By now most of the internet knows that blogger Kelle Hampton caught some major flack for posting a full frontal of her daughter, Nella on instagram. If you don’t know about it yet, here’s an article from Today. While I personally think a full frontal of a child, any child, crosses the line, I do think the photo has been taken out of context because the main subject in Hampton’s photo was her belly. Nella was in the background, in the tub, eating ice cream. I just want you to remember that part because I think that’s only fair.
I read some of the comments from Get Off My Internets about this posting, and about people’s opinion s of Hampton and I came away feeling this weird mix of feeling sorry for her – some of those people were spitting pure bile! – and being concerned about people’s perceptions of Down syndrome.
You see, Hampton’s daughter Nella doesn’t have medical issues. She is, moreover, a perfectly beautiful child who is decked out daily in trippity-hip kid’s clothing and funky shoes and engages in activities crafted by her mother that makes most all other mothers look like slugs drenched in mind-waste that is Sesame Street. Okay, I”m just talking about myself here, but still.
So, anyway, people look at Nella and think she’s representative of what Down syndrome looks like in a child, and they think, “Hey! pretty great! Kids with Down syndrome are just the same as kids without, only they come with “almond eyes” and someone will come over the house and play blocks with my “little”!“. Then others seem to be accusing Hampton of glow-washing and sprinkle-painting Down syndrome so that it will “look better” and be something that others will want, too.
My personal opinion is that I do think that for the most part, Hampton speaks her truth regarding Down syndrome and how that extra chromosome makes itself known with her daughter.
The thing is, that truth does not look the same for everyone.
Some people – like Kelle Hampton – have a child with very few delays. Others have a child with a lot. And with medical issues to boot. I”m talking respirators, feeding tubes here; big-time things that change your whole life.
I don’t think the object in this should be to make Down syndrome anything other than it actually is: a simple syndrome that presents itself in an incredibly wide variety of ways. But what those comments – the hundreds if not thousands of comments that were flowing around GOMI in response to Hampton’s posting the nude photo of Nella – told me was that there is a skewed perception of Down syndrome out there. That it’s either something really great or it’s something that is just beyond awful.
The truth is that how you feel about Down syndrome depends on your experience with it.
If your child is constantly sick, can’t eat, can’t breathe, well I can’t see you loving that extra chromosome that makes life harder for your kid. The “more alike than different” campaign is useful in getting people to see people with Down syndrome as one of the fold. Kelle Hampton and her portrayal of her daughter take it a step further – and I’m not saying they shouldn’t, because they are only speaking their truth. The problem, like I said, is that we seem to be striving to create a culture that will either make it just fine to have Down syndrome because it’s “really not very different” or a culture that says “being different is okay.”
I’m not striving for a culture that makes it so that “being different is okay.”
I’m striving for a culture that says, “appreciate the fact that everyone is different.”
You see, I don’t think it’s about seeing mainstream as a given static with douses of different peppered in, courtesy of disability or ethnic/racial representation. Rather, I think it’s about recognizing and appreciating that everyone really and truly is different. Recognizing that the object in this all is to enjoy our differences, learn from each other.
It’s not about making the melting pot; it’s about making the beef stew, if that makes any sense.
Does it? What are your thoughts on this?
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.