When/why did the word “bitter” get associated with non-compliant adoptees?

This is the third question in the series: “Anti-adoption month: 30 answers to 30 questions on adoption” [link].

The follow question originally appeared on Yahoo!Answers:

When/why did the word “bitter” get associated with non-compliant adoptees?

Answer: The mentality on display that refers to us as “bitter” does so for cultural as well as political reasons: it is reflective of a culture that tends to victimize those who are down, while maintaining a hypocritical false victim status for itself.

For example, it is the same tactic that claims “reverse racism” as used against those who are for affirmative action, or the current “tea party”, which claim oppression by a “king”—the president—when they are of the class who not only profit from others’ misery, but can afford health care in this country. You cannot be of the dominant discourse and claim oppression from those whom you yourself oppress.

To reflect upon is that this expressed self-righteous indignation is no more valid than that of adoptees, simply because everything, but everything within the dominant discourse, from the media, to non-profit organizations and the government, etc. all support unequivocally the idea that adoption is valid, that adoption is desired, and that adoption should not be challenged. This reveals what we are up against.

Furthermore, this is not a balanced equation in terms of two sides of a debate. On the one hand, you have a dominant discourse of those who hold, wield, and control legal, social, medical, and financial power, as well as their tools of discourse, such as media, legal decisions, etc. Those of us who go up against this discourse can be termed resistant to it, and there is a long history of those who resist the dominant discourse as concerns their eventual fate: They are slated for silencing, and hopefully, to the majority culture, for eventual disbandment if not destruction. The accusations we are receiving are the first steps in this process, which will only escalate.

The question that naturally comes to mind when I hear this from someone who supports adoption is “where is your empathy now? Where is your great big heart now?” I am that adopted child you pretend to care so much about. I am that adoptee that you claim to have done so much for, who asks only for understanding as to the violence of adoption, and the validity of my side of the story. It isn’t too much to ask, and there are many adoptive parents who in secret understand, but dare not speak out because of the same silencing we receive. I would love to hear from them here.

For why should it be valid for someone of this dominant discourse to parade their angst at not having a child, and carry on about needing to “fill the hole” that they see as missing in their lives? Why is it okay for them to have Internet forums, and episodes on Oprah, and celebrity icons going back to Joan Crawford, and generally the understanding if not outright sympathy of the entirety of this society? They litter the Internet with their repugnant “Dear Birthmother” web sites that are scandalous in their making public something which should not only be private, but should not be happening in a just and egalitarian society. Vultures have more candor and sympathy than this.

On the other hand, those who are adopted, or who are convinced to give up their children and who later feel angst about it (to put it quite mildly), and who also only wish to “fill the hole” that they see as missing in their lives, are then castigated in the harshest terms as ungrateful, and spiteful, and bitter. Why does no one say to infertile couples: “Get over it?” Why does no one say to those without children “This is God’s plan for you, not adoption”? Who, may I ask at long last, are truly the bitter individuals?

But not to worry. The accusation takes such a high-handed tone because deep down the injustice of adoption is obvious, as all societal injustices have been before attempts to overcome them. Those who speak out against it are on the right side of history. The truth is on our side, and the truth will out.


Reference: The Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz Fanon.

Debate Tactic: Today’s reference comes from Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist from Martinique who was active in the Algerian revolution. In his discussion of the “colonized mind” and the tactics of the colonizer, he makes comparison to adoptees “who only stop investigating the new family framework at the moment when a minimum nucleus of security crystallizes in their psyche”. Here he reveals the tactic of silencing those who go up against the given power structure. His book reveals to us our common cause with others so displaced and dispossessed, as well as the counter-tactics of this engagement.

About Daniel Drennan ElAwar

Adoptee, rematriated.
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2 Responses to When/why did the word “bitter” get associated with non-compliant adoptees?

  1. I think often and long on language.The language that is applied to adoption, especially transracial adoption, the vitriol that can sometimes pour from the mouths of those that I can only describe as born again advocates of transracial adoption and born again transracial adoptees. There is no “exchange” no give or take, no consideration it is most definitely a one way street. In which the traffic resolutely flows in one direction. To even think of APs in anything other than a saintly persona, is for many, especially the born again advocates, adoption sacrilege. I find it very interesting that still in this secular age that adoption is still very much given such a pseudo religious status.

    Once again fascinating and challenging article. When I read your posts very often I spend a day or two mulling over everything that has surfaced – very often I forget to comment as I am still deep in thought.

    Btw I could not find the “like” button on your blog

  2. Language is key. Not just in terminology, which our culture likes to vaunt as evidence of its “understanding” and “sympathy” when discussed in terms of politically correct usage, but also in such usage in and of itself. These language games (as Wittgenstein referred to them) reveal much more about the discussion taking place than the words themselves. And this is why I try to focus on them so much.

    The “religious” underpinnings of what we are dealing with come from the Calvinist backdrop to Anglo-Saxon culture that is ever-present, and the foundation of capitalism in this particular form. I am stating this as historical fact and no more. In later questions we’ll come back to the idea of language use again and again. Thanks for thinking about it and bringing it up! I think this becomes our responsibility: reframing the discussion in more-fair terms.

    As for the “Like” button…. LOL I’m so much not a fan of WordPress! I’m setting up a separate web site for all this stuff, but it is slow going, and in the meantime I’m stuck with the mushy mess of Javascript code that makes no sense in terms of interface. The “Like” button should appear at the top of the page. I’ve turned off the appearance of “Likes” on pages to avoid WordPress self-promoting spammers! I’ll look back in the preferences and see if I can’t figure out what’s going on! :-)

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