Midgetism (Autocritical Disability Studies) [1 ed.] 1032465948, 9781032465944

There exist problematic attitudes and beliefs about dwarfism that have rarely been challenged, but continue to construct

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Midgetism (Autocritical Disability Studies) [1 ed.]
 1032465948, 9781032465944

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Dedication
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements
1 Introducing Midgetism
2 Midgetism and Midget Entertainment
3 The Freak Show and its Legacy
4 Modern-day Freak Show: Midget(ism) Wrestling
5 ‘But It’s a Job for them’: The Inexcusable Excuse For Midget Entertainment
6 ‘It’s Just a Joke’: in Defence of Midgetism
7 Fighting Midgetism
8 Conclusion: The Problem of Midgetism and how to Fight it
Index

Citation preview

Midgetism

There exist problematic attitudes and beliefs about dwarfism that have rarely been challenged, but continue to construct people with dwarfism as an inferior group within society. This book introduces the critical term ‘midgetism’, which the author has coined, to demonstrate that the socio-cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience is influenced by both heightism and disablism. As a result, it unpacks and challenges the problematic social assumptions that reinforce midgetism within society, including the acceptability of ‘midget entertainment’ and ‘non-normate space’, to demonstrate how particular spaces can either aid in reinforcing or challenge midgetism. Drawing on the tripartite model of disability, this book demonstrates how midget entertainment is framed as a non-normative positivism, which makes it an acceptable form of employment. Using autocritical discourse analysis, the book exposes, examines and responds to excuses that are used to reinforce midgetism, thus critiquing the numerous beliefs influenced by cultural representations of dwarfism, such as people with dwarfism being acceptable figures of entertainment. It will be of interest to all scholars and students of disability studies, social history, sociology and cultural geography. Erin Pritchard, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer in Disability Studies at Liverpool Hope University and core member of the Centre for Culture and Disability Studies. Her work specialises on dwarfism and she considers herself to be an activist for the equality of people with dwarfism. Her previous book, Dwarfism, Spatiality and Disabling Experiences, explores the socio-spatial experiences of people with dwarfism in public spaces.

Autocritical Disability Studies Series Editor: David Bolt, Liverpool Hope University, UK

This new book series represents both a contribution to, and a departure from, the academic field of critical disability studies. According to some concerns about that field, disability is the start but never the finish, there is insufficient engagement with the ethical and political issues faced by disabled people, and the work is too insensitive to individual experiences. Such concerns are addressed boldly in the new series via a formal coupling of critical disability studies with the research method of autoethnography. The qualitative method of autoethnography acknowledges a researcher’s individual experience in the most explicit of ways, from the very start of the process to the finished product that reaches publication. Whereas most traditional research methods claim, or at least aspire to, objectivity, autoethnography owns its subjectivity as paramount. This being so, when academic authors/editors have direct or at least intimate individual experience of disability, the subjectivity of their books can predicate a shift in typology from critical disability studies to what the new series terms autocritical disability studies. In encouraging textual and theoretical work, the series also introduces autocritical discourse analysis and autocritical disability theory to formalise the ethical and epistemological importance of disability experience in many aspects of critical studies. The key point about the books sought for the series, then, is precisely that the individual experience of disability is recognised and positioned as both start and finish. The book series editor, Professor David Bolt, encourages expressions of interest from potential monograph authors and volume editors. Midgetism The Exploitation and Discrimination of People with Dwarfism Erin Pritchard

For a full list of titles in this series, please visit: https://www.routledge.com/ Autocritical-Disability-Studies/book-series/ASHSERADS

Midgetism The Exploitation and Discrimination of People with Dwarfism

Erin Pritchard

First published 2023 by Routledge 4 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2023 Erin Pritchard The right of Erin Pritchard to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Pritchard, Erin, author. Title: Midgetism : the exploitation and discrimination of people with dwarfism / Erin Pritchard. Description: Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge, 2023. | Series: Autocritical disability studies | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2022051793 (print) | LCCN 2022051794 (ebook) | ISBN 9781032465944 (hardback) | ISBN 9781032465951 (paperback) | ISBN 9781003382461 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Dwarfs (Persons)—Social conditions. | Dwarfs (Persons) in popular culture. | Discrimination against people with dwarfism. | Dwarfism—Social aspects. Classification: LCC GN69.3 .P75 2023 (print) | LCC GN69.3 (ebook) | DDC 599.9/49—dc23/eng/20230109 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2022051793 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2022051794 ISBN: 978-1-032-46594-4 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-032-46595-1 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-38246-1 (ebk) DOI: 10.4324/9781003382461 Typeset in Goudy by codeMantra

This book is dedicated to my Mam, Elaine Pritchard

Contents

Acknowledgements

ix

1 Introducing midgetism

1

2 Midgetism and midget entertainment

11

3 The freak show and its legacy

28

4 Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling

47

5 ‘But it’s a job for them’: the inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment

61

6 ‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism

80

7 Fighting midgetism

95

8 Conclusion: the problem of midgetism and how to fight it Index

115 121

Acknowledgements

I would first of all like to thank Professor David Bolt for his continuous support and guidance, not just with this book but with all of my research. There are a lot of other people who have supported me with this book, including colleagues at Liverpool Hope in the subject of Disability Studies, Claire Penketh, Ella Houston, Jody Crutchley, Sarah Marie Hall, Ralitsa Hiteva, Laura Jane Pardoe, Stephanie Phillips, Lynne Freeman, Kay Ross, Delyth Edwards, Dawn Saunderson and Amy Scott. I would also like to thank my family, including Elaine Pritchard, Lee Pritchard, Thomas Pritchard, Laura Dekker and Marit Dekker. Lastly, I would like to thank members of Liverpool Hope’s Disability Studies Student Society, including Frantzeska Zerva, Abi Lavers and Natasha Paul.

1 Introducing midgetism

Introduction Dwarfism is a condition that most people know about, yet know very little about. The majority of people learn about dwarfism through cultural representations of the condition, popular within the media, including films and television shows. These representations have been constructed by ableist notions of the condition, which relegate those with dwarfism as inferior to their average sized counterparts. It can be argued that ‘no other minority group’s identity has been influenced more by cultural representations than dwarfism’ (Pritchard, 2021a: 123). Conditions, such as dwarfism, often ‘provoke opinions from people who have neither direct nor intimate experience of them’ (Bolt, 2021: 230). These are often influenced by cultural representations of the condition. Society’s general conception of dwarfism is often warped by problematic troupes and stereotypes, which Bolt (2021) refers to as a ‘metanarrative’. The metanarrative of dwarfism includes humour, immaturity and mythology (Pritchard, 2021a). For example, dwarfs are popular characters within fantasy, including mythology and fairytales, which places them both within the realms of friction and reality. These troupes influence how other members of society interact with people with dwarfism. As a result, most people will have a limited understanding of the true realities of living with dwarfism. Troupes of dwarfism influence how other members of society interact with people with the condition. Cultural representations of dwarfism, especially those prominent in the media, negatively impact how people with dwarfism are treated within society (Pritchard, 2017, 2021b). People with dwarfism have multiple identities, which are stronger in some circumstances than others; however, general society fails to acknowledge these various identities. For example, when I am on campus my identity as a university lecturer is more prominent; however, my dwarfism is always visible and is likely to create an incongruous encounter. I do not want to be thought of as ‘the dwarf’, but this is how wider society will firstly always see me. The problem is ‘dwarfism is not just a physical condition; it is a social and cultural metaphor’ (Massie and Mayer, 2014: 55). Thus people do not always see a person with dwarfism, but rather a dwarf constructed by problematic stereotypes. This can result in being called a midget, being laughed at or being asked where my six little friends are. These are all supposedly humorous reactions, which is how audiences they are encouraged to react towards midget entertainers. It is assumed that people with dwarfism share similar personality traits, such as DOI: 10.4324/9781003382461-1

2  Introducing midgetism the ability to accept ridicule. Thus, there is a need for a more positive and diverse identity to attach to dwarfism so that others do not see ‘the dwarf’. This book challenges some of these attitudes, and in some cases responds to these problematic beliefs held by average-sized people. My position in academia provides me with a platform to share experiences and tackle problematic beliefs about dwarfism that often go unchallenged. Whilst I am interpreting these scenes based on my own experiences as someone with dwarfism, I am also assuming that other people may interpret them differently based on their experiences or exposure to dwarfism, which are likely to be shaped by dominant cultural representations. For example, an average-sized person who has never met a person with dwarfism, but who has been exposed to people with dwarfism in the media, will unlikely question how these representations impact people with dwarfism in society. In fact, this can further lead to normative arrogance (Bolt, 2021), whereby the person who has no experience will still try to undermine those who go against their problematic beliefs. Just because I am an academic, with dwarfism and specialising in the condition from a social perspective, does not mean that I am taken seriously. This book aims to challenge some of the most important socio-cultural misconceptions that impact the lives of p­ eople with dwarfism. It aims to re-focus understandings of what I term ‘midget’ entertainment, in order to challenge socio-cultural discrimination. Instead of giving midget entertainers and their average-sized promoters and spectators a platform, I examine the problematic implications that come as a result of what they do have on the wider population of people with dwarfism. This book engages with an autocritical discourse analysis created by Professor David Bolt (2021) to analyse a number of issues relating to dwarfism through my own lived experiences as a person with dwarfism, but also as an activist and expert. Autocritical discourse analysis is a hybrid of autoethnography and critical discourse analysis (Bolt, 2021). ‘Autoethnography is a method that allows researchers to draw on their own experiences to understand a particular phenomenon or culture’ (Mendez, 2013, p. 280). According to Bolt (2021: xvii) ‘when academic authors have direct experience with disability, the subjectivity of their books can predicate a shift in typology from critical disability studies to autocritical disability studies’. Autocritical discourse analysis values personal narratives which can help to challenge dominant cultural representations and their impact upon disabled people (Bolt, 2021). The textual data that I am analysing has been and continues to be of prominent reference within my life. For example, I grew up watching professional wrestling which featured midget wrestlers and furthermore, have experienced the repercussions of such representations. To a­ nalyse the representations critical discourse analysis was used, which analyses textual representations, in order to provide a different lens to how people respond to representations of dwarfism, by challenging what Bolt (2014) refers to as ‘­assumed authority’. Height, in this case, profound short stature, has been problematically culturally constructed by people of average stature. Adopting the term ‘average-sized’ to refer to those who do not have dwarfism as opposed to the usual ‘non-disabled’ or ‘able-bodied’, commonly adopted within disability studies, not only reinforces

Introducing midgetism  3 height as part of the cause of the socio-cultural discrimination experienced by people with dwarfism but also suggests that other disabled people can be guilty of midgetism. This may be an uncomfortable truth, especially within a disability studies book series, but there does exist a hierarchy of disability. I have received abuse from other disabled people, not just when trying to access accessible spaces but also socio-cultural discrimination, including being stared at and laughed at. Furthermore, a friend with dwarfism recalled how a wheelchair user tried to photograph her. There is a lack of acceptance of dwarfism in society and this is apparent in various forms. This book focuses on the socio-cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience. Socio-cultural discrimination can be defined as the social attitudes influenced by cultural representations of a group that encourages discrimination towards them. This book demonstrates that socio-cultural discrimination is a result of midgetism. Midgetism is a term introduced in this book to describe the unique discrimination people with dwarfism experience and will be explored further in the next chapter. Dwarfism is often argued to be a social disability (Kennedy, 2003; Kruse, 2002) and there is great emphasis upon how it is a stigmatised condition (Ablon, 2002). Furthermore, Antras, Bayarri and Greenop (2021: 8) state that ‘the perversion of mockery and contempt of these people [­people with dwarfism] in many social contexts, due to their physical features and short stature, creates an environment of constant stigmatisation with numerous challenges for daily life’. However, this claim places the blame on the dwarf body and ignores the socio-cultural construction of the condition. Therefore, if society continues to place the root cause of dwarfism’s stigma upon the body it is unlikely that any significant changes to the way people with dwarfism are perceived and treated within society will be made. Dwarfism results in a person being no taller than 4 ft 10" (147 cm) and having a medical condition (Adelson, 2005a). Known medically as skeletal dysplasia (Shakespeare et al., 2010), there are over 400 different types of dwarfism with underlying impairments that often differ (Little People of America, 2020). S ­ pinal stenosis, for example, is mostly associated with a form of dwarfism known as Achondroplasia. Pritchard (2021c) argues that it is important to make it clear that dwarfism is a genetic or hormonal condition as that helps to challenge problematic troupes associated with the condition. This is important to iterate as most people think people with dwarfism are ‘just small’. Not surprisingly, in cultural ­depictions of dwarfism, in most cases, their height is the main focus. The reduction of dwarfism to just height permits society to deem the condition ­humorous (Pritchard, 2021c). This belief is an influential factor of the socio-­cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience, which will be explored in more detail throughout this book. For a person with dwarfism, their condition is their most prominent identity, whether they choose it to be or not. It is the first feature most people recognise and in some cases, the only identity they choose to recognise. As shown throughout this book, a minority of people with dwarfism choose to make it their most prominent feature, but unfortunately not in a positive way, but rather through adopting ableist perceptions of dwarfism. Therefore, however dwarfism is depicted, a person with the condition is likely to be thought of in the

4  Introducing midgetism same way resulting in experiences of socio-cultural discrimination. However, it is also important to explore how this impacts certain forms of dwarfism, especially those with a disproportionate body size. Depending on the type of dwarfism, a person’s body is either disproportionate or proportionate. People with dwarfism who are proportionate appear only to be small in stature; their arms, legs, trunk and head are in the same proportion as an average size person. Examples of proportionate dwarfism include primordial dwarfism. People with dwarfism whose bodies are disproportionate have a torso of average size but short arms and legs. Achondroplasia is an example of disproportionate dwarfism and is the most common form of dwarfism. It is estimated that approximately 250,000 people have Achondroplasia worldwide (Horton et al., 2007). The cause of Achondroplasia is genetic. This is the form of dwarfism that I have and in most cases what I will be referring to throughout the book unless stated otherwise. However, it is important to note that people with all forms of dwarfism will experience midgetism, but that dwarfism is not a homogenous group and thus experiences and opinions can differ, including choice of terminology. When I am asked what name I give to my condition, whilst sometimes I use ‘dwarf’, I prefer to use ‘person with dwarfism’ as it helps to separate my identity from dwarfs (or dwarves) in fairy tales, as well as providing an indication that it is only part of my identity. I am a person with dwarfism, but also a woman, a lecturer and I am Welsh. However, when using the term ‘dwarf’ it seems to encompass my whole identity and risks me being referred to as ‘the dwarf’. I refer to myself using the term dwarf or dwarfism, as I am ‘dwarfed’ by average-sized people and the built environment that has been constructed to suit their body size. This term, therefore, demonstrates how my condition is socially constructed. However, some people with dwarfism prefer restricted growth or short statured, but I argue that these terms locate our condition upon our bodies, which of course resonates more closely with the medical model of disability. Furthermore, short statured can just refer to someone who is just short, and as I will explain in more detail later on, is problematic, as people who are ‘just short’ do not encounter the same disabling barriers, including the same socio-cultural discrimination as people with dwarfism. This can result in them being naive defenders of midgetism, such as when they try to downplay or ignore the experiences of people with dwarfism. For example, in some cases people who are just short, contest the work of advocates for people with dwarfism, such as the removal of the word midget as they have often found themselves being called it by ‘friends’. What they fail to realise is that their friends are using the term in jest towards them, whilst people in the street use it as a form of hate speech towards people with dwarfism. Furthermore, they are using a slur associated with my condition to mock their friends, suggesting that dwarfism is undesirable. As Bolt (2021) suggests, the normative social order, which is encouraged by normative arrogance presumes that non-disabled people know best. This assumed authority (Bolt, 2021) ignores the personal narratives of someone with dwarfism in favour of their own experiences, as well as what they know about dwarfism through cultural representations. Thus, it is important for

Introducing midgetism  5 people who are just short to bear in mind that no matter how short they are, and even if they have experienced heightism, they can never emphasise or speak on behalf of people with dwarfism. Lastly, there is the term ‘little person’, which originated in North America and is sometimes used in names of associations for people with dwarfism, such as Little People of America (LPA). The problem with the term little people is that it can also refer to children, which provides the opportunity for disablist infantilisation towards people with dwarfism (Pritchard, 2021a). Due to the common infantilisation people with dwarfism experience it is important to actively refrain from adopting any term that could relate people with dwarfism to children. Whilst the term did originate in the US, it is important to point out that the term is not unanimously accepted and has been documented as a reason for some people with dwarfism not joining LPA (Adelson, 2005b). However, it is hard to decide on a term to refer to people with dwarfism as words associated with little deemed negative (Pritchard, 2021a). Whilst all of these terms are either accepted by some or detested by others, it is fair to say that they are all acceptable terms to refer to a person with dwarfism, unlike the term midget. As demonstrated, dwarfism is a medical condition, where height is the most prominent feature. Height is an important influencer in determining how someone is received and performs within society. Osensky (2018) argues that in society tallness is revered whilst short people experience prejudice. Heightism is defined as ‘unfair treatment based on height, especially: prejudice or discrimination against short people’ (Merriam-Webster, 2020). However, heightism has been given limited attention, especially in relation to other isms, such as sexism, racism and disablism. Even in Disability Studies, whilst work on dwarfism may be accepted, there is still a failure to include height as a disabling condition within wider society. Whilst the social model has broadened understandings of disability by framing it as a social construct, disability still tends to be conceptualised as a functional limitation. This not only limits people with dwarfism’s access to disability support but also, as this book demonstrates, allows it to be represented in ways that would be off-limits to more prominent and stereotypical disabilities. Whilst dwarfism has been problematically constructed by average-sized ­people, it has and continues to be reinforced by a minority of people with dwarfism, which will be referred to as midget entertainers within this book. People with dwarfism have been ridiculed for centuries. The dominant discourse of dwarfism is humour and entertainment (Pritchard and Kruse, 2020). Although other minority groups have also been constructed as oddities and objects of ridicule, the socio-cultural construction of dwarfism, which is often associated with entertainment, has remained consistent, whilst others have faded into history. For example, whilst numerous disabled people were paraded in the freak shows, only people with dwarfism continue to be hired out for entertainment purposes. A minority of midget entertainers have allowed midgetism to continue with little backlash within the entertainment industry and wider society. Socio-cultural perceptions of dwarfism are thus constructed by average-sized people and encouraged by midget entertainers. This has robbed the majority of people with dwarfism

6  Introducing midgetism of their own agency. Until I became an academic I had no outlet to challenge socio-cultural discrimination and regain my own sense of agency. To provide a more in-depth understanding of dwarfism, the book engages with the tripartite model of disability devised by David Bolt (2015). The tripartite model brings together ableism (normative positivism), disablism (normative negativism) and the affirmation model of disability (non-normative positivism) (Bolt, 2015), providing a more encompassing and complex understanding of disability. Ableism is associated with the species typical citizen (Campbell, 2009), including those with normative body sizes. According to Bolt (2015: 1106) ‘normative positivisms indirectly result in the exclusion, victimisation and stigmatisation of those of us who identify as disabled’. Engaging with non-normative positivisms provides a deeper understanding of midget entertainment. However, this book does not construct midget entertainment as a positive identity, but rather demonstrates that a neoliberal society frames midget entertainment from an economic perspective whilst ignoring the social implications. I draw on a range of socio-cultural representations of dwarfism, including films, television shows and newspaper articles, often featuring interviews with midget entertainers to analyse how their performances and attitudes contribute to the discrimination people with dwarfism experience within society. This book provides a different perspective on these hegemonic attitudes. As a woman with dwarfism, I draw on my own views and experiences to demonstrate why there needs to be a shift in society’s understanding of dwarfism. As I have hinted at, how I am treated can be dependent on the type of space I am occupying. Thus, it is also important to consider the role of spaces in influencing the socio-cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience. ­Geographies of disability aid in an understanding of the complex relationships between disability, space and society. It is therefore important to recognise the role of space in reproducing and maintaining disabled people’s exclusion (Kitchin, 1998). According to Lefebvre (1991), space is a social product that creates social relationships. These different social relationships are dependent on a person’s identity, such as their gender or body size, which can be read and received differently depending on the purpose of a space. Longhurst (2005: 247) argues that ‘body size, shape and weight play an important role in constructing everyday social and spatial relations’. According to Massey (1994, p. 3), ‘the social relations of space are experienced differently, and variously interpreted, by those holding different positions as part of it’. This book therefore coins the terms ‘normate’ and ‘non-normate spaces’. These are socio-cultural informed spaces that can further understandings of geographies of disability. Garland-Thomson (1997) refers to the received notion of a so-called normal person as the ‘normate’, and suggests that, in social encounters, most destructive to the potential for continuing relations is the normate’s frequent assumption that a disability cancels out other qualities; reduces the complex person to one attribute. This notion can be used to understand how spaces can influence perceptions of dwarfism. Spaces are created for the average-sized able bodied person and meaning within these spaces often indicate that disabled people do not belong. Specifically, in

Introducing midgetism  7 relation to dwarfism Kruse (2002) points out that spaces are physically ­constructed to suit the average-sized person and contain messages that encourage tallness to be revered. These everyday spaces can be referred to as normate spaces. Spaces which are constructed, or popularised by disabled people I refer to as ‘non-­ normate spaces’. Non-normate spaces can be constructed by disabled people or non-­disabled people. Depending on their purpose non-normate spaces can either promote a positive identity of disabled people or reinforce ableist beliefs. In the case of the freak show, this non-normate space reinforces midgetism, however, associations for people with dwarfism can also be considered non-normate spaces, but ones in which can foster a positive identity. Chapter 2 provides a foundation for the book by providing a definition of the critical term midgetism as a basis for analysing representations and attitudes in the rest of the book. This chapter also provides an argument for reclaiming the word ‘midget’ when referring to ‘midget entertainers’. Midgetism is argued to encompass the unique prejudices people with dwarfism influenced and maintained through cultural representations of the condition. Therefore, ‘midget entertainer’ is used as a critical term to refer to people with dwarfism who internalise midgetism and subsequently promote the ideology through their actions. Midget is a derogatory term that is associated with exploitive entertainment which most people with dwarfism are trying to distance themselves from (See Adelson, 2005a and Pritchard, 2021b). The aim is to separate people with dwarfism who partake in derogatory entertainment from those who do not. This is an important distinction to make as too often those in entertainment reinforce stereotypes that negatively impact the majority of people with dwarfism. To demonstrate the influence midget entertainers have on perceptions of people with dwarfism in society, the last part explores how and why people with dwarfism are photographed in public. This section argues that like celebrities, people photograph people with dwarfism as they are associated with entertainment. In Chapter 3 I introduce the concept of the non-normate space to demonstrate how particular spaces encourage midgetism. The first part focuses on the Victorian freak show to examine some of the historical roots of midgetism. It demonstrates how the freak show has not faded into history, as often assumed, but morphed into other forms of midget entertainment which are deemed acceptable or certainly receive very little criticism, within the 21st century. The chapter examines examples of modern-day freak show entertainment. First, the Kingdom of Little People, a theme park based in China, which relies on midgetism for the financial gain of its average-sized owner. Whilst the park has received some criticism from disability advocates, it is argued that society’s acceptance of midgetism has allowed the park to remain open. The next part explores how reality television shows featuring people with dwarfism can be a modern day freak show. Building on the modern day freak show, the chapter also explores how the ability to hire out people with dwarfism in western countries, such as the UK, is reflective of the freak show. This chapter demonstrates how a society cannot claim to be equal when it still encourages people with dwarfism to be seen as humorous oddities often for the financial benefit of average-sized promoters. To reinforce this, the

8  Introducing midgetism last part demonstrates some of the serious consequences of midget entertainment, including an incident when one midget entertainer was set on fire. Still focusing on midget entertainment, Chapter 4 examines the entertainment ‘sport’ known as ‘midget wrestling’. As someone who grew up watching professional wrestling, I examine how midget wrestling engages with midgetism which is evident in performances that would be off-limits to average-sized wrestlers. The first part focuses on the inclusion of midget wrestlers within professional wrestling. This section explores how midget wrestlers create an incongruous encounter, rendering them comedic fodder as they lack the same athleticism as average-sized wrestlers. It is also argued that they are used as props to reinforce average-sized wrestlers’ strength and masculinity. The second part explores how midget wrestling, which only involves midget wrestlers, is not about strength or agility, but more of a sideshow act which encourages people to laugh at an incongruous event. It is argued that midgetism is used for the economic benefit of average-sized promoters which is reminiscent of the Victorian freak show. This part includes some of the attitudes of average-sized promoters to demonstrate how they benefit economically from midgetism in a similar way to Victorian freak show owners. It also examines some of the audience’s responses to the shows, which reflect problematic beliefs. As a result, this chapter offers some recommendations to promote a more ethical representation of dwarfism in wrestling. As previous chapters have shown, employment within the entertainment industry is a contributing factor of midgetism disguised as a legitimate financial opportunity for midget entertainers. Chapter 5 examines the problematic assumptions made in regard to employment opportunities for people with dwarfism to defend midget entertainment. It is argued that neoliberal attitudes favour financial gain over social equality. However, through exploring various employment discrimination experienced by people with dwarfism, this chapter demonstrates that society is not actually concerned about employment for people with dwarfism, but rather supports midget entertainment in order to maintain a social hierarchy. Using midget tossing as an example, this chapter argues that people who support midget entertainment, claiming ‘it’s a job for them’ are not supporting disability equality, but rather using it as an excuse to support midgetism. This chapter demonstrates how midget entertainers who partake in midget tossing, aid in legitimising midgetism in entertainment and accepting their own inferior position with society. Building upon public excuses for midgetism, Chapter 6 examines how midgetism is excused and defended through humorous representations of dwarfism. Drawing on understandings of social dominance, it is argued that downplaying the impact of jokes on people with dwarfism permits society to construct them as inferior. The first part explores the use of midgetism by average-sized comedians and how they justify it through ignoring the social implications. Building on the downplaying of midgetism, the next part explores the difficulties in challenging midgetism when midget entertainers give their consent to being ridiculed. To argue against these excuses, this chapter draws on some of the social implications midgetism has on people with dwarfism in society. Specifically, the last section

Introducing midgetism  9 explores the media coverage of Quaden Bayles, a nine-year-old boy with dwarfism from Australia. This section shows that whilst people were initially shocked and upset to see the psycho-emotional impact midgetism had on Quaden they were also quick to dismiss it by creating numerous conspiracies. It is argued that these conspiracies were used to ignore and defend midgetism and thus keep people with dwarfism in an inferior position within society. Chapter 7 explores some of the challenges in fighting against midgetism, as well as how it can be challenged. Whilst there are a number of associations for people with dwarfism, which I show are also an example of a non-normate space, that claim to be promoting equality for them, the chapter explores some of the reasons associations have not been as successful as hoped. I argue that one of the reasons for this is due to ableist beliefs held by average-sized members, including parents. This chapter explores some of the limited advocacy work I have been pursuing, as well as some of the backlash received, mostly on social media, which is the result of epistemic injustice. This chapter demonstrates that as evident in the previous two chapters, society still favours midgetism over equality for people with dwarfism. However, it is recognised that to foster change a collective voice is required. The chapter shows how social media is being utilised as a virtual non-normate space to engage with activism. Drawing on the notion of ‘networked individualism’ (Wellman, 2002), this chapter demonstrates how social media can bring people with dwarfism together in order to provide support and to provide a collective voice against midgetism. Unlike traditional associations, virtual spaces provide better access to others and the ability to form groups where average-sized people are not permitted. It argues that if people with dwarfism want equality then they must come together as a collective and refrain from accepting midgetism in any form. The book finishes with a conclusion which summarises the main findings and suggests how midgetism can be challenged through improved representations.

References Ablon, J. (2002) The nature of stigma and medical conditions. Epilepsy and Behaviour, 3 (6) 2–9. Adelson, B.M. (2005a) The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity Toward Social Liberation. Piscataway (NJ): Rutgers University Press. Adelson, B.M. (2005b) Dwarfism: Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Profound Short ­Stature. Baltimore (MD): John Hopkins University Press. Antras, C.F., Bayarri, A.D. and Greenop, K. (2021) Consensus paper for an EU that cares about Achondroplasia and other skeletal dysplasias with dwarfism. European ­Achondroplasia Forum. Bolt, D. (2014) Epilogue: attitudes and actions. In Bolt, D. (Ed) Changing Social Attitudes Toward Disability. London: Routledge. pp. 172–175. Bolt, D. (2015) Not forgetting happiness: the tripartite model of disability and its application in literary criticism. Disability and Society, 30 (7) 1103–1117. Bolt, D. (Ed) (2021) The Metanarrative of Disability: Culture, Assumed Authority, and the Normative Social Order. London: Routledge.

10  Introducing midgetism Campbell, K.F. (2009) Contours of Ableism: The Production of Disability and Abledness. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Garland-Thomson, R. (1997) Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press. Horton, W.A., Hall, J. G. and Hecht, T.J. (2007) Achondroplasia. The Lancet, 370, 162–172. Kitchin, R. (1998) ‘Out of Place’, ‘knowing one’s place’: space, power and the exclusion of disabled people. Disability and Society, 13 (3) 343–356. Kruse, R. (2002) Social spaces of little people: the experiences of the Jamisons. Social and Cultural Geography, 3 (2) 175–191. Lefebvre, H. (1991) The Production of Social Space. Oxford: Blackwell. Little People of America (2020) Facts and answers [online] Available from: https:// www.lpaonline.org/faq- (accessed 03/10/2021). Longhurst, R. (2005) Fat bodies: developing geographical research agendas. Progress in Human Geography, 29 (3) 247–259. Massey, D. (1994). Space, Place and Gender. Cambridge: Polity Press. Massie, P.J. and Mayer, L.S. (2014) Bringing elsewhere home: A Song of Ice and Fire’s ethics of disability. In Fugelso, K. (Ed) Studies of Medievalism. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer. pp. 45–59. Mendez, M. (2013) Autoethnography as a research method: advantages, limitations and criticisms. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 15 (2) 279–287. Merriam-Webster (2020) Heightism, Merriam-Webster [online] Available from: https:// www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heightism (accessed 25/01/2021). Osensky, T. (2018) Shortchanged: Height Discrimination and Strategies for Social Change. Lebanon (NH): ForeEdge. Pritchard, E. (2017) Cultural representations of dwarfs and their disabling effects on dwarfs in society. Considering Disability, 1 (1) 1–17. Pritchard, E. (2021a) The metanarrative of dwarfism: heightism and its social implications. In Bolt, D. (Ed) The Metanarrative of Disability: Culture, Assumed Authority, and the Normative Social Order. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 123–137. Pritchard, E. (2021b) Dwarfism, Spatialities and Disabling Experiences. Abingdon: Routledge. Pritchard, E. (2021c) “She finds people like you hilarious!” Why do we laugh at people with dwarfism? Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 15 (4) 455–470. Pritchard, E. and Kruse, R. (Eds) (2020) Representations of dwarfism. Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 14 (2) 131–135. Shakespeare, T., Thompson, S. and Wright, M. (2010) No laughing matter: Medical and social experiences of restricted growth. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 12 (1) 19–31. Wellman, B. (2002) Little boxes, glocalization and networked individualism. In Tanabe, M., Van Der Bessglar, P. and Ishida, T. (Eds) Digital Cities II: Computational and ­Sociological Approaches. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. pp. 10–25.

2

Midgetism and midget entertainment

Introduction This chapter introduces the term midgetism, in order to coin a term which can be used to explore and expose the oppression people with dwarfism experience. It also argues as to why the term midget, when referring to a ‘midget entertainer’, should be reclaimed and repurposed for analytical and advocacy purposes only. These terms are used throughout the book in order to examine and understand the socio-cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience. When advocating for equality and rights for disabled people language is important to consider. Terms can be used to harm as well as to educate and advocate. Whilst language matters when understanding disability (Mallett and Slater, 2014), it is often associated with how we refer to specific impairments or disabilities in general. For example, I have spent a lot of time in academia explaining why the term person with dwarfism is acceptable and why midget should be regarded as a form of hate speech. However, in this chapter, I want to argue how a form of hate speech can be reclaimed and repurposed to challenge the socio-cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience. The first part of this chapter introduces the term midgetism and argues why it is important to have a term that encompasses the unique discrimination people with dwarfism encounter. To highlight and exemplify what midgetism is, this part also examines midgetism in films, using the 1971 film version of the classic children’s story, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The second part explores why the term midget should be reclaimed, but not in the way expected. I argue that the term should not be used in reference to all people with dwarfism, but rather those who partake in activities that promote midgetism. Language has the power to define cultural groups (Haller et al., 2006). However, it can also be used to recognise disparities within particular groups. People with dwarfism are stereotyped as humorous, objects of ridicule, which aims to dehumanise them. Separating those who engage and promote the stereotype (midget entertainers) and those who do not (people with dwarfism) aids in challenging the homogenisation of people with dwarfism. I argue that because there are a minority of people with dwarfism influencing midgetism through their actions, such as when partaking in midget entertainment, then applying that term to them aids in exposing a particular cause of midgetism and separates them from people with dwarfism. A strong theme in this book relates to how people

DOI: 10.4324/9781003382461-2

12  Midgetism and midget entertainment with dwarfism, who do not partake in midget entertainment often are perceived and treated the same way as midget entertainers. Therefore, it is important to differentiate between the two types of people with dwarfism. Focusing on the social consequences, the third part focuses on the disempowering consequence of midgetism, which is being photographed by strangers. In this part, I argue that people with dwarfism are often photographed in public as the strong influence of midget entertainment constructs people with dwarfism as figures of entertainment or novelties. Lastly, the chapter finishes with a discussion of ‘subtle midgetism’, which are the problematic attitudes that are harder to point out, as they are not necessarily meant to be offensive yet still contribute to the inequality people with dwarfism experience. Subtle midgetism relates to attitudes that are constructed by long-held beliefs about dwarfism, which are ingrained within society, help to keep people with dwarfism within an unequal standing, but are not always intended to offend.

What is midgetism? I want to provide a definition of the discrimination that is unique to people with dwarfism. I felt that the term ‘midgetism’ was appropriate, but at the same time, it is derived from a word that I detest. Most people with dwarfism consider the word midget to be offensive (Kruse, 2002). The majority of people with dwarfism will be able to recall numerous incidents where they have experienced midget being directed towards them, sometimes it is shouted at them, and other times it will involve other unwanted reactions, such as laughter or pointing. Midget is a form of hate speech (See Pritchard, 2020), as it is used to mock and dehumanise people with dwarfism, indicating that they do not belong within society. Like many people with dwarfism, midget is a term that I protest at being referred to as it is dehumanising and places me in an inferior position within society. Associations such as Little People of America (LPA) have continuously campaigned to remove the word from use in society (Little People of America, 2015). I am an advocate for removing that word from use in society, as I do not believe that it should be used to refer to people with dwarfism who do not wish to cling to the ableist representations of dwarfism. The term presents flashbacks to numerous occasions where people have shouted it at me in public. However, it only seems fitting that a word used to describe the unique discrimination people with dwarfism experience should derive from the word midget, as it aids in reclaiming the term without placing it upon people with dwarfism who object to ableist beliefs about dwarfism. Whilst some minority groups choose to reclaim certain terms, which are deemed derogatory and offensive, I consider it to be more empowering to use that term to highlight the discriminatory attitudes within society. Midget derives from the word midge meaning ‘sandfly’ or ‘gnat’. It was a term popularised during the freak show, a place where people with dwarfism were exploited for the amusement of others (Pritchard, 2020). Although the freak shows began to lose popularity during the turn of the 20th century, unfortunately, the word midget did not fade away with them. Midget is a term associated

Midgetism and midget entertainment  13 with the oppression and dehumanisation of people with dwarfism, however, it is acceptable to use by average-sized people to refer to small objects. Midget is a popular term used on a myriad of tangible objects, from sweets to cars, as well as sports teams (Pritchard, 2020). This creates an unequal power relation, whilst simultaneously reinforcing a disablist term that is used to oppress people with dwarfism. As ableist actions are to blame for the origins and popularisation of the word midget, it only seems fair that it should also be used to refer to their ableist beliefs and actions, which results in the various forms of discrimination people with dwarfism experience. I would like to think that I have not created a new ‘ism’ but instead, I have given a name to the unique prejudices people with dwarfism experience, which helps to bring them to the forefront and allows them to be critiqued. A new ‘ism’ allows an oppressed population to express how it is affected in particular ways (Bê, 2019). If people protest ‘another ism’ then their ‘problem’ should be directed at the causes of the ism, because even when it is not named it still exists. It may be easy for those who will not be affected by midgetism to protest against the introduction of another ‘ism’, but for people who experience midgetism, naming it is the first step that can help to challenge it. People with dwarfism experience oppression which is informed by both heightism and disablism, and thus separately these terms cannot really demonstrate the experiences of people with dwarfism. Heightism covers all forms of discrimination and stigmatisation based on a person’s height (Griffiths et al., 2017). In most cases, heightism is discrimination towards short people. But, again, the heightism people with dwarfism experience goes beyond what someone who is just short would experience. Just because a person is short does not mean that they are assumed to be figures of entertainment. For example, people who are just short do not get thrown across a bar in the name of entertainment and were never displayed in freak shows. However, it is not uncommon for people who are just short to assume that they share the same experiences as someone with dwarfism. This is problematic as it can lead them to disbelieve or undermine the lived experiences, including the socio-cultural discrimination experienced by people with dwarfism. Thus, the discrimination people with dwarfism experience cannot just be considered heightism. Midgetism is a form of disablism, but as disability is not a homogenous group, it only seems right to provide a term that encompasses the unique disablism, which is influenced by heightism, that people with dwarfism encounter. For example, whilst there are numerous stereotypes associated with most impairments, people with dwarfism carry some unique cultural baggage, such as to be seen as a mythical creature alongside dragons and unicorns. On numerous occasions when I have spoken out about certain forms of midgetism, whilst most disabled people are supportive a minority downplay my concerns by comparing them to their own. For example, I was once challenged by a wheelchair user for speaking out against the use of the word midget on confectionery products due to the impact it has on people with dwarfism in society. At first, the person tried to downplay my concerns by stating that as a wheelchair user they had also experienced name calling

14  Midgetism and midget entertainment and that they called themselves a ‘cripple’ in jest. However, Pritchard (2021c) and Shakespeare, Thompson and Wright (2010) point out that when people with dwarfism use a wheelchair they receive less unwanted attention. I then asked if they experienced people shouting cripple from their cars or if they would be happy if products included the word cripple in their name. I was not trying to downplay the abuse other disabled people experience but to demonstrate that there is a hierarchy of abuse that is often influenced by cultural representations. Midgetism is evident within cultural representations of dwarfism to social attitudes and actions. As this book shows, cultural representations of dwarfism, influenced by midgetism are a key factor in the socio-cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience. Midgetism can be used to describe all discriminatory actions and assumptions associated with people with dwarfism, which aids in keeping them in an inferior position within society. From the reactions from others towards people with dwarfism, such as staring, photographing, namecalling, to employment and educational discrimination based on problematic beliefs about dwarfism are examples of midgetism. Other examples of midgetism include the representation of dwarfism, including within the media and the treatment of people with dwarfism as figures of entertainment. Numerous forms of entertainment that revolve around the exploitation and oppression of people with dwarfism are a form of midgetism.

