Friday, November 30, 2012

Why I'm Not a fan of "Tard" the "Grumpy Cat"

Every so often I find that I have to write a post like this.  It used to make me very angry when I ran into this sort of thing;  now, I just feel sad for people that clearly do not get it and have little intention of doing so.

Normally, I file this type of occurrence under "it will die in a few days and go away" but sadly, I am afraid this particular one won't for a while yet.  I'm talking about the current "Grumpy Cat" meme.  It's a cute cat.  I love cats.  In fact, I love all animals.  However, this particular animal's owners need a swat in the nose.

This "Grumpy Cat" as it is known, is a female cat and in the videos that the owners have posted on YouTube, it is a fluffy little sweet tempered doll of a creature.  However, it is unlike other cats, a fact that is made apparent quite quickly.  Her eyes are wider spaced and shaped a bit oddly, her nose is flatter and more button like than either of her parents, her jaw appears to be stronger and have a bit of an "underbite".  The ears are smaller and rounder too.  Sound familiar?  It should, as I have described all of these as markers of Down syndrome (and a few other genetic disorders).  "Grumpy Cat" obviously has some kind of chromosomal disorder, which is what gives her her distinct look and looser gait.  Like both feline and human versions, all these traits do occur randomly in the general population.  However, all together it is pretty indicative that a little something extra went somewhere.

Now my aim here is not to disparage the little thing.  Chromosomal disorders are quite common in the feline world (as they are in the human world).  Tortoiseshell cats, for example (of which, "Grumpy Cat's mother is one).  I did not know that male Torties could exist but they do as well;  they are all Trisomies.  We used to have a long haired female Tortoiseshell cat with thumbs that had a sweet disposition as well.  We chose to name our darling cat Fenchurch.

"Grumpy Cat's" owners chose to call her "Tard".

Once this factoid became a little more well known, it was retracted and changed.  The official story now, a few months later is that although they call her "Tard", her actual name is "Tardar" as in "Tardar Sauce".  The spelling error was explained as she was named by a small child,  at least on the talk shows.

Right.

I'm not sure which is more insulting.  The fact that they named this cat "Tard" in the first place, or the fact that they tried to kick a bit of litter over it after the fact.
 
This wouldn't be such an issue if this was some anonymous lady's cat down the street.  But, she's not.  This kitty now has it's own Facebook page, Twitter, Tumblr and is actively being marketed with a line of merchandise, not to mention being turned into countless meme images by fans every day.  Most just refer to it as "Grumpy Cat" but the YouTube videos and Tumblr account still tell the tale of this little cat and her offensive name.

Even if she was, say,  the cat of an older lady down the street does that make it right?  What if I got a Bull Terrier and named her "Dykstra"?  What if I named a Siamese cat "Chinkerly"?  Do the obvious short forms of those names strike you as something that should be condoned, shared, marketed and taught to my children?  Even if I blame it on the kids?  Do you think my neighbours, my sweet Trinidadian neighbours, for one second would tolerate me calling a black lab after the mascot of "The Dam Busters" Royal Air Forces No. 617 Squadron?  Imagine me, standing on my back porch, calling this dog and my children in for supper.  Would some hasty explanation involving Lancaster bombers, the Möhne Reservoir and WWII ease their hurt feelings?  I doubt it highly as in this very hypothetical case I would have chosen to name my dog, regardless of intent, a very offensive word.  So offensive, that charges might even be laid.

The owners of this cat knew full well what they were doing.  The word, whether a short form of it's "full" name or not, is a slur that has been used to degrade, humiliate and even exterminate people for being different.  Ironically this is exactly what we are celebrating this feline for.

There has been a lot of backlash in many forums when people bring this point up.  The usual arguments, including freedom of speech, citing what the cat's "full name" is, you're too sensitive, calling a plea for tolerance 'political correctness'...  all show how ignorant and willfully blind people continue to be with the intellectually challenged.  My favourite one of course, will always be that "[R-word] people don't know that it's wrong, they won't know what you are saying" which totally negates any sort of cognitive or emotional reaction from a developmentally delayed person, which in turn dehumanizes them even further.  That particular "argument" is ignorance and Abilism incarnate.

As I've said before, I love animals.  I treat them with the utmost respect.  I do the same with humans too, even if, based on their actions I don't think they really deserve it.  Amazingly, fans of this special little kitty get their fur up quite quickly when you suggest that the cat's name is offensive.  Well, as a Mom of a kid with Down syndrome, I'm here to tell you it is.  I'm also not alone in my opinion.  I wish her owners and many of her fans would extend to humanity the same respect that they lavish on this cat.  Back-pedaling and calling her "Tardar Sauce" or "Tardy McFluffypants" or "TARDIS"  or anything of the sort to cover you calling a cat with an obvious chromosomal disorder "Tard" is just ill conceived, stupid, ridiculous, slow and quite feeble minded.

