated. ‘Little people’, proportionate or not all have ‘dwarfism’.

Why is this not common knowledge, even amongst people with dwarfism?

Most little people are born to average height parents and their births mostly occur in isolation within their communities.

Little people have been exploited, exhibited, enslaved and killed (ie the Holocaust) throughout history.

Our social history is not widely know as most people with dwarfism are the only little people in their communities.

There is no prevailing culture, except the perception of difference which is created by the broader community around the stigma of our disability/difference.

I heard a person with dwarfism call themselves a ‘midget’

I say that is their right if they choose to do so, as it is their body and their identity. It is not ok for someone who doesn’t have ownership over the word to use it, just as with the n-word.

Aren’t you being too ‘politically correct’?

Saying ‘person with dwarfism’ is just being polite and considerate of a person and their condition. It is just good manners.

It is best to promote a language of ‘person’ first to combat a culture of bullying and ridicule. ‘Midget’ turns people into objects and it’s easier to be nasty to an object than to think of them as a person.

Ultimately everyone, would prefer people refer to them by their name, rather than their condition.

For further information about dwarfism please visit Understanding Dwarfism or Little People of America