Midgetism in films As a child I watched numerous films featuring dwarf characters, including the Wizard of Oz (1939), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). I was not a fan of these films because they featured characters with dwarfism, but because they were based on some of the most famous children’s stories. They presented colourful, fantasy worlds that appealed to me as a child. However, I do wonder if people assumed that I must have liked them because they featured ‘people like me’. Whilst I knew I shared the same condition as some of the characters I could not relate to them. They were characters of dwarfism and presented no characteristics which would make me think positively about dwarfism. Quite the opposite. I know there are some people with dwarfism who grew up watching these films and for them it is the only time they see someone like themselves. However, it is disheartening to only come across a depiction of people with dwarfism, which has been created by average-sized people, drawing on notions of midgetism.

The Oompa Loompas: a shift from racism to midgetism Roald Dahl was a Welsh children’s author, who is remembered for writing some of the most famous children’s stories. One of Roald Dahl’s most famous children’s books is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. According to O’Brien (2016) approximately 990, 711 copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have been sold, which makes it the best-selling Roald Dahl children’s book. Written in 1964,

Midgetism and midget entertainment  15 the book centres on Charlie Bucket’s adventures within Willy Wonka’s famous, yet mysterious chocolate factory. It has since been adapted into two films: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). One of the most well-known sets of characters are the Oompa Loompas, who are depicted as a separate race in all three versions. However, it is only in the films that they are depicted with dwarfism. The Oompa Loompas are a group of workers at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. In the book, which was first published in 1964, however, the Oompa Loompas are not people with dwarfism, but pygmies that Wonka stumbles across in an African jungle. In the story Wonka pays the tribal chief for the Oompa Loompas, which he ships back to England to work in his factory. It is of course not surprising that the book has been criticised for perpetuating British imperial ideologies (Eplett, 2016). As a result, when the book was first made into a film in 1971, one of the main changes was the representation of the Oompa Loompas. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory is a children’s musical fantasy film, produced in 1971 by Paramount Pictures. When it was first announced that the book was being turned into a film there were protests from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in regard to the racist construction of the Oompa Loompas (Eplett, 2016). To rightly avoid promoting racist beliefs the Oompa Loompas were changed to orange-skinned, green-haired dwarfs with white eyebrows. Their jungle attire was also replaced with white and brown costumes, which somewhat resembled factory clothing. Whilst the NAACP raised valid concerns the change of the characters meant that whilst the film would not promote racist beliefs, it would instead promote a new form of midgetism. This of course is not the fault of the NAACP, but rather because of problematic beliefs about dwarfism which are rarely challenged. Given that LPA had been founded 14 years earlier, it was surprising that they were not consulted or spoke out about the change. The Oompa Loompas were played by several midget actors, including Rusty Goffe, alongside the average-sized actor Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. Although the book provided vivid descriptions of the Oompa Loompas and contained a few crude drawings of them by acclaimed illustrator Quentin Blake, the film provided a more visual representation of the characters which further reinforced the focus upon the dwarf body. In 2014 the National Film Registry selected the film for preservation owing to its cultural, historical or aesthetic significance. The film was nominated for an academy award for best musical score and nominated for the best actor Golden Globe award in a musical or comedy. In 2005, the story was again made into a film. Using Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) The Oompa Loompas were all played by Deep Roy, a Kenyan actor of Indian descent who is 4 ft 4" (132 cm) tall. Despite a more recent depiction of the Oompa Loompas, the 1971 film version remains the most influential in their depiction. The film’s success has aided in promoting a particular representation of the Oompa Loompas and subsequently has constructed another stereotype that people with dwarfism have to endure within society.

16  Midgetism and midget entertainment When summoning the Oompa Loompas Wonka does not call them by any names, which would give them an identity of their own, but instead uses a penny whistle. This demonstrates ownership and control over the Oompa Loompas, which are almost pet-like. When they are summoned it is for them to sort out a dilemma one of the children has got themselves into for not listening to Mr. Wonka. For example, when Augustus Gloop falls into the chocolate river, after Mr. Wonka told him not to drink from it, he is sucked up one of the pipes and the Oompa Loompas are needed to find Augustus. Before they head off they break into a song, which details the shortcomings and mistakes of each child, except of course for Charlie. The Oompa Loompas sing several songs but are given no dialogue. It is not uncommon for characters with dwarfism to be given little or no dialogue. This aids in reinforcing attention upon their short stature, constructing them as nothing more than a spectacle which adds amusement to the show. When disabled characters are given minimal dialogue it suggests that the actors have been employed, not so much for any talents but rather they are exhibited for visual effect (Bolt, 2019). The Oompa Loompa songs, along with other songs sung by other well-known groups of dwarf characters, such as the Munchkins and Seven Dwarfs have become well known within society. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for people to sing the Oompa Loompa song at people with dwarfism who they encounter in the street (Pritchard, 2021b). This interaction demonstrates how strongly the dwarf body is associated with them. A few years ago, I went to Birmingham to visit a friend who was living there at the time. She suggested that we visit Cadbury World, the famous chocolate factory/tourist attraction. As a woman of average stature, she faced no qualms in visiting the chocolate factory. However, due to past experiences, when we parked up at our destination I felt anxious in regard to how I would be perceived by other visitors and decided not to go in. To see an actual person with dwarfism in a chocolate factory meant I would have appeared like one of the Oompa Loompas. My body would not only provoke a reaction, but the space I was in would prove too much of an amusing coincidence by some, who would probably have to make a joke about me to their entourage or even to me. This means that instead of enjoying the actual tourist attraction, I would be on guard waiting for any unwanted remarks or possible singing. Eplett (2016: 14) argues that ‘instead of simply people from another country, the Oompa Loompas are perceived more as foreign objects than foreigners’. This perception resonates with freak show perceptions of both race and disability. When the Oompa Loompas first appear in the film they are met with curiosity from the visitors. Upon first seeing them, one of the children shouts, ‘Look, little men!’, a common reaction towards people with dwarfism. Their garish appearance is enough to provoke a reaction; however, it is their size which is more of a spectacle, evident in the use of the term ‘little’. ‘Perhaps the most spectacular form of visual novelty that can prompt stares are breaches of the common human scale and shape’ (Garland-Thomson, 2009: 162). They are watched with curiosity by others from across the river, which separates them from the other members of society. The reaction of the children and their parents/guardians resembles that of the

Midgetism and midget entertainment  17 freak show audience. Furthermore, those in the freak show were positioned as objects, not subjects. This implies that they are powerless and subhuman, which allows the nondisabled person to have control over them (Merish, 1996). For example, after first encountering the Oompa Loompas the spoilt Veruca Salt, asks her father for one who then tries to buy one from Willy Wonka: Daddy, I want an Oompa Loompa. I want you to get me an Oompa Loompa right away. MR. SALT: Alright, alright I’ll get you one before the day’s out. VERUCA SALT: But, I want an Oompa Loompa now! MR. SALT: Wonka, how much do you want for the Oompa Loompa? MR. WONKA: They’re not for sale (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971). VERUCA SALT:

The attempt to buy an Oompa Loompa constructs them as a commodity, which is not uncommon in relation to dwarfism. The ownership of the Oompa Loompas reflects historical representations of dwarfism where they were kept as pets and traded as gifts by European royalty in the 15th–17th century. However, even in the present day people with dwarfism are treated as commodities. During one Super Bowl tournament, the comedian Jimmy Kimmel is quoted as saying, ‘Midgets [sic] are great, everybody should have one’ (cited in Adelson, 2005a: n.d.). Being able to buy a person with dwarfism constructs them as inferior beings with limited power and agency. Their ownership implies a dependency on the average-sized person to be cared for, just like a pet dog or cat. It is a common belief that disabled people are dependent on their non-disabled counterparts. Whilst dependency should not be seen as a negative trait, how it is constructed and used can position those who are dependent as inferior beings. Towards the end of the film, when Wonka tells Charlie that he will leave him the factory when he eventually dies, it is implied that Charlie will be tasked with looking after the Oompa Loompas, ‘Somebodies gotta keep it [the factory] going, if only for the sake of the Oompa Loompas’ (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971). This implies that the Oompa Loompas are dependent on the average-sized Charlie to take care of them. This is similar to the seven dwarf’s dependence on Snow White. Forgacs (1992) suggests that many of the creators behind Snow White perceived the dwarfs to be childlike. Thus, to be childlike and subsequently dependent on others suggests powerlessness. The promotion of midgetism in the media is encouraged by people with dwarfism who take on these roles, which brings me to my next point in reclaiming the use of the word midget when referring to ‘midget entertainment’ or ‘midget entertainer’.

‘Is that a midget’? A large contributing factor of midgetism is midget entertainers. The choice midgets make to partake in derogatory forms of entertainment, which are based on centuries-old stereotypes of dwarfism, is a form of internalised ableism whereby they accept midgetism as part of having dwarfism. Rugoho (2020) points out

18  Midgetism and midget entertainment that disabled people often accept identities ascribed to them by wider society. Internalised ableism (or in this case internalised midgetism) means accepting their oppression by the dominant group (average-sized people) in society (Reeve, 2002). Midget entertainers conform to the behaviour expected by others which creates an unequal power relation. Like the dwarf in Oscar Wilde’s ‘Birthday of the Infanta’ they are often naive to the ridicule directed towards them, which permits them to be affectionate towards those who laugh at them. When a midget entertainer is hired out for a stag do (Bachelor party), he can act as if he is ‘one of the lads’. It may be the only opportunity he gets to be part of that group. Laughter is deemed a desirable trait and thus by allowing himself to be laughed at he can be included. However, the laughter from the group is the result of ridicule towards the midget entertainer who they deem inferior. I use the pronoun ‘he’ to refer to midget entertainers, as the majority of them are male. Tyrrell (2020: 180) points out that ‘there is a clear difference in the way dwarfs are depicted based on their gender’. Furthermore, women with dwarfism are considered petite and in need of care (Pritchard, 2021c). However, men with dwarfism create more of an incongruous encounter. The masochism displayed by men with dwarfism can provoke ridicule, as their masculinity is challenged by their short stature (See Chapter 4). Men are meant to be tall and strong and will compete for power. Thus, when a midget partakes in midget tossing the aim is, not to see who can throw a midget furthest, but for the average-sized man to show dominance over a smaller person (similar roles are played out in midget wrestling, which is explored in Chapter 3). Added to this a man may feel reluctant to throw a woman with dwarfism as women are seen in need of protection. Midget entertainment is a prominent form of midgetism, which promotes the idea that a person with dwarfism is inferior. In a similar way, the radical feminist writer and activist Andrea Dworkin (1981) argues that pornography is a way of men possessing women. Similarly, midget entertainment is a way of controlling people with dwarfism by representing them as inferior beings that are acceptable to humiliate. When a midget entertainer engages in an act which is humiliating and would be off limits to others, they are indicating that people with dwarfism are inferior. They are performing an act that goes against social norms and thus are placed outside of society. These acts therefore indicate that dwarfism does not belong within society. In relation to dwarfism, average-sized people control how people with dwarfism are thought of through the representations they have constructed since ancient times. For example, Solevåg (2020) points out that in the Greco-Roman period people with dwarfism were depicted as comic figures. Many representations of dwarfism include being physically controlled by average-sized people to demonstrate their superiority, for example, midget tossing and bowling, where midget entertainers are manhandled. In these cases, they become commodities, which suggests ownership. One of the most explicit forms of control was during the 15th–18th century when people with dwarfism were kept as pets, given as gifts or traded in European courts (Garland-Thomson, 1996). Being owned and treated as a commodity that can be traded, is an obvious form of possession where the keeper holds all the

Midgetism and midget entertainment  19 power. Furthermore, the freak show and modern-day midget entertainment (See Chapter 3) which allows people to hire out midget entertainers, is a way of controlling the dwarf body, especially in the way they are represented. When the term midget has been shouted at me, I know the intent is often to offend, hence why laughter often accompanies the name-calling. In a minority of cases, it is used mistakingly, as some people assume it is the correct term to use to refer to someone with dwarfism. However, this is because most people have only come across people with dwarfism in the media where the term midget is used interchangeably with other terms including dwarf. Furthermore, the freak show has been an influential factor in the representation of dwarfism where the term was popularised. Thus, some people think it is the right term to refer to a person with proportionate dwarfism. As a result of its origins and how it is used in society, midget is argued to be a form of hate speech (Pritchard, 2020). I do want to argue against that, however, I think it is important to rename the term for academic purposes when analysing midgetism and the socio-cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience. In relation to hate terms, it is important to consider the context in which they are used (St Clare, 2018). This book does not aim to argue against midget being a form of disability hate speech, but rather uses it to highlight some of the causes, particularly within the media. Hence, why it is important to use the term ‘midget entertainers’ as the inclusion of the word ‘entertainers’ aids in demonstrating that it is an ableist act and not a natural state of being. Terms used to identify disabled people, such as cripple, freak, handicap, and in this case, midget were created by non-disabled people to create a hierarchy (Bone, 2017). Take, for example, the term freak. This was created in order to expose the non-normative body for profit and amusement for non-disabled people. The term freak positioned people with non-normative bodies as outsiders who it was permissible to treat in a way, such as staring and laughing at, that would be seen as offensive if done to the non-disabled person. The term midget, which is also derived from the freak show, is still popular today, which aids in positioning people with dwarfism as inferior to the average-sized person. Whereas a midget entertainer may choose to call themselves a midget and thus internalise ableist perceptions of dwarfism, in this book I have not chosen the term to reinforce ableist narratives of dwarfism, but to rather expose and challenge them. The problem is that the midget entertainer’s actions and behaviours, influences society to believe that this is a natural trait of dwarfism, as opposed to a social construct. Andrea Dworkin (1981: 243) claims that ‘a person’s struggle for dignity and self-determination is rooted in the struggle for actual control of one’s body’. Thus, this is why it is important to differentiate midget entertainers from people with dwarfism. People with dwarfism can either fight for control of how their bodies are represented through challenging or changing representations or they can surrender and subsequently remain inferior through a lack of dignity. Thus a midget entertainer can be seen as someone who is submissive to the average-sized person’s ableist conception of dwarfism (or normative positivism (Bolt, 2015)). In some cases, a midget entertainer will claim that they already get laughed at, so

20  Midgetism and midget entertainment they might as well capitalise on it (non-normative positivism) (See Chapter 6). However, the economic incentive only benefits the midget entertainer, whereas many other people with dwarfism have to fight even harder for control over how their bodies are perceived. When thinking about disability equality, general society tends to think that all disabled people are striving for the same goals and that not one disabled person would be against equality and be seen as lesser than anyone else. Yet, just as the social activist bell hooks (2014) points out that women can be anti-feminist, disabled people can also support ableism, or promote midgetism. When it comes to dwarfism there are a minority of people with the condition who continue to accept being treated unequally. They may benefit from the work of disabled activists who fought for equality, such as improved access to buildings, as well as access to welfare, but continue to promote a representation of dwarfism which is reflective of the freak show. They comply with the ableist notion that their condition somehow makes them inferior to others. Reclaiming a hate term can render it either neutral or positive (St Clare, 2018). Reclaiming the term aids in placing some of the causes of midgetism upon those who adhere to it. I want to reclaim the word midget, but not in the way expected. I do not want the word to be associated with myself or any other person with dwarfism who wants to construct a positive identity for themselves. I want to instead make the term society’s problem. I hate the word midget, but equally, hate all of the abuse I receive within society towards my dwarfism. Whilst midgetism refers to the discrimination people with dwarfism experience, the word midget can be applied to a person with dwarfism who openly embraces the discrimination and the inferior position society places them within due to internalised midgetism. As the word midget was popularised within the freak show, where the only purpose of a person with dwarfism was for them to be put on show and allow audiences to stare and ridicule their impairment, it only seems fitting that it should apply to those who partake in derogatory entertainment which mocks their dwarfism. To me, a midget entertainer is a person who uses their dwarfism for derogatory entertainment purposes and promotes midgetism within society. For example, somebody who hires themselves out to be thrown across a bar is a midget entertainer. For the rest of this book, I will differentiate between people with dwarfism and midget entertainers. For a while, I toiled with the idea of reclaiming the word midget and creating the term midgetism. I did not want to give that word any more attention than it already has. I do not want people to think that it is an acceptable word to use towards people with dwarfism. Every time I typed that word when writing this book I felt as if I was betraying myself, as a lot of my work focuses on eradicating the term. However, I think it is important to make a firm distinction between dwarfism and midgetism, as well as between people with dwarfism and midget entertainers. In other words, to separate people with dwarfism from those who also have the condition but use it to reinforce negative beliefs about it (midget entertainers). ‘Taking back words of hate, it is possible to change what these words have the power to do’ (Bronstema cited in St Clare, 2018: 93). Instead of being

Midgetism and midget entertainment  21 used as a form of hate speech directed at anyone with dwarfism, the word is being reclaimed to separate people with dwarfism from those who promote midgetism. Midget entertainers, who perpetuate problematic beliefs about dwarfism have impacted those who do not do the same. Society seems to be under the illusion that people with dwarfism are figures of entertainment. Therefore it is important to separate the two types of people with dwarfism. Thus, referring to those who promote midgetism as ‘midget entertainers’ aids in not only reclaiming the word, but also in demonstrating that not all people with dwarfism partake in midgetism and thus dwarfism is only socially constructed as a figure of fun. Most people with dwarfism want the same opportunities and treatment as the rest of society. However, I am concerned that if I promote it as a term to be used towards those who partake in derogatory entertainment, it will give their promoters free reign to use it. For example, as discussed in more detail in Chapter 4, the average-sized owners of ‘midget’ wrestling, claim that using that term makes the show more appealing. Whilst using the term promotes their business (in other words they rely on midgetism/disability inequality for financial gain), it allows the term to flourish within society. I am fully aware that when that term is used towards me when out in public it is because those people have heard that term being used in the media, whether in midget wrestling, in a film or by a stand-up comedian. Thus, by reclaiming the term I am not giving it free rein to be used in the media, but rather using it as a tool, to pinpoint the causes of inequalities experienced by people with dwarfism. Also, when I hear the word midget being misused in films I can place it on those who humiliate themselves and disconnect it from me and other people with dwarfism. Midget entertainers are a great asset for their non-disabled counterparts who oppose disability equality and wish for disabled people to remain inferior to them. For example, if a minority of people with dwarfism are happy to be the butt of the joke, then average-sized people are given permission to deem all people with dwarfism as inferior, especially as it is a small minority group that not many people will have had any exposure to outside of the media. Whilst they may be in a minority, their presence within the media is the only interaction most people in society will have with someone with dwarfism. Furthermore, in many cases, news media, including online, often interview midget entertainers for their views about midget entertainment, which provides a biased view. When media outlets purposely choose to take the views of midget entertainers they are reinforcing the status quo. The views of midget entertainers help to reinforce problematic representations of dwarfism constructed by non-disabled people. The trouble is that their views and actions prevent other people with dwarfism from achieving equal status within society.

One for the album: social consequences of ‘midget entertainment’ Midget entertainment has numerous social consequences for people with dwarfism, most of which will be explored within the rest of this book. However, one of

22  Midgetism and midget entertainment the most obvious consequences of constructing dwarfism as a form of entertainment and an example of midgetism is being photographed. Historically people with dwarfism were photographed as part of their work in the freak show (Ellis, 2018; Garland-Thomson, 2002). Whilst this activity was once restricted to the non-normate space of the freak show, Shakespeare (2006) suggests that photographing people with dwarfism by other members of the public has become a more common occurrence, particularly with the increased popularity of Smartphones. Thus, not only are those who invite the gaze photographed (midget entertainers), but also people with dwarfism who have not agreed to be a spectacle. I have been photographed on several occasions, including one incident where a driver stopped their car in order for the passenger to take a photograph of me standing at a set of traffic lights. Furthermore, hearing someone shout to their friend ‘quickly, get a photo, get a photo’, as I cycle past them, indicated that to them I was an object of fascination and that their photographic evidence of me could later be used for them and their other friends to mock. Of course, a person with usual body size and shape is going to prompt stares; however, when someone runs up to somebody you know and exclaims ‘I’ve just seen a real life midget’ it suggests that the event is influenced by how dwarfism is culturally constructed. As Ellis (2018: 228) suggests, ‘the message behind this gaze [being photographed] is clear, the ‘dwarf’ body is abnormal, freakish and reserved for the amusement of non-dwarfs’. This is all a result of midgetism and its promotion by midget entertainers. When people see prominent figures within the entertainment industry, such as famous actors or singers, many will automatically reach for their Smartphone in order to get a photograph to remember the event. Whilst most people with dwarfism do not work in the entertainment industry, the cultural construction of dwarfism has produced a problematic belief that people with dwarfism are also figures of entertainment and acceptable to photograph. Surveillance establishes over individuals a visibility through which one differentiates them and judges them, but without the limitations imposed by a need to be in close proximity to the individuals under surveillance (Foucault, 1990). Being photographed can be harassing and disempowering: I was inside the tube [London underground] and he just started taking pictures of me and I was alone in the tube so I moved and wanted to be behind a person so that he couldn’t take anymore photos of me but he just started screaming, ‘get in here, get in here, I want to take a lot of photos of you.’ … I was just so upset and so scared. He then just started taking pictures again, it was just such unbelievable behaviour. It was the last stop that I wanted to get off at and he got off as well and he just started calling his friends and saying that he had more pictures for their collection. (Myraar in Pritchard, 2014) The experience of having somebody take an unwanted photograph Shakespeare (2006) suggests is disempowering. The photograph has been taken without the consent of the person being photographed. How Myraar was treated is a form of

Midgetism and midget entertainment  23 midgetism, which further reinforces the idea that someone with dwarfism is an oddity whose body size and shape make them public property. Myraar was treated as if she was owned by the perpetrator in a similar way that midget entertainers often are (See Chapter 2). Myraar’s experience indicates that the man was able to control her because she was a lot smaller than him and he bullied her into doing what he wanted. He not only took photographs of her but forced her to position herself in order to get the best photographs. The fact, as Myraar goes on to mention, that the person phoned his friends and had ‘more pictures for their collection’, suggests that Myraar’s dwarfism is a form of amusement for them, just like midget entertainers. Photographs offer the spectator the pleasure of unaccountable, uninhibited, insistent looking (Garland Thomson, 2002: 58). A photograph allows the viewer to keep a memento of their encounter as well as evidence of the encounter to show to others, just like when a person meets a celebrity. However, whilst famous actors and singers are often admired, midget entertainers are often mocked and humiliated. The act of photographing an ordinary person with dwarfism is further disempowering as they have control over how the person’s body is used and who can see it. The individuals who are watched are judged, measured and compared with others (Foucault, 1990). They are photographed as their body differs from what is considered the norm within society and is deemed a spectacle. How others respond to the image, such as through mockery, leads to judgement. As a result, some people with dwarfism will actively avoid particular spaces, especially those that promote midgetism: I never want to be next to a poster advertising Snow White [and the seven dwarfs]; I never want to be beneath the sign saying Snow White, because I never want to be that photo opportunity for someone with a camera phone. (Naomi in Pritchard, 2014) Naomi controls, to some extent, the possibility of being photographed and subsequently being mocked. This links to ideas around the panopticon and how prisoners could never be sure whether or not they were being watched (Foucault, 1990). Pritchard (2021b) found that cultural representations of people with dwarfism affected how they navigated through the built environment, including the avoidance of particular spaces. Seeing an actual person with dwarfism next to a popular representation of dwarfism links both fiction and reality and according to Naomi will encourage people to take a photograph of her. The opportunity to link someone with dwarfism to a set of fictional characters, who are often used as comic relief, subordinates someone with dwarfism and provides the opportunity for others’ amusement. Avoiding the space prevents mockery, but also impacts Naomi’s equality as the only way to control the situation is to avoid it.

Subtle forms of midgetism Like aversive disablism (Deal, 2007), subtle forms of midgetism are constructed by long-held beliefs about dwarfism. These are often harder to tackle as they are

24  Midgetism and midget entertainment not blatant forms of prejudice, such as hate speech. ‘Aversive disablists recognize disablism is bad but do not recognize that they themselves are prejudiced’ (Deal, 2007: 93). It can be hard to separate subtle midgetism from actual midgetism, especially as some people may have different views as to what counts as what. For example, when people speak to me in a patronising tone, I personally consider this a subtle form of midgetism, however, others may view it as midgetism. I do not think the person is being purposely offensive, even if their actions are based on their perception of me as childlike. It is oppressive behaviour but one that is based on ignorance, as opposed to hatred and ignorance. Another form of subtle midgetism is when someone says, ‘I don’t see your dwarfism’. Of course, they can see my dwarfism, but most non-disabled people consider an impairment to be a negative trait. Unless they mean they do not associate someone like me with dominant conceptions of dwarfism, i.e. midgetism and midget entertainers, then it can be taken as insulting. I want my dwarfism to be viewed positively, but that can only happen when midgetism is eradicated. When a person says that they do not see my dwarfism, they are implying that my dwarfism is something to be ashamed of, a negative part of my overall identity and thus better hidden. Yet, this is because of how society constructs body size. Subtle forms of midgetism are influenced by how society culturally constructs the small body. Phrases such as ‘walking tall’ when used in positive stories about dwarfism are problematic (Pritchard, 2021a). Problematic terminology that is not meant to offend, but renders dwarfism inferior is also a form of subtle midgetism. This type of phrasing reinforces the idea that being small is a bad physical trait. Similar to somebody stating that they do not see a person’s dwarfism, metaphorically constructing a person with dwarfism as tall for their good achievements is a way of insinuating dwarfism as bad. In this case, a person’s dwarfism has to be ignored or eradicated in order for someone with the condition to be accepted. Subtle forms of midgetism can exist anywhere; however, it is interesting to note how they are prominent within associations for people with dwarfism (explored further in Chapter 6). Whilst parents, who are mostly of average stature, try to be more accepting of their children with dwarfism, they still hold beliefs that were formed prior to having a child with the condition. To make up for the child they were expecting but did not have, to downplay their dwarfism, especially through inspirational porn, can aid in their child’s acceptance. Growing up, no doubt parents were exposed to media featuring people with dwarfism which promoted midgetism. They will also be informed by society’s heightist beliefs, which encourage people to believe that bigger is better.

Conclusion It is important to have a term which encompasses the unique discrimination people with dwarfism experience within society. Midgetism is the result of a combination of both heightism and disablism. Whilst both short people and disabled people experience various forms of discrimination within society, people with dwarfism experience unique forms of discrimination which are evident and

Midgetism and midget entertainment  25 reinforced within cultural representations. Midgetism is the result of unequal power relations. These power relations are the result of the small non-normative body being deemed inferior within society. Various forms of midgetism are used to keep people with dwarfism within an inferior position within society. Midget entertainment encourages people to believe that people with dwarfism are spectacles that are acceptable to mock as they are constructed as inferior, or often sub-human. However, just like racism can be challenged, so can midgetism. Midgetism can be challenged in numerous ways, but the most successful would be through people with dwarfism deciding not to fulfil entertainment roles which promote midgetism. Reclaiming the term midget aids in redistributing the power between average sized people and people with dwarfism. Whilst midget was originally placed upon people with dwarfism by non-disabled, and still continues to be used in a derogatory way, I have felt it empowering to reclaim the word in order to highlight the oppression and exploitation people with dwarfism experience. The term midget entertainer should also aid in highlighting how it is an exploitative practice which contributes to the oppression people with dwarfism experience. Whilst midget should still be recognised as a form of hate speech, the term midget entertainer should be used to demonstrate the difference between those who revel in midgetism and those who are against it. This allows people with dwarfism to further disassociate themselves from midget entertainment, which constructs them as inferior and say ‘I am not a midget’. Creating a divide between people with dwarfism and midget entertainment challenges the hegemonic belief that people with dwarfism are entertainers. To achieve true equality for people with dwarfism, those with the condition must first oppose and not enact any actions which prevent people with dwarfism from being seen as equal members of society. Until then, to separate them from those seeking equality a different term is required.

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26  Midgetism and midget entertainment Eplett, L. (2016) For Oompa-Loompas, orange was the new black. Gastronomica, 16 (2) 12–17. Forgacs, D. (1992) Disney animation and the business of childhood. Screen, 33 (4) 361–374. Foucault (1990) Discipline and Punishment. London: Penguin. Garland-Thomson, R. (Ed) (1996) Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. London: New York University Press. Garland-Thomson, R. (2002) The politics of staring, In Snyder, S., Brueggemann, B.J. and Garland-Thomson, R. (Eds) Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. pp. 190–205. Garland-Thomson, R. (2009) Staring: How We Look. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Griffiths, S., Murray, B.S., Medeiros, A. and Blashiss, A.J. (2017) The tall and short of it: an investigation of height ideals, height preferences, height dissatisfaction, heightism and height-related quality of life impairment among sexually minority men. Body Image, 23, 164–154. Haller, B., Dorries, B. and Rahn, J. (2006) Media labelling versus the US disability community identity: a study of shifting cultural language. Disability and Society, 21 (1) 61–75. hooks, b. (2014) Teaching to Transgress. London: Routledge. Kruse, R. (2002) Social spaces of little people: the experiences of the Jamisons. Social and Cultural Geography, 3 (2) 175–191. Little People of America (2015) LPA issues a statement to abolish the ‘m’ word [online] Available from: https://www.lpaonline.org/the-m-word (accessed 11/12/2021). Mallett, R. and Slater, J. (2014). Language. In Cameron, C. (Ed.) Disability Studies: A ­Student’s Guide. London: Sage. pp. 91–94. Merish, L. (1996) Cuteness and Commodity Aesthetics: Tom Thumb and Shirley Temple, In Garland Thomson, R., (Eds) Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York: New York University Press. pp. 185–205. O’Brien, K. (2016) Eight stats about Roald Dahl’s books. The Bookseller [online] Available from: https://www.thebookseller.com/insight/eight-facts-about-roald-dahlsbooks-364066# (accessed 15/04/2022). Pritchard, E. (2014) The Social and Spatial Experiences of Dwarfs in Public Spaces. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Newcastle: Newcastle University. Pritchard, E. (2020) Hate speech and dwarfism: the influence of cultural representations. In Sherry, M., Olsen, T., Vedeler, J. and Eriksen, J. (Eds) Disability Hate Speech: Social, Cultural and Political Contexts. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 116–128. Pritchard, E. (2021a) The metanarrative of dwarfism: heightism and its social implications. In Bolt, D. (Ed) The Metanarrative of Disability Culture, Assumed Authority, and the Normative Social Order. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 123–137. Pritchard, E. (2021b) Dwarfism, Spatialities and Disabling Experiences. Abingdon: Routledge. Pritchard, E. (2021c) “She finds people like you hilarious!” Why do we laugh at people with dwarfism? Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 15 (4) 455–470. Reeve, D. (2002) Negotiating psycho-emotional dimensions of disability and their influence on identity constructions. Disability and Society, 17 (5) 493–508. Rugoho, T. (2020) My disability, my ammunition, my asset. In Berghs, M., Chataika, T., Dube, K. and El-Lahib, Y. (Eds) The Routledge Handbook of Disability Activism. London: Routledge. pp. 144–153. Shakespeare, T. (2006) Snap unhappy. BBC Ouch [online] Available from: http:// www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/features/snap_unhappy.shtml (accessed 01/07/2022).

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3

The freak show and its legacy

Introduction The Victorian freak show is considered an integral part of American history from 1840 to 1940 (Tyrrell, 2020). The origins and development of the Victorian freak show can be linked to the rise in eugenics and the quest for measuring human norms, such as the average-sized person. Those that differed from the norm were deemed undesirable, yet were also paraded as spectacles. The freak show is a historical example of a non-normate space, controlled by average-sized people to oppress and exploit the non-normate body. The freak show can be defined as ‘the formally organised exhibition of people with alleged and real physical, mental, or behavioural anomalies for amusement and profit’ (Bogdan, 1988: 10). Numerous disabled people were prominent exhibits in the freak show, including people with dwarfism, Acromegaly (Gigantism), Microcephaly and Albinism. People with dwarfism often referred to as ‘midgets’ were central to the freak show, as well as carnivals, sideshows and circuses (Cross, 2021). In fact, it is difficult to pick up a book or watch any film about the freak show without prominent references to dwarfs and ‘midgets’. It is claimed that the freak show began to disappear at the turn of the 20th century (Garland-Thomson, 1997). However, midget entertainment reflects the dominant discourse of the freak show, demonstrating that it never really disappeared but exists in other ways. Hence, why this book uses the term ‘midget entertainment’ to refer to entertainment which constructs dwarfism as an oddity. This chapter focuses on the legacy of the freak show and shows how it is evident in different forms of modern-day midget entertainment. The first part focuses on the freak show and argues that a freak is culturally produced and that midget entertainers are an example of a modern-day freak. The second part examines a modern-day freak show based in China known as the Kingdom of Little People. Similar to the midget villages that were popular in the US and parts of Europe in the 19th century, it is argued that the Kingdom of Little People encourages people to believe that people with dwarfism live in their own community. This setup, it is argued, provides easy access for people to see people with dwarfism and be amused by their non-normative bodies. Moving on, the chapter focuses on modern-day freak shows within western societies, including reality television shows, as well as the ability to hire out midget entertainers for numerous events. The latter, it is argued, allows the values of the freak show to spread out and occupy normate

DOI: 10.4324/9781003382461-3

The freak show and its legacy  29 spaces, such as bars and nightclubs. It is important to combat midget entertainment, which according to Antras, Bayarri and Greenop (2021) is an attack on the dignity of people with dwarfism. Whilst the freak show can be argued to be a non-normative positivism, providing economic incentives for those who chose to become midget entertainers, it results in non-normative negativism for people with dwarfism in society who experience midgetism as a result. Lastly, the social consequences of midget entertainment are explored, as well as the resultant problematic attitudes which consider people with dwarfism as sub-human.

