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Once this factoid became a little more well known, it was retracted and changed.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.


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.
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