16 September 2009

Hurtful terms in Philippine movie, Kimmy Dora, for persons with disabilities

The letter below, from Ms Landa A. Bautista (in photo below), Curriculum Director of The Learning Center, Inc (TLC), was sent to me by email today. I haven't seen the movie Kimmy Dora and am unlikely to do so. This is not in any way a review of the film but I agree very much with the central point that Ms Bautista is making.

I know that many people use the terms 'retarded','mentally retarded', 'MR' and 'mongoloid' with no desire whatever to hurt anyone. All of these terms have been in use for a long time but are better dropped at this stage. I'll highlight parts of the letter and add some [comments].

The Learning Center, Inc. (TLC) is deeply saddened by the demeaning language used in the movie “Kimmy Dora”. I appeal to everyone to please stop the derogatory use of the words “retarded” and “mongoloid”. Remember, it only seems like a funny & petty joke until you yourself have a child with special needs.

As a Special Educator and as someone who advocates the universal acceptance of differences, this comes with a call that you help ban the movie "KimmyDora". Or, AT THE VERY LEAST, help educate people on the hurtful consequences of ignorance and insensitivity to people with developmental conditions. [As I haven't seen the movie I can't ask that it be banned].

Help speak up for the many members of the special needs community who cannot speak out for themselves.

Our thoughts shape our words and eventually, our actions. How we initially see individuals with special needs is primarily reflected by our language. We can use it to discriminate against special people OR dispel negative stereotypes about them....

I sincerely pray we choose, and likewise tell everyone we know, to do the latter.


Just this weekend, I've observed a rise in the disturbingly nonchalant and offensive use of these terms. It truly hurts me that a single movie can erase the hard work involved in removing the social stigma associated with these terms.

Entertainment need not be insensitive to be funny. This is an appeal to local producers to research and use acceptable, politically correct terms for membersof the differently-abled special population AND portray them in a positivelight. [I don't like the term 'politically correct' since it has become a form of censorship in many ways but I see the need for language that it accurate and without negative or derogatory overtones. Nor do I particularly like the term 'differently-abled' though it is a positive term reminding us that everyone has some ability. But we have to face the reality that there are many people, not only those with learning disabilities, who need the practical support of others to use their abilities, no matter how limited, to the full]. Please do not put the influence of media to waste. Use it to educate people, not pull them into the dark ages of ignorance and apathy. [I like this. The media, in whatever form, can be used for good or bad purposes].

We pray for everyone's enlightenment. Please help us spread theword. Godspeed!

All good wishes,
Ms. Landa A. Bautista, M.A.Ed.
Curriculum Director
The Learning Center, Inc. (TLC)

I came across this video on the L'Arche community in Cainta, Rizal, the only one in the Philippines, a home where persons with mental and learning disabilities, some of them with severe physical disabilities as well, are given a chance to develop their abilities. Over the years Columban seminarians have gone their regularly. Maira San Juan, a Columban lay missionary in Korea, lived there before as an assistant.

The photos of the two young men were taken at a celebration for the 80th birthday of Marie-Hélène Mathieu who, with Jean Vanier, founded Faith and Light. Jean also founded L'Arche. Both movements have persons with learning disabilities as their 'VIPs'.

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