You know, all the things that people use the R-word to mean.

37 comments :

  1. Grumpy Cat is probably a Siamese Himalayan crossed with a domestic shorthair. Siamese Himalayans tend to have pushed in faces and when they are crossed out with a "normal" cat, the mouth can look a little odd.

    I'm thinking that Tard (how classy & I did not know that) has Cerebellar Hypoplasia AKA Wobbly Kitten Disease.

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    1. I thought along very similar (breeding) lines when I first saw (and loved) this cat. I was very surprised to find from the website that the mother was a SH tortoiseshell and the father a typical SH grey and white tabby.

      Its quite possible that she has CH. It would go with a chromosomal issue as well. It's a unique cat for sure. However I think her owners need some spray bottle therapy.

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  2. Hopefully soon will come the day when use of the R word for any reason will be seen just as ridiculous and shameful as pictures of protesters fighting against desegregation in schools, treating schizophrenia with holy water and thinking the earth is flat.

    Unfortunately, there are those who fiercely believe the lunar landing was staged, highway deer crossings should be moved to crosswalks and any cognitive delay is an inability to have feelings.

    It's a sad irony. So pathetically sad to picture anyone who would be proud to diminish the worth and value of any animal or person.

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  3. Great post Jen!

    I have to tell you that my son, H, loved watching a somewhat irritating internet show called Fred - which I think is rather much of a sensation with the early teen or pre-adolescent set. Well - a while back I asked him why he wasn't watching it any more - and he said, "Fred is dead - he used the R word - so I am not watching that show anymore." That was over 2 months ago... and he hasn't gone back to it.

    Tonight we went to a movie and I was working hard to remind H that he needed to be quiet in the theatre. This is always a bit of a challenge - as he is so full of questions - and really I do want to encourage that kind of thinking and questioning and social interaction. He usually does pretty well, but it still is difficult to differentiate that you can talk at home - but the expectations for the theatre are different.

    Anyways - tonight in the theatre - there was someone who was really very loud at times - and vocalizing and laughing at unexpected times during the movie. It was clear that this person faced a number of challenges, and I was ready to step up in defense of their rights and was rehearsing what I might say if anyone complained. I was also ready to explain to H about acceptance and understanding diversity - if he questioned the yelling out.

    You know what? No one said a thing... and H didn't notice or ask. I didn't even see any heads turn toward where this person was sitting.

    Tonight I am pretty proud of my little town!!

    Things are changing!! Keep writing my friend - you are educating many, you are making a difference, and you are not alone!

    Leah

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    1. Thanks Leah... for your kind words and your story. Go H go! xox

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  4. Thanks for explaining about the name & cat.Ive had ALOT of these in my feed and something just wasn't sitting right with me,I kept staring at this cat thinking this isn't right.But I know nothing of cats and thought it might be a certain breed.I think if more people knew the story,they wouldn't be passing this around.The back peddling on the name is straight BS,who names their cat tardar sauce..Which by the way is spelled tartar sauce..Your right spray bottle of shame for the owners.

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    1. The spelling error, the owners claim, is due to a child naming her. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant as the Tumblr page is still "Tard the grumpy cat". Thanks for the comment. :)

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  5. Well written, with excellent arguments. I had one of these pop up on my facebook page and I didn't get it. I have been unfriending people who continue to use that word after I point out that it's offensive. Keep fighting the good fight!

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  6. Gosh, I hadn't seen any of this cat business. Shocking, and a perfect response as ever Jen.

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  7. Hiding behind the veil of "Freedom of speech" is just a disguise for ignorance!

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  8. Loved this post. I see eye to eye with you. I'm glad you put this out there!

    Lori

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  9. I am a massive cat lover and love cat memes. I love grumpy cat herself, but I completely feel uncomfortable when I watched videos of her or saw pictures. She clearly has a genetic disorder, not a result of breeding...You've articulated my thoughts on the cat perfectly. As well as the name thing - we weren't born yesterday.

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    1. It's one of the worst jobs of revisionist history that I've seen in a while.

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  10. I didn't know. I honestly thought it was just how the cat was. (Not every human smiles or is worldly definition of "pretty") Now that i know, I won't promote this trend of this poor cat, horrible her human parents don't care for her more than that. thank you

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    1. I can't comment on the quality of care that she gets as I simply don't know. What I can, and will continue to comment on is the insensitivity of some people. It's not funny.

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  11. I had only seen photos of grumpy cat on Facebook until today (which honestly I LOL'd at as I thought her very cute) but then I decided to youtube her. I had no idea her name was "Tard" :( I found that very offensive as I have had a lot to do with mentally and physically disable people.