The freak show and the freak Those deemed freaks can be split into two categories: ‘born freaks’ and ‘self-made freaks’ (Garland-Thomson, 1997). A born freak, also referred to as a freak of nature, is considered to be someone born with a non-normative body, such as a person with dwarfism. A self-made freak refers to someone who creates their own non-normative body through body modification work, for example, a person who is covered from head to toe in tattoos. However, Bogdan (1988: 234) points out that ‘all freaks were creations of the amusement world: the freak show and presentation made people exhibits, not their physiology’. Thus, all freaks are selfmade. ‘What we assume is a freak of nature is actually a freak of culture’ (Stewart cited in Garland-Thomson, 1997: 62). Just because I am a person with dwarfism does not make me a freak. However, if I decided to give into ableist perceptions about my condition and paraded myself on stage, allowing audiences to stare and laugh at my dwarfism, then I would become a freak. In relation to this conception of the freak, then a midget entertainer can be considered a type of modern-day freak. Freakism is an action and is usually confined to certain spaces, such as the freak show. The freak show developed from circuses and dime museums, which were purposely created to amuse audiences by showcasing the unusual and spectacular. Furthermore, freak show owners often provided the freaks with exaggerated and exotic background stories. The average-sized proprietors of the freak show would often fabricate the characteristics and personal backgrounds and circumstances of the freaks to attract audiences (Bogdan, 1988). This aided in further distancing people with non-normate bodies from a supposedly civilised society. The freak show was an oppressive non-normate space, which controlled and exploited the sized body, which was forced within that space as normate spaces discriminated against and shunned them. As Gerber (1993: 435) suggests the ‘exhibition of people with bodily differences, also known as freaks, is a form of social oppression and exploitation which contributes to in the reproduction of the prejudices and discrimination that people who bodily abnormalities face’. In this case, the freak show encouraged midgetism. Often referred to as the ‘World’s Greatest Showman’, Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810–1891), the founder of Barnum and Bailey Circus, is credited with popularising the freak show. As a struggling business owner, P.T. Barnum capitalised on both racist and disablist beliefs prominent within the Victorian era to enable

30  The freak show and its legacy him to become successful. As a result, the freak show aided in maintaining social hierarchies between white, non-disabled people and others. Barnum claimed to protect those deemed freaks under the guise of paternalism – the freak shows gave disabled people employment when little was available elsewhere. After all, during the 1800s, many disabled people were considered a burden upon their families, for they could not be financially self-sufficient. Whilst the freak show is considered a capitalist form of popular culture (Woolf, 2016), who profited from the exploitation of those deemed freaks needs consideration. Although people often argue that it was a job for those with non-normate bodies, it was actually an ableist society that permitted average-sized owners of freak shows, such as Barnum, to capitalise on their differences. Considered commodities whose genetic differences rendered them subhuman, freaks were often bought from their family or kidnapped by show owners, including Barnum. The freaks were mere commodities as their genetic differences rendered them subhuman but profitable. Freak shows were nothing more than a way of exploiting and oppressing disabled people. Barnum’s most famous exhibit was Charles Stratton (1838–1883), better known as General Tom Thumb, who had a form of proportionate dwarfism as a result of a hormone deficiency. It is argued that Barnum’s international success was the result of Charles Stratton (Woolf, 2016). This not only aids in situating midgets (what Stratton and others were referred to as by Barnum) as prominent entertainment spectacles, which is still relevant in the present day, but also how they are constructed. Bodies which exceeded the norm in terms of size were exaggerated to further construct them as an oddity (Bogdan, 1988). It is suggested that Barnum giving him the name General Tom Thumb aided in constructing Stratton as a spectacle (Pritchard, 2021b). The title General created an incongruous encounter, whilst Tom Thumb provided a fairytale element blurring the divide between fiction and reality. Stratton’s performances often included mock sword fights which created a humorous scene, as his size made him unthreatening and thus provoked an incongruous situation. According to John Woolf, in his 2019 Book, The Wonders, ‘Tom Thumb was described by Punch magazine as a joke of nature. He was laughed at as he was deemed unthreatening and unfitting’ (2019: 189). Recent depictions of the freak show often whitewash the experiences of disabled performers, which aids in promoting the industry as acceptable, especially for its time. Since the demise of the freak shows there have been numerous films and television shows based on the ableist form of entertainment, including Tod ­Browning’s Freaks (1932), Sideshow (2000), Freakshow (2007), American Horror Story: ­Freakshow (2011) and The Greatest Showman (2017). The Greatest Showman is an American biographical musical drama film, based on the life of P.T. Barnum. The film grossed $435 million (£331 million) worldwide, making it the fifth-highest-grossing live-action musical film of all time (IMDBPro, 2022). The popularity of the film has helped to reinforce ableist beliefs about the freak show and its performers. When the 2017 film, The Greatest Showman came out, I was appalled by the ableist representation of P.T. Barnum who is played by Australian actor Hugh

The freak show and its legacy  31 Jackman. The film presents Barnum’s exhibition of freak show performers as empowering, rather than exploitative (McCreesh, 2017). This representation wrongly constructs the freak show and its owner as a saviour of disabled people. The history of ‘freak’ is one deeply embedded in the rhetoric of enslavement: a disabled person could either make a living in a sideshow, waste away inside an asylum, or starve on a street corner. None of these options permitted the disabled to speak for themselves, to explore the complexities of their identities. Instead, society spoke in their place, defining them and reducing them to mere curiosities to be stared at in fairgrounds and museums. (Bone, 2017: 1301) Of course, the film fails to capture the real history of the freak and the freak show in order to produce a feel good film. Barnum was shown as a benevolent person who provided disabled people with employment, which they were thankful for, as opposed to a failed businessman who relied on people such as Charles Stratton to make his fortune. The film reinforces the belief that freak show performers relished the work they did. However, behind the curtain, a different story exists. Woolf (2019) points out that Stratton was so traumatised, he would often wake up from his sleep crying. Furthermore, it is argued that Stratton also developed a disdain for appearing in public (Woolf, 2019). It is no fun to be paraded as an oddity for everyone to stare and laugh at. But of course, the film ignores this in favour of constructing the freak show as an ample employment opportunity that the freaks relish. Also, with songs such as ‘This is me’ which features the lyric ‘I am not scared to be seen’, the film implies that disabled people invite the gaze and thus, implying that staring at them is permissible and favoured by the freaks. Although the freak show began to diminish at the turn of the 20th century, midgetism found other non-normate spaces in which to thrive. Whilst the film industry took over from the freak show as the chief exhibitor of disabled people (Bolt, 2019; Cross, 2021) (see previous chapter), there also exists other forms of entertainment which promote midgetism. People with dwarfism continue to be exploited within the entertainment industry as they are still perceived to be an oddity that is acceptable to stare at and laugh at, including in films, televisions shows, event agencies that hire them out for celebratory events, and the modern-day midget city, known as the ‘Kingdom of Little People’.

The kingdom of little people Opened in 2009, The ‘Kingdom of Little People’ is a theme park located near Kunming, in the Yunnan province of China. As the name suggests, people with dwarfism are the main attraction, making them the park’s theme. The Kingdom of Little People is freely permitting midgetism. The choice of the word kingdom suggests that it is a large place that is highly populated with ‘little people’, with its own hierarchical society. There are three requisites for joining the park; must be free of disease, be under 50 years of age and be under 4 ft 4" (132 cm) (Vice,

32  The freak show and its legacy 2014). Whilst height is a requisite any entertaining talents are not required. This is important to note, as any other place of entertainment which has dancers or actors would require the performers to have either experience or a qualification in the performing arts. Some of the performers in the Kingdom may dance, but it is not the dancing people are truly interested in. Those in the Kingdom of Little People are seen primarily as spectacles due to their dwarfism, and only secondary as artists. One performer in the Kingdom of Little People remarked how she wanted to become a professional dancer, but due to discrimination could not become one. In China, it is reported that there is rampant discrimination against even those with minor impairments (Adelson, 2005a). Furthermore, due to high competition for professional positions, height is often used to disqualify applicants (Adelson, 2005a). The Kingdom of Little People becomes a non-normative positivism but only as a result of disability discrimination. If audiences were really interested in the talents of the dancer, they would not need to be restricted to a non-normate space. Thus people are just interested in the entertainment factor of dwarfism, not what talents any of the midget entertainers may have. People pay to go and see people with dwarfism supposedly living in small houses, take photographs of them and later watch them dance in various costumes. The theme park is reminiscent of the ‘midget cities’ that were part of the freak shows across the US and parts of Europe during the latter half of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century (Howells and Chemers, 2005). The most famous midget city was Samual Gumpertz’s ‘Lilliputia’ which attracted approximately 300 midget entertainers from numerous sideshows and circuses (Cross, 2021). According to Enderle (1998) communities such as midget villages are the result of discrimination due to society’s intolerance of those who deviate from the norm. The midget entertainers lived in a scaled-down community and had their own ‘services’ including their own ‘fire department’ that would respond to ‘false alarms’ to amuse audiences (Cross, 2021). This type of performance was not to be taken seriously and thus more closely reflects the actions of children ‘playing adult’. Midget villages provided the opportunity for audiences to be amused by groups of midget entertainers interacting with each other in their “own communities” whilst they walked around and observed them (Cross, 2021). At the Kingdom of Little People visitors are permitted to take photographs with the performers, who often prefer it to be with the shortest performer possible (Jones, 2015). This provides consent to behaviours that are unacceptable within wider society but permissible in the park. As shown in the previous chapter, it is not unusual for people with dwarfism to be photographed in public. Taking photographs can be considered an even more intrusive form of staring that suggests that people with dwarfism are a social oddity. The act of being photographed implies that people with dwarfism are a form of public property that renders them powerless. Pritchard (2021a) points out that people with dwarfism try to actively avoid spaces where they think there is more of a chance of being photographed. At least at the Kingdom of Little People, those with a morbid fascination with dwarfism are guaranteed to get a photograph with a ‘real-life midget’. ‘Photographs offer the spectator the pleasure of unaccountable, uninhibited, insistent

The freak show and its legacy  33 looking’ (Garland-Thomson, 2002: 58). A photograph allows the viewer to keep a memento of their encounter as well as evidence of the encounter to show to others. Showing others the photograph aids in spreading midgetism and encourages others to see their behaviour as permissible. The Kingdom of Little People reinforces the idea of segregation, without being blatant. If someone was to decide that all people with dwarfism should live in separate communities then this would be slammed as segregation and would float numerous international disability acts. However, by constructing a non-normate space, where they can be employed in an occupation associated with dwarfism, i.e. entertainment, live in spaces suitable for their stature and escape blatant discrimination, they can be removed from everyday spaces with little criticism. Whilst it is argued that the people with dwarfism in the Kingdom of Little People are escaping the discrimination that they experience living in China, other disabled people who face similar discrimination do not do this. This demonstrates that a non-normative positivism is created by a non-normative negativism, which situates dwarfism as a novelty. One performer remarked that he joined the park because of the mockery he experienced within society (Vice, 2014). However, partaking in entertainment that reinforces midgetism will only encourage further mockery within society. Furthermore, instead of providing spaces to supposedly escape discrimination, whilst at the same time actively encouraging it, societal attitudes need to change. Like numerous countries, China has its own laws to protect disabled citizens. Specifically, article 3 of The law on the protection of disabled persons stipulates that ‘Persons with disabilities shall enjoy equal rights with other citizens in political, economic, cultural and social respects and in family life as well. The rights and dignity of persons with disabilities as citizens shall be protected by law’ (The Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons, 2008). It is interesting to note that this law was passed a year before the park opened. Therefore, people with dwarfism should not be expected to join a theme park which encourages midgetism. Instead, they should have the same employment opportunities that do not impact their dignity. For example, Huang Xuejing, a former employee at the Kingdom of Little People, is actually a trained graphic designer (Fullerton, 2017). Therefore, it’s not that the park provides people with dwarfism a form of employment, but rather that ableist attitudes discriminate against people with dwarfism who are otherwise qualified and capable of working in everyday occupations. The law should aid in preventing this discrimination and be used to highlight that modern-day freak shows are not a suitable form of employment, especially as it impacts their dignity. However, dignity is open to interpretation. Whilst I would argue that it is undignified to be dressed up as a fairy and picked up by strangers, others would argue that not having a job is undignified, even if the lack of employment is the result of disability discrimination. Despite laws to protect disabled people, it is claimed that disabled people in China continue to be oppressed (Lin and Yang, 2018). Just like in the UK, whilst there are anti-discrimination laws, with the aim to protect disabled people, their enforcement is often poor and open to ableist interpretation.

34  The freak show and its legacy A closer examination demonstrates that people with dwarfism have been forced into these spaces due to the prejudices, in the form of midgetism, expressed by the average-sized person within normate spaces. Yet, these are just excuses to hide the theme park’s more problematic purpose. The Kingdom of Little People is a space where the average-sized person can freely mock people with dwarfism, which demonstrates that they have not really escaped discrimination but made it easier to be targeted by average-sized people. They have been exploited under the guise of goodwill. The theme park, which was created by Chen Mingjing, is a non-normate space, which he has created for his own economic advantage. Like midget cities of the past, the non-normate space may be dominated by midget entertainers but is controlled by an average-sized person. This is no different from how Gumpertz and P.T. Barnum exploited people with dwarfism. Mingjing, Gumpertz and Barnum all relied on the notion, which is informed by midgetism, that people with dwarfism are novelties, who are incapable of working within society, in order to capitalise on their non-normative bodies. This incapability is directed at their non-normative bodies, as opposed to recognising that it is the society that constructs both the physical and social barriers which restrict their employment opportunities. The spectacle of the dwarf body is further imposed by enabling dozens of people with dwarfism to be in one space. Furthermore, this non-normate space encourages people to believe that people with dwarfism live in their own community. According to Wilde (2018), people with dwarfism are often viewed as a separate race (See Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). The depiction of several people with dwarfism living together further enhances the exhibition of their non-normative bodies. Seeing one person with dwarfism is enough to evoke fascination, however, several together is even more of a spectacle. To further enhance the spectacle of the dwarf body, they pretend to live in spaces that have been constructed to resemble fantasy lands, which are influenced by previous representations of dwarfism associated with mythology and fairytales. Similar to the Victorian freak show, the average-size creator of the park has purposely played on mythological narratives of dwarfism in order to entertain audiences. This non-normate space allows them to be seen not just as a separate race, which does not belong in normate spaces, but as beings from a faraway land. Reinforcing the belief that people with dwarfism are a separate race, living away from the rest of society, does not only promote them as spectacles but also removes the belief that dwarfism can occur within any family. The act makes people with dwarfism more mysterious and as if we are our own race, as opposed to a person with a genetic or hormonal condition. As previously mentioned, 80% of people with dwarfism are born to average-sized parents (Little People of America, 2021). However, it is often believed that people with dwarfism are only born to parents with the condition. When meeting people for the first time, I am often asked if the rest of my family is small, in other words, do they have dwarfism? This is a common question, which is not just borne out of curiosity, but also confusion. I have to explain that no other person in my family has dwarfism. People seem

The freak show and its legacy  35 genuinely shocked at this revelation. Even if I mention my late aunt, who was only 4 ft 11" (149 cm), I have to also clarify that she did not have dwarfism. Not only was she an inch above the maximum height of someone with dwarfism she also had no medical condition associated with dwarfism. Whilst people understand that children with other conditions, such as Spina bifida or Cerebral palsy are born to non-disabled parents, or that people can become impaired through illness or injury, this is not the case with dwarfism. This is important to consider, because if people knew that dwarfism could impact any future family members then they may reconsider their views about the condition. However, representations of dwarfs in groups and furthermore, living in non-normate spaces which imply that they all live together, aid in distancing people with dwarfism from society. Reinforcing the belief that dwarfism is something that only happens to families with the condition enables average-sized people to distance themselves from the condition and thus laugh at dwarfs without repercussions, including guilt. It reassures them that dwarfism will not impact their family; therefore, they are not laughing at something that could happen to someone they love, such as their own child or grandchild. The non-normate space, known as the Kingdom of Little People, permits inappropriate behaviour as the midget entertainers are constructed as an exhibition, which is permissible to treat inappropriately. For example, visitors are seen running after and picking some of the performers up. The space ensures that people can mock them as, unlike everyday spaces, the average-sized person is not guaranteed to stumble across a person with dwarfism. I can recall when living in student halls another resident commented that their friend was coming down to visit and was excited to hear that I was a dwarf. This was because whenever he saw someone with dwarfism ‘he just had to pick them up’ and had actually done that to a woman with dwarfism that he had seen in a supermarket. I tried to explain why that was wrong and that I would not allow it to happen to me, but the resident still did not understand why and tried to excuse it as his fun behaviour. People may be able to watch midget entertainers on television shows or films, where they are free to laugh at them, but do not have the opportunity to interact with them and treat them the same way. The ability to be guaranteed to interact with a ‘real life’ midget entertainer allows the average-sized person to show more dominance and control over them. Whilst Little People of America and Handicap International have criticised the park (LaFraniere, 2010), the lack of contestation from the media and wider society indicates that people truly believe that it’s acceptable to construct dwarfism as a spectacle. Numerous articles about the park reinforce the idea that it enables the performers to escape discrimination. The New York Times claimed that Chen Mingjing created the kingdom as ‘he wanted to run a business that accomplished some good’ (LaFraniere, 2010). However, it can be argued that Chen Mingjing has capitalised on midgetism. Defending the exploitation of people with dwarfism promotes midgetism. It implies that it is acceptable to segregate people with dwarfism, and construct them as novelties as long as they are working. ‘One hundred permanently employed dwarfs, they contend, is better than 100 dwarfs

36  The freak show and its legacy scrounging for odd jobs’ (LaFraniere, 2010: n.d.). This neoliberal attitude ignores the fact that numerous minority groups face employment discrimination, but would still not be expected to work as oddities in a non-normate space reminiscent of a freak show. It is also wrong to assume that people with dwarfism would be on benefits if it was not for the Kingdom of Little People, as many do work in other occupations. Whilst it is possible to change attitudes and workspaces, as well as provide equal access to education, these changes are deemed more costly and challenge normative positivisms within society. However, if Chen Mingjing created a business that provided accessible spaces, would this not make him ‘run a business that accomplished some good’? It would mean that people with dwarfism would no longer remain in an inferior position in society but would be able to equally compete with their average-sized counterparts. In some cases, to reduce criticisms midget entertainment is framed as an act of charity. For example, it is claimed that Saudi Prince Alwaleed keeps an entourage of midget entertainers, which have been compared to mediaeval jesters, as they would not be able to support themselves (Carson, 2012). The role of these midget entertainers is reflective of those within the European courts of the 15th to 18th centuries, who were depicted as decorative elements that heightened the superiority of the royals who owned them (Adelson, 2005b). Framing Prince Alwaleed’s action as an act of charity deflects the true reason which allows the Prince to be amused by people smaller than him, who he can control and heighten his sense of superiority. In this case, midget entertainers are constructed as incapable of anything else and subsequently they are encouraged to accept their inferiority by amusing others. However, it’s not charity but an unequal power relation which constructs people with dwarfism as subordinate to others. It may be ‘a choice’ for the midget entertainers’ but it is a choice influenced by normative positivisms within Saudi society. Without average-sized people perceiving dwarfism as a form of entertainment, midget entertainers would not be given the opportunity to humiliate themselves and influence other members of society to deem the rest of us as such. Instead, the focus should be on the discriminatory practices within Saudi society. Whilst western societies have critiqued countries such as China and Saudi Arabia for human rights abuses (although rarely towards people with dwarfism), countries such as the UK, Australia and the US are on par in terms of exploiting people with dwarfism in the name of entertainment. Although countries such as the US and UK no longer have freak shows or midget cities, they provide other ways for people to interact with their very own midget entertainers.

Reality television – A modern-day freak show in your own living room Reality television covers all sorts of topics and people, so why should people with dwarfism be immune from these shows? The answer is that they should not be, however they should be represented in a way which promotes equality as opposed to exploitation. Reality shows based on people with dwarfism can in fact reinforce

The freak show and its legacy  37 midgetism. In addition, the fact that these shows are labelled as ‘reality’ shows reinforces the belief that people with dwarfism actually lead those sorts of lives. In both the UK and the US there have been many reality shows based on the lives of people with dwarfism, including: Little People, Big World (2006), The Little Couple (2009), Little Women of Atlanta (2016), Little Women LA (2014), The Seven Dwarves Documentary (2011), Small Teen, Bigger World (2011) and Our Little Life (2010). All of the titles automatically focus on their small stature, rendering dwarfism as a spectacle. Many of these shows are featured on the network channel TLC. The Learning Channel, more commonly known as TLC, was founded in 1980 as an educational channel, but is now regarded as a channel primarily for reality television shows. Backstrom (2012: 684) argues that in relation to body extremes, ‘appealing to human impulses of curiosity and voyeurism, the hook of these shows is the anomalous body’. Reality television presents the opportunity to either reinforce or challenge problematic stereotypes associated with dwarfism. It is all dependent upon the purpose and content of the show, which is usually under the influence and control of the average-sized producers. On the one hand, it can show people with dwarfism going about their everyday lives and working in all sorts of occupations challenging the myth that we all work in entertainment. However, it can also reflect the freak show by providing nothing more than a platform to stare and mock those who differ from the norm.

The Seven Dwarves documentary In 2011 Channel 4, a popular UK-based channel, commissioned a several part observational documentary series called The Seven Dwarves. The show’s identity as a documentary suggests that the programme is true to life and education. Deller (2020) argues that reality shows provide a quick way for channels to meet diversity targets. This quantifiable approach does not necessarily promote equality, as it fails to question how different minority groups are represented. The show followed seven midget entertainers, a number of whom are represented by Willow Management, living together and preparing for a pantomime production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Whilst the channel claims that diversity is a priority and aims to appeal to various minority groups (Channel Four Broadcasting Corporation, 2021), it actually played on problematic stereotypes of dwarfism. The show reinforces the belief that people with dwarfism all live together and all perform in the pantomime. It is a tired, old stereotype that constructs people with dwarfism as figures of entertainment. What was surprising was that during the rest of the year the majority of the actors worked in regular occupations including telecommunications and interior design. This raises the question of whether what they choose to do is ethically right when it has repercussions for other people with dwarfism. People tend to defend midget entertainers by claiming that it is a job for them (See Chapter 4), but as shown, it is actually a choice which has repercussions for other people with dwarfism in society. The show is a contradiction in terms. What is ironic about the show is that part of it is trying to expose some of the common unwanted social attention

38  The freak show and its legacy people with dwarfism receive, such as being pointed and laughed at, whilst simultaneously perpetuating common stereotypes which influence them. Derogatory representations of dwarfism encourage mockery of people with dwarfism in society (Pritchard, 2017). Yet the producers of the show ensure that no connection is made between representations of dwarfism and their social consequences. Instead, it is implied that people with dwarfism receive unwanted attention simply because of their non-normative bodies. The Seven Dwarves Documentary is a form of observational/fly-on-the-wall documentary, where scenes are set up, rehearsed and re-shot (Deller, 2020). This indicates that the producers of the show had a key part in how the midget entertainers were represented. This is problematic as the creators’ perceptions of dwarfism are clearly influenced by long-standing stereotypes, such as them being childlike and figures of fun. In numerous scenes the audience witnesses the midget entertainers acting in a way which would be more appropriate for children. For example, when at the dinner table one midget entertainer opens their mouth to expose what they are eating. They also play the children’s game, and hide and seek. The fact that they perform these childish antics implies that people with dwarfism are not only small in height but also have immature minds and can be treated accordingly. This is not how people with dwarfism behave on a day-to-day basis. According to Deller (2020), observational/fly-on-the-wall shows allow the audience to be mere observers of ‘supposedly’ naturally occurring interactions. This means that they are coerced into believing that the content is reflective of true life. Reality shows have been criticised for reinforcing crude stereotypes and emphasising differences (Deller, 2020). In one scene emphasis is placed on how one of the midget entertainers runs upstairs. Due to a mismatch in size, he runs up them in a rather extraordinary way, which the makers of the show have clearly picked up on as something amusing for the audience. In the trailer for the show, this scene is shown more than once to reinforce its amusement. In no part is the point raised that this is because of an inaccessible built environment, which would allow for some awareness raising, rather scenes such as this allow the audience to stare at the way people with dwarfism do something differently. Like the freak shows, shows such as the Seven Dwarves provide people with the opportunity to stare and be amused by people with dwarfism, who perform as midget entertainers. In episode 2, in one scene they follow one of the midget entertainers, called Josh, around in his other job as a midget entertainer who can be rented out for various events, in this case, a person’s stag do (Bachelor party). Josh is dressed up as an Oompa Loompa from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The friends of the ‘stag’ find it hilarious when he is handcuffed to Josh and led through a typical British town. This whole scene reinforces the acceptability of an exploitative industry. In the following scenes, Josh stumbles upon a hen party (Bachelorette party) and is subsequently seen spanking and kissing various women within the group. Josh claims that his actions help him to be treated as a ‘normal’ person, however, it is hard to think of many ‘normal’ people being hired out to be laughed at. It may be that hiring himself out offers him the opportunity

The freak show and its legacy  39 to go on a night out with a group of men and to be able to interact with women that challenges the ‘forbidden relationship’ (Bolt, 2019). If Josh had not been hired out as a form of amusement but rather was just a person with dwarfism on a night out, would the hens have allowed him to kiss and spank them? It cannot be dismissed that the way Josh was perceived by the party-goers allowed him to be part of their night and act inappropriately, providing that he acted the fool. A midget entertainer is often perceived as asexual due to the way they are represented and thus not a threat to women. Josh being handcuffed to the stag for a ‘laugh’ aided in disempowering him and being conceived as more of a commodity than a man with similar sexual desires as the other men.

The spread of the freak show The spectacle of a midget entertainer is not always confined within a non-normate space. Numerous event agencies provide midget entertainers for hire. This can be for any event such as stag dos (bachelor parties) and parties, such as weddings and baby showers. They can also be hired out for venues such as bars and nightclubs, turning the spaces into temporary freak shows. Since 1999, as a result of online publicity, demand for midget entertainers in low-brow entertainment has escalated (Adelson, 2005c). However, there are no effective controls over companies that hire them for derogatory entertainment purposes (Antras, Bayarri and Greenop, 2021). As one advertises: Cheeky Events are one of the very few agencies that can provide you male or female dwarfs for hire across the length and breadth of the UK. Dwarfs are a spectacle to add to any corporate event, private party or pre-nuptial celebrations. Our midget hire service is popular for stag and hen dos as it’s a funny addition to your night. Whether you are planning a trip around town or are staying in ‘our friendly and professional dwarfs will bring belly laughs to your party. (Cheeky Events, 2021) The use of the term ‘professional’ masks the true meaning of the performer, which is that they are there for people to be amused by their height and only that. ‘Professional’ suggests that they have had the training to become true entertainers, whereas in actual fact no talent or skill is required for their performance. In reference to ‘Our midget hire service’ the midget entertainers are owned by the ableist managers who construct them as ‘spectacles’. Furthermore, there is a clear underlying assumption that when a person is hired out they are a commodity who is controlled by their hirer. Therefore in both cases, the average person wields power over the midget entertainer. In accordance with Dworkin (1981), the lack of control over their body impacts their dignity. A lack of dignity is associated with powerlessness (Kaufmann et al., 2011). If they are powerless, the person hiring them out has control over them, including in what they make them do. To aid in their control the midget entertainer is constructed as ‘friendly’ and therefore it

40  The freak show and its legacy can be assumed that they enjoy what they do, are unlikely to resist and go along with whatever the average size person does to them. Dwarfism is constructed as humourous due to the incongruous encounter a person with the condition creates and due to feelings of superiority (Pritchard, 2021b). People can laugh (or have a good belly laugh) at the expense of the midget entertainer who is deemed inferior due to their stature. ‘In society, tallness is revered and is often taken as a sign of superiority’ (Pritchard, 2021b: 456). There is no indication that the midget entertainers provide an acceptable form of humorous entertainment, such as stand-up comedy, but rather are just hired out for the amusement their condition elicits. Dwarfism is promoted as humorous by the promoters but reinforced by the midget entertainers ‘…it’s a funny addition’ is dehumanising, as they are not positioned as human entertainers, but rather as entertaining commodities. Dehumanising the midget entertainer removes any last shred of ethical uncertainty about hiring out a disabled person that provokes ‘belly laughs’ due to their condition. It can be argued that businesses such as Cheeky Events are a form of a modern-day freak show, but would not dare call themselves that as they would be admitting to profiteering from an exploitative and oppressive practice. A famous customer of Cheeky Events is Princess Eugenie,1 the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II. Princess Eugenie, who dressed up as Snow White for her 25th birthday party, hired out seven dwarfs to complement her costume. Being hired out to supplement her fancy dress costume reinforces the idea that they are commodities. ‘The Princess made sure she danced with each of them, while friends who wanted to dance with them had to ask her permission because they were her retinue. Wherever Snow White went, her seven dwarfs dutifully followed’ (Ostler, 2015). The fact that her friends had to ask Eugenie permission to dance with the dwarfs, demonstrates a sense of ownership and control over them. In this situation, Eugenie and ‘her dwarfs’ would not be out of place within the Royal courts of 17th-century Europe. A royal figure, such as Princess Eugenie gained a lot of attention and her birthday was promoted in numerous newspapers. Her use of Cheeky Events reinforces the acceptability of hiring out midget entertainers and perceiving dwarfism as a figure of entertainment. Cheeky Events construct their midget entertainers as humorous props that can be used to make others laugh just through their presence. The company does not promote any other disability for hire, but singles out people with dwarfism. Most people would probably find it callous and insensitive to hire out someone with a different disability for humorous purposes. However, people with dwarfism are often constructed as just small, which is deemed more of a bodily difference than a disability. This is one of the reasons why I argue further that dwarfism needs to be rightly recognised as a disability and requires more inclusion within disability representations. I am not suggesting that Cheeky Events should expand and profit from the exploitation of other disabled people, but argue that it does create a hierarchy with social consequences. It is not unusual for people with dwarfism to be asked if they work in entertainment, whereas other disabled people do not get the same attention. Interestingly, when people with dwarfism use a wheelchair they

The freak show and its legacy  41 do not receive as much unwanted attention (Pritchard, 2021a). In a wheelchair, they are no longer figures of entertainment but rather a stereotypical disabled person. As these event companies defend their practices, often stating that they are not degrading (Grove, 2020), I contacted a few, via email, to ask if they hired out any other disabled people. As you can imagine I received no responses. Of course, I do not want to hire out any disabled people, but I wanted to question them as to whether they thought hiring other disabled people was also acceptable, especially as it would provide others with jobs. In a neoliberal society where disabled people are labelled as scroungers and work shy (Stewart, 2016), it seemed only fitting. What their silence showed was that it would be unacceptable to hire out other disabled people. Perhaps, they had never even questioned dwarfism being a condition which can be as disabling as other impairments, such as Spina Bifida or Autism. However, there would perhaps be more backlash if any of these event companies decided to use other conditions as a form of entertainment, which customers can ridicule. Dwarfism is deemed humorous as it is claimed that laughing at those who often elicit sympathy is unacceptable to laugh at (Pritchard, 2021b). That does not mean that there are no jokes about various impairments, but as Noonan (2010: 54), points out ‘jokes about disabled people are often seen as mean-spirited and denigrating, they flaunt a callous insensitivity to human tragedy and suffering’. Unlike other disabilities, people with dwarfism do not elicit sympathy. It can be argued that charitable images of more recognisable disabilities have constructed them as pitiful and sometimes in pain. This is why event agencies must never construct dwarfism as a disability, but rather as a humorous prop perfect for pranks: If you are looking for the ultimate stag do prank, then look no further with the dwarf hire stag do in Benalmadena. It’s the perfect way to get the lads in stitches as you really stitch him up as he thinks he will be enjoying a lovely stripper. Instead it will be a dwarf who will be with you for the duration of around 15–20 minutes! What better way to have some fun then by adding an amusing dwarf to your company during the stag night out. (Funktion Events, 2021) A person’s non-normative body is used to shock and ‘prank’ someone and thus is more of a humorous tool than a medical condition or disability. These event agencies never claim that dwarfism is a condition, disabled within society, but rather as a novelty act that they can exploit for financial gain. The midget entertainers need to be constructed as fun-loving, amusing and mischievous to make the act seem acceptable. The midget entertainer is used to encourage a humorous reaction through his presence. Pritchard (2021b), drawing on the superiority theory of humour argues that people laugh at people with dwarfism as they are deemed unthreatening. In this case, as evident by the pronouns ‘stag’ and ‘lads’ the midget entertainer is used to emphasise male superiority. Furthermore, an incongruous encounter is purposely created to provoke humour. Reading the above implies

42  The freak show and its legacy that dwarfism is being purposely promoted as hideous through the bisociation of the ‘lovely stripper’. The advert creates a binary between beauty and ugliness, which emphasises the amusement others can get from the non-normative body on display. The midget entertainer may be benefiting financially from the act, but his, as well as other people with dwarfism, social status is being further diminished. Perhaps not as popular, but still occurring, is the hiring out of midget entertainers for baby showers (Grove, 2020). This act reinforces the infantilisation of people with dwarfism. On numerous occasions, I have been spoken to in a baby voice, as I am somehow perceived as childlike despite being over 18 and working as a university lecturer. Dressing up as a baby for the amusement of others will only serve to reinforce this sort of behaviour. Despite this, the average-sized owner of the agency reassures potential customers that this sort of work is not degrading. Perhaps not for the people behind the scenes who charge £300 for a midget entertainer, but hiring out a person to infantilise, just because their condition makes them short, is. What if one of these expectant mothers was to find out that their unborn child had dwarfism? As a reminder, 80% of people with dwarfism are born to average-sized parents (Little People of America, 2021). Would they feel any guilt? Probably not straight away. They may feel it in several years’ time when they are out with their child and someone decides to start pointing and laughing at them. It is not unusual for parents to report strangers laughing at their child with dwarfism and asking where their other six friends are. Would they be happy to tell their child that their mother and her friends once held the same attitudes? Although explored in more detail in Chapter 6, this is why parents of children with dwarfism need to reflect on their beliefs about dwarfism, especially those they held before having a child with the condition. This is not to say that all parents would hire out a midget entertainer for their baby shower, but it does not mean that parents of children with dwarfism would be exempt from these beliefs. What is most problematic is that when this sort of entertainment is reported, the views of the midget entertainer are given media dominance. It can be argued that average-sized reporters purposely engage with midget entertainers in order to reinforce midgetism as acceptable. If a midget entertainer is happy humiliating themself, then how can it be problematic? The views and opinions of other people with dwarfism are automatically silenced but are also misquoted, such as when midget entertainer Eric, who is quoted as saying, “I reckon people should mind their own business and if we are happy, leave us to get on with our lives” (Hall, 2019). The inclusion of ‘we’ and ‘us’ implies that he is speaking on behalf of all people with dwarfism and that we all support his actions. It is for Eric to convince general society that we are content with midget entertainment as the metanarrative of dwarfism suggests that we are figures of entertainment and that it is a job for us (See Chapter 5). However, the majority of people with dwarfism are turning their back on dwarfism entertainment and are actively protesting against derogatory representations (Adelson, 2005c). As a lecturer with dwarfism, my views on midget entertainment have often been met with hostility from midget entertainers. It seems that they are free to do this type of work and share their opinions about it in the media, however, if they receive any protests they are quick to try

The freak show and its legacy  43 to silence the rest of us. Eric, the midget entertainer, goes on to use the defensive phase of ‘the PC brigade’ (Hall, 2019). However, as a woman with dwarfism, who experiences abuse on a daily basis, I will not accept being against this form of entertainment as being ‘overly PC’. It is more of the case that it is challenging a non-normative negativism.

Actions have consequences In some situations, the midget entertainer faces the consequences of their performance. In 2013, Blake Johnson, a midget entertainer who was hired out by St Kilda’s football club in Australia was set on fire by one of the players (ABC News, 2013). Blake had been hired to dress and perform as a mock security guard, which of course not only provokes laughter but also serves to emphasise the masculinity of the football players. Not only did the player set Blake on fire, but had also previously threatened to throw him over a balcony (ABC News, 2013). In both situations, the player, we can assume towers over Blake, demonstrating his masculine superiority over Blake. Whilst a report of someone being set on fire is shocking and in this case can be considered a disability hate crime, some responses still constructed it as humorous. A common reaction captured within the comment pages on social media, in response to stories regarding or at least about people with dwarfism, is ‘I shouldn’t find this funny, but I am laughing’. The scenario may not be funny and probably would not elicit laughter if it featured another minority group, but because it features a person with dwarfism then it becomes permissible to laugh at. The person with dwarfism acts as a signifier of humour and thus provokes laughter, no matter how unethical the situation is. Further comments on YouTube in response to Blake being set on fire included: ‘My reaction was laughter’ ‘I think everyone is missing the humour here’ ‘I thought it was very funny and most people Ive [sic] spoken to also find it amusing’

‘Dwarfs deserve it, it astounds me that anyone would think differently’ These beliefs are informed by midgetism which encourages both hate speech and defends a hate crime. The comments that claim others would find it funny is a form of defence but it is also worrying to think that many people would defend this behaviour on the basis that it is ‘funny’ and only impacts a group of disabled people who have been constructed as sub-human. The comments are in response to a midget entertainer, but it is troublesome to think that this is their perception of all people with dwarfism, especially as ‘Dwarfs deserve it’. This is why it is even more important to separate those who engage in midgetism (midget entertainers) and those who do not (people with dwarfism). This is not to suggest that this

44  The freak show and its legacy behaviour is acceptable towards even midget entertainers, but that it is certainly unethical to allow them to encourage these attitudes and possible behaviours. Of course, what people type behind the security of their computer screens can often differ from their public behaviour, it is concerning that YouTube found these comments to be acceptable to leave on their site.

Conclusion There is a hegemonic belief that dwarfism is an acceptable form of entertainment, which is not only amusing but can be profitable for average-sized people. This belief has prevented society from questioning the ethical implications of promoting dwarfism as a novelty act which can have social implications for people with dwarfism in society. Present-day forms of entertainment, such as the Kingdom of Little People and the ability to hire out people with dwarfism through certain entertainment companies reflect practices within the freak show. Hiring out midget entertainers constructs them as a commodity which reinforces the belief that the condition makes them inferior to their average-sized counterparts. The construction of dwarfism as inferior leads to inappropriate attitudes and actions, including disability hate crimes. The introduction of normate and non-normate spaces adds to the understanding of how disabled bodies are read within specific spaces, and subsequently how these spaces can be oppressive. It needs to be recognised that past and present freak shows are not a form of refuge from discrimination, an acceptable form of entertainment or employment for people with dwarfism. They are exploitative practices that allow average-sized people to profit from ableist beliefs, whilst normate spectators can freely engage in their problematic behaviours towards people with dwarfism, such as staring and mockery, or even worse threats and bodily harm.

Note 1 Princess Eugenie is not the only royal to encourage midgetism. Mike Tindall, husband of Zara Tindall, the late Queen’s granddaughter, is known for being at least a spectator of midget tossing (Kitson, 2011).

References ABC News (2013) Dwarf entertainer allegedly set on fire in St Kilda ‘Mad Monday’ event [online] Available from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-03/dwarf-entertainerallegedly-set-on-fire-in-st-kilda-27mad-mond/4930858?nw=0 (accessed 14/08/2021). Adelson, B.M. (2005a) Dwarfism: Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Profound Short ­Stature. Baltimore (MD): John Hopkins University Press. Adelson, B.M. (2005b) The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity Toward Social Liberation. Piscataway (NJ): Rutgers University Press. Adelson, B.M. (2005c) The changing lives of archetypal ‘curiosities’ – and echoes of the past. Disability Studies Quarterly, 25 (3) 1–13.

