Jimmy Carr's Dwarfism 'Joke' Is A Reminder People Like Me Are Still Treated As Just A Punchline

You can dismiss Carr’s comment as a harmless joke, but you don't have to dread what abuse you'll face every time you step out of your front door, writes Erin Pritchard.
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I am an abortion that made it. Well, at least I am according to well-known tax-dodging comedian Jimmy Carr.

At a recent stand-up show, Carr made a joke claiming that dwarfs are “abortions that made it”. According to him, as someone with dwarfism I’m not a human but an undeveloped, unwantable foetus that has no rights in society.

Carr is known for his dark and near the knuckle ‘humour’, however it is hard to find a joke like this funny when it influences your standing in society. He may have not meant it seriously but for many disabled people, including people with dwarfism, this is how we are viewed. All we are good for is comedic fodder for crass comedians.

Abortions themselves 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, or that their life is just not worth living. They think this is because of our disabilities, whereas to my mind it is instead because of how society treats me because of my disability.

Disabled people are made out to be a burden on their families and an economic burden the state. Dan Kennedy, in his book Little People, remarked how when he and his wife were told by a doctor of their daughter’s dwarfism diagnosis, the doctor tried to suggest that if they had known earlier in her pregnancy, they would have offered a termination.

If I object, like I am now, I am told that it is ‘just a joke’ or ‘I need to get a thick skin’. You can argue that I can ignore Carr’s jokes by not watching him, but that will not stop his jokes affecting me – as much as I would like to shrug the joke off, how can I when I cannot prevent the social repercussions it will have? It’s easy for a non-disabled person to dismiss Carr’s comment as a harmless joke, they are not the ones facing the repercussions. They are not the ones who have to dread what abuse they may face every time they decide to step out of their front door.

In a 2010 report about the lives of people with dwarfism in the UK it was found that 63% of people with dwarfism felt unsafe when out in public. Many people with dwarfism have told me how they have had children laugh or throw stones at them or been on the receiving end of sexual harassment – apparently it is funny to ask a woman with dwarfism for a blowjob or to tell her that your penis bigger than her – or have even been physically picked up by strangers.

But that’s all dwarfism seems to be to most people: ‘a joke’. It’s a joke that has been going on for centuries and still exists as a joke where any another minority group would not be. It’s a joke that has worn too thin for most people with dwarfism, who have to endure the same jokes day in, day out, such as being asked ‘where our six little friends are’.

Much of the name-calling and jokes made towards people with dwarfism in public are, of course, constructed by representations of dwarfs in mass media. We are expected to take a joke because to most people we are just a joke, which renders us inferior in society. Is it any wonder that so many foetuses with dwarfism end up as ‘just’ an abortion.

Erin Pritchard is a lecturer in disability and education at Liverpool Hope University, and lives with dwarfism