    I was unaware before YouTubing her that she had genetic deformaties. I mean, who cares! so long as the cat is happy, healthy and well looked after but after watching a few videos I came to relise that her owners bug her far too much, hiding in boxes and slinking off to avoid the camera. I think the well being of the cat has been lost in pursuit of popularity and fame.

    I have a grumpy looking cat at home who is actually named "Grumpy Face" - she however looks like she is scowling all the time as opposed to having the severe underbite that this poor cat has. My children did not name the cat, my husband did. But if the children had chosen to name her something similar to poor Tardas, I would not have allowed it to become concrete.

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  12. Hi, I googled "grumpy cat downs syndrome" and up popped your article. I loved the grumpy cat photos, and assumed the frowns face was photoshopped. When I watched the videos, the penny dropped and I realized a genetic disorder must have caused his unusual appearance. I think the name is cruel. I think his owners are exploiting her. I hope this meme dies soon, I feel uncomfortable with what the owners are doing, treating her like a sideshow freak for profit. Thanks for your article. I work with a child with downs syndrome, and I don't like to see the genetically different being held up to ridicule.

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    1. I liked the meme when I first saw it too. Like I said, I do love cats of all sizes and makes. However, once I looked into things a bit more... well, the truth came out. Thanks for stopping by.

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  13. Hi, I think naming her tard was really stupid. I don't know how to say this right but she makes me happy looking at her, I want to cuddle her & be her friend.

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    1. She's cute, which is what attracted me to her in the first place. Her owners are insensitive jerks who tried to cover that little fact up once the cat started to take off.

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  14. The name is insensitive, and the owners are lovingly exploiting her similar to parents of a child star. However, Grumpy cat warms my heart and makes me want to donate directly to an animal shelter. I hope the good this cat does outweighs the bad.

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    1. I would like to see that as well. Sadly, that will not be the case.

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  15. I'm so over this cat. But as long as she's given the love and attention she deserves, it's all good.

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  16. I don't understand how you know for certain that the cat's name *isn't "Tardar Sauce," with an innocuous nomenclature. She is the pet a child, after all. I understand your reaction, especially in light of those with special needs, but I don't get that these owners are ignorant or malicious.

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    1. Last November, when I wrote this article, the cat had just surfaced on YouTube, Tumblr, etc. The cat was then called "Tard". Not Tardar or anything else, just plain "Tard". It was a cat with an obvious disability and it's name was put out to the world as "Tard" and not "Tardar". What does that say about the owners? A lot actually.

      People love calling this cat "Tard" as it is apparently "funny" and "it suits her". I know this as they feel it necessary to write me to tell me about it.

      Since that time, one by one, all the references have been changed to "Grumpy Cat". They cannot change the Tumblr account, it is still called "Tard the Grumpy Cat". Like I said in the above article, you can say that the cat's name is whatever you want after the fact, but in the start, before the Christmas cards and fridge magnets, her name was "Tard". If it was so inoffensive then why go to great lengths to erase this?

      Thankfully, this meme is finally dying, like they all do.

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  17. They call it tard in a lot of youtube videos but most of our circle have called it sauce since tarder was a kitten. I've always preferred calling it by the name sauce, and the cat seems to come to sauce more than it does tard. Plus sauce sounds cooler.

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  18. I very politely asked the "for the love of pets" people if they had considered the offensive nature of the name "Tard" and the public ( on Facebook ) response was a picture of the cat and the word "Tard" repeated about twenty times under the picture and then, "he he he". I am in touch with "ARC" and other organizations that are involved with mental retardation and am encouraged to learn from my State Senator that the word 'retarded' is becoming banned and even illegal in many States. I will find a voice big enough to expose the true nature of this so-called non-profit group. I suspect they may be embarassed by what else is found to be true. Thank you for your sensitivity and courage. Ken in Maryland.

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  19. I very politely asked the "for the love of pets" people if they had considered the offensive nature of the name "Tard" and the public ( on Facebook ) response was a picture of the cat and the word "Tard" repeated about twenty times under the picture and then, "he he he". I am in touch with "ARC" and other organizations that are involved with mental retardation and am encouraged to learn from my State Senator that the word 'retarded' is becoming banned and even illegal in many States. I will find a voice big enough to expose the true nature of this so-called non-profit group. I suspect they may be embarassed by what else is found to be true. Thank you for your sensitivity and courage. Ken in Maryland.

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  20. I very politely asked the "for the love of pets" people if they had considered the offensive nature of the name "Tard" and the public ( on Facebook ) response was a picture of the cat and the word "Tard" repeated about twenty times under the picture and then, "he he he". I am in touch with "ARC" and other organizations that are involved with mental retardation and am encouraged to learn from my State Senator that the word 'retarded' is becoming banned and even illegal in many States. I will find a voice big enough to expose the true nature of this so-called non-profit group. I suspect they may be embarassed by what else is found to be true. Thank you for your sensitivity and courage. Ken in Maryland.

    ReplyDelete
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