The freak show and its legacy  45 Antras, C.F., Bayarri, A.D. and Greenop, K. (2021) Consensus paper for an EU that cares about Achondroplasia and other skeletal dysplasias with dwarfism. European Achondroplasia Forum. Backstrom, L. (2012) From freak show to the living room: cultural representations of dwarfism and obesity. Sociological Forum, 27 (3) 682–707. Bogdan, R. (1988) Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. Chicago (IL): University of Chicago Press. Bolt, D. (2019) Cultural Disability Studies in Education: Interdisciplinary Navigations of the Normative Divide. Abingdon: Routledge. Bone, M.K. (2017) Trapped behind the glass: crip theory and disability identity. Disability and Society, 32 (9) 1297–1314. Carson, N. (2012) The dwarf-throwing billionaire who’s buying up America: tales of the mysterious Saudi Prince Alwaleed. The Insider [online] Available from: https:// www.businessinsider.com/prince-alwaleed-2012-1?r=US&IR=T (accessed 08/09/2021). Channel Four Broadcasting Corporation (2021) Inclusion and diversity [online] Available from: https://www.channel4.com/corporate/about-4/operating-responsibly/diversity (accessed 17/09/2021). Cheeky Events (2021) Rent a dwarf for your upcoming event [online] Available from: https:// www.cheeky-events.com/copy-of-el-shish-dolls (accessed 24/05/2021). Cross, S.G. (2021) Freak Show Legacies: How the Cute, Camp and Creepy Shaped Modern Popular Culture. London: Bloomsbury. Deller, A.R. (2020) Reality Television: The TV Phenomenon That Changed the World. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited. Dworkin, A. (1981) Pornography: Men Possessing Women. New York: Putnam. Enderle, A. (1998) Dwarfism and gigantism in historical picture postcards. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 91, 273–278. Fullerton, J. (2017) ‘Fairy tale’s’ end: life beyond the Kingdom of the Little People. CNN Health [online] Available from: https://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/26/health/china-kingdom-of-little-people/index.html (accessed 10/02/2021). Funktion Events (2021) Dwarf hire stag do in Benalmadena [online] Available from: https:// www.funktionevents.co.uk/dwarf-hire-stag-do-benalmadena (accessed 16/08/2021). Garland-Thomson, R. (1997) Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press. Garland-Thomson, R. (2002) The politics of staring. In Snyder, S., Brueggemann, B.J. and Garland-Thomson, R. (Eds) Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. pp. 190–205. Gerber, D. (1993) Interpreting the freak and freak show. Disability, Handicap and Society, 8 (4) 435–436. Grove, A. (2020) The Yorkshire dwarf you can hire for parties - and why it is not degrading. Yorkshire Live [online] Available from: https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/yorkshire-dwarf-you-can-hire-17921430 (accessed 21/07/21). Hall, D. (2019) Baby shambles: expectant mums paying dwarfs £300 to dress up as newborns for baby showers. The Sun [online] Available from: https://www.thesun.co.uk/ news/8520698/mums-hiring-300-dwarfs-for-baby-showers/ (21/07/2021). Howells, R. and Chemers, M. (2005) Midget cities: utopia, utopianism and the vorschein of the ‘freak’ show. Disability Studies Quarterly, 25 (3). IMDBPro (2022) The Greatest Showman. Available from: https://www.boxofficemojo.com/ release/rl1700234753/ (accessed 09/03/2022).

46  The freak show and its legacy Jones, A. (2015) The theme park where all the staff have dwarfism. BBC News [online] Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32217998 (accessed 07/07/2021). Kaufmann, P., Kuch, H., Neuhauser, C. and Webster, E. (2011) Humiliation, Degradation, Dehumanization: Human Dignity Violated. London: Springer. Kitson, R. (2011) Mike Tindall defended by England after incident at ‘dwarf-throwing’ bash. The Guardian [online] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2011/ sep/15/mike-tindall-dwarf-throwing (accessed 16/09/2022). LaFraniere, S. (2010) A miniature world magnifies dwarf life, The New York Times [online] Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/world/asia/04dwarfs.html (accessed 07/07/2021). Lin, Z. and Yang, L. (2018) Denial of disability discrimination by disabled people in China. Disability and Society, 33 (5) 804–809. Little People of America (2021) Facts and Answers [online] Available from: https:// www.lpaonline.org/faq- (accessed 03/10/2021). McCreesh, L. (2017) The Greatest Showman review round-up: a “crowd-pleaser” with a “sinister” side. Digital Spy [online] Available from: https://www.digitalspy.com/movies/ a845887/the-greatest-showman-review-round-up-pt-barnum-hugh-jackman/ (accessed 09/03/2022). Noonan, M. (2010) Laughing and Disability: Comedy, Collaborative Authorship and Down Under Mystery Tour. Unpublished PhD Queensland University of Technology. Ostler, C. (2015) Dancing dwarfs, a bisexual supermodel and Fergie’s Wizard of Oz outfit: welcome to Princess Eugenie’s 11-hour b’day bash. Daily Mail [online] Available from: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3139607/Dancing-dwarfs-bisexualsupermodel-Fergie-s-Wizard-Oz-outfit-Welcome-Princess-Eugenie-s-11-hour-b-day-bash. html (accessed 07/07/2021). Pritchard, E. (2017) Cultural representations of dwarfs and their disabling effects on dwarfs in society. Considering Disability, 1 (1) 1–17. Pritchard, E. (2021a) Dwarfism, Spatialities and Disabling Experiences. Abingdon: Routledge. Pritchard, E. (2021b) “She finds people like you hilarious!” Why do we laugh at people with dwarfism? Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 15 (4) 455–470. Stewart, M. (2016) Cash not Care: The Planned Demolition of the UK Welfare State. London: New Generation Publishing. The Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities (2008) Available from: https:// www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2019/11/China_ Law-of-the-Peoples-Republic-of-China-on-the-Protection-of-Persons-with-Disabilities. pdf (accessed 10/02/2022). Tyrrell, B. (2020) A world turned upside down: Hop-frog, freak shows and representations of dwarfism. Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 14 (2) 171–186. Vice (2014) The kingdom of the little people. YouTube [online] Available from: https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2UgwINQVPM (accessed 07/07/2021). Wilde, A. (2018) Film, Comedy and Disability. London: Routledge. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) Directed by Mel Stuart [film] Paramount Pictures. Woolf, J. (2016) Fabricating Freakery: The Display of Exceptional Bodies in NineteenthCentury London. PhD thesis. Goldsmiths: University of London. Woolf, J. (2019) The Wonders: Lifting the Curtain on the Freak Show, Circus and Victorian Age. London: Michael O’Mara Books.

4

Modern-day freak show Midget(ism) wrestling

Introduction Whilst wrestling, as a sport, has its origins in Ancient Greece, wrestling as a form of ‘sports entertainment’ has its roots in the carnival. According to Oppliger (2004), wrestling has transformed from a noble sport to the carnival show of the 20th century, where it became more of a sideshow than a sport. As a result, wrestling is often about promoting the visually unusual. For example, wrestling often promotes wrestlers with gigantism (André the Giant), the fat body (Yokozuna) and midget wrestlers (Hornswoggle). It is not surprising that midget entertainers who were popular attractions within the freak show, carnival and sideshow are also prominent in wrestling. I argue that the wrestling ring, often referred to as the squared circle, is a non-normate space that perpetuates midgetism. The most well-known wrestling company is the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The company was founded in the US in 1980 and since then has gained international popularity, including within the UK, through regular televised showings. I grew up watching wrestling in the early 90s. I vaguely remember the introduction of a few midget wrestlers, who were miniature versions of professional wrestlers. Whilst I admired some of the professional wrestlers, the midget wrestlers were nothing to be proud of. Their only role was to fulfil the supposedly comedic parts, which would be too humiliating for their average-sized counterparts. Then a few years ago I was made aware of midget wrestling, which made their problematic antics more prominent. Wrestling is all about power, demonstrated by the strength of beating your opponent and subsequently showing dominance over them. ‘Professional wrestling supports the dominant hegemonic form of masculinity, which emphasises oppression and violence, emotional restraint, success and achievement’ (Soulliere, 2006: 1). Professional wrestlers are often above average stature and have a muscular physique. As Alter (2004: 26) emphasises, ‘popular representations of wrestling create physical ideals that reflect a cartesian logic and are impossibly out of reach: “the wrestling body is as huge as a mountain” and is compared with “an immovable granite ridge”’. Wrestling presents masculinity primarily in its culturally ideal form (Soulliere, 2006). Midget wrestlers on the other hand challenge dominant masculine ideas, and ideas of strength, which results in comedic performances through notions of incongruity and superiority.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003382461-4

48  Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling This chapter refers to midget entertainers who partake in wrestling as ‘midget wrestlers’, not because many refer to themselves as such, but because their performance is saturated in midgetism. If a person with dwarfism was to become a professional wrestler and be recognised for their strength and talent, rather than their height and the problematic stereotypes associated with it, then they would be referred to as a ‘wrestler with dwarfism’. However, as this chapter demonstrates, midget wrestling relies on midgetism and constructs them as inferior beings, which are used as comedic fodder and therefore they can only be described as ‘midget wrestlers’. I have been asked why I am against midget wrestlers and not other people with dwarfism in sports, such as Paralympians with dwarfism. The simple reason is that midget wrestling is a form of sport entertainment, where the latter is more dominant than the former. It is argued that wrestling bridges the gap between sport and melodrama, allowing for the spectacle of male physical prowess (Jenkins, 2005). A Paralympian can be admired for being great at their chosen sport which does not contain any theatrics, aka midgetism. For example, five time gold medal winner, Paralympian Ellie Simmons, who has achondroplasia, is known for being a great swimmer, but her performance does not involve biting or teasing the other competitors in order to heighten their social status. Furthermore, it is well known that professional wrestling incites racial and homophobic antagonisms (Jenkins, 2005), but as this chapter will show, it also plays on and encourages midgetism. The first part of this chapter focuses on midget wrestlers within professional wrestling, who perform alongside average-sized wrestlers, but not in the same way. In this scenario, midget wrestlers are performing in a normate space. In this part I demonstrate how midget wrestlers are used as comedic fodder, usually performing acts that would be off limits to the more respectable average-sized wrestlers. They are also a crutch for their average-sized counterparts, as they help to emphasise their strength and superiority. Furthermore, in this section, I demonstrate how historical acts of midgetism are prominent within professional wrestling. In relation to the tripartite model of disability, whilst midget wrestling can be considered a non-normative positivism (Bolt, 2015), the social implications result in a non-normative negativism for those who do not partake in midget wrestling. In the second part, I focus on the entertainment spectacle known as midget wrestling also referred to as dwarf wrestling. In this part, I show how the ring is a non-normate space, controlled by average-sized people, such as the audience and promoters. In this part, I argue that the promoters reflect the behaviours of historical freak show owners, such as P.T. Barnum. In other words, this non-normative positivism, allows promoters to capitalise on midgetism for their own economic gain. However, it is also the audiences who allow this representation of midgetism to exist, as it offers them the opportunity to feel superior. Lastly, I explore some of the audience responses, demonstrating how midget wrestling encourages problematic attitudes. Whilst midget wrestling has been met with protests, I show how average-sized promoters defend the performance, which they frame as a non-normative positivism (Bolt, 2015) for their own financial gain under the guise of disability equality. This part demonstrates how

Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling  49 average-sized promoters are reliant on midgetism, yet frame midget wrestling as a non-normative positivism for the midget wrestlers as opposed to themselves. I argue for a more ethical representation of dwarfism within wrestling, where any signs of midgetism are removed. I do not call for a ban on dwarfism in wrestling, because those who train hard enough should be allowed to compete. However, the use of names such as midget wrestling should be removed and any acts which would not be tolerated by their average-sized counterparts. It is then up to the audiences if they just want to watch wrestlers with dwarfism, but without the midgetism.

Midget wrestlers in professional wrestling What distinguishes professional wrestling from ‘real’ sport is that it is staged, rendering it more of a theatrical enterprise (Mazer, 2005). Professional wrestling is scripted and matches are predetermined (Grasso, 2014). Furthermore, it has been described as a ‘masculine melodrama’ (Jenkins, 2005). This provides the opportunity for midget wrestling to prevail, as it is more of a show than a sport. If professional wrestling did not rely on theatrics, then midget wrestlers and midget wrestling would probably cease to exist. For example, other combat sports, including Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) do not involve any theatrics, except perhaps for the pre-fight banter. Although some people with dwarfism do partake in martial arts there exists no ‘midget karate’. Midgets in wrestling are more akin to events such as midget bowling and midget tossing. In all three events an average-sized person, usually male, demonstrates his strength and dominance by manhandling a midget. Thus, in the case of wrestling, they are used as ‘crutches’ to emphasise the strength and power of the average-sized wrestlers. This is further emphasised by how midget wrestlers are represented. Wrestlers create characters by capitalising on personal idiosyncrasies (Mazer, 1990). For midget wrestlers, this means using names that place emphasis upon their height, such as ‘Sky Low Low’ (Marcel Gauthier), ‘Pee Wee James’ (Raymond Sabourin), Little Beaver (Lionel Giroux) ‘Lord Littlebrook’ (Eric Tovey) and ‘Little Legs’ (Mark Sealy). All these names are associated with their size as opposed to any other identities they may have. Height is associated with strength (Osensky, 2018), and therefore, their identity, which is further emphasised by their wrestling names, aids in creating an incongruous encounter within the ring. Not only do wrestlers give themselves ring names but also create particular personas. Wrestler personas draw on wider stereotypes already prominent within society (Jenkins, 2005). Midget wrestlers often draw on the metanarrative of dwarfism, including stereotypes of being humorous and/or mythical. Midget wrestler Dylan Postl, better known as Hornswoggle, a non-verbal leprechaun, automatically conjures up images of mythical dwarves. Hornswoggle portrays a typical stereotypical character associated with dwarfism, who featured in the WWE between 2006 and 2016. Greene (2017: n.d.) points out that ‘what fans want to see from Postl typically differs from what they want to see from other [average-sized] wrestlers’. In other words, the audiences want performances

50  Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling influenced by midgetism. Average-sized wrestlers are viewed for their strength, with sometimes a hint of comedy thrown in, whereas midget wrestlers are viewed for their comedic value associated with cultural ideas about dwarfism, with a glimpse of their strength shown. Whilst midget wrestlers may want to become professional wrestlers, midgetism promotes them as comedic fodder which they adhere to: “I never wanted to bite an ass or trip a guy or pinch a guy’s nipples,” he [Postl] says. Yet these days—even with more autonomy than ever to script his own matches—Postl’s tune has changed. “I did all of that tonight,” he says. “I do all of that in just about every match I do now. Because I realised, Hey, I can wrestle, but the fans don’t necessarily want to see that all the time.” (Dylan Postl, quoted in Greene, 2017: n.d.) Whilst Postl may have aimed to become a wrestler with dwarfism, society’s expectations of dwarfism, informed by problematic dwarf troupes construct him as a midget wrestler. Thus, the expectations are created by a normative positivism (Bolt, 2015). Unlike average wrestlers, midget wrestlers are not admired for their strength and stature but are rather mocked for the lack of. Whilst Postl may have trained hard it is difficult for a man of profound short stature to compete with much larger muscle-bound men. Despite his training, Postl must internalise ableist conceptions of dwarfism in order to be in the industry. In other words, average-sized promoters and audiences encourage Postl to partake in midgetism in order to be employed in the sport. This is true for other midget wrestlers: I personally don’t do a lot of training because I don’t need to pick up a 6ft bloke. I do the comedy stuff. (Mark Sealy, quoted in Fantato, 2012) Mark Sealy, aka ‘Little legs’, points out that he does limited training but is rather an actor who promotes midgetism within wrestling. Sealy is reported to be Europe’s smallest midget wrestler at 3 ft 7" (109 cm) (Hewitt, 2022) and thus, it’s not so much a case that he does not ‘need’ to ‘pick up a 6ft bloke’ but rather he ‘cannot’. Therefore to mask his inability Sealy must utilise midgetism to keep the audience entertained. As a result, unlike the average-sized wrestler, the midget wrestler’s performance is based on the humorous exploitation of his stature rather than demonstrating admirable above-average strength. The humorous exploitation can be linked to notions of incongruity and superiority. Firstly, in the ring audiences only expect to see above-average stature, muscle-bound men and therefore the midget wrestler creates an incongruous encounter amongst them. Second, his stature and lack of strength compared to the other wrestlers emphasises their superiority. In the case of midget wrestling, audiences laugh at the midget wrestler as they are deemed unthreatening (Pritchard, 2021b). It is well known that larger men are more likely to win fights (even if staged) and thus attain social dominance (Osensky, 2018).

Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling  51 Of course, there are people with dwarfism who partake in strength-based sports, including powerlifting. For example, Jeremy Smith, a powerlifter with dwarfism can squat 745  lb (337  kg) and bench 320  lbs (145  kg) (Hall, 2020). These are admirable feats, which he does not have to compensate for through midgetism. However, powerlifting is not a form of sports entertainment and thus Jeremy’s performance is based on a demonstration of strength relevant for his size, as opposed to acting like Mark Sealy. Mark Sealy is represented by Willow Management (Hewitt, 2022), which is managed by the patron of LPUK Warwick Davis. Alongside wrestling Sealy has appeared in numerous Harry Potter films playing a goblin (Hewitt, 2022). Thus, it is not surprising as to why Warwick and LPUK did not protest against midget wrestling when it came to the UK in 2018. Mark himself demonstrates how midget wrestling is less about strength and athleticism and more about providing comedy value. It is as if men with dwarfism want to partake in a sport that indicates strength, in some ways to prove their masculinity, but cannot do this. As a result, they must find an alternative way to remain in the industry and this is often dependent on how the average-sized promoter wants them to act. Midget wrestlers often partake in slapstick entertainment. For example, they can be seen running in between the referee’s legs, biting an opponent on the backside or even dry humping an average-sized wrestler’s leg. It would be hard to imagine an average-sized wrestler agreeing to do any of the same stunts, however, a midget wrestler must agree or face being dropped from the wrestling industry. If he disagrees with the performance he cannot fall back on his superior strength, like the average-sized wrestlers. Midget wrestlers can be used to emphasise an average-sized wrestler’s height, just like within the freak show where a person with dwarfism and a person with gigantism would be put next to each other to draw attention to and exaggerate both of their sizes (Garland-Thomson, 1996). There are midget wrestling versions of Doink (a clown, so it is not surprising for there to be midget versions, including Dink, Pink and Wink), Hulk Hogan (Little Hulkster), Macho Man (Little Macho Man), the Undertaker and Goldust to name a few. All of these wrestlers are above average stature, for example, the Undertaker is billed at 6 ft 10" (208 cm). Whilst they do not have gigantism, the appearance of a miniature version of themselves standing next to them will provoke an incongruous encounter. Not only will the appearance of a miniature version aid in heightening their strength and physique, but will also aid in making the midget wrestler appear unthreatening and thus comical. These doppelgangers are often used by rivals to ridicule their opponents (Greene, 2017). However, the real ridicule is towards the midget wrestler. Part of professional wrestling’s performance is based on the formation and showcasing of intense rivalries between particular wrestlers (Jenkins, 2005). These rivalries do not only take place within the ring but also behind the scenes in places such as the locker rooms. One rivalry which was dominant within the early 2000s was between Goldust and Booker T. Goldust’s persona is androgyenous and whilst some of his performances hint at his attraction to other male wrestlers, his midget version performs acts that seem even too much for the average-sized

52  Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling Goldust. In one behind-the-scenes act between Goldust and Booker T, the camera pans out to show a miniature version of Goldust dry humping Booker T’s leg. The acceptability for a midget wrestler to do this, but it being off-limits to an average-sized wrestler can be related to notions of sexuality and disability. Disabled people, including people with dwarfism, are often constructed as asexual (Bonnie, 2004; Pritchard, 2021a; Shakespeare et al., 1996), which permits the midget wrestler to perform the act. An average-sized wrestler is deemed sexual, both because he is of above-average stature and because of his masculinity as a wrestler and thus it would be shocking for audiences for the average-sized Goldust to perform such an act. I doubt Booker T would allow an average-sized man to rub his crotch against his leg, but a midget wrestler is not seen in the same way. The act also constructs the midget wrestler as subhuman and animalistic. To be dehumanised is to be desexualised. The midget wrestler lacks agency and is almost pet-like. Dry humping a person’s leg is usually associated with a person’s unruly pet dog. In European courts, people with dwarfism were often kept as pets (Adelson, 2005b), which demonstrated a royal’s dominance over them. In this case when a miniature version of a wrestler dry humps another average-sized wrestler he is constructed as the unruly pet of that wrestler, someone who is in need of control and thus is a crutch to demonstrate the average-sized wrestler’s strength and dominance over the non-threatening midget. Hence why Booker T tells Goldust to get his midget wrestler version off him. At the same time, the midget wrestler elicits laughter from the audience due to his out-of-the-ordinary performance. Instead of fighting, like a real wrestler, the average-sized wrestler is told to control his miniature version. If there ever was a scenario where an average-sized wrestler performed the same act a fight would surely break out. This would result in an unpredictable outcome1, whereas it is easy to guess who would win if the opponent was a midget wrestler. Whilst the midget wrestlers in this section act like a crutch to professional wrestlers, there also exists midget wrestling. This provides more of an opportunity for people to be amused by two fighting midget entertainers.

Midget wrestling When midget wrestling first started in Montreal, Canada in 1948 (Laprade and Hérbert, 2013), it seemed that the wrestlers, such as Marcel Gauthier (Sky Low Low) were trying to partake in actual wrestling. In fact, Marcel Gauthier, considered the father of midget wrestling, was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002 (Laprade and Hérbert, 2013). During its peak in the 1950s, Sky Low Low and Little Beaver performed in front of Elizabeth II2 (Laprade and Hérbert, 2013). Even from the start when midget wrestlers competed with average-sized wrestlers it was usually two midget wrestlers against one average-sized wrestler (Laprade and Hérbert, 2013). This demonstrates that whilst the midget wrestlers may be strong for their size, by themselves they are no match for the average-sized wrestler. This led to midget wrestling, whereby midget wrestlers competed against each other. A one-to-one match or a tag team match only

Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling  53 featuring midget wrestlers would provide them with more advantage. ‘They [midget wrestlers] put on an entertaining show, often comic, but filled with action’ (Grasso, 2014: 8). Whilst, at first, this had the potential to demonstrate strength for their size and athletic skills, over time, as wrestling became more of a form of sports entertainment, midgetism became more prominent. Even Eric Tovey (Lord Littlebrook), one of the first midget wrestlers remarked ‘I’m disgusted, I really am … I want midget wrestling, I don’t want midget comedy’ (Adelson, 2005b: 361). In the early 1990s midget wrestling began to wane and most midget wrestlers appeared in comical matches and segments (Laprade and Hérbert, 2013). As a result, Little People of America issued a statement claiming the spectacle was ‘thoroughly degrading and puts little people out there as a sideshow and entertainment’ (Noel, 2006: n.d.). Midget wrestling is a controversial form of entertainment that reflects dominant discourses within the freak show, but with comedic fighting thrown in. Midget wrestling has been described as a form of slapstick performance that includes ‘shoving’ and wriggling’ (Tan, 2021). Actions such as these are more akin to the behaviours of unruly children, which suggests that the midget wrestlers are infantilized. Unlike other sports, wrestling incorporates theatrics, some of which are more at home within the freak show than in sports. As Jack Daryl Hillgrass observes, in relation to ‘midget’ wrestling, ‘they’re [audiences] not coming for the wrestling, they’re coming for the little guys’ (Greene, 2017). From this observation, it is evident that midget wrestling is more of a modern-day freak show, which allows audiences to stare and laugh at the midget wrestlers. People go to see them, not because of their wrestling abilities, but because of their non-normative body, evident in how they are referenced as ‘little guys’ as opposed to ‘wrestlers’ which is used in wrestling for comedic purposes. Even the use of the term ‘little guys’ is patronising. There are numerous groups of midget wrestlers, including the Dwarfanators, the Half-pint brawlers (formerly known as Bloody midgets), Micromania midget wrestling and the Microwrestling federation. All of these titles automatically demonstrate that the size of the performers is the main, and possibly only, attraction. In each name, a binary is created between smallness and supposed strength, which provokes an incongruous perception, which aids in creating a humorous situation. The Micromania midget wrestling tour does not shy away from stating that their performances have ‘just the right touch of comedy thrown in’ (Micromania Midget Wrestling Tour, 2022). The Dwarfanators who are often promoted as midget wrestlers in the UK and US have been met with protests. Both the LPA and RGA have protested against how the Dwarfanators represent people with dwarfism, their biggest angst is concerning the use of the term midget. However, according to Postl, ‘the word midget makes me money’ (quoted in Greene, 2017). Thus, money trumps disability equality. However, Longmore (1985: 422) argues that ‘the refusal to accept a stigmatised social identity aids in asserting pride and in recognising themselves as fully human, which helps to challenge the subordinate social role that the term encourages’. Yet, Postl does the exact opposite, not just to make money but to also appease average-sized promoters who could easily

54  Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling remove him from the company if he did not engage in the way they expect, i.e. if Postl was to refuse to engage in midgetism. Labelling them as midget wrestlers they become relics of the freak show, funsized people who are acceptable to mock. If promoters were to run with ‘Little people wrestling’ then they would be using a more politically correct term, which prompts an ethical consideration of the show. According to Greene (2017), using the more politically correct term, ‘Little People’ wrestling would not gain the same interest as Midget wrestling. The use of a more politically correct term would be stripping it down to just their condition. In other words, the audience would be presented with two disabled people wrestling, which would make it boring and would perhaps make people question their actions as spectators. For these reasons, it is easy to see why the Dwarfanataors refused to change the name, as they can only draw attention through the promotion of midgetism, which audiences can freely engage with (providing they buy a ticket). This is despite the use of derogatory terminology flouting the Equality Act 2010 in the UK. ‘Dwarf entertainers and non-disabled people, including those employed within the media, continue to have more power in determining what terminology is acceptable, whereas it should be up to the person(s) who are impacted by the term’ (Pritchard, 2020: 125–126). It also reinforces the fact that just seeing some people with dwarfism wrestle would not be interesting to the audience. However, an opportunity to mock them and construct them as inferior is too good of an opportunity to miss for some. Most forms of dwarfism come with secondary impairments. For example, a person with Achondroplasia is likely to have neurological conditions, including spinal stenosis. Due to this condition, collision sports, including wrestling, are often discouraged (Pereira-Kohatsu et al., 2019). In fact, in 1987, during a match the average-sized wrestler King Kong Bundy body slammed Little Beaver, resulting in a broken back and forcing him into early retirement (Shields, 2006). Thus, hiding the secondary conditions demonstrates a lack of consideration for the actual welfare of the midget wrestlers. Whilst I am not concerned about the possible injuries a midget wrestler might sustain, it does however, question whether average-sized audiences and promoters are actually concerned for their welfare, such as when they claim to be when arguing that it is a job for them, or if they are happy just to use midget wrestlers for their own gain. If another midget wrestler sustains an injury, including paralysis, will the spectators and promoters be concerned about their welfare, including further limited employment opportunities? Will the promoters also ensure that they have appropriate access to medical treatment and welfare support? To make it exciting, average-sized promoters add some midgetism, which is endorsed by midget wrestlers. Watching a midget wrestler do degrading actions for the amusement of others can make the audience feel superior. In the freak show, the audience’s social status and identity were elevated (Garland-Thomson, 1997). In midget wrestling, where the performance is more of one of comedy, where the audience can laugh at the small body and thus the midget wrestlers elevate the social status of the audience by suggesting that whilst they are meant

Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling  55 to be fighters they are no threat. This act is reflective of Ancient Rome, where dwarfs participated as gladiators for the amusement of others (Adelson, 2005b). The midget wrestlers are ignorant of their lack of strength in comparison to the superior average-sized wrestler, or even audience member. The egotistical midget wrestlers are a laughing stock, as even the majority of the audience would be able to overpower them. For example, Tan (2021) notes how midget wrestling in the Philippines often involves audience participation. However, to make it fair the average-sized audience member often has one hand tied behind their back and must kneel down (Tan, 2021). This performance serves to heighten the audience’s superiority, resulting in a more humorous performance that mocks the midget wrestler. If this kind of performance was to occur in professional wrestling then we can safely assume that it would be the average-sized wrestler’s hand tied behind their back when fighting an audience member. However, the mockery towards the midget wrestlers does not remain in the ring.

Social consequences Professional wrestling has been criticised for featuring abuse and hatred of various minority groups, which can affect society, especially younger viewers (Oppliger, 2004). The promoters claim that the midget wrestlers are athletes and go as far as to claim that they are role models for children with dwarfism. As a child, I can honestly say that midget wrestlers who bit the backsides of average-sized wrestlers were never my role models. Furthermore, YouTube Comments that accompany ‘midget’ wrestling videos include ‘Hahahah midgets’, ‘midgets are funny’ and ‘I guess it is take your kids to work day’, which suggest that people do not see the performers as admirable athletes, but rather deem them figures of fun, which reflects how the show has been advertised. Comments such as ‘I guess it is take your kids to work day’ promote disabilist infantilisation (Bolt, 2014). Added to this, Tan (2021: 6) notes how the show encourages comments asking ‘if the nappy company, Pampers, is a major sponsor of the sport’. Infantalisating the midget wrestlers demonstrates that the audiences do not see them as powerful men, but rather as childlike performers who provoke a humorous reaction from audiences. The promotion of midget wrestlers encourages long-held beliefs about people with dwarfism, which can encourage hate speech. Midgetism makes money and allows audiences to engage with a spectacle that would probably be off-limits if it was based on any other minority group. Society has become so used to people with dwarfism being stereotyped as humorous figures of entertainment, that it fails to recognise some of the problematic representations of dwarfism. There exists a midgetism hegemony, which needs to be challenged. A way to do this is to conceive another group of people being used in the same entertaining way as a person with dwarfism. For example, it would be interesting to see people’s reactions if anywhere was to host a ‘mong’3 wrestling match. I feel right now that I should make my apologies because of course, I would be as disgusted as most people to even imagine such an event. However, as shown numerous places went ahead with their events. In fact, LPUK, an association whose purpose is to raise

56  Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling awareness and promote equality for people with dwarfism, refused to challenge the events due to conflicting interests (as mentioned above and further in Chapter 6). In 2018, the US-based Dwarfanators were met with protest when they attempted to tour the UK. The RGA, as well as several other advocates for people with dwarfism, protested against their presence and successfully made three companies cancel their shows. This gained attention from national news programmes, which mostly defended the midget entertainers, demonstrating their support of midgetism. The Dwarfanators are managed by the average-sized Shane McMahon, the son of WWE CEO Vince McMahon. Whilst the Dwarfanators tried to claim that they were professional wrestlers, the actions and attitudes of several midget wrestlers dispute this claim. The original promotional material advertised the Dwarfanators as ‘midget wrestlers’ and stated that the show would contain ‘midget tossing’. Furthermore, the show was promoted as the first time a show of its kind will be seen in the UK since Victorian times, aka the freak show4. This is not completely accurate, as the UK allows numerous forms of midget entertainment, which can only be described as modern freak shows (See Chapter 2). Yet this was not seen as problematic by the audience, who of course could defend their outdated attitudes by claiming that it is a job for the midget wrestlers (further explored in Chapter 4). As Saville (2018: n.d.) questions, ‘How can an exploitative and oppressive show from a century ago be remodelled as a bastion of liberation and proof of progressive disability rights?’ Simple, promoters just have to use ableist manipulation. Shane McMahon, the manager of the Dwarfanators, in the US, responded to the axing of several midget wrestling events in the UK through pity stories, including the one of how a few cancelled events had led to one midget wrestler supposedly losing his home. It is a story that gains more sympathy than the one which shows that Shane McMahon will also lose out financially due to cancelled events. This claim obviously gained sympathy from those not negatively impacted by the act, but who were certainly amused by it. Furthermore, McMahon, if concerned about the financial security of his performers should perhaps focus on the fact that midget wrestlers are paid substantially less than their average-sized counterparts (Adelson, 2005b). Disability equality is used as an oxymoronic defence mechanism to allow the exploitation of people with dwarfism. Claiming that it is a job for them, provides a simplistic, neoliberal approach to disability equality. However, it is not disability equality if the person’s impairment is being exploited, uses disablist hate speech and if others have to endure unwanted social attention, such as name-calling through increased stigmatisation. As well as Shane McMahon, there are other average-sized promoters of midget wrestling, who gain financially from exploiting midget entertainers. Jack Daryll Hillgrass ‘had never met a little person before he realised they could make him money’ (Greene, 2017: n.d.). A couple of hundred years earlier P.T. Barnum had capitalised on the entertainment value of dwarfism when he brought and paraded Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb in the freak show. Both share similar backstories in the case that both were struggling financially but could capitalise

Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling  57 on midgetism. As Jack Daryll Hillgrass states, ‘I’d be a much more interesting character if I had ten midgets standing around me’ (Greene, 2017: n.d.). Jack must be quite a boring person if he must rely on midgetism to make him interesting. To see several dwarfs together is a rarity and prompts visions of fictional representations of dwarfs in groups, such as Snow White being surrounded by Seven Dwarfs (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Willy Wonka and his Oompa Loompas (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) or Dorothy Gale being in the company of The Munchkins (Wizard of Oz). It is not Jack who pulls in the audience, but rather the audience’s freak show style and fascination with the non-normative body. Tom Shakespeare, an academic with dwarfism notes that whilst one person with dwarfism will more than likely be stared at by a few individuals, several people with dwarfism will probably encourage even more people to stare (Mennell, 2020). In other words, Jack is like P.T. Barnum, a man who has to rely on those he deems inferior to himself to make a living. Whilst a few people make financial gains, it is the people with dwarfism in society who will experience the social repercussions. The repercussions experienced by a large number of people with dwarfism are often overlooked in favour of the individual freedom of a few midget wrestlers. It is claimed that the midget wrestlers have freely consented to partake in the shows and therefore are happy to reinforce and promote midgetism. The stereotype of people with dwarfism as happy and cheerful, especially when partaking in midget entertainment, aids in audiences accepting the exploitation of midget wrestlers (Tan, 2021). If the midget wrestlers are happy and are able to work, then audiences can submerge any guilt that they may otherwise feel watching a disabled person partaking in something reminiscent of the freak show. Despite most western societies, including the US and UK, having their own disability equality laws, midgetism defeats disability equality when it comes to wrestling. The trick is to frame it as a job for them (further explored in Chapter 4). It is a neoliberal coy that places the economic value of midgetism over social equality for the majority of people with dwarfism. Ironically, this hinders equality for people with dwarfism as opposed to promoting it. Those truly benefiting financially from the performance, are the average-sized promoters as opposed to the midget wrestlers. Thus, whilst disabled people are often seen as financially dependent on others, or in this case, ‘it being a job for them’, it is actually midget entertainers and midgetism, providing financial gains for a few average-sized people. As pointed out above, even wrestlers with dwarfism, who have trained hard, have to concede to midgetism if they want to please the audience. The minority, who are on the side of the non-disabled promoters and their audiences, are supported because they allow average-sized people to freely mock their dwarfism. Thus, is it a free choice when it is influenced by internalised midgetism? Do the promoters and the audiences actually care about a midget wrestler’s individual freedom, or is it more a case of them supporting the actions of a midget who supports their enjoyment of midgetism?

58  Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling

Conclusion Midget wrestling is popular because it relies on midgetism, which is permissible due to professional wrestling being a form of sports entertainment. It provides an opportunity for audiences to feel superior. These shows are constructed by and for average-sized people, who partake in the exploitation and oppression of people with dwarfism. It is unethical for average-size managers and promoters of midget wrestling to profit from midgetism. They reflect the average-sized exploiters evident within the freak shows. However, it is only possible due to midget wrestlers consenting to partake in these shows. Whilst people may claim, including midget wrestlers themselves, that they are happy and enjoy what they do, the impact of internalised ableism must be considered alongside these decisions. Numerous freak show performers also gave their consent to perform, however, these shows began to die out when for the same reason midget wrestling should. Midget wrestlers create an incongruous encounter, which emphasises humour and dominance. Furthermore, midget wrestlers who are only miniature versions of average-sized wrestlers aid in acting as a prop to further emphasise the average-sized wrestler’s strength. Not only does the midget wrestler’s small stature make the average-sized wrestler seem bigger, but also the dominance they hold over them makes them appear stronger. To own a person is a sign of dominance, which emphasises the inferiority of the other. People with dwarfism who wish to pursue a career in wrestling should be given the same opportunities as their average-sized counterparts, provided they put in the same training as them. There are numerous people with dwarfism who partake in other strength-based sports, such as powerlifting, demonstrating that people with dwarfism can become admirable athletes. Whilst Postl may put in the training, it is evident that others such as Sealy do not, because unlike other strength-based sports, professional wrestling is a form of sports entertainment. Professional wrestling being categorised as a form of sports entertainment permits acting over athleticism, which subsequently gives free rein to midgetism. Professional wrestling could be open to people with dwarfism, however, whilst it continues to promote them in a way that is reflective of the Victorian freak shows, including through the use of derogatory language and promoting them as nothing but figures of fun to be laughed at, then it is something that should continue to be protested. Allowing entertainment that promotes midgetism conflicts with the aim of gaining disability equality.

Notes 1 An unpredictable outcome for the audience as professional wrestling is staged. 2 Grandmother of princess Eugenie, who as shown in Chapter 2 hired seven midget entertainers for her 25th birthday party. 3 A derogatory slur associated with Down syndrome. 4 Since the protests the Dwarfanators have updated their webpage.

Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling  59

References Adelson, B.M. (2005a) The changing lives of archetypal ‘curiosities’ – and echoes of the past. Disability Studies Quarterly, 25 (3) 1–13. Adelson, B.M. (2005b) The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity Toward Social Liberation. Piscataway (NJ): Rutgers University Press. Alter, J.S. (2004) Body, text, nation: writing the physically fit body in post-colonial India. In Mills, J.H. and Sens, S. (Eds) Confronting the Body: The Politics of Physicality in Post-Colonial India. London: Anthem Press. pp. 16–38. Bolt, D. (2014) Epilogue: attitudes and actions. In Bolt, D. (Ed) Changing Social Attitudes Toward Disability. London: Routledge. pp. 172–175. Bolt, D. (2015) Not forgetting happiness: the tripartite model of disability and its application in literary criticism. Disability and Society, 30 (7) 1103–1117. Bonnie, S. (2004) Disabled people, disability and sexuality. In Swain, J., French, S., Barnes, C. and Thomas, C. (Eds) Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments (2nd edition). London: Sage. pp. 125–132. Fantato, D. (2012) Short actor has gone a long way. Oxford Mail [online] Available from: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/9687901.short-actor-gone-long-way/ (accessed 26/11/ 2020). Garland-Thomson, R. (Ed) (1996) Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. London: New York University Press. Garland-Thomson, R. (1997) Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press. Grasso, J. (2014) Historical Dictionary of Wrestling. Plymouth: Scarecrow Press. Greene, D. (2017) The tough choice for little people in wrestling: give up the dream or play along with the joke? Sports Illustrated Wrestling [online] Available from: https:// www.si.com/wrestling/2017/11/16/little-person-wrestling-swoggle-dylan-postl?f bclid=IwAR1gtfjft5VpIyCy8oP872m39FysmN3WfKfUglRrNSZNGezRGJwlZBJVB-w (accessed 26/11/2020). Hall, D. (2020) Jeremy Smith is a 4’5 dwarf and can probably lift more than you. Fitness Volt [online] Available from: https://fitnessvolt.com/jeremy-smith-dwarf-powerlifter/ (accessed 24/02/2022). Hewitt, P. (2022) Europe’s “smallest wrestler” comes to Crawley. Sussex World [online] Available from: https://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/arts-and-culture/theatre-and-stage/ europes-smallest-wrestler-comes-to-crawley-3513929 (accessed 10/03/2022). Jenkins, H. (2005) “Never trust a snake” WWF wrestling as masculine melodrama. In Sammond, N. (Ed) Steel Chair to the Head: The Pleasure and Pain of Professional ­Wrestling. Durham (NC): Duke University Press. pp. 33–65. Laprade, P. and Hérbert, B. (2013) Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped the World of Wrestling. Ontario: ECW Press. Longmore, P. K. (1985) A note on language and the social identity of disabled people. American Behavioral Scientist, 28 (3) 419–423. Mazer, S. (1990) The doggie dog world of professional wrestling. The Drama Review, 34 (4) 96–122. Mazer, S. (2005) “Real wrestling”/“real” life. In Sammond, N. (Ed) Steel Chair to The Head: The Pleasure and Pain of Professional Wrestling. Durham (NC): Duke University Press. pp. 67–86.

60  Modern-day freak show: midget(ism) wrestling Mennell, S. (2020) Tom Shakespeare on staring. Norbert Ellis Foundation [online] Available from: http://norbert-elias.com/tom-shakespeare-on-staring/ (accessed 14/10/2021). Micromania Midget Wrestling Tour (2022) Home [online] Available from: https:// www.micromaniatour.com/home (accessed 24/10/2022). Noel, J. (2006) A fight is on over dwarf-wrestling shows. Chicago Tribune [online], Available from: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2006-04-27-0604270040-story. html (accessed 10/03/2022). Oppliger, P.A. (2004) Wrestling and Hypermasculinity. Jefferson (NC): McFarland and Company. Osensky, T. (2018) Shortchanged: Height Discrimination and Strategies for Social Change. Lebanon (NH): ForeEdge. Pereira-Kohatsu, J.C., Quijano-Sánchez, L., Liberatore, F. and Camacho-Collados, M. (2019) Detecting and monitoring hate speech in Twitter. Sensors, 19 (4654). Pritchard, E. (2020) Hate speech and dwarfism: the influence of cultural representations. In Sherry, M., Olsen, T., Vedeler, J. and Eriksen, J. (Eds) Disability Hate Speech: Social, Cultural and Political Contexts. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 116–128. Pritchard, E. (2021a) The metanarrative of dwarfism: heightism and its social implications. In Bolt, D. (Ed) The Metanarrative of Disability: Culture, Assumed Authority, and the Normative Social Order. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 123–137. Pritchard, E. (2021b) “She finds people like you hilarious!” Why do we laugh at people with dwarfism? Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 15 (4) 455–470. Saville, K. (2018) Dwarfism: wrestling show will simply reinforce prejudice. The ­Conversation [online] Available from: https://theconversation.com/dwarfism-wrestlingshow-will-simply-reinforce-prejudice-103628 (accessed 03/12/2020). Shakespeare, T., Gillespie-Sells, K. and Davies, D. (1996) The Sexual Politics of Disability. London: Cassell. Shields, B. (2006) Main Event: WWE in the Raging 80s. New York: Simon and Schuster. Soulliere, D.M. (2006) Wrestling with masculinity: messages about manhood in the WWE. Sex Roles, 55 1–11. Tan, N.C. (2021) “Thrilla in Manila”: troubling theatricality and uneasy spectator affects surrounding the ringside bar midget boxing and wrestling. The Asian Journal of Literature, Culture, Performance, 1 (2) 1–13.

5

‘But it’s a job for them’ The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment

Introduction Equal access to employment is deemed one of the most important issues for gaining disability equality. The social model has aided in providing better physical access and laws and policies that have led to improved employment opportunities for disabled people, including people with dwarfism. However, attitudes and beliefs about dwarfism have barely changed, which has impeded what society deems to be suitable employment for them. Since ancient times people with dwarfism have been constructed as figures of fun, creating a hegemonic belief that it is acceptable for midget entertainers to pursue a career in entertainment that would more than likely be off limits to other groups. As shown in Chapter 2, people with dwarfism were popular freak show performers, and despite the welcomed demise of the freak show, midget entertainment is still seen as an acceptable form of employment. This chapter shows how midget entertainment is defended from both an economic perspective and unequal power relations. Drawing on the tripartite model of disability, it is argued that midget entertainment provides benefits to midget entertainers in the form of employment and finance (non-normative positivism). The problem with challenging midget entertainment is that the midget entertainer has consented to partaking in the act and is benefiting financially from it. With a lot of attention focusing on the importance of disabled people having equal employment opportunities then it must seem contradictory to argue against disabled people being in certain forms of employment. However, what this chapter demonstrates is that to gain disability equality, it is not enough to just give disabled people a job, but to ensure that the job does not reinforce other forms of inequality, in this case, midgetism. For example, would it be acceptable to bring back the freak show and argue that it provides people including those with acromegaly, dwarfism, fat people, conjoined twins, or even certain ethnicities employment? The thought is bad enough, let alone the reality. But for people with dwarfism, it is a reality (See Chapter 2). As shown in the previous chapters people with dwarfism are still employed in midget entertainment, which reflects the dominant discourse of the freak show. The opportunity to work in a form of employment unique to them, despite it being constructed by midgetism, is an example of a non-normative positivism (Bolt, 2015). Whilst it may provide some financial opportunities for a few, the social consequences impact many.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003382461-5

62  The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment This chapter will unpack the problematic attitudes that exist in terms of disability equality in relation to employment and specifically midget entertainment. In a neoliberal society, it is deemed detrimental that people work and thus contribute to the economy and are economically self-reliant. However, this does not mean that a neoliberal society provides the right means that allow disabled people to have the same employment opportunities as non-disabled people. Employment discrimination experienced by disabled people is the result of normative positivism. In the first part, I explore employment discrimination experienced by people with dwarfism. I draw on my own experiences, as well as others, to show how midgetism impacts people with dwarfism attaining normative employment. The second part focuses on how midget entertainers, promoters and spectators defend midget entertainment by constructing it as a non-normative positivism. This part focuses on some of the arguments defending midget entertainment, including framing arguments against midget entertainment as a form of disability employment discrimination. These attitudes are both a form and contributor of midgetism (non-normative negativism), which insinuates that people with dwarfism are only capable of being novelty acts, which subsequently keeps people with dwarfism in an inferior position within society and ironically impacts their other employment opportunities. To highlight how midget entertainment is used by midget entertainers and average-sized people seen as an acceptable form of employment, the third part examines the struggle to ban the degrading ‘sport’ known as midget tossing. This section explores some of the concerns and social implications of midget tossing. The last part, Challenging the status quo, focuses on challenging midget entertainment by demonstrating how people with dwarfism are employed in a myriad of occupations. Furthermore, this section shows how people with dwarfism can work in the entertainment industry, but do not have to partake in midget entertainment.

Employment discrimination – keeping dwarfs in their place Shorter people have limited employment opportunities compared to their taller counterparts (Burris-Kitchen, 2018; Miller, 1986; Osensky, 2018). Whilst some occupations do require a person to be above a certain height (such as airline stewards), in numerous cases, shorter people experience heightism in the employment sector. It is well documented that the majority of US presidential elections since 1900 have been won by the taller candidate (Miller, 1986; Osensky, 2018). For a person with dwarfism, their employment opportunities are further restricted by their condition and the metanarrative of it. I work as a university lecturer, a profession that would have been off-limits to me before educational policies such as the Salamanca Statement or Warnock Report. However, I could have easily become an entertainer, not due to any talents, but because I simply have dwarfism and that is enough for me to take to the stage and transform into a midget entertainer. When people see a person with dwarfism, they often assume that they must be an entertainer because that is what

The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment  63 a person with dwarfism is to them. For example, I have been asked if I do panto [pantomime] and even asked if I would dress up as Hello Kitty for a child’s birthday party (See Pritchard, 2021a). Years before that, when I was about seven years old, a doctor, who supposedly specialised in Achondroplasia, asked my mother if I had ever thought about joining the circus. What is most shocking about this incident is that a professional, who had the power to determine what treatment and support I could receive, asked this question. In all scenarios, my identity as a person with dwarfism influenced the belief that entertainment was my sole career choice. Added to this Warwick Davis (an actor who is known for partaking in midget entertainment) has been quoted as claiming that work in entertainment, including in the pantomime, provides vital work and a stable income for people with dwarfism (Hutchinson, 2015). In the social consciousness often dwarfism is not a disability, but a novelty act. The novelty midget entertainers use to entertain is not acting, singing or dancing, but their impairment, this is why it is often assumed that anyone with dwarfism must work in entertainment. The amusement of others is derived from their perception that dwarfism is an oddity that makes people with impairment inferior to others. This inferiority is reinforced by the way midget entertainers are expected to perform, such as by engaging in a performance that would be off-limits to the average-sized spectator. Thus, it is the actual act that socially constructs them as inferior. If they are perceived as inferior then it becomes hard to imagine them being appropriate candidates for any other occupation. This is despite the fact that a number of people with dwarfism work in very respectable occupations, including medicine and law. However, midget entertainment works to keep people with dwarfism in an inferior position within society. In relation to dwarfism, a social hierarchy is evident when derogatory entertainment is promoted as an acceptable occupation for people with dwarfism, whereas occupations that promote equality are deemed off limits. When five-time gold medallist Paralympian Ellie Simmonds appeared on the popular British television show Strictly Come Dancing, it was not long before right-wing media labelled her appearance as ‘woke’. The term woke was originally used to acknowledge oppression and inequalities experienced by minority groups, in particular racism (Mirzaei, 2019). However, those on the right are misusing the term to imply that minority groups are being unfairly favoured. Allison Pearson, the writer for the right-wing British newspaper The Telegraph, implied that Ellie’s appearance on the show was woke, and viewers would not want to watch Ellie dance, especially because of the height difference between her and her partner, a professional choreographer Nikita Kuzmin (Pearson, 2022). Whilst Allison is entitled to her beliefs and is permitted to be confused, especially as she has probably never seen a person with dwarfism dance professionally before, her comments are reflective of right-wing beliefs that promote the acceptance of social hierarchies. These social hierarchies are evident in the employment discrimination experienced by people with dwarfism. When I was 16 years old I began looking for part-time employment that fitted alongside my education. I sent off numerous applications but never heard back.

64  The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment I had stated that I was ‘disabled’ in the required section of whatever job application I was completing, and in some cases expanded and stated that I had dwarfism, if prompted to. At the time I never thought that stating I was disabled or more specifically that I had dwarfism was the reason for my lack of success at even getting to the interview stage. It is difficult to claim that your disability is the reason for being unsuccessful in securing a job, because of the myriad of other possible reasons, such as a lack of experience. Yet, it is well known, that despite legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Acts (1991) or Equality Act (2010), disabled people continue to experience employment discrimination (Antras, Bayarri and Greenop, 2021; Coleman, Sykes and Groom, 2013; Friedman, 2020; Jung Kim, Skinner and Parish, 2019). In the UK, it is reported that disabled people are 28% less likely to be employed than their non-disabled counterparts (Office for National Statistics, 2019). If businesses cannot even make their premises accessible for paying disabled customers what chance is there of them hiring disabled people who require reasonable adjustments, even at a small cost? In one instance, when I went to a shop to hand in my application, a member of staff looked at me and said, ‘is this actually for you?’ I felt both embarrassed and disappointed. I did not see why I was not suitable and certainly did not anticipate that sort of reaction. People with dwarfism experience employment discrimination that is constructed by stigma and a lack of social awareness (Antras, Bayarri and Greenop, 2021). It seemed that the woman had made an assumption based on my stature, automatically rendering me unsuitable for the position. Whenever I was applying for a job I carefully assessed the infrastructure of the place I would be working in. For example, I knew I could not work in a pub, as the bar was too high and I would not be able to reach the optics or change a barrel. I also checked that I met the job description, ensuring I had the right qualifications and skills. Yet, I stood there thinking that I was stupid for applying for this job, as her reaction to me, based on my dwarfism, made it clear that I was not going to get the job. The only job I remember having a good chance of getting was when I was 16 years old and was offered an audition for one of the Munchkins for a stage production of the Wizard of Oz running in a popular theatre in Manchester. I was attending an after-school drama club and the teacher was also running a casting agency, which I had signed up to. I did not go for the audition, as I was determined not to go down that path and instead would take my chances with academia. However, what these two experiences show is that average-sized people have a strong influence on what employment opportunities are available to people with dwarfism. The problem is the perceptions of average-sized people are influenced by the metanarrative of dwarfism. Whilst I was one of the few people from that drama school to be offered an audition for a play, outside of entertainment I was not so popular and could not find regular part-time employment like my peers. Fast forward several years and I am at a Geography conference in New York. Whilst there I visited the iconic jewellery store Tiffanys, with a friend who was also doing a PhD and who had worked at several well-known jewellery stores in the UK. We are shown a number of expensive pieces by a store assistant who was an amputee. When we left my friend seemed confused and remarked that she

The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment  65 could not understand why he was working at Tiffanys as he would never get a job at any of the jewellery stores in the UK. She went on to tell me that they do not hire anyone with ‘deformities’. People with physical deformities are more likely to encounter employment discrimination, especially in jobs with high customer contact (Stone and Wright, 2013). I asked her if I would ever get a job in one of the stores she worked in and she replied ‘no’. I was not hurt by this, but it made me realise why I never heard back from the jewellery store I applied for a part-time position when I was 16 years old. Ignoring the structural and attitudinal barriers associated with gaining employment for people with dwarfism, permits others to keep them in their inferior position within society and prevents them from possibly competing with average-sized people by staying in their unique form of employment. For example, Louis Makepeace, a teenager with dwarfism, was refused a place at the Heart of Worcester College, in the UK, to study Hospitality and Catering because he was deemed a ‘safety risk’ and would cause ‘disruption’ for the other students (McAllister, 2018). Under the Equality Act (2010) educational establishments are required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled students. However, academic institutions often fail to provide appropriate accommodations for students with dwarfism (Pritchard, 2019). It is claimed that it would take several weeks for the required accommodations (lower surfaces, including a lower hob) Louis would need, which also seemed to be enough of an excuse to refuse Louis a place on the course. Average-sized people can be inflexible, rendering people with dwarfism an inconvenience that they would rather not deal with. It is reported that the course leader remarked that it would be ‘pointless [Louis] doing the course as he would never be allowed to work in a restaurant kitchen anyway, even if he qualified’ (McAllister, 2018: n.d.). Unlike with midget entertainment, the concern that people with dwarfism should be in employment in order to be financially stable and contribute to the economy is not considered. Instead, these attitudes encourage people to believe that midget entertainment is a job for people with dwarfism. According to Antras, Bayarri and Greenop (2021), other people undermine a person with dwarfism’s ability to perform any activity. This not only supports employment discrimination but also neglects other employment opportunities that would be open to Louis if he completed the course. Instead, people spend more time defending derogatory midget entertainment.

Defending midget entertainment When controversy strikes, such as the promotion of midget tossing, the media tend to focus on the spectacle of the event and do very little to promote disability equality. Stories may include a few quotes from those against the sport, but they mostly focus on the views of the midget entertainer or their average-sized representatives who of course promote midgetism for financial gain. Giving a voice to the midget entertainers, who are already robbing people with dwarfism of any agency, allows the status quo to remain. It is of course clever to provide the midget entertainer with a voice as they are conforming to prejudices and are used to

66  The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment represent the rest of us. People with dwarfism are constructed as a homogeneous group and if a midget entertainer conforms to being a spectacle then they are reinforcing the belief that we are all spectacles. In 2022, midget wrestler Dylan Postl accused Peter Dinklage of ‘hurting the [dwarfism] community’, for condemning the upcoming live-action remake of Snow White. Dinklage raised concerns about how the film would portray the Seven Dwarfs, a popular set of characters well known for reinforcing a midgetism (See Pritchard 2021b, 2022). Postl argued that Dinklage’s comments would rob people with dwarfism of a job (Lanum, 2022). Automatically, Postl’s comment implies that all people with dwarfism rely on employment within the entertainment industry and that we must settle for roles that reinforce midgetism in order to make a living. This is despite Disney working on employing people with dwarfism in numerous positions, including in behind-the-camera employment. For example, I worked as a consultant and whilst there met other people with dwarfism working as access consultants and in editing. Ironically, Postl’s claim is more ‘hurtful’ to the dwarfism community, because most people with dwarfism do not work in midget entertainment, but do face employment discrimination as a result of societal beliefs, which are informed by midgetism. For example, German Lawyer Silke Schönfleisch-Backofen, who has dwarfism, successfully sued a man after he started laughing and singing ‘Heigh Ho’ at her in court (Reuters, 2012). The man failed to see Silke as respectable, professional and intelligent, but instead as a figure of fun influenced by Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Due to the rarity of dwarfism, ‘most members of the general public do not know any dwarfs personally, their impressions are formed by what they see in popular culture’ (Adelson, 2005a: 11). Furthermore, midget entertainers, such as Postl, promote a personality that is ignorant to the humiliation from others, which subconsciously constructs them as lacking intelligence. Various media representations of dwarfism in literature, films and television shows, reach a wider audience and therefore are an efficient way of reinforcing midgetism. This is why Postl’s comment is even more damaging, as his comment reinforces other people’s beliefs that we are incapable of working in other occupations, not just because of our bodies, but also our minds. Postl was more likely concerned about people with dwarfism speaking out against midget entertainment, which could eventually lead to restricted opportunities for him. He internalises the belief that people with dwarfism are only capable of midget entertainment, without considering other opportunities that rely on talent as opposed to just a person’s dwarfism, should be argued for. Hence why a lawyer with dwarfism can provoke an incongruous encounter. When a minority of midget entertainers are permitted to reinforce these problematic stereotypes, it robs other people with dwarfism of agency and makes it harder for them to be seen as equal members of society. Midget entertainment is a blatant form of midgetism, but one which is permitted as it is disguised as an industry. As a person with dwarfism, you can either allow people to engage with midgetism towards you and get paid for it or you can fight against it (See Chapter 6). Some midget entertainers claim that partaking in midget entertainment means that they accept their dwarfism. However, as

The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment  67 midgetism is socially constructed, it is not accepting their dwarfism, but rather they internalise midgetism and as a result their socially constructed inferior position within society. Implying that people with dwarfism are only useful for entertainment purposes insults those who have succeeded in other forms of employment. Ironically, if people with dwarfism were deemed more than just comic fodder, they would experience less employment discrimination. For example, lawyer Paul Steven Miller was refused numerous jobs in the law profession, with one law company citing their reason for not hiring him was that people would think they were ‘running a circus’ (Adelson, 2005a). Not challenging this, such as not reproducing outdated stereotypes in the media, is seen as more desirable by average-sized people, as people with dwarfism are not deemed worthy of equality. To claim that a midget entertainer has consented to the act needs more analysis. Firstly, because people with dwarfism are restricted in employment and do face discrimination, midget entertainment is not so much an option, but a limited opportunity for some. Secondly, a number of midget entertainers admit that they partake in midget entertainment as they are already receiving unwanted attention and therefore a benefit is to capitalise upon this abuse. At first, it is hard to argue with this reasoning. To be paid to receive the same sort of unwanted attention provides, not only a financial benefit but also some control, resulting in a non-normative positivism. Thus, midget entertainment providing financial incentives, especially for a group of people who experience disability employment discrimination, can be conceived as a non-normative positivism. However, a deeper analysis demonstrates that allows a continual acceptance of midgetism and subsequently the social oppression of the majority of people with dwarfism. Pritchard (2017, 2021b) points out, a lot of the unwanted attention people with dwarfism receive is influenced by cultural representations and thus it becomes a vicious cycle when others partake in midget entertainment. On social media, one midget entertainer defended his choice of occupation by stating that the rest of us ‘were losers on benefits’, which supports the neoliberal rhetoric that disabled people are a burden on the state. Again, the midget entertainer internalises midgetism by believing that people with dwarfism are incapable of working in any occupation except for midget entertainment. Whilst there is nothing wrong with claiming welfare benefits, most of the people he was referring to were employed, including myself. The other retort from the midget entertainer was that ‘not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth’. He assumed that a person with dwarfism can only avoid working in midget entertainment if they are from a rich family. However, I am from a working-class family and for most of my life, I have lived in social housing.

Using disability equality as an excuse to roll back disability equality An excuse used by midget entertainers, promoters and spectators is that it robs them of a job and subsequently an income (also See Chapter 3). This remark I

68  The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment find offensive as they are making out that the only job people with dwarfism are capable of is something reminiscent of the freak show era. Instead of seeing us as teachers, lawyers, etc., we are still nothing more than figures of fun who should hire ourselves out so that others can be entertained by our amusing appearance. A belief that reinforces midget entertainment as an acceptable form of employment for people with dwarfism is that they are incapable of normative employment because they are too small, and therefore too costly due to the number of reasonable adjustments they may require or because it is often perceived that people with dwarfism lack intelligence. However, whilst other disabled people also face these similar discriminatory attitudes, there exists no similar form of employment within entertainment. As Dan Kennedy (2003), a father of a child with dwarfism points out, people who use a wheelchair do not rent themselves out. The fact that other disabled people do not partake in derogatory entertainment disputes the argument that it is a form of employment for people with dwarfism, who they think would otherwise be out of work. Furthermore, a number of midget entertainers do or have also been employed in other occupations. For example, Eric, a midget entertainer who hires himself out dressed in a babygrow and bonnet for baby showers previously worked in a post office (Hall, 2019). Also, a number of pantomime performers, because they are doing seasonal work also work in everyday occupations for the rest of the year. It is thus a poor excuse to claim that midget entertainment is a job for people with dwarfism. Average-sized people who defend midget entertainment are defending their guilty pleasure of the enjoyment they gain from watching midgets perform derogatory acts using disability equality as a defence. Midget entertainment can be justified using the excuse that it is a job for a group of people who are likely to experience employment discrimination. In fact, defending the employment choices of some neglects how they can hamper the employment of others. Average-size audiences who claim that ‘it’s a job for them [midget entertainers]’ do so, either due to ignorance, created by an ableist hegemony, or because they wish to revel in the superior feeling from watching someone smaller than them being humiliated, without blatantly exposing their part towards disability inequality. The role of a midget entertainer is to reinforce the belief that dwarfism makes a person inferior and subsequently average-sized people superior. As the midget entertainer has freely engaged in midgetism then the superiority of the average-sized person has been given consent by a midget entertainer. However, it is not just about audience enjoyment, but also the midget entertainer aiding the careers of average-sized performers. If people were to admit that they enjoy laughing at midget entertainers, then unlike in the Victorian era, where these attitudes were openly expressed, in today’s society they can be challenged by equality laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and the Equality Act (2010). Whilst it’s a job for the minority, it’s oppression for other people with dwarfism. A problematic attitude that is linked to the notion of dependency, is that people with dwarfism somehow need ‘rescuing’, making midget entertainment a viable solution. Firstly, abandoned animals in a shelter need rescuing, not people with dwarfism. But there are some celebrities who believe that people with dwarfism

The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment  69 need rescuing and this is a good enough reason for them to engage in midgetism as part of their shows. However, the notion of being rescued in this case is steeped in an unequal power relation. The midget entertainer is deemed inferior, unable to manage by themselves and thus requires help from a ‘concerned’ average-sized person. For example, American presenter and comedian Chelsea Handler, claims that Chuy Bravo, the midget entertainer she hired for her show (until his death) ‘couldn’t get a job if not for her’ (Goddard, 2012). Furthermore, she remarked that she hires people with dwarfism to work on her show because she ‘pities them’ (Goddard, 2012). This is despite people with dwarfism being employed in a diverse range of occupations. Therefore, it is more of a case that Chelsea is exploiting the midget entertainer by expecting him to partake in a performance, which is influenced by midgetism, as part of her show. Furthermore, it has been argued that performer Miley Cyrus uses midget entertainers within her shows in order to enhance her ‘shock’ factor (Hewett, 2013). This can be related to Chapter 3 where to be deemed interesting Jack Daryll Hillgrass needs to be surrounded by midget entertainers as they create incongruous encounters and thus make him interesting. Thus, it’s not that people with dwarfism need rescuing, but the careers of average-sized entertainers. Midget entertainment is a blatant form of midgetism, but one which is permitted as it is disguised as an industry, and thus can be considered a non-normative positivism (Bolt, 2015). In other words, it is an occupation, which offers a financial incentive to those deemed incapable of working in a range of occupations. From a neoliberal perspective, their ‘job’ constructs them as productive, whilst ignoring the social implications. Whilst people claim that midget entertainment is a job for people with dwarfism, a deeper examination reveals that other forms of employment that are open to people with dwarfism offer better financial security. As a graphic designer in China, Huang, a person with dwarfism, typically receives 5,000–20,000 yuan ($740–$3,000 or £590–£2,399) a month, whereas performers at the Kingdom of Little People in China typically receive the maximum of 1,200 yuan ($180 or £143) with deductions for food (Fullerton, 2017). Furthermore, hiring a midget entertainer from Cheeky Events costs about £100 ($135) per hour (Cheeky Events, 2021). Taking into account that this is not guaranteed work and that Cheeky Events is going to take a cut, other forms of employment can offer better financial security. However, it is not just about financial gain, but also about maintaining social hierarchies.

Midget tossing Midget tossing, also known as dwarf tossing, is a degrading activity, which involves a person of average stature throwing a person with dwarfism across a bar. The activity, often wrongly labelled as a ‘sport’, originated in a bar in Australia in the mid-1980s and slowly gained attention in other places including the US and Europe (Adelson, 2005b). Since then midget tossing has been banned in several countries, such as France, and some US states, including Florida and New York after numerous protests from Little People of America. Van Etten (2021)

70  The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment documents her fight as a lawyer with dwarfism and a member of LPA to ban midget tossing. This fight started in the mid-1980s and due to constant backlash from midget entertainers, tavern owners and even the state representative for Florida Ritch Workman, still continues. Average-sized people, including disc jockeys, tavern owners, lawyers and even members of government have spent more time defending midget tossing than advocating for better employment opportunities within normative professions. McGee (1993) argues that the sport is for fun and profit and subsequently from an economical perspective a positive-sum game. The midget entertainers receive an income, those who toss them win money and gain admiration (through the demonstration that they are superior to the inferior disabled person being tossed), those who watch it are entertained and those who promote it also gain an income (McGee, 1993). Therefore midget tossing is a non-normative positivism for some. It is argued through a neoliberal lens that puts profit before disability equality and subsequently maintaining a social hierarchy. Indeed, Neomi Rao, a Republican, argued that banning midget tossing would deny people with dwarfism the opportunity to make money (Nover, 2019). This is said with such candour, as if people with dwarfism, including myself, are incapable of anything else; at the same time, such statements are ironically framed as a form of disability equality. When McGee (1993) argues that midget entertainers have the absolute right to do what they want with their bodies, it ignores the wider implications on people with dwarfism in society, whose bodies are further stigmatised as a result. Instead, McGee (1993) focuses on the benefits gained by average-sized people, whether it is the spectator, the tosser or the promoter whilst trying to frame it as a form of disability equality. Whilst some people will argue that if the midget entertainer is happy to be degraded, then what business is it of anyone else? Well, for other people with dwarfism, who do not consent to being an object of ridicule, it impacts their social standing within society and thus it becomes their business. Midget tossing thus encourages a non-normative negativism, which those like the average-sized McGee will not experience. It is patronising to suggest that midget tossing is a suitable form of employment for someone who may struggle to gain employment elsewhere. For example, midget entertainer Manuel Wackenheim tried to overturn France’s ban on midget tossing on the grounds that employment was hard to find (Davis, 2015). However, this excuse was not upheld as it conflicted with wider Human Rights laws upheld by the UN. The excuse that it is a suitable form of employment for people with dwarfism ignores the wider employment discrimination people with the condition experience. It shifts the blame to them, by subconsciously promoting the idea that an average-sized person has created a unique employment opportunity for people with dwarfism and those who refuse it as against the philanthropic average-sized person. A better alternative would be to ensure that people with dwarfism do not face discrimination within everyday occupations that are open to everyone. However, philanthropy and employment are not the only excuses. McGee (1993) equates midget tossing with sports such as basketball, whereby taller players are at an advantage and therefore if midget tossing is exploitative

The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment  71 so too must be basketball. However, there are major conceptual weaknesses in McGee’s argument. Basketball players demonstrate their skills at the game, which their height can aid as an advantage, instead of being used as a piece of equipment for the game. Subsequently, basketball players are admired, not humiliated. A person with dwarfism being used as something to be thrown, like a ball, is to be dehumanised (Van Etten, 1988). Being treated like an object is an attempt to rid someone of their human status through humiliation. ‘Humiliation is the attempt to lower someone below the status of a human being as a person with dignity through improper attitude or treatment’ (Neuhauser, 2011: 22). Midget tossing was banned in France on the basis that treating a person in the same way as an inanimate object impacted their dignity (Davis, 2015). Thus, before comparing sports where height is a prerequisite, it is important to understand why and how a person’s height is used. The concept of social dignity can be seen as an argument for group rights to equal treatment. Dignity is often associated with humiliation and degrading treatment (Kaufmann et al., 2011). This means that the social implications that midget entertainment has on the dignity of people with dwarfism within society require consideration. When midget tossing was outlawed in the state of New York in 1990, Mayor Mario Cuomo stated … not lightly impose limits on the activities of consenting participants. But balancing all the interests affected, I am persuaded that approval of this bill respects basic human dignity and protects the safety and self-respect of the special people [sic] who are the subject of this strange diversion. (cited in Davis, 2015: 240) The utilitarian argument is that midget tossing should be banned based on the greatest good for the greatest number (McGee, 1993). Pritchard (2021c: 99) points out that whilst ‘they [midget entertainers] may have free choice to humiliate themselves, however, the rest of the group is also humiliated’. This impacts their sense of self and welfare. Furthermore, those who defend midget entertainment do not take into account the welfare of people with dwarfism in society. Midget tossing has been defended provided that it is regulated and safe (Davis, 2015). However, it can never truly be safe due to the spinal conditions most people with dwarfism have. As Little People of America state ‘even with padded gear on, dwarf tossing exposes the individual to permanent injuries to the spinal column or even death’ (Little People of America, 2011: n.d.). Furthermore, whilst the midget entertainers who are tossed may be wearing safety helmets and padding, people with dwarfism in the street are not protected. The vast majority of people with dwarfism do not partake in midget entertainment, however, they are often treated in the same inferior way that some midget entertainers are. Yet, the latter goes undocumented amongst most of society. There are a number of people with dwarfism who have concerns about midget entertainment, including midget tossing, as they often receive unwanted social implications:

72  The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment I did get concerned when there was dwarf throwing and I have got two sons and when they were younger it only takes for somebody to come along and pick them up and treat it not just as a game. (Ivy in Pritchard, 2021c: 96) Whilst Ivy, a woman with dwarfism, was concerned about the welfare of her sons, who also shared the same condition as her, never experienced the consequences of midget tossing, the fear can make them more vigilant. It is not uncommon for people with dwarfism to be picked up by strangers, demonstrating a power imbalance and humiliation. Shakespeare, Thompson and Wright (2010) state that 33% of their participants, who all had dwarfism, had experienced being touched by strangers. Furthermore, midget tossing has encouraged some people to pick up people with dwarfism and swing them about (Adelson, 2005b). In 2011, Martin Henderson, who had dwarfism sustained serious injuries after being picked up and tossed by an inebriated person (Diebelius, 2016). It is believed that the person’s actions were influenced by an earlier news story that reported how several members of the England rugby team attended a midget tossing event (Diebelius, 2016). Thus, popularising the event can impact the personal safety of people with dwarfism. If people are encouraged to believe that it is acceptable to manhandle a person with dwarfism, then this belief is likely to filter within society. Angela Van Etten (2011: n.d.) argues that dwarf throwing should be banned as ‘the balance tilts against the individual’s right to exploit his or her own body and in favour of the State’s duty to protect the people.’ Furthermore, it is argued that ‘if a particular representation impacts their equal treatment in society, then it needs to be questioned if it is morally right to allow that representation to exist’ (Pritchard, 2021c: 97). However, due to ableism, those who revel in the amusement of midget tossing (and other forms of midget entertainment) are the powerful majority (average-sized, able-bodied people) who have more control over the dwarf body than people with the condition. Midget entertainment keeps people with dwarfism in an inferior position within society. Average-sized people are most content if people with dwarfism entertain them and to a lesser degree if they do not speak out against it. I am often told that I should not judge others for what job they choose to do. In reality, they are not defending the welfare of the midget entertainers, but their own enjoyment of midgetism. Defending midget entertainment, such as midget tossing only demonstrates some people’s view of people with dwarfism, i.e. that they are inferior and acceptable to mock and not equal enough to be granted the same respect and employment opportunities as others. This may be because they have only ever seen happy smiley midget entertainers revelling in other people’s mockery towards them, including in films. The International film, The Wolf of Wall Street, released in 2013 and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker, includes a scene featuring midget tossing. The scene, which is also popular on posters for the film, involves DiCaprio throwing a midget entertainer, wearing a striped blue

The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment  73 and yellow jumpsuit and matching helmet and goggles, onto a target. Performed by men working in the financial sector, who are part of an elite group, demonstrate that this activity is not only reserved for the lower classes. The scene reinforces the idea that it is an acceptable form of entertainment within all society. The film grossed $392 million (£312 million) worldwide and is considered Martin Scorsese’s highest-grossing film (McClintock, 2014). Whilst it may be a film, not to be taken seriously, some comments on YouTube include, ‘25k for a bullseye I would have picked up the nearest midget and launched’ and ‘The last of the PC [political correctness] incorrect films and God fn [sic] bless it for that’. The first quote demonstrates how an economic incentive encourages midgetism. It also suggests that any ‘midget’ is fair game, even if they have not consented. The commenter suggests that they can pick up any ‘midget’ and that their action would be acceptable. It ignores the fact that most people with dwarfism would not want to partake, but like a ball or dart, they have no voice in refusing to be thrown. The second quote praises the film for promoting midgetism as opposed to disability equality. The success of the film has aided in reinforcing these problematic attitudes. However, the film also reflects problematic beliefs held by society. Prior to the event taking place, several characters, including Belfort, are discussing the event taking place from a legal perspective. ‘If we don’t consider him a human, and just treat him like an act. I think we’re in the clear’ (Wolf of Wall Street, 2013). This line demonstrates how midget entertainment often relies on a person not being deemed human and thus inferior to their average-sized counterparts. Adelson (2005b) suggests that why dwarfs were chosen to be tossed, as opposed to anyone else of a similar size, is because of their construction and sub-human stature. When a person is deemed sub-human, then others can treat them in a way that is off limits to average-sized people.

Challenging the status quo Dwarfism has a stronger presence in the entertainment industry than probably any other disability. Furthermore, due to its rarity, it is unlikely that people will see a person with dwarfism working in numerous everyday professions that occupy normate spaces. This exaggerates their supposed reliance on the entertainment industry for employment. I have rarely met anyone with dwarfism in society, however, I grew up watching films with numerous dwarf characters and was used to seeing them in books about freaks or in fairytales. I have also been told numerous stories by colleagues of how they have attended friends’ weddings who have hired out a midget entertainer for their big day. Despite this, and whilst people with dwarfism have limited employment opportunities, they are now employed in a myriad of professions. When members of society claim that ‘it’s a job for them’ it is likely that they do not know anyone with dwarfism but are instead basing their belief on problematic stereotypes. There are numerous notable people with dwarfism who all work in respectable professions, including Paul Steven Miller (Lawyer), William A Wheaton (Astrophysicist), Angela Muir Van Etten (Lawyer and Activist), Judith Badner

74  The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment (Geneticist and Psychiatrist), Lee kitchens (Engineer and Inventor) and Michael Ain (Orthopaedic surgeon) to name but a few (Adelson, 2005b). Thus to claim that midget entertainment is appropriate employment, is not only disrespectful and naive but also shifts the blame of exploitation from the average-sized spectator or manager to the person with dwarfism. Even in history, freak show performers such as Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb have more of a presence than someone such as Benjamin Lay (1677–1759), a person with dwarfism who was a prominent abolitionist in pre-revolutionary America (Adelson, 2005b). The prominent focus on people with dwarfism as figures of entertainment reinforces problematic beliefs which encourage midgetism and keep people with dwarfism in an inferior position within society. Improved access to employment due to disability legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010 (UK) and Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (USA) have aided in providing more employment opportunities for disabled people. For a while, people with dwarfism have been turning their back on the entertainment industry (See Adelson, 2005a). Whilst not all occupations are open to people with dwarfism, it is unreasonable to suggest that only entertainment is available. Of course, there are actors such as Peter Dinklage, Meredith Eaton, Lisa Hammond, Linda Hunt and Kiruna Stamell who are working in the entertainment industry but are challenging common stereotypes of dwarfism by refusing roles that are influenced by midgetism. It has been well documented that even at the beginning of his career Peter Dinklage refused to accept any derogatory, stereotypical roles, including ‘cute elves and buffoonish leprechauns were generally off the menu’ (Lawrence, 2015). These actors demonstrate that it is possible for people with dwarfism to become successful in the industry without having to fulfil derogatory roles. Peter Dinklage is an international celebrity and is argued to have opened up a wider range of representations of dwarfism (Meeuf, 2014). It is not enough to rely on average-sized writers and producers to provide true-to-life roles, as their perceptions of dwarfism are likely to be influenced by midgetism. Actors with dwarfism must first demonstrate that stereotypical roles, influenced by midgetism are no longer acceptable. There is a limited representation of people with dwarfism in everyday roles, such as a Teacher or a Lawyer. However, there are some actors with dwarfism who are trying to change this. For example, Meredith Eaton, an actress with dwarfism, is probably best known for her role as Emily Resnick in Family Law (2001–2002) and her recurring role as Bethany Horowitz in Boston Legal (2004–2008). In both roles, she plays an attorney, which is an occupation that indicates intelligence and respect. Meredith has also appeared in numerous other television shows including; House (2004–2012), NYPD Blue (1993–2005), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2003–) and NCIS (2000–2015). Meredith refuses typical roles usually reserved for people with dwarfism, such as those which focus on little else but their dwarfism and often encourage midgetism. What Meredith demonstrates is that people with dwarfism are capable of fulfilling everyday roles, such as an attorney, which subtly challenges the belief that midget entertainment is a job for people with dwarfism. Her appearance within popular dramas, such

The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment  75 as Boston Legal, sends out the subtle message that people with dwarfism are not oddities, but ordinary people who carry out everyday tasks and work in ordinary occupations. Pritchard (2021b) found that people with dwarfism wanted more films and television shows depicting people with the condition as real people in everyday occupations. According to Meeuf (2014) these roles aid in challenging harmful media stereotypes associated with dwarfism. Playing everyday roles aids in providing a more true to life representation of dwarfism. Showing disabled people on television with minimal focus on their disability, but shown in a way which portrays them as being just like anyone else in society, helps to increase acceptance towards them (Sancho, 2003). However, because dwarfism is a rare impairment, it is also fair to expect that the number of roles given to actors with dwarfism will also reflect this. I am often asked, when I am arguing against midget entertainment, what if the midget entertainer enjoys performing? My response is that if they enjoy performing then they should be provided the same opportunities to partake in the entertainment industry as anyone else. However, this means that they will require a talent, such as the ability to act or sing. Therefore, educational entertainment establishments, such as drama schools should be accessible for people with dwarfism and teachers should not presume that they are only capable of fulfilling stereotypical roles. It is also realistic to expect that just because they want to work in entertainment this does not mean that they will be successful. A lot of average-sized people who also enjoy entertaining and who may have even successfully graduated from esteemed establishments such as Juilliard or the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) do not necessarily make it in the industry. However, they are not expected to partake in derogatory entertainment specific to any prominent identity they hold. Therefore, the lack of success does not mean that midget entertainment should be a suitable alternative. The change in employment opportunities has led people with dwarfism and some of their associations to protest derogatory entertainment. However, this has not gone unchallenged by those in the entertainment industry, such as midget wrestling.

Conclusion Dwarfism is constructed as a commodity which helps it to be profitable for those who partake in midget entertainment, including midget entertainers and their average-sized promoters. Whilst it is often argued that midget entertainment, such as hiring out a midget entertainer for a celebratory event, is providing an income for a person who otherwise struggles, in actual fact it is average-sized people, or owners, who often benefit financially. It is also a right-wing demonstration that promotes social hierarchies between people with dwarfism and average-sized people. This social hierarchy ignores the social elements that restrict employment opportunities for people with dwarfism but instead constructs people with dwarfism as incapable, dependent and sometimes pitiful.

76  The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment Midget entertainment is not an acceptable form of employment, but rather an activity that keeps people with dwarfism in an inferior position in society. Dwarfism is constructed as a novelty act which leads to the assumption that anyone with the condition needs to use it to entertain others. Those claiming midget entertainment is a job for people with dwarfism are undermining their capabilities and using disability equality to mask their problematic beliefs which are influenced by midgetism. It is not that they want people with dwarfism to have good employment opportunities, but that they want to be amused by midget entertainers who reinforce the belief that people with dwarfism are inferior to others. If people were truly concerned about the employment opportunities of people with dwarfism they would be fighting alongside disability activists to ensure reasonable accommodations are provided and would challenge problematic attitudes that undermine the capabilities of people with dwarfism. The use of midgetism for financial gains needs ethical consideration. Promoting midgetism, in the form of midget entertainment, where dwarfism is constructed as a novelty, conflicts with the fight for disability equality. A disabled person being in employment is not an example of disability equality if it relies on midgetism. For people with dwarfism to gain equal opportunities, including within employment then acts of midgetism must first be challenged and removed. People with dwarfism are kept within their place within their society through ableist beliefs that determine what employment is most suitable for them. Average-sized people act as gatekeepers, which determine where people with dwarfism can work. To challenge this, people with dwarfism must be proactive in refusing midget entertainment as a form of employment and instead should be given the opportunity to work in numerous occupations. When people defend midget entertainment on the basis that removing it would take away jobs from people with dwarfism, they need to ask themselves, how many everyday, positive entertainment roles have been taken away due to people thinking they are only good for midget entertainment? Furthermore, how many everyday occupations have people with dwarfism been denied due to these perceptions? Whilst it is important to understand the reasons why midget entertainers choose a profession that promotes midgetism, people have the right to speak out against it. A country cannot claim to promote disability equality if it still allows midget entertainment, especially if it is promoted as an acceptable form of employment. A society can only claim to promote equal employment opportunities for disabled people if it is willing to provide accommodations and for others not to assume the capabilities of people with dwarfism. It is not enough to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure equal employment opportunities but to also change attitudes. To change attitudes in relation to dwarfism, people’s perceptions of dwarfism must be challenged. To change perceptions it is important that people are exposed to more realistic representations of dwarfism, that construct it as a condition, that can be disabling in a one size fits all society as opposed to a novelty act.

The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment  77

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The inexcusable excuse for midget entertainment  79 Pritchard, E. (2017) Cultural representations of dwarfs and their disabling effects on dwarfs in society. Considering Disability, 1 (1) 1–17. Pritchard, E. (2019) A hierarchy of impairments: the absence of body size in disability accommodations within universities. In McMaster, C. and Whitburn, B. (Eds) Disability and the University: A Disabled Student’s Manifesto. Oxford: Peter Lang. pp. 129–136. Pritchard, E. (2021a) The metanarrative of dwarfism: heightism and its social implications. In Bolt, D. (Ed) The Metanarrative of Disability Culture, Assumed Authority, and the Normative Social Order. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 123–137. Pritchard, E. (2021b) Dwarfism, Spatialities and Disabling Experiences. Abingdon: Routledge. Pritchard, E. (2021c) “She finds people like you hilarious!” Why do we laugh at people with dwarfism? Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 15 (4) 455–470. Pritchard, E. (2022) “Get down on your knees”: representing the Seven Dwarfs in the pantomime, Disability Studies Quarterly, 42 (1). Reuters (2012) Tiny Lawyer sues witness. Times Live [online] Available from: https://www. timeslive.co.za/news/world/2012-01-13-tiny-lawyer-sues-witness/ (accessed 05/06/2021). Sancho, J. (2003) Disabling prejudice: attitudes towards disability and its portrayal on television [online], Available from: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/sancho/disability.pdf (accessed 11/12/2012). Shakespeare, T., Thompson, S. and Wright, M. (2010) No laughing matter: medical and social experiences of restricted growth. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 12 (1) 19–31. Stone, A. and Wright, T. (2013) When your face doesn’t fit: employment discrimination against people with facial disfigurements. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43 (3) 515–526. Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Directed by Martin Scorsese [film] Paramount Pictures. Van Etten, A.M. (1988) Dwarfs Don’t Live in Doll’s Houses. Red Hill: Adaptive Living. Van Etten, A.M. (2021) Always an Advocate: Champions of Change for People with Dwarfism and Disabilities. Stuart (FL): Angela Muir Van Etten.

6 ‘It’s just a joke’ In defence of midgetism

Introduction This chapter focuses on how midget entertainment is defended, often through denial of midgetism both by the media and wider society. According to Van Dijk (1992: 181) in relation to racism, ‘denials challenge the very legitimacy of anti-­ racist analysis, and thus are part of the politics of ethnic management: as long as a problem is being denied in the first place, the critics are ridiculed, marginalised or delegitimated: denials debilitate resistance.’ In this chapter, I explore some of the excuses and attitudes of midget entertainers, as well as spectators. It is argued that these excuses, in this case that midget entertainment is just a form of comedy not to be taken seriously, contribute to the unequal standing of people with dwarfism in society. To aid in challenging the excuses, this chapter exposes some of the social implications of midget entertainment, including the case of Quaden Bayles. The first part focuses on the downplaying of midgetism through humour. Firstly, the use of midgetism by average-sized comedians is explored. Drawing on understandings of social dominance, this part argues that downplaying the impact of jokes toward people with dwarfism permits society to construct them as inferior. Building on this, it is then shown that when people protest against particular representations of dwarfism their own personality is constructed as negative. This places the blame upon the person and attempts to construct them as problematic. Humour is not meant to be taken seriously, but unfortunately for people with dwarfism, it influences how they are perceived and subsequently treated by others. However, framing some forms of midgetism as ‘just jokes’ relates to cavalier humour beliefs (CHB) which dismiss the potential harm to others (Hodson, Rush and MacInnis, 2010). These beliefs are further reinforced by the participation of midget entertainers in these representations. I explore how midget entertainers internalise midgetism to the point where they deem being laughed at as a natural part of dwarfism as opposed to a social construct that is open to change. Furthermore, people defend midget entertainment as it enables them to engage with problematic beliefs that a group of disabled people are deemed inferior to them. The second part explores and responds to the retort that if people are offended then they ‘just don’t have to watch it’. This excuse is often provided by those who have never experienced the social implications of midgetism. I demonstrate how this excuse again places the blame upon the person offended by the representation, whilst ignoring the social implications of the representation.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003382461-6

‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism  81 The last part focuses on how the social implications are often ignored or denied by the wider society. Drawing on the example of Quaden Bayles, a young boy with dwarfism who made media headlines when his mother recorded him crying and saying that he wanted to die after years of bullying, I explore some of the excuses or conspiracy theories, that were made in an attempt to ignore the psycho-­emotional impact of midgetism.

Part of the problem There are a number of examples of midgetism evident in the jokes from average-sized comedians that cannot all be included within this chapter. ­Usually, these comedians deem themselves ‘edgy’ and are engaging in ‘free speech’ when making these jokes. Of course, dwarfism is part of a number of offensive jokes made about disabled people. Whilst jokes towards racial minorities have decreased those against disabled people are seen as fair game and have increased (Martin, 2010). Jokes against racial minorities were of course popular in the 1970s but fell out of taste when racism began to be taken more seriously. Either today’s comedians actually find racism distasteful themselves or are just scared of being reprimanded for their jokes. However, dwarfism has never been taken seriously and comedians do not have to fear any backlash for making jokes about them Jimmy Carr, a controversial British comedian, is known for his dark and nearthe-knuckle ‘humour’. As part of his ‘Terribly funny’ stand-up show (2019–2022), Carr made a joke claiming that people with dwarfism are abortions that made it (Pritchard, 2019). According to Carr, people with dwarfism, such as myself, are not human, but an undeveloped, deformed foetus that is unwanted and has no rights in society. He may have not meant for it to be taken seriously, but for many disabled people, including people with dwarfism, this is how they are viewed. Abortions are a controversial topic in the disability community. Many disabled people have been told by non-disabled people how they would rather be dead than like them. In his book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughters’ Eyes (2003) Dan Kennedy remarked how when he and his wife were told by a doctor of their daughter’s dwarfism diagnosis how the doctor tried to suggest that if they had known about the diagnosis during the pregnancy then they could have offered a termination. Then there is the case of the Australian woman who had an abortion at 38 weeks when it was found that the fetus had dwarfism (Townsend, 2006). Furthermore, a survey found that 78% of doctors, based in Victoria, Australia supported abortions for babies diagnosed with dwarfism at 13 weeks gestation (Townsend, 2006). Thus, for a person like me, my life is not worth living. It is therefore hard to find Carr’s joke funny when it influences your standing in society. Whilst LPUK has often remained silent in response to midget entertainment (See Chapter 4), they did issue a statement stating that they were disappointed in the prejudice expressed via Carr’s joke (Petter, 2019). Rightly speaking out against the average-sized Jimmy Carr’s jokes, but not against midget entertainment permits midget entertainers, including those who may be represented by

82  ‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism Willow Management, which is co-run by LPUK patron Warwick Davis to ­promote midgetism. Whilst Willow Management does offer some respectable roles, some of its work does encourage midgetism, including work as Goblins, the Seven Dwarfs in the pantomime and even as humorous pranks. For example, Willow Management’s newspage advertises the following: Cheryl Cole [television personality] got Simon Cowell [record executive] laughing on his birthday yesterday – by booking dwarfs to sing to him (Willow Management, 2014). Associations, such as LPUK should be speaking out against all forms of midgetism, including those that are encouraged by midget entertainers. If midget entertainers themselves encourage midgetism and some associations fail to speak out against it, then comedians will rightly believe that people with dwarfism are figures of fun that are acceptable comic material. As a result, it is not just controversial comedians that engage in midgetism. Whilst liberal comedians often refrain from promoting racist material, jokes about people with dwarfism that are examples of midgetism are still fair game. Robert Webb, a British Television presenter and Comedian, made this clear when presenting the television show ‘Great Movie Mistakes’. In the show, Webb pointed out how ‘you can see the midget’s [sic] eyes’ (Great Movie Mistakes, 2010), in reference to a scene featuring dwarf actors fulfilling the role of Ewoks in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Whilst Webb may have not been aware of the correct terminology (although broadcasters such as the BBC should be) there was still no reason to refer to them by their condition as opposed to their occupation. When pointing out other movie mistakes Webb referred to the people as actors, such as ‘in this scene, you can see the actors wristwatch’, whereas the dwarf actors were referred to using a form of disablist hate speech. They had no other identity apart from their dwarfism, not even an identity as an actor. It is not hard to imagine had Webb referred to another minority actor using a derogatory term that there would have been numerous complaints. What is even more surprising is when charity shows, particularly those raising money to support minority groups, engage in midgetism. Comic Relief is a charity, which was founded in 1985 by comedian Lenny Henry and comedy scriptwriter Richard Curtis. Both entertainers can be considered left-wing. The former often speaks out about racism, drawing on his own experiences. The latter is known for his views towards poverty in both the UK and internationally. The purpose of the show is to raise money for charities in numerous African countries and the UK. Comic Relief holds a biannual telethon on BBC, the world’s oldest and the UK’s largest broadcaster. The show includes sketches from some very prominent British television and film stars including Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson, as well others such as Zoe Ball and Paddy McGuiness. Whilst the aim of the show is to make people laugh, much of the humour plays it safe to avoid causing offence; however, some minority groups are more acceptable to ridicule than others. Of course, telethons have gathered much criticism from disabled activists as they argue that they encourage disabled people to be seen as objects of charity (Haller, 2010; Longmore, 2005). Furthermore, Longmore (2005: 504), states that charities display disabled people according to ‘stylized’ and ‘fixed conventions’. In the case

‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism  83 of dwarfism, that means representing them, not as objects of pity, but rather as humorous entertainment figures for charitable purposes. In 2013, British comedian Peter Kay rode a motorised sofa across the UK as part of ‘Sit down for Comic Relief’. The sofa crudely resembled a sleigh, however, it was not pulled by Huskies or Reindeers, but by a few celebrities and several midget entertainers. The whole act was meant to promote humour through incongruity, i.e. a working-class man travelling on an everyday sofa, as opposed to Santa Claus in his magical sleigh. However, the incongruous act encouraged people to laugh at midget entertainers who were in the place of the usual sleigh-pulling animals rendering them sub-human. Once again, people with dwarfism were being used as comic fodder to promote an average-sized comedian’s sketch. Had Peter Kay’s sofa been pulled by a group of people from another minority group I doubt many ­people would have been amused. However, people can be coerced into thinking that the use of midget entertainers was acceptable considering they had consented to the act, as they have for many years. To add further insult Zoe Ball later made several jokes using the term midget. The 2013 show attracted approximately 12.2 million viewers and raised over £75 million (Westbrook, 2013). It was a popular show that not only influenced people to give generously but also further reinforced midgetism within British society. When average-sized comedians are challenged for their jokes about dwarfism, activists are challenging them to produce material which does not rely on age-old stereotypes informed by midgetism. However, these jokes are easy to produce and are guaranteed a laugh as they are part of the status quo and enable the audience to feel superior, making them appealing to average-sized comedians. In a neoliberal society economic incentives override social inclusion. When activists challenge average-sized comedians they are fighting against not only the perceived inferiority of people with dwarfism, that their jokes encourage, but also the supposed superiority gained by the comedians, which is often endorsed by midget entertainers. Challenging the status quo can provoke an incongruous encounter as comedians and their fans often expect people with dwarfism to be midget entertainers or at least accepting of midgetism. This can lead to numerous unhelpful responses, such as ‘It’s just a joke’.

It’s just a joke When exposing people to the problem of midget entertainment, those who accept it, often members of the public, automatically go on the defensive with ‘it’s just a joke’. They do not want to be confronted with the fact that their perceptions of dwarfism are problematic and reinforce inequalities. Yet, as Rosemarie ­Garland-Thomson (1997) points out, representations attach meaning to bodies, which in the case of dwarfism is that they are figures of fun. The construction of people with dwarfism as figures of fun renders them inferior to others, aiding in maintaining a social hierarchy. Trivialising the impact of outgroup humour aids in maintaining social dominance (Hodson, Rush and MacInnis, 2010). People with dwarfism are expected to tolerate mockery as people expect them to be able

84  ‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism to treat people with dwarfism in the same derogatory way that midget entertainers have been for centuries. Because the midget entertainer’s sole purpose is for their condition to be mocked, then it is unsurprising that a person who shares the same condition is treated in the same way. For a person with dwarfism in society to challenge the status quo is someone who is constructed as a miserable person, who cannot accept their dwarfism. ­People with dwarfism create an incongruous encounter as they share the same condition as midget entertainers, but they do not act like them. In other words, they are not jumping about and encouraging people to laugh at them, so that audiences can feel superior and reinforce the belief that ‘bigger is better’. I was once told by a midget entertainer that the reason why I was so against hiring myself out for the amusement of others was that I could not accept my dwarfism. It was as if my perceived role as an entertainer was genetic as opposed to culturally constructed. He failed to see that whilst my stature was the result of biology, the way I was expected to perform for others was cultural. It was midgetism that I could not accept, as opposed to my condition. Some midget entertainers seem to think that mockery towards dwarfism is part of our genetics, as Ben Wilcox states ‘I might as well use what I have [dwarfism] to the best of my advantage’ (Rahman, 2015). Ben Wilcox is a midget entertainer whose gimmick is to be handcuffed to a person, usually a stag or hen, on a night out. It is not that he is using his dwarfism to his advantage, but rather midgetism which he is promoting as acceptable. A midget entertainer being handcuffed to someone for entertainment purposes is culturally constructed through incongruity and superiority. The stag or hen can provoke an unexpected reaction, which Ben quotes ‘when they’ve [stags or hens] got a dwarf strapped to them in a camp costume, they get so much more attention’ (Rahman, 2015). A midget entertainer’s condition is being used to get the average-sized person’s attention from others. In usual circumstances, when a person is handcuffed it is usually to a Police officer, who, due to their authority, has control over that person. However, the stag or hen, who towers over the midget entertainer, creates an incongruous encounter through role reversal. The midget entertainers have no power, which also emphasises the stag or hen’s superiority. Whilst Ben uses a non-normative negativism [midgetism] to benefit himself financially, resulting in a non-normative positivism, the act only serves to further encourage midgetism for the wider dwarfism community. This will only reinforce the belief that hiring out a midget entertainer is acceptable, strengthening non-normative negativisms towards them in society. This may ensure employment for midget entertainers and financial security for their managers but will impact the dignity and treatment of people with dwarfism in society, including access to employment that is not midget entertainment. Hayley B, owner of Hayley B Entertainment defends the ability to hire out midgets. Hayley’s attitude is confusing, as her agency provides midget entertainers to be handcuffed by punters to being hired out dressed as babies, yet she claims that the midget entertainers are treated with respect. However, these performances, which go beyond what would be acceptable for others to engage with,

‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism  85 provide people with the idea that there are no limits to degrading people with dwarfism, as even Hayley B recognises, ‘It’s getting worse. Chaining yourself to a dwarf and getting blind drunk is fine but this [midget tossing] is just degrading’ (Grove, 2020). It is Hayley B who seems to decide what midget entertainers can do, which ignores those who share the same condition as them, but who do not agree with any form of midget entertainment. Haley B adopts an assumed authority (Bolt, 2019) to promote midget entertainment, which provides her with a financial reward and no negative social consequences. In fact, Haley B can feel superior, as she manages the midget entertainers and refrains from partaking in any of the derogatory entertainment. Whilst midget tossing is more dangerous, both acts dehumanise and objectify the performers. Both performances rely on the spectators to be entertained by the dwarf body which they can feel superior to. Comparing one degrading act to another, one which is perhaps slightly worse acts as a defence against a business that relies on midgetism by promoting a group of disabled people as a novelty. But perhaps Haley B knows that there is a risk of serious injury from midget tossing, which could damage her business. In defence of midget entertainment is the actor and patron of LPUK Warwick Davis. As well as partaking in some forms of midget entertainment such as playing one of the seven dwarfs in the pantomime, which reinforces problematic stereotypes of dwarfism (Pritchard, 2022), Warwick co-owns Willow management, a casting agency for tall and short people. As pointed out in Chapter 3 Mark Sealey, aka ‘Little legs’ is a midget wrestler whose agent is Warwick Davis. In an interview Warwick states ‘If we decide a dwarf at a stag night is unacceptable then where will it end?’… Will people start campaigning for pantomimes to stop hiring dwarfs as it is ‘demeaning’? (Morgan, 2018). Does Warwick Davis not know that this behaviour has gone far enough? The counterargument is if there is no restraint on midget entertainment how far will people go in their mockery of people with dwarfism, including midget entertainers. In 2013, midget entertainer Blake Johnson was set on fire by one of a group of punters who had hired him out (ABC News, 2013). Blake Johnson was hired out from ‘Dwarfmyparty.com’ an event agency which as the name suggests allows people to hire out midget entertainers on the premise that the condition is nothing but a novelty act. Whilst the incident is aberrant, Johnson had agreed to be dehumanised and thus it is not surprising that he was treated inhumanely. When I read the story I felt little sympathy for Blake, but I was concerned about the wider implications as what he does influences problematic behaviour towards people with dwarfism within society. As this book shows, midget entertainers do not consider the impact their work has on others, but in most cases argue that people should not interfere with their work. As a patron of LPUK Warwick should be questioning what impact midget entertainment will have on people with dwarfism in society. Warwick’s concerns should be with the equality of people with dwarfism within society, as opposed to his career and business. It was only in 2018 that Warwick spoke out against the use of the word midget when Twitter trolls targeted his family. Warwick criticised

86  ‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism the social media platform for not removing a tweet which referred to his ­family as a ‘full midget family’ (Kohn, 2018). Warwick wrote on Twitter: ‘Even after reporting twice, and explaining how offensive the word “midget” is to many short-­ statured individuals, they [Twitter] continue to allow the Tweet below to remain on the user’s timeline’ (Kohn, 2018). Whilst I support Warwick’s argument for Twitter’s removal of the word midget, Warwick should reflect on his past support for the word. As shown, Warwick has supported midget entertainment, which often uses the word midget freely, and thus, he cannot expect society to ban the word. The seeds had already been planted, including by the actions and attitude of W ­ arwick. In 2011 Warwick defended the use of the term midget when quoted in an interview by stating, ‘…the word “midget” is held by some to be quite offensive, but I don’t feel that…I’m not part of that PC brigade’ (Gilber, 2011). ‘PC’ [Politically Correct] is used to argue against derogatory slurs towards minority groups, however, being labelled as ‘PC’ is deemed a slur. It is clear that whilst Warwick has capitalised from using his dwarfism as a form of entertainment, which is a non-normative positivism, it has encouraged non-normative negativisms in society, which have come full circle eventually backfired on Warwick and his family. Perhaps if Warwick had been part of the ‘PC brigade’, Twitter would have been more aware of the need to remove tweets that include the word midget. Yet, it was only when his family was targeted that Warwick joined the ‘PC brigade’. Banning midget entertainment, which goes beyond what would ever be tolerable for other groups, would not mean the end of people with dwarfism in entertainment. However, it would aid in the fight for equality, but at the same time would perhaps limit some of Warwick’s work, as well as work for those represented by Willow management. However, once again the views of people with dwarfism are ignored in favour of those who partake and profit from midget entertainment (until of course, they experience the repercussions). If midgetism is accepted then no measures, including banning midget entertainment, will be implemented.

But you don’t have to watch it! Often, when people are offended by certain representations, they are told just not to watch it, or ‘just to switch television channels.’ But this ignores the fact that people are often offended, not because they cannot take a joke, but because they become the joke in society. As shown, representations of dwarfism, which are constructed by midgetism, affect how people with dwarfism are perceived and subsequently treated by other members of society (Pritchard, 2017, 2021a). Thus, the blame lies with those viewing certain representations, being influenced by them and subsequently acting out on them, as opposed to those who view them and get offended due to the fact that they know from experience what the repercussions will be. Telling me I do not have to watch it puts the blame on me, instead of those who are influenced by the representation to act inappropriately towards people with dwarfism in society. Even if I had never watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that does not mean that people will stop asking if I am ‘grumpy’ or ‘happy’ or where my six little

‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism  87 friends are. I may be confused about why they are asking such random questions, and remain in blissful ignorance, but that does not stop them from deeming me inferior and the butt of the joke. That is why they should refrain from being exposed to problematic representations, as opposed to telling me that I should just not watch the show. But unless the representation is banned or changed then there is no guarantee that they will not be exposed to it and influenced by it. Whilst I would like to see some of the truly problematic representations, such as midget tossing, midget bowling and in some cases midget wrestling banned, I try and refrain from wanting representations I do not agree with being banned, however, when the representation is influenced by midgetism and subsequently impacts the social standing of people with dwarfism, it is not enough just to tell the person who is offended because they are mocked as a result to just ‘not watch it’. It is about removing or changing the representation in order to remove midgetism. We need to stop encouraging those who are influenced by the representations and thus take midgetism away from the screen and the public domain in order to prevent others from watching these shows. However, we cannot take away their televisions, and their rights to visit a cinema or theatre and thus we need to either remove or change the representation. In some cases, shows now come with a content warning, especially if the show contains derogatory and outdated representations of ethnic minorities. However, at this point in time, there are no warnings for shows featuring midgetism. Even if there was, it would not guarantee that people would change their behaviours. Shows that can be changed, such as the annual pantomime can be altered to remove midgetism. Pritchard (2022) argues that the representations of the seven dwarfs can be changed by the humour around them being disability humour as opposed to disabling humour. But for shows that have already been created, such as Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), a warning would be more appropriate in regard to the social implications. However, why some people need to be warned that a fairytale does not actually represent reality in an attempt to try and prevent their negative behaviours is concerning.

Denying/ignoring the social implications Whenever I hear a joke being made about dwarfism, hear the word midget being used in the media or see a midget entertainer being hired out, I worry about how others will use that towards me. Negative assumptions are placed upon marginalised groups in order to homogenise them (Burch, 2020). There is no conceptual divide between midget entertainers and people with dwarfism. The only difference is whilst one has a choice to be humiliated the other does not. ­Midgetism in entertainment reinforces the idea that people with dwarfism are comedic ­novelties and thus become a form of encouragement to mock them. The person with dwarfism in the street thus becomes a mirror image of whatever representation of dwarfism a person is exposed to. I do not necessarily find all humorous representations of dwarfism offensive, but rather wish that they did not exist simply because they provide acceptability for others to believe that dwarfism is just a

88  ‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism joke. For example, it could just be a meme or a pun, such as ‘dwarf shortage’, not meant to be taken seriously. However, those who then see a person with dwarfism and react to their presence in a way influenced by that representation, do take it seriously as they are unable to separate fiction from reality. My sister-in-law once told me how a colleague in a supermarket ran up to her to tell her that she had just seen ‘a real-life midget’. Unfortunately, this was me and thus the woman did not receive the response she was hoping for from my sister-in-law. However, after being corrected she remarked about how cute I was, which is a more subtle form of midgetism to aid in playing down the situation. What this demonstrates is that the rarity of dwarfism in society coupled with its entertainment factor results in unwanted attention. I was not just another person, but instead ‘a real-life midget’ like those who are encouraged to be stared at and ridiculed in various entertainment venues. Most people will only see people with dwarfism on a screen or in a book, where they are encouraged to see them as a novelty and thus when the rare occasion of seeing a ‘real-life midget’ occurs their reaction is one of surprise and is influenced by midgetism. I can expect people to be surprised to see a very short woman but to see a ‘real-life midget’ is something else. It is a thought influenced by midgetism that adds cultural baggage to a woman with dwarfism. Unwanted attention, influenced by midgetism, can influence how people with dwarfism behave within society, including avoiding certain public spaces (Pritchard, 2021b). This avoidance aids in minimising the amount of unwanted attention they receive, and subsequently, the potential emotional impact certain encounters can produce. The emotional impact these social barriers have is a form of psycho-emotional disablism (Reeve, 2014), which can result in people with dwarfism resisting or challenging dominant discourses associated with their impairment. However, it does not come easy, as shown in Chapter 7. The numerous identities that people with dwarfism have, whether constructed by their gender, ethnicity, nationality or occupation, are overridden by the perception of them as comical figures of entertainment. Although I am a lecturer, an identity which remains invisible unless I am on campus, I am often mistaken for an entertainer as my dwarf body does not permit me to pass as anything else. The biggest problem is that it results in other people treating me the same way as a midget entertainer. For example, I have been picked up (dwarf tossing), called numerous names relating to midget characters (Mini-Me) or asked if they can hire me out. I have also been photographed by people, usually in groups, who laugh as they take pictures. Another way of denying midgetism is to ignore or downplay the social repercussions, or even deny that they ever happen. When I have relayed some of my experiences I have been made out to be a liar, such as being told outright that I have never been called a midget before. Just to clarify these judgements are from average-sized people with limited or no experience of dwarfism. It is a disempowering experience, which makes midgetism harder to challenge. This assumed authority is a strategy to enable them to revel in the guilt-free pleasure of engaging in midget entertainment.

‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism  89 Others defend the perpetrator, whether it is because ‘they are just kids’ or ‘I was only joking’. These attitudes aid in reinforcing an unequal power relation which allows people to freely engage with midgetism. Van Dijk (1992) points out that because there are social norms and laws which prohibit blatant discrimination towards numerous minority groups they do not want to be seen as racist, homophobic or disablist. To alleviate this problem, by denying the social implications of midgetism and placing the blame upon the person with dwarfism, such as claiming that they have no sense of humour or insinuating that they are lying, allows others to engage in midgetism without shame. When social media was abuzz with the video of nine-year-old Quaden B ­ ayles crying and shouting that he wanted to kill himself due to constant bullying (­Perrett, 2020), people were of course shocked and upset. The video was recorded by his mother, Yarraka Bayles, who wanted to expose the psycho-emotional impact bullying was having on her son. Events such as this, challenge the longheld belief that people with dwarfism are ‘happy little beings’ with no other emotions other than glee. It also exposes the constant bullying and ridicule of people with dwarfism experience, something which is not as popular as midget entertainment. Instead of people confronting the causes, their reactions to the video were of pity, charity or denial. However, whilst reactions, such as pity and charity, may provide some solace to those impacted at the time, they fail to challenge the long-held causes of bullying. One of the reactions towards Quaden’s story was that of charity. That seemed easier to do than fight midgetism. Acts of charity do not challenge the underlying causes, in this case, midgetism, but ignore them whilst making the average-sized contributors look good. Whilst it may have helped Quaden in the short term, it neglects the fact that this type of bullying happens all the time to a majority of people with dwarfism, including children with dwarfism. Children with dwarfism are often bullied at school, and in numerous cases, the bullying is influenced by cultural depictions of dwarfism (Ktenidis, 2022). It is not charity that people with dwarfism need, but a different social mindset that is free of midgetism. What I found to be completely off the mark, perhaps ironic, is that Quaden was offered a free trip to Disneyland. Of course, that would cheer up any child, but the cynical part of me felt that it would be a good opportunity to meet the seven characters that have helped to reinforce midgetism. Some of the bullying children with dwarfism encounter include being called names associated with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Ktenidis, 2022). People with dwarfism already get asked where their other six little friends are (implying that they are the seventh dwarf), however, being in Disneyland, where the character’s presence is even more prominent, would only make this experience even more probable. A participant with dwarfism in Pritchard (2021b: 110) recalled: I never want to be next to a poster advertising Snow White [and the seven dwarfs]; I never want to be beneath the sign saying Snow White, because I never want to be that photo opportunity for someone with a camera phone. (Naomi)

90  ‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism Thus, whilst Quaden may enjoy a trip to Disneyland, the space can still influence problematic behaviours towards him. It is nice to try and comfort a child who experiences bullying, but without recognising the influential factors will fail to get to the root cause. Thus, offering monetary solutions and gifts is a plaster that hides the true causes and society’s role in bullying experiences by people with dwarfism. Hugh Jackman, who depicted P.T. Barnum in the 2017 film, ‘The Greatest Showman’ (See Chapter 3), based on the life of freak show owner P.T. Barnum, also contacted Quaden. Again, the irony is that Hugh made a lot of money from portraying Barnum in a good light, and reinforcing the idea that the freak show was a job for people with dwarfism. On social media Hugh Jackman posted: Quaden, you are stronger than you know and no matter what you’ve got a friend in me, so everyone lets please be kind to one another. Bullying is not okay, period. Life is hard enough so let’s just remember every person in front of us is facing some kind of battle. So let’s just be kind. (Henderson, 2020) Hugh’s comment is heartwarming, but it misses the mark. Quaden’s ‘battle’ is against midgetism. The way he is perceived is the result of how dwarfism is represented, including within films. Hugh could be an ally to Quaden by ensuring that the choices he makes in his profession do not reinforce midgetism. This would help to prove that bullying, and its causes, are not acceptable. Some of the supportive comments included, ‘I hope the love that is being shown [in the comments] helps him to gain confidence – he is such a little darling and should feel proud to be who he is’. Whilst this comment is undeniably supportive, it does not get to the root cause of his bullying. How can a person feel proud of their dwarfism, when it is represented as someone who lacks dignity? All reactions, such as pity, charity and denial do nothing to challenge midgetism, but rather provide emotional comfort to Quaden, but also average-sized people. Those who react to the video of Quaden Bayles, may have laughed at characters such as Mini-Me or the dwarfs in a pantomime, but providing a donation so a young boy can have a fun week in Disneyland, removes all responsibility. It is important to demonstrate that the root causes of the bullying Quaden, as well as other people with dwarfism, receive is influenced by problematic cultural representations of dwarfism. However, none of these issues are challenged, instead, Quaden’s bullying is based on his dwarfism. This implies that having a condition, which results in a different body size and shape is the cause of his bullying, as opposed to how that body is culturally constructed within society. Whilst a different body size will elicit stares, some of the bullying Quaden experienced included being called a midget. Midget may have been popularised within the freak show, yet despite the show’s demise at the turn of the 20th century, the continual use of the term within the media has allowed it to remain popular within society.

‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism  91 As the story gained a lot of media attention, especially when the family began receiving large donations, rumours started to circulate on numerous social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. It was claimed that his mother was coaching him to pretend he was being bullied (Chenery and Armstrong, 2020). This type of rumour aids in reframing people with dwarfism as happy beings with no other emotions, including the ability to be psycho-emotionally impacted by being treated lesser than others in society. Quaden’s family filed a lawsuit against Miranda Divine, columnist for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, owned by News Corp Australia for claiming that the mother was ‘coaching the kid to say those things that no nine-year-old would say’ (BBC, 2020). That is because not every nine year old has dwarfism and thus does not experience the psycho-emotional impact of midgetism. Other rumours claimed that Quaden was in fact an adult and in some cases an actor (Ary News, 2020). However, a quick look at any photograph of Quaden clearly shows that he is only a child. People rarely see the implications of midgetism and thus it often comes as a surprise to them. But disbelieving those who are the victims of disablist hate speech further disempowers them and allows midgetism to continue. Whilst social media sites are rife with conspiracy theories, why some people choose to believe that Quaden was actually an adult is not just down to ignorance, but also a defence against admitting to society’s role in the treatment of people with dwarfism. Instead of taking responsibility, which requires people to change their perception of dwarfism and how they view midget entertainment, they tried to deny the social consequences. Denying the social consequences removes all blame and allows people to continue to hold derogatory beliefs about people with dwarfism. People failed to face up to the causes of his bullying. How many ­people who watched that video got upset, but later will probably laugh at the seven dwarfs in a pantomime production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or will support midget wrestling, as ‘it’s a job for them’?

Conclusion Midget entertainment is defended in different ways and for different reasons. Midget entertainment aids in maintaining a social hierarchy, which indicates that tallness is revered within society. Midget entertainment is a non-normative positivism for both the midget entertainer and numerous event agencies. Midget entertainers defend it for economic reasons, whilst audiences defend it in order to continue to maintain an unequal power relation. To defend midget entertainment, people either label others as ‘overly PC’ or falsify claims of the social impact of midgetism. When others try to deny the experiences of people with dwarfism they are removing the responsibility of society and permitting midgetism to continue. Trivialising midget entertainment as just humorous entertainment aids in downplaying the impact it has on people with dwarfism in society and therefore aids in maintaining social dominance over them. The social consequences of

92  ‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism midgetism are often ignored or disbelieved, as this aids in providing others with the guilt-free pleasure of engaging in midgetism. Denying the social implications of midgetism aids in maintaining positive self-preservation for those who support midget entertainment (van Dijk, 1992). Agencies, such as Haley B can continue to rent out midgets for profit without seeming unethical, whilst audiences can laugh at midget entertainers without feeling guilty about the social implications. Ensuring that entertainment is free from midgetism, including the use of the word midget, is not going to prevent people with dwarfism from pursuing a career in entertainment. However, it will require entertainers with dwarfism to rely on actual talents as opposed to a genetic condition that is exploited. This may make it harder for some people with dwarfism to become entertainers, but disability equality for all should be placed before the rights of a minority to engage in entertainment which is exploitative and oppressive.

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‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism  93 Henderson, C. (2020) Quaden Bayles: Hugh Jackman, Megyn Kelly send support to bullied boy after viral video. USA Today [online] Available from: https://eu.usatoday. com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2020/02/20/quaden-bayles-hugh-jackman-supports-­ bullied-boy-after-viral-video/4826066002/ (accessed 14/08/2021). Hodson, G., Rush, J. and MacInnis, C.C. (2010) A joke is just a joke (except when it isn’t): Cavalier humor beliefs facilitate the expression of group dominance motives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99 (4) 660–682. Kennedy, D. (2003) Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughters’ Eyes. Emmarus: Rodale. Kohn, D. (2018) Warwick Davis blasts Twitter for not removing ‘midget’ tweet from his timeline. The Wrap [online] Available from: https://www.thewrap.com/warwick-­davistwitter-not-removing-midget-tweet-timeline/ (accessed 14/08/2021). Ktenidis, A. (2022) En/counters with disablist school violence: experiences of young people with dwarfism in the United Kingdom. British Journal of Sociology of Education. 43 (8) 1196–1215. Longmore, P.K. (2005) The cultural framing of disability: telethons as a case study. Modern Language Association, 120 (2) 502–508. Martin, N. (2010) A preliminary study of broad disability related themes within the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Disability and Society 25 (5) 539–548. Morgan, P. (2018) Add dwarf to cart ‘Little people’ are frustrated others are taking offence on their behalf. The Spectator [online] Available from: https://www.spectator.co.uk/­ article/add-dwarf-to-cart (accessed 14/08/2021). Perrett, C. (2020) The viral video of a boy who was bullied for his dwarfism has been taken down. Here’s how the Quaden Bayles story unfolded. Insider [online] Available from: https://www.insider.com/quaden-bayles-boy-bullied-for-dwarfism-video-deletedtimeline-2020-2 (accessed 14/08/2021). Petter, O. (2019) Jimmy Carr faces backlash over ‘abortion dwarf’ joke. The Independent [online] Available from: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/jimmy-carr-standuptour-abortion-dwarf-joke-backlash-criticism-a8968486.html (accessed 12/10/2022). Pritchard, E. (2017) Cultural representations of dwarfs and their disabling effects on dwarfs in society. Considering Disability, 1 (1) 1–17. Pritchard, E. (2019) Jimmy Carr’s dwarfism ‘joke’ is a reminder that people like me are still treated as just a punchline. Huffpost [online] Available from: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jimmy-carr-dwarfism-joke_uk_5d0cbdece4b0aa375f4b1362 (accessed 15/03/2022). Pritchard, E. (2021a) The metanarrative of dwarfism: heightism and its social implications. In Bolt, D. (Ed) The Metanarrative of Disability Culture, Assumed Authority, and the Normative Social Order. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 123–137. Pritchard, E. (2021b) Dwarfism, Spatialities and Disabling Experiences. Abingdon: Routledge. Pritchard, E. (2022) “Get down on your knees”: representing the seven dwarfs in the pantomime. Disability Studies Quarterly, 42 (1). Rahman, S. (2015) Meet the dwarf who gets handcuffed to drunks at British bachelor parties. Vice [online] Available from: https://www.vice.com/en/article/yvxbyx/­ handcuffed-to-dwarves-for-a-stag-do-621#:~:text=For%20Ben%20Wilcox%2C%20 a%2030,their%20way%20through%20the%20evening (accessed 16/08/2021). Reeve, D. (2014) Psycho-emotional disablism and internalised oppression. In Swain, J., French, S., Barnes, C. and Thomas, C. (Eds) Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments (3rd edition). London: Sage. pp. 92–98.

94  ‘It’s just a joke’: in defence of midgetism Townsend, L. (2006) Unborn baby with dwarfism killed at 32 weeks in Australian hospital. National Right to Life [online] Available from: https://www.nrlc.org/archive/news/2000/ NRL07/dwarf.html (accessed 21/06/2019). Van Dijk, T.A. (1992) Discourse and the denial of racism. Discourse and Society, 3, 87–118. Westbrook, C. (2013) Comic relief 2013 is ratings hits for BBC as 12.2m tune in. The Metro [online] Available from: https://metro.co.uk/2013/03/16/comic-relief-funny-for-money-isa-ratings-hit-as-12-2m-tune-in-3545225/ (accessed 09/10/2020). Willow Management (2014) News [online]. Available from: http://www.willow­management. co.uk/news.html?start=6 (accessed 12/10/2022).

7

Fighting midgetism

Introduction What several chapters have shown is that when people with dwarfism choose to partake in midget entertainment there is little or no backlash from general society. In fact, their actions are often supported, such as when midget entertainers are given a voice in news outlets. There is an acceptance given to midget entertainers because they adhere to the metanarrative of dwarfism and thus follow the normative social order (Bolt, 2021). In other words, they know their inferior place within society, or at least remain ignorant of it. People are more tolerant of midget entertainment than they are of those who speak out against it. Because midget entertainers are adhering to stereotypes created by average-sized people, which ensures that they remain inferior to them, their behaviour is seen as acceptable and is often defended by average-sized people (See Chapters 4 and 5). As a result, the resistance from people with dwarfism and their allies is deemed problematic as they challenge and expose their disablist practices. This is particularly unwelcome in the 21st century where society considers itself to be more enlightened and inclusive. As a result, backlash from people with dwarfism experience can be considered a form of epistemic injustice. Epistemic injustice is the failure to believe speakers due to inappropriate prejudices (McKinnon, 2016). It can be argued that due to the stereotypes such as ‘bigger is better’ and that people with dwarfism are childlike and humorous, their resistance to midgetism is unlikely to be taken seriously. History has shown that activism is important for minority groups in fighting for equality. Early disability advocacy was rooted in the charity and medical models of disability (Berghs et al., 2020). Whilst these movements attempted to provide welfare for disabled people, they were often led and controlled by non-disabled people. The 1970s saw a move to a social model based advocacy led by disabled people who advocated for changes within society (Berghs et al., 2020). However, despite the creation of associations for dwarfism, such as Little People of America in 1957 and later the Restricted Growth Association in 1970, activism for the rights of people with dwarfism has not been as proactive. This is not to say that some associations have been advocating for equality, but as this chapter will show there have been numerous obstacles.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003382461-7

96  Fighting midgetism In previous chapters, I examined the various forms of midgetism which have for a long time reinforced problematic beliefs about people with dwarfism. This chapter explores the numerous forms of advocacy for people with dwarfism, as well as some of the barriers that affected activism. Whilst there exist numerous associations for people with dwarfism worldwide, in this chapter I demonstrate how subtle forms of midgetism and epistemic injustice have impacted the potential for associations to be prominent spaces for activism. Using numerous examples, but more specifically divisions regarding cures and treatments for dwarfism, the lack of activism, I argue, is because the voices of parents of children with dwarfism often dominate these spaces and in some cases dismiss the views of people with dwarfism. In the second part, I explore how social media sites, such as Facebook, have provided the opportunity for activism through the creation of groups specifically for people with dwarfism. These groups I refer to as virtual non-normate spaces, as they are predominantly occupied and controlled by people with dwarfism. I draw on one particular group, LP Only, which as the name suggests is only for people with dwarfism. This group was created by several people with dwarfism as a response to the dominance of parental voices within associations. I demonstrate how networked individualism enables people with dwarfism to come together as a collective, which has the potential to share experiences of midgetism and campaign against causes of midgetism. However, I also question the involvement of midget entertainers in these virtual non-normate spaces and how they can impact activism. Lastly, I focus on my own experiences of individual activism as an academic with dwarfism and the epistemic injustices I have encountered. I demonstrate how activism is not straightforward and can often result in abuse, including disability hate speech. This chapter offers some guidance on how to improve advocacy for people with dwarfism.

Associations for people with dwarfism Challenging midgetism should be a priority for associations for people with dwarfism, hence it is important to explore these non-normate spaces. There exist numerous associations for people with dwarfism around the world, including, but not limited to: The Danish Dwarf Association, Little People of America (LPA), Little People of Canada, Little People of Ireland, Little People of New Zealand and Short Statured People of Australia (SSPA). Little People of America, founded in 1957, is by far the largest association for people with dwarfism, with over 8,000 members (Little People of America, 2020). Not only does their annual conference attract people with dwarfism and their families from across the US but also from numerous other countries. There are several associations for people with dwarfism based in the UK. These include the Dwarfs Sports Association UK (DSAUK), Little People UK (LPUK), Restricted Growth Association (RGA), Short Statured Scotland (SSS) and Walking with Giants. This chapter mostly draws on experiences relating to UK-based associations.

Fighting midgetism  97 At first, the sheer number of associations for people with dwarfism would suggest the potential for a strong network of advocacy for people with dwarfism. In the US, former president of LPA, lawyer and activist with dwarfism Angela Muir Van Etten has been a strong campaigner for the rights of people with dwarfism. As a lawyer, Angela has tirelessly campaigned to ban midget tossing in the US. However, as documented in her book ‘Always an Advocate’ this fight has been met with numerous backlash, demonstrating that advocacy is often long drawn out and difficult. There are always those against challenging the status quo and thus campaigners require strong support. That is why it is important to explore some of the dynamics within these associations. Most associations were formed by people with dwarfism, including the RGA and LPA. In this chapter, I refer to spaces for people with dwarfism as ‘non-normate spaces’ as their purpose is to accommodate people with dwarfism. Kruse (2010) suggests that these spaces are ‘re-statuarized’ in other words purposely reframed to accommodate people with dwarfism, who are the dominant users. Everyday spaces can be conceived as ‘normate spaces’ that are dominated by the needs and views of average-sized people (normates). However, associations for people with dwarfism supposedly offer refuge from these normate spaces. The purpose of these associations is to provide support to people with dwarfism, and their families, as well as the opportunity to socialise. The majority of associations hold numerous events throughout the year, including one annual conference. These are meant to be spaces where people with dwarfism can socialise with other people sharing the same condition in supposedly safe spaces. For example, they can meet up and drink at a bar without the fear of being stared at or called names by strangers. Associations demonstrate how problematic attitudes within society force people with dwarfism to find refuge amongst others and thus segregate them from the rest of society. Due to social stigma, people with dwarfism are often depicted in groups, or sub-communities, where they can find comfort among themselves (Enderle, 1998). Whilst it is understandable that people with dwarfism often want to associate with like-minded people and have the opportunity to partake in typical social and leisure activities, to me these non-normate spaces highlight the oppressive nature of normate spaces. Imagine, that for a couple of weekends a year you can have the opportunity to partake in everyday activities without fear of social abuse. However, for the remainder of the year, you must endure stares, name-calling, laughter and the odd photograph every time you go out in public. It is an aversive segregating practice that serves to highlight how discriminating normate spaces are for people with dwarfism. In 2010 I joined two associations in order to recruit participants for my doctoral thesis, which focused on the experiences of people with dwarfism in public spaces. Most people with dwarfism have never seen anyone like them before unless they participate in an association for people with dwarfism (Ablon, 1984). Unlike midget entertainers, I was exposed to the media, I met people with dwarfism who wore ordinary clothes, partook in everyday activities, worked in everyday occupations and had families. At first, I enjoyed my experience. I felt comfortable being in a space where my dwarfism was accepted and thus I could

98  Fighting midgetism enjoy partaking in activities without fear of encountering abuse. I remember coming out of my hotel room and waiting for the lift. As I stood there, I heard several children coming down the adjacent corridor. I began to panic as I have had plenty of experiences of being surrounded by children who like to point and laugh at ‘the dwarf’, whilst their parents ignore the situation. However, it occurred to me that these children were either going to have dwarfism or be related to someone with the condition. I suddenly relaxed. It felt great to feel how other people get to feel in society on a daily basis. However, over time I found these places to be damaging and exclusive. Associations are meant to allow people with dwarfism to discuss issues that they face in society and act as spaces of advocacy. However, the voices of people with dwarfism are often silenced by average-sized members, especially parents. There is nothing new about disabled charities being overrun by non-disabled people with their own self-interests in disability. There is contention in regard to the participation of parents of disabled children in disability activism (Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019). Parents not only have different needs but can also disempower people with dwarfism through their actions. Understandably, new parents will want to seek advice about having a child with dwarfism. Even the needs of parents, or expectant parents, with dwarfism, will have different support needs to average-sized parents. For example, parents with dwarfism may require advice about what pram is most suitable for their body size, whereas an average-sized parent will not need to think about this issue. These factors allow their needs, such as how to raise a child with dwarfism to be more prominent than other issues that people with dwarfism are more likely to be affected by. Whilst associations should be shared spaces of support and advice, from experience, they are often dominated by average-sized parents, whose ableist beliefs and privileges seep into non-normate spaces for people with dwarfism. As a child, I vaguely remember attending two conventions held by an association for people with dwarfism, based in the UK. Years later I asked my average-sized mother why we stopped going. She explained that the conventions were dominated by average-sized parents who seemed to think they were the experts on dwarfism as opposed to people with the condition. She recalled being at meetings where there were never any people with dwarfism. My mother told me how in one instance she had referred to me as a ‘dwarf’ in front of some average-sized mothers, who were all carrying clip-boards, who told her, ‘actually they prefer to be called little people’. Parents may claim the symbolic authority of speaking for disabled people, influenced by their own ableist beliefs. Speaking on behalf of people with dwarfism is a form of normative arrogance (Bolt, 2021) which posits the average-sized person as the expert and therefore controller of how dwarfism is perceived. This normative arrogance is influenced by epistemic injustice as people with dwarfism are deemed less credible, as average-sized parents hold certain beliefs about them (Fricker, 2007). However, just because a person is the parent of a child with dwarfism does not mean that their views are correct and thus parents should not assume that they are the authoritative voice of dwarfism. As a result, my mother went up to a group of ‘little people’ and asked them what

Fighting midgetism  99 term they preferred to be used to refer to their condition. They replied ‘dwarfs’. Thus, whilst parents may think a term is right, they cannot assume. Furthermore, recently on social media, a mother stated how she referred to her teenage daughter’s condition using terms including, dwarfism, restricted growth and little person. I asked her what term her daughter preferred and she responded with Achondroplasia or dwarfism. If her daughter prefers those terms it seems that little person and restricted growth are only her average-sized mother’s preferred terms. As the mother’s identity is not shaped by these terms then it is pertinent that the mother only refers to her daughter’s condition using the ones that her daughter has chosen and feels comfortable with. Although terms can differ, the point is that average-sized parents should not be speaking for people with dwarfism and deciding what terms they think are most appropriate. In relation to advocacy, the choice of terms may not seem important, however, these incidents demonstrate how average-sized people’s own views can lead to advocacy based on their own perceptions and needs, which often differ from those of people with dwarfism. McGuire (2016, cited in Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019: n.d.) argues that parental involvement in disability activism can often impede the empowerment of disabled people. This sort of behaviour is what led to the creation of ‘LPOnly’ a Facebook group for only people with dwarfism. This decision was in response to the lack of voice people with dwarfism were finding within some associations. In other words, to truly become a non-normate space, where people with dwarfism were in charge, a ban on average-sized people was imposed. Whilst non-normate spaces provide the opportunity to resist and challenge normativism positivisms within society, depending on their purpose, how they are run and the identity of its members can reinforce normative positivisms (Bolt, 2015). These normative positivisms reflect ableist beliefs, which in this case, an average-sized person’s views and opinions override those of someone with dwarfism. In numerous cases, average-sized members turn associations into their own normate space. It is unlikely that most parents have had any contact with a person with dwarfism before they had a child with dwarfism or joined an association, and thus most of their perceptions about dwarfism will be shaped by the metanarrative of dwarfism and thus unfortunately midgetism. It is only if they are open to listening and learning from people with dwarfism that they can become true allies. As a person with dwarfism, I thought being a member of one of these associations would have given me a voice and a space where I would be free to discuss issues related to dwarfism. However, parents would often dominate these associations. For example, on one association’s social media page, an average-sized mother shared a photograph of ‘all the boys’ playing football at one of their conventions. At an association for people with dwarfism, you would expect the photograph to show several boys with dwarfism playing football. It turned out to be a picture of several average-sized fathers. The people with dwarfism were nowhere to be seen. As a person with dwarfism, participating in team sports has often been offlimits. Average-sized men have the opportunity to play recreational football, with their average-sized peers on a weekend or evening after work, throughout the year,

100  Fighting midgetism whereas a person with dwarfism is likely to be the only person with dwarfism in their local community and thus is unlikely to participate in football made up of average-sized people. It was not only the needs of parents that dominated associations but also their attitudes and actions. For example, it became hard to discuss advocacy on association pages on social media sites, as parents often dominated them by sharing pictures of their children in their new school uniforms or eating spaghetti, which seemed more important to them than advocating for better equality. The actual needs of people with dwarfism are often overshadowed by the parents’ needs to socialise with others to whom they could relate. Some average-sized parents would often try to silence any comments or discussion of issues that they did not like. Parents can often subvert the voices of disabled people as leaders of their own movement (Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019). I remember one member with dwarfism sharing an informative article about the freak show and how an average-sized mother responded by complaining that it was upsetting to her. Only posting what is deemed acceptable by average-sized parents aids in silencing the voices of people with dwarfism. Our voices are only permitted if they do not challenge the ableist beliefs of average-sized parents. Members with dwarfism must tread lightly to not upset them and ensure that they do not get in the way of the wants and needs of average-sized members. The mother’s attitude was an ableist demand that signified that the non-normate space was to be dictated by average-sized people. Whilst having to confront the fact that your child was once constructed as an oddity can be upsetting, challenging the image can aid in progress. The parent can disconnect themselves from the experience, whereas the person with dwarfism has to deal with the social consequences. It is as if some parents wanted to hide away from the real issues affecting people with dwarfism and instead wanted to be distracted by cute photographs that they could share with other average-sized parents, who would tell them what a ‘cute and handsome little chap’ their son is. I am not suggesting that children should not be praised or deemed cute, but it seemed as if there was more to these comments than just usual praise. These comments act as a reassurance to the parents that their child is ‘normal’, aiding in challenging their subconscious ableist beliefs, influenced by midgetism. This sort of attitude may aid in comforting the parent’s psycho-emotional well-being but it does nothing to promote equality for people with dwarfism, including for their children. Whilst the intentions of many non-disabled people often start out as allyship, slowly the voices of disabled people become quieter and quieter. There are advantages that non-disabled people have. Average-sized parents are likely to have better access to education and employment which provide them with better capital (Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019). Furthermore, some people with dwarfism, who do not own a car, only attend conventions held over a longer period of time due to the numerous disabling barriers with public transport (Pritchard, 2021a). Fewer travel barriers make it easier for non-disabled to travel to social events, allowing their voices to be more prominent on committees.

Fighting midgetism  101

I’d rather eradicate midgetism than dwarfism Average-sized parents’ understanding of dwarfism is likely to be sullied by hegemonic beliefs about dwarfism, which existed in their minds long before they had a child with dwarfism. Pantich (2008 cited in Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019: n.d.) refers to parents as ‘accidental activists’ because few parents had an interest in disability politics before their role as a parent. Whilst raising a child with dwarfism and meeting other people with dwarfism at associations may help to dispel some of these beliefs, they are unlikely to be eradicated. Parents still often express subtle forms of midgetism. For example, some parents consider entertainment to be the only career option for their children. When I’ve spoken out against some of the work by LPUK patron and actor Warwick Davis, I have been met with hostility. LPUK has a high number of average-sized parents, and by criticising some of the roles Warwick has chosen, I have challenged their hegemonic ableist beliefs that reinforce stereotypes of dwarfism, such as playing a Leprechaun is acceptable, but also that it is a job for us. In 2022, I was invited on BBC 5 Live, a national UK radio show to discuss the impact of cultural representations of dwarfism. I mentioned Warwick Davis’s previous roles, including playing pantomime dwarfs and Leprechauns. I explained why these roles were problematic as they influence how society perceives people with dwarfism. An average-sized mother of a child with dwarfism tried to defend Warwick’s choice of acting roles by stating that it was all that was available when he started out. This is despite most people with dwarfism being employed in various occupations, even when Warwick began acting in the 1980s. Furthermore, other actors with dwarfism, such as Linda Hunt and Danny Woodburn, whose careers predate Warwick’s, are known for refusing roles that encourage midgetism. This attitude is an example of subtle midgetism which defends midget entertainment and thus hampers activism. What is problematic is that average-sized parents have never embodied dwarfism and thus never experienced the repercussions of some of Warwick’s work, such as being asked if we do ‘panto’, if we are happy or grumpy (usually accompanied by laughter) or even been called an Evil toilet dwarf, in reference to a scene in Life’s Too Short. When people with dwarfism challenge average-sized parents they go on the defence as their ableist beliefs make them think they know best. This is part of the silencing of people with dwarfism at associations. In relation to advocacy, parents and people with dwarfism can have different interests (Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019). On social media pages, such as Achondroplasia! A group for ‘Anyone who has, knows or is related to people with Achondroplasia…’ is often dominated by photographs of babies with dwarfism and parents only interested in views from other parents (who sometimes refer to themselves as ‘Achon mamas’ (mothers of children with achondroplasia)) as opposed to people with the actual condition. Whilst it is good for new parents to have a place to find advice from others, average-sized parents can often give misleading information. For example, in response to one new mother another mother responded with ‘If a child had to pick a disability to have, they would pick achondroplasia. It has

102  Fighting midgetism very manageable and minor things that medically may need tweaking but otherwise, they are just like every kid their age…only smaller.’ In this case, the mother speaks on behalf of people with dwarfism, whilst making some flawed assumptions based on her own opinions. To assume that dwarfism is a condition that results in people being only smaller than their peers dismisses a number of other identifiers associated with dwarfism, such as spinal stenosis. The mother also dismisses our experiences, shaped by social encounters. For example, metaphorically speaking I do not know if I would have picked Achondroplasia had I been given a choice. I could have done without all of the abuse which other conditions do not seem to endure as much. However, I also know that there are experiences held by other disabled people which I’m lucky not to experience. I tried to tell the mother this, whilst emphasising my identity as a person with dwarfism, and thus someone who was once a child with the condition. Yet, the mother still felt she was right and that we would pick achondroplasia given the choice, ignoring my views and embodied experiences. What this flawed assumption shows is that average-sized parents are not always equipped to make decisions, despite the ones often being given them.

Treatments – midgetism or care? One of the biggest divides between parents and people with dwarfism is the result of conflicting attitudes concerning treatments and possible cures for people with dwarfism. Associations are about fostering a positive self-identity of dwarfism, which aligns with the affirmation model of disability, however, parents wanting cures disrupt this cause. Heightist beliefs influence parental concerns about having a child below average stature (Burris-Kitchen, 2018). Furthermore, parents often internalise ideas of the ‘normal’ child (Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019: n.d.). This subtle form of midgetism is evident in the quest for cures and treatments. As a mother of a child with achondroplasia Lisa Abelow Hedley (2006, 43) admits ‘as the frantic first days [of her daughter being born with achondroplasia] unfolded, it seemed that all we could focus on was how to repair the flaws, and we would listen to anyone from a faith healer to a surgeon if we thought there was a fix’. Parents often espouse the medical model (Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019) and therefore are more likely to want to treat or, if possible, eradicate their child’s condition. Treatments and potential cures for dwarfism are not new. The 1960s–1970s saw advancements in treatment for hypopituitary dwarfism (Adelson, 2005). These treatments usually involve regular hormone injections, which aid in promoting growth. Growth hormone treatments have practically helped to eradicate some forms of dwarfism. The first treatment for genetic forms of dwarfism, and probably the most controversial, is limb-lengthening (or leg-lengthening). Limb-lengthening has been described as something ‘from far away in another culture where scientific experimentation was prioritised over self-acceptance’ (Sullivan-Sanford, 2006: 33). Limb-lengthening involves surgery to break both of the child’s legs (and sometimes arms) then having them set with screws which are turned each day for several months in order to encourage new bone to grow in between, thus lengthening the limbs. Limb-lengthening is described as having

Fighting midgetism  103 ‘high complication rate and significant morbidity with a relatively long period of disability during the process even when no complications occur’ (Moseley, 1989: 38). Furthermore, Emily Sanford Sullivan, a woman with dwarfism who had the procedure states, ‘As a patient who screamed “I hate you!”’ to her surgeon until she was hoarse as he unscrewed pins from her thigh, I can attest that the procedures are very painful’ (Sullivan-Sanford, 2006, 36). I would say that this procedure, which is extremely painful and requires numerous hospital stays and visits, is worse than any of the other surgeries a child with dwarfism may have, yet parents have often opted for it. Thus, when some parents are concerned about children with dwarfism having ‘multiple procedures’ less concern is given when the opportunity to normalise them is offered. Limb-lengthening only increases the height of a child with dwarfism but does not improve any secondary conditions, yet this treatment has long been accepted by average-sized parents. This suggests that parents are more focused on their children being taller, which fits in with society’s narrative that bigger is better. The average height of a person with dwarfism after the procedure is between 5 ft (152 cm) and 5 ft 4" (163 cm) (International Centre for Limb-Lengthening, 2022), which is still considered small in most western societies. Of course, in a world created for the average-sized person, being taller is easier, even if it is only marginally. Yet, there are ways of accommodating various body sizes. For example, I would rather have pedal extensions fitted to my car than have my legs broken and stretched to be able to drive. Parents may present their own interests framed as the needs and rights of their children, without recognising potential conflicts of interest (Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019). For example, some parents insist that their child will have treatments to increase their height without any consideration of their child’s decision. However, disabled people’s control over intervention is important as they have the right to control what is done to their bodies (Swain and French, 2000). To actively decide on behalf of their child questions the parent’s acceptance of their child’s condition. In 2020 it was announced that there was a new treatment (Vosoritide) for Achondroplasia which promises to be a less painful and invasive alternative to limb-lengthening (Saner, 2020). It is also suggested that increasing a child’s growth can also help with treating some secondary conditions, although the focus of the new treatment is mainly on growth. Whilst I am not against improving some aspects of my dwarfism, such as spinal problems, parental reasons seem to go a lot deeper. Parents want the ‘normal’ child they were originally expecting and through societal beliefs about disability, think that disability is a burden and best that it does not exist. As an average-sized parent states, ‘Some of the challenges that these children [with dwarfism] go through physically – the multiple operations they may have to have – if this puts an end to that, I think it’s incredible’ (Kristina Grey quoted in Saner, 2020: n.d.). This quote frames dwarfism through a medical model lens, which insinuates that people ‘suffer’ from the condition, whilst ignoring other elements of living with dwarfism. Interventions, including treatments and cures, imply that disabled people cannot be happy or enjoy an adequate quality of life (Swain and French, 2000). This claim resonates with the

104  Fighting midgetism metanarrative of the scientific fix, which suggests that only interventions can provide disabled people with a good life (Lindemann, 2006). It is important to point out that not all children with dwarfism have multiple operations. Also, for those who do, it is not for average-sized people to judge the impact it has on children with dwarfism. Promoting treatments therefore seems to take the worst-case scenario approach of living with dwarfism in order for average-sized parents to justify their own beliefs about the condition, which are not always well informed. It also ignores some of the wider experiences of living with dwarfism, including external factors impacted by midgetism. Whilst I cannot speak on behalf of all people with dwarfism, I can concur that my dwarfism does not impact my quality of life, as much as midgetism. Whilst treatments such as Vosoritide go through rigorous medical testing to ensure their safety, the possibility of side effects cannot be dismissed. It is well documented that limb lengthening can result in neurologic injury and vascular injury (Paley, 1990). Emily Sullivan Sanford (2006), a woman with dwarfism who had limb-lengthening surgeries, comments on how the surgeries left her with 2 torn anterior tibialis and 60 scars. Furthermore, the side effect of one earlier growth hormone treatment was Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome (Adelson, 2005), a fatal neurodegenerative disorder. The problem is, whilst parents often make the decision for their child to have treatments, any side effects will not be experienced by them. The choice for a child with dwarfism to have their limbs lengthened or to take Vosoritide can be an epistemic injustice. Parents often feel that their child, due to their age, does not have the mental capacity to make an informed decision about what is done to their body. However, as the child embodies dwarfism they should be given more of a say. It was worrying to read a mother’s post on social media, stating that although her son liked being small, as soon as the treatment [Vosoritide] was available in the UK, he would be getting it. Whilst the mother probably meant well, she dismissed her son as an expert of his own condition and would be giving him the treatment based on her own judgements of dwarfism. The political power of parents is also a potential threat to disability rights activists insofar as parents undermine and oppose disabled activists. According to Gillian Martin, a woman with dwarfism, (quoted in Saner, 2020: n.d.) ‘adults with dwarfism in the community feel that average-height parents are being an advocate for a disability that doesn’t directly affect them. There is a fear – irrational in my view – that this research [Vosoritide] is leading the way to eradicate dwarfism’. Parents are advocating for something not all people with dwarfism want, but rather what parents want based on their own, often ableist beliefs. According to Lindemann (2006) parents are unlikely to acknowledge that their decision to treat their child’s condition is based on their own parental self-absorption. As a person with dwarfism, it is right to feel concerned about the condition I have been eradicated. It sends the message that people like me are not wanted and that average-sized people know best. The lack of acceptance from society or parents not having their ‘perfect’ child are all forms of midgetism. Of course, parents want what is best for their child,

Fighting midgetism  105 but thinking that eradicating part of their child’s identity is best for them is a form of midgetism as it places the blame upon the condition and aims to change that instead of a problematic society. A lack of voice from people with dwarfism demonstrates a lack of control over how they are represented. Any treatment for a person’s dwarfism should always be up to the person with the condition. However, most treatments are only available for children with dwarfism, which provides parents with more control over treatments. Possible cures and treatments for dwarfism have caused great divides within associations, particularly between parents and people with dwarfism.

Taking back control Disability rights activism is based on the social model and is centred on empowering disabled people (Longmore, 2003, cited in Carey, Block and Scotch, 2019: n.d.). However, if average-sized parents are fixated on cures and treatments and ignore the views and concerns of people with dwarfism, then they can impact the fight for the rights of people with dwarfism. As a result of conflicting interests and unequal power relations between average-sized parents and people with dwarfism, it needs to be ensured that people with dwarfism are given more control within associations. Whilst most associations will have some rules in place to make sure that people with dwarfism seem like the ones in charge, such as ensuring that only they can be chair of an association, it is not enough to ensure that these places truly promote the voices and needs of people with dwarfism. These procedures can be deemed tokenistic when people with dwarfism experience subtle forms of midgetism within these associations. For example, when I contacted the chair of one association, who had dwarfism, it was their average-sized partner who responded. It is not enough for a person with dwarfism to be assigned leadership positions, but they must also be the ones carrying them out. The problem is when outside organisations, whether they be film companies or retailers, need advice about dwarfism, they usually turn to associations. At first, it makes sense, as associations construct themselves as experts and of course are made up of a large number of people with dwarfism. Whilst they are the dominant voices of dwarfism, they are not always the most appropriate places for advice. Associations are not only dominated by certain voices, who are not necessarily experts, as shown they are also dominated by average-sized parents. Not everyone with dwarfism is part of an association. The reasons for not being part of an association vary. Some people just do not feel the need to be part of an association, others, like myself, have joined but left because they have felt intimidated, or worse unsafe (See Pritchard 2019). For others, they are unable to join because of travel or financial restrictions. Associations such as LPA, have reported difficulties in attracting minorities, including those from poorer, working-class backgrounds (Adelson, 2005). Thus, when an organisation, including media producers, contacts an association for people with dwarfism for advice they are being provided with a narrow view, which is not necessarily one that will gain equality for people with dwarfism. For example, if an organisation was to

106  Fighting midgetism contact LPUK for advice on entertainment featuring people with dwarfism, it is unlikely that midgetism will be challenged because of the conflicting interests of midget entertainers, including the patron of the association. LPUK was set up by Warwick Davis, his wife Sammy Davis and others, including average-sized parents. LPUK claims to promote a positive representation of dwarfism in the media. Yet, as Chapter 3 demonstrates LPUK has been silent in regard to speaking out about midget wrestling due to a conflict of interests. In some cases, the internet has provided opportunities for a more diverse range of people with dwarfism to come together.

Social media and activism Social media has become a popular and important form of communication. Social media encompasses online game platforms, dating apps, forums, online news services, and Social Networking Sites (SNS) (Pereira-Kohatsu et al., 2019). This section will predominantly focus on the role of SNS as a tool for advocacy. ‘SNS are widely used by people around the world as a way of staying connected to friends and to build social relations amongst people with shared interests and backgrounds’ (Pritchard, 2021b: 85). Furthermore, Wellman (2002) argues that supported social networks foster changes in ‘network capital’, in other words how people contact, interact and obtain information from each other. Groups for people with dwarfism, including those run by associations, often hosted on SNS, can be considered, ‘virtual non-normate spaces’. According to Kent (2021: 264), ‘… social media has provided many people with disabilities with an avenue for social interaction and participation, commerce and political activism that would be hard or even impossible without these platforms’. SNS such as Facebook have the potential to bring together the collective power of people with dwarfism to challenge midgetism. According to Baym (2015), the internet has provided new opportunities for communication. In relation to networked individualism, SNS provide people with dwarfism, who are usually sparsely located, the opportunity to communicate with a high number of people who share the same condition. Before the advancement of digital technology, people with dwarfism had limited opportunities to meet other people with the condition. Furthermore, Trevisan (2019) points out that digital technologies, including social media, can provide disabled people with more inclusive ways to participate in activism. According to Adelson (2005: 207) ‘the internet has aided in advancing the cause of dwarfism’. SNS provide a platform for them to communicate with one another and the opportunity for collective activism. Some social media groups allow both people with dwarfism and average-sized family members to join. However, like traditional associations, these spaces are often dominated by average-sized people. I always feel like parents are speaking about us like we are commodities. Average-sized members will often state that ‘I have an Achon son’ (a son with Achondroplasia) or ‘I’m an achon nanny’ (grandmother of a child with Achondroplasia). To include the grandchild’s or child’s condition within their title places emphasis upon it and ownership. Furthermore,

Fighting midgetism  107 as a collective, a lot of parents refer to themselves as ‘PoLPS’ – Parents of Little People. These titles emphasise our identity, which they use to somehow distinguish themselves from other parents. When parents use these titles, it feels as if they are celebrating the ownership of a novelty. Whilst their relation to people with dwarfism often informs their identity, often parents will specifically ask for advice from ‘mamas’ as opposed to people with the condition. Thus, whilst they advertise their ownership of us, they do not seem to respect us enough to see us as experts of our own condition. As a result, a lot of people with dwarfism tend to engage with groups specifically made up of people with dwarfism only. The way Facebook is organised provides people with dwarfism with their own virtual non-normate space. There are numerous groups on Facebook which have been created by people with dwarfism, such as LP Women, LP Only and H.E.L.P: Health and Exercise for Little People, to name but a few. These groups are managed by administrators with dwarfism, who permit new members and regulate posts and comments. The internet is used by people with dwarfism to correspond to others whom they have previously met at events held by associations for people with dwarfism (Kruse, 2010). Whilst events provide a limited timeframe for people with dwarfism to connect, SNS allow a continual connection. However, many people with dwarfism do not need to be a part of any association to easily find social media groups for people with dwarfism and connect with others. Through networked individualism, people can obtain support and friendship from those who do not live in the same area as them (Wellman, 2002). SNS is argued to be an important place enabling disabled people to share their voices (Shava, 2014; Xu et al., 2014; Zdrodowska, 2014). Unlike traditional associations, people do not have to become paying members or travel long distances to meet others. I have always felt more comfortable within social media groups for people with dwarfism not affiliated with any association. Whilst administrators are overseeing the groups, there does not seem to be the same hierarchy that exists within associations. There are no chairs or committees, but rather continual posts that can be from any member. Compared to events held by associations, there are limited opportunities for socialisation. For example, associations have discos, gala dinners and numerous activities held throughout their conventions. Whilst these activities provide great socialising opportunities, as previously discussed, the prioritisation of social activities can get in the way of activism. Baym (2015) points out that internet users are more likely than non-internet users to engage in political activities. People with dwarfism have used SNS to be politically engaged with rights for people with dwarfism. SNS can be used as a place for disabled people to communicate, share and disseminate information, which can be empowering as it can be used as a base for advocacy (Shava, 2014). Furthermore, according to Trevisan (2019), SNS allow disabled people to keep up to date with politics and contribute to political debates. For example, on LPOnly one member shared a post about how a popular fashion store was selling t-shirts with the phrase ‘midgets make great pets’. As a collective, we were able to devise a petition and contact the store that subsequently removed the t-shirts. However, the aims of certain groups can often be impacted by their members.

108  Fighting midgetism There is some contention within these groups as to whether or not to allow those who engage in midget entertainment to join. On the one hand, it is about equality and providing a space for people with dwarfism to be a part of. It could help them foster a more positive disability identity and help them question what they do and its impact on others. When they are hired out by average-sized people what they do is not being questioned, but rather it is reinforced as acceptable. However, meeting other people with dwarfism who have fostered a more positive disability identity and demonstrate that midget entertainment is not our only career option can help to challenge their internalised midgetism. For example, I recently came across a post from a woman with dwarfism who has just received her commercial drivers’ licence. Growing up I thought being a lorry driver would be off limits. Becoming a self-advocate is about challenging the status quo, which involves disabled people changing the dominant view of their condition (Smith and Mueller, 2021). On the other hand, these spaces are to promote equality and thus how can they accept those who fight against equality and promote midgetism? If they are allowed to join it creates a conflict of interest. If anyone brings up the subject of midget entertainment we can either be told to think of the feelings of the midget entertainers or get shouted down by them. For example, one midget entertainer claimed that when people hired him out he educated those people. To which a man with dwarfism retorted, ‘In your little clown costume?’ It is hard to see how a person who encourages other people in society to believe that being hired out whilst dressed as a famous midget character such as an Oompa Loompa promotes equality. Midget entertainers often state it is their choice to partake in midget entertainment. Thus, it is other people’s right to actively be against their choice, especially when the choices of a few impact the lives of others. As a result, midget entertainers do not always find activist groups on social media to be welcoming spaces. Whilst some non-disabled people have encouraged them to engage in midgetism, their actions are often met with angst by activists with dwarfism. The attitudes of activists with dwarfism are surprising to them as they find that what has been accepted within everyday society is not within our own non-normate spaces. They expect the same congratulation that anyone else in the entertainment business is perceived to receive. The presence of midget entertainers within spaces for advocacy hinders activism. That is not to imply that different voices should not be tolerated, but when our voices are barely heard within society, to be silenced within a space that supposedly promotes advocacy is more problematic. For example, I was invited by one association to give a talk on my research. I chose to talk about the impact of cultural representations of dwarfism but was asked not to mention the role of midget entertainers in influencing stereotypes. I found this concerning as equality for dwarfism cannot be achieved without highlighting and discussing all causes of inequality. People with dwarfism need a space to challenge midgetism. However, it became difficult to fight against midgetism, when some members were actively promoting it in their work, and yet others were asked to remain silent. Thus, individual activism is also important to consider.

Fighting midgetism  109

Individual activism As an expert with dwarfism, I create an incongruous encounter. Instead of being a figure of fun, I like to think that my academic credentials construct me as someone intelligent. This is problematic for those who hold prejudices informed by midgetism. Midget entertainers are not known for their intelligence,1 but rather as childlike and naive to the average-sized person’s humiliation of them. Speaking out against midgetism is an attempt to reverse the power roles. However, to maintain the status quo, average-sized people usually resort to undermining people with dwarfism who speak out against midgetism, including myself. As a person with dwarfism, you can either allow people to engage with midgetism towards you and get paid for it or you can fight against midgetism. Advocacy is not just about appearing in a court of law but can be exercised in numerous ways (Van Etten, 2021). As an activist, I have tried to challenge midgetism in numerous ways, including through my academic work, publishing non-academic articles via national newspapers and magazines, as well as speaking on radio and television. There are numerous other individual activists, including Steph Robson, aka ‘Hello Little Lady’ a blogger and disabled artist whose subject focuses on her own experiences as a woman with dwarfism living in the UK. Being an activist for people with dwarfism can aid in slowly eradicating midgetism. An activist does not necessarily have to be someone engaging in protests, but can simply be someone who refuses to partake in midget entertainment. Actors with dwarfism, such as Peter Dinklage, Kiruna Stamell, Meredith Eaton and Lisa Hammond are well known for refusing roles that perpetuate midgetism. They can be considered activists within the entertainment industry. A more prominent activist is someone who speaks out against midgetism. It can be a difficult battle, but one that most minority groups have done and continue to do (For example, the civil rights movement and more recently Black Lives Matter). When a person challenges the status quo they create an incongruous encounter that questions the supposed superiority of the majority. A person with dwarfism who challenges the status quo is no longer seen as a figure of entertainment but rather as a threat to the heightened position of average-sized people within society. Pointing out the problematic actions and beliefs, held by society, which have not been questioned, risks shame upon them. The reaction from members of society can either be acceptance and change or hostility and anger. In 2020, I had a chapter published in an academic book on disability hate speech. The chapter argued that the term midget is a form of hate speech. The chapter was based upon some of my doctoral findings which demonstrated how most people with dwarfism find the word midget offensive. Numerous associations, such as the RGA and LPA clearly state on their web pages that the term is offensive. This is both down to the origins of the word and how it is used as a form of name-calling towards people with dwarfism. Whilst other minority groups have been successful in banning offensive terms, the word midget is still freely used within the media. I took to social media and raised the issue that the word midget needed to be removed from the media and products. However, despite most people

110  Fighting midgetism with dwarfism finding the word offensive, I found it difficult to encourage people to campaign to get midget gems renamed. In the end, I decided to contact numerous companies that sold midget gems. Eventually, Marks and Spencers, a British supermarket, agreed to change the name of their sweets. What I did not expect was the change of name to gain the attention of a few British newspapers. At first, these articles resulted in other companies, including Maynard Bassets, agreeing to change the name of their sweets too. Whilst this remains a great victory, as a result of the name change, I received abusive comments from other members of the public, including on Twitter, Facebook and via my personal university email account. The insults that I received were informed by midgetism, such as asking if I could kick myself in the head (a popular stunt by Weeman [midget entertainer] from the reality comedy show Jackass) and calling me a laughing stock, which of course links to the stereotype of people with dwarfism as figures of fun. A lot of the abuse also involved me being referred to as a ‘midget’ which seemed to be their way of reinstating their superiority and power. For example, one email included, ‘Just cause you’re a MIDGET doesn’t mean you can ban the word.’ The use of the term midget, in particular, is asserting that they will continue to deem the term acceptable within society. This quote indicates that as a person with dwarfism I should know my inferior place in society and not have any power to remove hate speech. It was ironic that when people resorted to hate speech, they included the term midget, whilst at the same time claiming it was not offensive when that is exactly what they were trying to be. At first, it was laughable to read claims made by many average-sized people, most of whom were men, that the term midget is not offensive and that I was making an issue out of nothing. However, their backlash is an example of epistemic injustice. As both a woman and a person with dwarfism, my credibility as an expert results in a deficit (McKinnon, 2016). It seemed as if the ‘real experts’ were not those with any lived experience or academic knowledge of dwarfism, but rather those who were average-sized and often male. As an activist, I have learnt the hard way that when you resist society’s place for people with dwarfism you will receive backlash, including your own academic integrity being questioned and being on the receiving end of hate speech in the form of midgetism. Of course, this is not unique to people with dwarfism. Possibly all minority groups have faced similar backlash as wanting equality must be fought for. In reference to racism, Van Dijk (1992) argues that those who point out racism are often attacked within the media. In some cases, the media referred to my campaign as ‘woke’. Woke is a term that has its origins in anti-racist struggles and is used to signify that a person or society is conscious of racism (Cammaerts, 2022). Woke can also be applied to people’s awareness of oppression experienced by other minority groups, such as homophobia, sexism, disablism, and in this case midgetism. Woke has since been ‘weaponised by the right, deturning it from its initial meaning in the struggle for civil rights into an insult used against anyone who fights fascism, racism and other forms of injustices and discrimination as well as to signify a supposed progressive over-reaction’ (Cammaerts, 2022: 735).

Fighting midgetism  111 It was obvious that the abuse I received was not influenced by the abusers’ love of the name and the sweets, but rather because their privilege (informed by their supposed superiority) was challenged. As a person with dwarfism, I was demonstrating that the term was not acceptable and that I, as well as other people with dwarfism, were not to be called that name. Cancel culture is a reversal of power and as a result, those who have more power claim that cancels culture is a way of trying to control their behaviour (Sailofsky, 2021). This is partly true, as I intended to try and remove a form of disability hate speech so that it could no longer be used as a form of name-calling. To protest exposes midgetism and threatens to show that people with dwarfism can be equal, but the only reason they are not is due to social constructs created by average-sized people. There were also a few people who identified as short but did not have dwarfism, who tried to undermine my work by claiming that their short stature somehow gave them authority on the subject. As this book shows, with reference to midgetism, there is a big difference between having dwarfism and just being short. A person who is just short is still likely to be over a foot taller than a person with dwarfism. They will also not have any of the secondary conditions associated with dwarfism. People who are just short may experience heightism, but they do not experience midgetism. For example, unlike people who are just short, people with dwarfism have the history of being paraded in a freak show and being referred to as midget. There was also one disabled person who sent me a message via a Social Networking Site to imply that whilst they also received unwanted attention they did not complain. Disability is not a homogenous group and thus the disabled person cannot assume that the abuse they receive is the same or should be tolerated by disabled people. Whilst this particular disabled person may accept abuse in society, there are other disabled people, as well as associations fighting against disability hate speech, demonstrating that all forms of disablism should not be tolerated. Thus, as well as fighting against non-disabled people, other disabled people can be a barrier to disability equality due to their own internalised ableism. People who are just short and other disabled people, who try to undermine the expertise of the person with dwarfism, are practising a form of epistemic injustice using a false equivalence. In both cases, people used a part of their identity that they most closely related to dwarfism to try and gain control and discredit the person with the lived experience and expertise.

Conclusion Fighting against midgetism exposes a lack of acceptance of dwarfism that juxtaposes a supposed acceptance of dwarfism in the form of midget entertainment. Any win, such as convincing a company to drop the term midget from its products indicates that equality and acceptance for people with dwarfism are achievable. However, equality is not easy to achieve due to epistemic injustice, whether it is from those on the right that identify as anti-woke or from those whose attitudes demonstrate subtle midgetism.

112  Fighting midgetism Associations that are dominated by average-sized parents can impact advocacy for people with dwarfism due to their own long-held beliefs about dwarfism which result in epistemic injustice. As a result, associations contain subtle forms of midgetism that can impact their role in advocating for people with dwarfism. For example, parents can often be naive in thinking they know what is best for their child. On the other hand, trying to ‘fix’ their child can be considered a way to regain the child they were initially expecting. Until average-sized people can fully rid themselves of their ableist, often subconscious, beliefs about disability and dwarfism then they can never truly be allies. SNS have provided unique opportunities, via networked individualism, for people with dwarfism to come together and advocate for equality. No longer do they have to rely on a few weekends a year to meet other people with dwarfism, but can interact at any time via the internet. Through collective activism, people with dwarfism can challenge midgetism in order to not have to rely on the odd weekend to enjoy social and leisure activities without encountering social abuse. Whilst individual activism has resulted in some positive changes, it can be emotionally challenging as the person is more likely to be the direct target of abusive backlash. This backlash is the result of epistemic injustice. If there was more of a collective voice to challenge midgetism, it would be more difficult for average-sized people to dismiss the views of people with dwarfism. This is why it is important for associations to be more advocacy focused and to challenge all causes of midgetism.

Note 1 That’s not to say that they are not intelligent, but their performance ensures that they are not seen as such.

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8 Conclusion The problem of midgetism and how to fight it

In each chapter, I have attempted to explore and critique problematic representations and attitudes associated with dwarfism. In doing so, I have added the various social implications of these representations, such as people with dwarfism being photographed even wanting to take their own lives. The introduction of normate and non-normate spaces adds to the understanding of how disabled bodies are read within specific spaces, and subsequently how these socio-cultural spaces can be oppressive or empowering, depending on their purpose. Non-normate spaces, such as the freak show, have aided in the oppression people with dwarfism experience. Non-normate spaces created by disabled people, such as associations for people with dwarfism, have the potential to fight midgetism, however, this is dependent on who occupies these spaces. Whilst associations for people with dwarfism are meant to be spaces for them and do provide advice and accommodations for them, how much power average-sized members are given within these spaces can impact the voices of people with dwarfism. This book has explored the numerous contributing factors of the socio-cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience, which is a result of midgetism. It has been important to introduce a term which aids in highlighting the unique socio-cultural discrimination people with dwarfism experience in order to thoroughly explore their oppression and exploitation. Midgetism is the result of both disablism and heightism, which oppresses and hinders equality for people with dwarfism. Whilst this book has focused on midgetism within representations of dwarfism and attitudes towards the condition, it can also be used to explore other forms of discrimination and oppression people with dwarfism experience, such as accessibility, access to medical care, experiences of education, and sexuality and dating. Midgetism can thus aid in examining a broad range of the unique prejudices people with dwarfism experience. A major contributing factor of midgetism is midget entertainment and the construction of dwarfism as a form of entertainment, or novelty, encouraged by a minority of people with dwarfism, in the form of midget entertainment. Using the tripartite model of disability, midget entertainment is produced by normative positivism, which constructs dwarfism as inferior, producing a non-normative negativism. It then becomes a non-normative positivism due to the financial gain it provides to midget entertainers and their promoters. However, there is no gain for people with dwarfism who will have to ensure non-normative negativisms such

DOI: 10.4324/9781003382461-8

116  Conclusion: the problem of midgetism and how to fight it as name-calling, staring, pointing and employment discrimination. The ethical issues that are at play in promoting midgetism, which has social implications for people with dwarfism in society, need more consideration. This book has included numerous experiences of midgetism from both myself and in the form of extracts from other people with dwarfism, which are not just anecdotes used to raise awareness, but everyday occurrences that are often ignored or excused. However, these experiences will continue until midgetism is no longer excused but instead challenged. As obvious as it may sound, people with dwarfism need to be seen and treated as ordinary people. In the 21st century, I should not be pointing out how problematic it is to still be using dwarfism as an acceptable form of humorous entertainment, which can be hired out by anyone with the means to do so, including royalty. A disabled person is not a commodity and their condition should not be used for society’s amusement. Whilst this is framed as a non-normative positivism, society needs to question the factors that permit a disabled person to be used in a way that is off limits to others. It is not because of the person’s impairment, but due to the disabling barriers that exist within society. These barriers, including the physically built environment, as well as attitudes that frame the small, disabled body as inferior. Midget entertainment is reflective of the Victorian freak show and thus the term ‘midget entertainer’ is an appropriate term to use in reference to people with dwarfism who partake in a form of entertainment which promotes midgetism. Whilst midget entertainers consent to being targets of midgetism, whether they are fully aware of it or not, other people with dwarfism have not, yet have to endure the consequences daily. This is why it has been important to refer to certain forms of entertainment as ‘midget entertainment’ and those who engage in it as ‘midget entertainers’. Repurposing the word midget to identify people with dwarfism who partake in midget entertainment, aids in demonstrating that people with dwarfism are not a homogenous group. Whilst this book does not encourage the use of the term midget in society and recognises it as a form of hate speech, it is important to repurpose the term in order to demonstrate a key factor in enabling midgetism. Midget entertainers are a vessel for spreading midgetism, in other words, the problematic beliefs created by average-sized people. Thus, there needs to be more ethical consideration of the promotion and defence of midget entertainers. Excuses to promote midgetism within entertainment are influenced by both heightist and disablist beliefs, which situate the small, disabled body as incapable and dependent. In relation to employment, ableist beliefs, based on both stereotypes of dwarfism and the cost of reasonable adjustments contribute to employment discrimination, which provide the basis for promoting midget entertainment. For average-sized promoters, it is important for them to insinuate that people with dwarfism are reliant on midget entertainment, due to perceived incapabilities associated with their condition, as opposed to average-sized promoters relying on midget entertainers to benefit financially from midgetism. Challenging this belief reverses the power roles and demonstrates the average-sized person’s

Conclusion: the problem of midgetism and how to fight it  117 inferiority. Excuses, such as the suggestion that people with dwarfism need rescuing aids in maintaining a social hierarchy. From P.T. Barnum to Haley B and Chen Mingjing, average-sized people have been and continue to capitalise on midgetism, which they would struggle to do if not for midget entertainers. It should not be permissible for average-sized people to profit from midget entertainment due to the wider discrimination people with dwarfism receive as a consequence of it in society. As obvious as it may sound, people with dwarfism need to be seen and treated as ordinary people. In the 21st century, I should not be pointing out how problematic it is to still be using dwarfism as an acceptable form of humorous entertainment, which can be hired out by anyone with the means to do so, including royalty. A disabled person is not a commodity and their condition should not be used for society’s amusement. Whilst this is framed as a non-normative positivism, society needs to question the factors that permit a disabled person to be used in a way that is off limits to others. In society, the overarching belief is that people with dwarfism are figures of entertainment. However, to enable this, dwarfism has to be represented in a particular way. Representations of dwarfism as both a separate race, but also as a group of people who are deemed ‘just small’ enables guilt-free humour. Being constructed as a separate race aids in dehumanising people with dwarfism and suggests that it will never impact those laughing at them. For example, if people assume that people with dwarfism are a separate race, rather than people with a condition that anyone can be born with, they will never consider the fact that any future family member could be born with dwarfism. Both representations also challenge the notion that people with dwarfism are disabled people. Being small is not associated with pain and is not considered a functional limitation of the body, both of which provoke sympathy and pity, which makes it harder to laugh at someone experiencing either. Whilst disabled people are not immune from being targets of humour, there exist unique forms of humorous entertainment associated with dwarfism, which would be off limits to other disabled people. Furthermore, entertainment venues may be reluctant to allow derogatory events such as midget tossing and midget wrestling to take place if they knew that the chances of permanent injury were higher for their performers due to their secondary conditions, such as spinal stenosis. Whilst it is not uncommon for disabled people to be treated as sub-human, people with dwarfism are dehumanised in ways that are unique to them. The dehumanisation of dwarfism is represented in numerous ways, from the notion and practice of them as ‘pets’ to using them as sports paraphernalia in ‘sports’ such as midget tossing. Enabling average-sized people to deem people with dwarfism as subhuman or mere commodities reassures them that treating them in a way they themselves would not tolerate. As a result, midget entertainment aids in maintaining a social hierarchy. Numerous examples within this book posit the ownership of midget entertainers. Ownership of people, in this case, people with dwarfism is a sign of dominance and superiority, held by the average-sized owner. To own a midget entertainer

118  Conclusion: the problem of midgetism and how to fight it frames them as dependent and subservient to their superior owner. Of course, the notion that the owner is ‘superior’ is socially constructed by the act. Owning a midget entertainer draws on disablist notions, including charitable acts which render the midget entertainer incapable whilst the owner is constructed as their saviour. This ownership of dwarfism constructs them as sub-human and pet-like, which elevates the position of the owner. To maintain the social hierarchy, the socio-cultural construction of dwarfism is based on rendering them inferior to others. This inferiority is based on heightist assumptions that ‘bigger is better’ and thus people with dwarfism are lacking. A contributing factor to this perception of lacking is ensuring that they are not represented as intelligent people, but rather as humorous and childlike. To be childlike is to be lacking intelligence and be dependent on others, such as average-sized promoters. Constructing people with dwarfism as happy and cheerful enables midget entertainment to take place with limited backlash. Their supposedly happy demeanour, reassures average-sized audiences that people with dwarfism enjoy being treated in a way that socially degrades them. It signifies to others that midget entertainers are happy to do what they do and that it has no negative consequences for their emotional well-being. In fact, it is presumed that partaking in midget entertainment provides them with a purpose and financial security, which therefore constructs it as a non-normative positivism. Is it a case that midget entertainers choose and enjoy what they do or is it that they are coerced by average-sized promoters? Yes, midget entertainers have a choice, but one which is limited and influenced by midgetism. It is important to explore further why some people with dwarfism choose to become midget entertainers. Some, who may wish to pursue a career within entertainment, because of a love of it, may only be limited to partaking in midget entertainment because of average-sized gatekeepers within the industry. People with dwarfism need to be represented as everyday people as opposed to novelty acts or commodities. This will aid in challenging some of the social inequalities people with dwarfism experience. For example, reality shows should be educational and challenge dominant misconceptions about dwarfism, whilst also raising awareness about the inequalities they encounter in their daily lives. Whilst the media, including newspapers, often suggest that people with dwarfism are upset about protests or the removal of midget entertainment, it needs to be remembered that actually, they are only referring to a minority of midget entertainers. However, this omission by the media aids in homogenising dwarfism and promoting the idea that we all rely on midget entertainment and thus allowing it to continue. It has been documented that people with dwarfism are turning their back on midget entertainment (Adelson, 2005), and thus it is important that mainstream media also recognises this. Currently the media still actively promotes views of midget entertainers, which reinforces the belief that all people with dwarfism work and rely on midget entertainment. Whilst people may be quick to point out that I am in a privileged position, as shown most midget entertainers have been or continue to work in mainstream employment. I have also experienced discrimination in both education and employment, and like most

Conclusion: the problem of midgetism and how to fight it  119 people with dwarfism have been offered employment within midget entertainment. It is an easy route to take as it requires limited to no talent. Midgetism can be hard to fight when the average-sized person is constantly in control of how people with dwarfism are represented. Furthermore, this control is strengthened when midget entertainers adhere to partaking in midget entertainment. However, with improvements in disability equality, there are more opportunities for people with dwarfism to be seen as more than just figures of entertainment or commodities. To do this, it is important for people with dwarfism to become activists, as you cannot wait for change when the dominant group within society is oblivious or happy to engage in midgetism. Instead of thinking that midget entertainment is appropriate for people with dwarfism, the wider issues of education and employment discrimination need to be considered. In fact, the perception that midget entertainment is appropriate for people with dwarfism is a contributing factor to the wider employment discrimination they experience. The introduction of normate and non-normate spaces adds to the understanding of how disabled bodies are read within specific spaces, and subsequently how these spaces can be oppressive or empowering, depending on their purpose. Non-normate spaces, such as the freak show, have aided in the oppression people with dwarfism experience. Non-normate spaces created by disabled people, such as associations for people with dwarfism, have the potential to fight midgetism; however, this is dependent on who occupies these spaces. Associations need to be more proactive in fighting against midgetism. Whilst other forms of support provided by associations, such as social events are beneficial for people with dwarfism, activism is often hindered by conflicting interests including those from some average-sized parents. Whilst associations for people with dwarfism are meant to be spaces for them and do provide advice and accommodations for them, how much power average-sized members are given within these spaces can impact the voices of people with dwarfism. Due to ableist beliefs, it is not unusual for average-sized parents to ignore or silence the voices of ­people with dwarfism, particularly within associations that are meant to be first and foremost for people with the condition. Conflicting beliefs and interests can lead to average-sized parents dismissing the voices of people with dwarfism and subsequently removing their opportunity to campaign for equality. This is particularly problematic as associations are non-normate spaces, which should provide a platform for collective advocacy. This book has briefly explored some of the conflicts of interest between average-sized parents and people with dwarfism when it comes to cures and treatments. However, it is important to further understand why parents opt for treatment, including what information they are provided with. As most parents of a disabled child are given medically biased information about their child’s condition it is important that more social model based information is also provided and that ableist attitudes are highlighted and challenged. Social Networking Sites can be beneficial for people with dwarfism, not only to socialise with others with the same condition but also to form collectivist activism. As a result of networked individualism, people with dwarfism have the ability to come together and create their own groups. However, this activism needs to

120  Conclusion: the problem of midgetism and how to fight it recognise all causes of midgetism to be successful. A collective voice can be more impactful and represent a more diverse range of people and their experiences. Self-advocacy should not be discouraged, however, there needs to be more support against abuse. A major barrier to fighting against midgetism is epistemic injustice, such as when challenging long-held beliefs about dwarfism. Epistemic injustice is evident in excuses made by average-sized people, such as when they claim midget entertainment provides a job for people with dwarfism, despite having no idea about the lived experiences of people with the condition. In relation to sole advocacy, epistemic injustice is present, particularly when the activist has more than one minority identity. As a woman with dwarfism, despite not just having the lived experience of dwarfism, but also having academic expertise on the subject, I have still experienced mostly average-sized men challenging my position. Both midgetism and misogyny are evident in their attitudes. The most blatantly obvious form of epistemic injustice has been when an average-sized person claims that midget is not an offensive term. In this instance, the person is trying to maintain ableist power, which allows them to continue to use the word without consequence. Furthermore, it is about removing power from a woman with dwarfism in order to maintain the status quo. As a person with dwarfism, I have somewhat found it cathartic to write this book, in the hope that midgetism can be challenged. However, as I have drawn on personal narratives and had to analyse problematic representations, I have also found it emotionally draining and frustrating. Personal narratives are important to engage with to understand the lived experiences of disabled people, however, they can take their toll. They have an emotional impact that other forms of research do not provoke. They can elicit painful memories, which can force the writer to deeply analyse, provoking emotions that were previously under the surface. I still get angry that the voices of midget entertainers are given more coverage and acceptance because they conform to ableist beliefs that allow society to continue to discriminate against people with dwarfism. Whilst autocritical discourse analysis has provided a voice to challenge midgetism, the most effective change can only come from a collective voice.

Reference Adelson, B.M. (2005) The changing lives of archetypal ‘curiosities’ – and echoes of the past. Disability Studies Quarterly, 25 (3) 1–13.

Index

ableism 6, 17, 18, 20, 58, 72, 111 Achondroplasia 3, 4, 54, 63, 102; see also dwarfism Acromegaly (Gigantism) 28 activism 95, 96, 98, 106–108 Adelson, B.M. 73, 106 affirmation model, disability 6 Ain, Michael 74 Albinism 28 Alter, J.S. 47 Alwaleed (Saudi Prince) 36 ‘Always an Advocate’ 97 American Horror Story: Freakshow (2011) 30 Americans with Disabilities Act 64, 74 anti-discrimination laws 33 Antras, C.F. 3, 29, 65 Article 3, disabled persons protection 33 Atkinson, Rowan 82 autocritical discourse analysis 2 autoethnography 2 average-sized comedians 81 average-sized people 4, 5, 7, 13, 18, 28, 34, 68, 70, 72, 95, 100, 106, 116 Backstrom, L. 37 Badner, Judith 73 Ball, Zoe 82 Barnum, P.T. 29–30, 34, 48, 56, 90, 117 Bayarri, A.D. 3, 29, 65 Baym, N.K. 107 BBC 5 Live 101 ‘Birthday of the Infanta’ (Wilde) 18 Black Lives Matter 109 Blake, Quentin 15 Block, P. 99 Bogdan, R. 29 Bolt, D. 1, 2, 4, 6 Booker T. 51–52 born freak 29 Bravo, Chuy 69

cancel culture 110 Carey, A.C. 99 Carr, Jimmy 81 cavalier humour beliefs (CHB) 80 Challenging the status quo 62, 73–75 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 14, 15 Cheeky Events 40, 69 Chen Mingjing 34, 35 China 28, 33; human rights abuses 36; see also Kingdom of Little People comedy 50 Comic Relief 82 commodity 17, 30, 39 Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) 15 control 105–106 Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome 104 critical discourse analysis 2 cultural depictions, dwarfism 3 cultural representations 3, 23, 25 Cuomo, Mario (Mayor) 71 Curtis, Richard 82 Dahl, Roald 14 Danish Dwarf Association 96 Davis, Warwick 63, 82 defence, midgetism 80 dehumanisation 13 Deller, A.R. 37–38 dependency 17 DiCaprio, Leonardo 72 digital technology 106 Dinklage, Peter 74, 109 Disabilities Act (1990) 68 disability 13; affirmation model of 6; aid 6; discrimination 31; equality 20, 48, 62, 67–69; hate speech 19, 21; rights activism 105; tripartite model of 6 Disability Studies 2, 5 disabled people 3 disablism 5, 6, 13 disablist infantilisation 5

122 Index discrimination 12, 14, 36, 62–65, 67 Disneyland 89, 90 dwarf 1–4, 14–16, 18, 19, 22, 73, 85, 98 Dwarfanators 53, 54, 56 dwarfism 1; ancient times people with 61; conception of 1; cultural representations of 1, 14; dominant conceptions of 24; eradicate midgetism 101–102; Greco-Roman period people with 18; lack of acceptance 3; medical condition 3; metanarrative of 1; normative employment 62; people, associations for 96–100; photographing people with 22; positive self-identity of 102; problematic stereotypes 1; society’s expectations of 50; sociocultural construction 118; socio-cultural construction of 5; socio-cultural discrimination 2 ‘Dwarfs deserve it’ 43–44 dwarf shortage 88 Dwarfs Sports Association UK (DSAUK) 96 Dworkin, A. 18, 19, 39 Eaton, Meredith 74, 109 educational discrimination 14 educational policies 62 Elizabeth II (Queen) 40 Ellis, L. 22 employment 61, 64, 119; disability equality 62; discrimination 14, 36, 62–65, 67; opportunity 8, 31 Enderle, A. 32 entertainment 17 epistemic injustice 95, 120 Eplett, L. 16 equality 20, 36, 37 Equality Act 2010 54, 64, 65, 68, 74 ethnic management 80 Eugenie (Princess) 40, 44 Even Eric Tovey 53 Evil toilet dwarf 101 Facebook 99, 106, 107 forbidden relationship 39 Forgacs, D. 17 freak: born freak 29; self-made freak 29 freak show 29–31; disabled people employment 30; spread of 39–43 Freakshow (2007) 30 free speech 81 Fry, Stephen 82 Garland-Thomson, R. 6, 83 gaze photography 22

General Tom Thumb 56, 74 see Stratton, Charles geographies, disability 6 Gerber, D. 29 gigantism 47 Goffe, Rusty 15 Goldust 51–52 The Greatest Showman (2017) 30 Great Movie Mistakes show 82 Greene, D. 49, 54 Greenop, K. 3, 29, 65 growth hormone treatments 102 guilty, midgetism 3 Gumpertz, Samual 32, 34 Hammond, Lisa 74, 109 Handicap International 35 Handler, Chelsea 69 Hayley B. 84, 85 Hedley, A.L. 102 heightism 5, 13, 62 Henderson, Martin 72 Henry, Lenny 82 hooks, b. 20 Hornswoggle 49 Huang Xuejing 33 Hulk Hogan (Little Hulkster) 51 humiliation 71 humour 80 Hunt, Linda 74, 101 individual activism 96, 109–111 inferiority 63 internalised bleism 18 ‘it’s just a joke’ 83–86 Jack Daryll Hillgrass 53, 56, 57, 69 Jackman, Hugh 30–31, 90 job 67–68 Johnson, Blake 43 Kay, Peter 83 Kennedy, Dan 68, 81 Kent, M. 106 Kimmel, Jimmy 17 Kingdom of Little People 28, 31–36, 69 King Kong Bundy 54 kitchens, Lee 74 Kruse, R. 7, 97 Kuzmin, Nikita 63 Lay, Benjamin 74 Lefebvre, H. 6 Life’s Too Short 101 Lilliputia 32 limb-lengthening 102, 103

Index  123 Lindemann, H. 104 Little Beaver 52 The Little Couple (2009) 37 Little People, Big World (2006) 37 Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughters’ Eyes (Kennedy) 81 Little People of America (LPA) 5, 12, 35, 53, 71, 95, 96, 97 Little People UK (LPUK) 96; see also LPUK Warwick Davis ‘Little people wrestling’ 54 Little Women LA (2014) 37 Little Women of Atlanta (2016) 37 Longhurst, R. 6 Longmore, P.K. 53, 82 LPOnly 107 LPUK Warwick Davis 51, 55, 81, 85 Macho Man (Little Macho Man) 51 Makepeace, Louis 65 male physical prowess 48 masculine melodrama 49 masculinity 47, 51 masochism 18 Massey, D. 6 McGee, R.W. 70, 71 McGuiness, Paddy 82 McGuire, A. 99 McMahon, Shane 56 media 1; dwarfism in 1–2 medical condition, dwarfism 3, 5 Meeuf, R. 75 men with dwarfism 18 metanarrative, dwarfism 1 Microcephaly 28 Micromania midget wrestling 53 Microwrestling federation 53 midget entertainers 11, 18, 19, 21, 23, 36, 42; for baby showers 42; spectacle of 39; in wrestling 48 midget entertainment 7–8, 19, 28, 85, 116; disability equality 65–67; economic perspective 61; person with dwarfism 18; social consequences of 21–23; tolerant of 95; unequal power relations 61 midgetism 20, 24, 35, 48, 50, 69; definition of 7, 12–14; disempowering consequence of 12; eradicate midgetism 101–102; in films 14; guilty, disabled people 3; midget entertainers 17; naive defenders of 4; promotion of 54; sociocultural discrimination 3; subtle forms of 23–24; treatments 102–105; within wrestling 50 midget karate 49

midget tossing 65, 69–73 midget wrestlers 48, 54, 56; entertainment spectacle 48; personal idiosyncrasies 49; within professional wrestling 48–52; social consequences 55–57 midget wrestling 8, 21, 52–55 Miller, Paul Steven 67, 73 Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) 49 modern-day freak show 28, 36–37 Myraar’s dwarfism 22–23 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) 15 National Film Registry 15 neoliberal society 62 ‘networked individualism’ notion 9 non-disabled parents 35 non-disabled people 19, 24, 95, 98 non-normate spaces 6, 7, 28, 31, 34, 35, 97, 115, 119 non-normative body 41 non-normative negativism 29, 33, 43, 84 non-normative positivisms 6, 29, 31, 48, 49, 61, 62, 69 Noonan, M. 41 normal person 6 normate spaces 6, 7 normative positivisms 6 normative social order 4 O’Brien, K. 14 Oompa Loompas 14–17, 38, 57, 108 Oppliger, P.A. 47 opportunity 23 Osensky, T. 5 Our Little Life (2010) 37 Paralympian 48 Paramount Pictures 15 part-time employment 63 Pearson, Allison 63 personal idiosyncrasies 49 photograph 33 pornography 18 Postl, Dylan 49, 50, 66 prank 41 Pritchard, E. 3, 14, 23, 32, 41, 71, 75, 87, 89 problematic beliefs 1–2 problematic stereotypes 1 problematic terminology 24 professional wrestling 48–52, 55 Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002 52 proportionate dwarfism 4 psycho-emotional impact 89

124 Index public property 23, 32 Punch magazine 30 Quaden Bayles case 9, 80, 81, 89–90 racism 5, 80, 110; to midgetism 14–17 reality 37 reality television 36–37 real-life midget 32, 88 Restricted Growth Association (RGA) 53, 56, 95, 96 Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) 75 Roy, Deep 15 Rugoho, T. 17 Saudi Arabia: human rights abuses 36; midget entertainers 36 Saville, K. 56 Schönfleisch-Backofen, Silke 66 Scorsese, Martin 73 Scotch, R.K. 99 Sealy, Mark 50, 51 self-advocacy 120 self-determination 19 self-made freak 29 Seven Dwarfs 82, 87 The Seven Dwarves Documentary (2011) 37–39 sexism 5 Shakespeare, T. 14, 22, 72 Short Statured People of Australia (SSPA) 96 Short Statured Scotland (SSS) 96 Sideshow (2000) 30 Simmonds, Ellie 48, 63 ‘Sit down for Comic Relief’ 83 Sky Low Low 52 Small Teen, Bigger World (2011) 37 Smith, Jeremy 51 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) 14, 66 social consciousness 63 social consequences 55–57 social dignity concept 71 social disability 3 social hierarchy 30, 63 social implications 87 social media 67, 86, 89, 96, 101, 106–108 Social Networking Sites (SNS) 106, 119 socio-cultural construction, dwarfism 118 socio-cultural discrimination people 2, 3, 4, 13, 19; with dwarfism experience 11; as people with dwarfism 4 socio-cultural misconceptions 2

Solevåg, A.R. 18 sport entertainment 48 Stamell, Kiruna 74, 109 Stratton, Charles 30, 56, 74; see also General Tom Thumb subtle midgetism 12 Sullivan-Sanford, E. 104 Super Bowl tournament 17 superiority 40 Tan, N.C. 55 The Telegraph 63 Terribly funny 81 The New York Times 35 Thompson, S. 14, 72 Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) 30 Trevisan, F. 106, 107 tripartite model of disability 6 Twitter 86 Tyrrell, B. 18 Undertaker 51 unequal power relations 13, 18, 36, 61, 69, 89 US-based Dwarfanators 56 Van Dijk, T.A. 80, 89, 110 Van Etten, A.M. 69, 72, 73, 97 Victorian freak show 28, 34 virtual non-normate spaces 106 Webb, Robert 82 Wellman, B. 106 Wheaton, William A. 73 Wilcox, Ben 84 Wilde, A. 34 Wilde, Oscar 18 Wilder, Gene 15 Willow Management 51, 82, 85 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) 14, 15, 38 Wizard of Oz (1939) 14, 64 The Wolf of Wall Street 72 women, dwarfism 20 Woodburn, Danny 101 Woolf, John 30, 31 Workman, Ritch 70 ‘World’s Greatest Showman’ 29 World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) 47, 49 World Wrestling Federation (WWF) 47 Wright, M. 14, 72 YouTube 44 YouTube Comments 55