So some hearing woman thought it’d be cool to borrow our language and make money off it while being misogynistic, sexist, racist, what have you.  She even got a book deal. She’s making money off us. Our language. Our culture. In a really uncool, totally inappropriate way.  Others have spoken so eloquently, I’ll keep their comments here but am redacting names as I do not have everyone’s permission.
I have submitted comments and emails to Stonesong Press and  St. Martin’s Press.
UPDATE: E-mail the Publicist for the book directly. Kimberly Hanson. 
UPDATE: E-mail the editor of the book directly. Daniella Rapp. 
UPDATE: Please sign this Petition: ask your friends to sign, tweet the petition, Facebook, e-mail, and get the word out!
Post your comments on Facebook, click on the links in this post to contact editors and producers to protest the promotion of a hearing person using OUR language to perpetuate sexism, racism, and make money off it while misrepresenting our language and our culture.
Dear Editors:
I am writing to share my extreme disgust and displeasure at your agency’s decision to publish Kristin Henson’s book: Super Smutty Sign Language. I am a deaf white man. American Sign Language is my language. I find Henson’s videos and view of ASL to be sexist and racist. Her use of my language is cultural appropriation. You, by publishing this book, are exploiting deaf people and our language. For profit. You are exploiting racism and sexism for profit. I am copying and pasting a few comments from others regarding Henson’s book. We suggest you rethink publishing this book. Doing so only affirms that it’s okay for hearing people to steal our language, dirty it, use it in ways that is wrong,  perpetuate oppression of minority groups, and make money off that.
Person 1 · 
I’m a [cultural-linguistic] deaf woman of color, and american sign language is one of my languages. I didn’t want to play any of the videos above. I immediately catched the at once subversive/overt racism and misogynism in some of kristin’s ‘instructional’ video, which was enough for me to abstain from clicking ‘play’ on any of them. by her ‘teaching’ us how to ‘be’/ sign ‘gangsta’ and ‘bitch, please’ I i see a simultaneous exoticification and minimization of sign language, appropriated and packaged for [white, patriarchal] entertainment value. I don’t think it is okay to reduce any language to ‘dirty words’ and even more, use a person who is just learning the language to showcase such phrases. upholding the power structure much?
kristin– you have 11,500 subscribers to your videos, which ironically have completely shoddy closed-captioning. I can get that you’re amped to learn sign language. that’s nice. but language is never removed from cultural politics, especially if you go on to commodify it. quite frankly, you’re doing it wrong. wrong wrong wrong. youre teetering the line of contributing to the cultural-linguistic appropriation of ASL and consequently u.s. deaf culture as a whole. you do even more injustice to us deaf people of color with ‘damn it feels good to be a gangsta.’ I’m not sure who gave you a misguided ‘in’ with the community so that you went forth with this disillusioned and completely offensive project. chances are, you will continue to do this project because ‘omgz it’s so cool, and like, my friends and like, all these people love it’ but I hope my comment plants a politically-conscious seed in this mind of yours, however buried it might be for awhile.
Person 2 · Washington, District of Columbia
An American Sign Language novice with 90 tutorials under her belt is “translating crude and bizarre phrases and slowly defining a universal language of sex and strife.” Oh really? Hipster racism is never cool.
Totally racist, sexist, offensive, and narrow-minded of you, Kristin, to do those incredibly tasteless vlogs. Most of the signs are inaccurate thus sorry they are not beneficial and useful like you may think. I can go on more but I can’t stand to be on this webpage any longer.
Person 3 ·
I’ve quickly scanned your psychobabble…and as a Deaf person I can tell you that what you have complied in all these videos is definitely an insult to the likes of us (Deaf community). You should start considering removing all of your videos as they show ignorance and disrespect toward the signing community. I dare you take American Sign Language (ASL) courses because I doubt you’ll last long, not because of your inability to learn, but because of your inability to realize its richness and complexity of the language. It’s sad to see how someone can take the language apart and destroy it like this.
Person 4·
Thank you so much for contributing to the commodification of one of my languages and one of my cultures. /endsarcasm I am offended and appalled by these videos and your *nerve* in thinking it’s OK to do this. You wouldn’t dare do it to Spanish, Chinese, Thai, or any other language, I bet. Why is it OK to do this to ASL? Daily Dot, shame on you for highlighting this example of racism, misogynism, ethnocentrism, minimization of ASL, etc.
Person 5- This is reprehensible. On the behalf of my community, the community of the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and ASL users, I cry foul of the most malicious kind. This is wrong on so many levels. Appropriating a language you aren’t fluent in, appropriating a culture you clearly do not interact with, and propagating racism and sexism and audism in the name of “humor” and “knowledge”. I will do everything I can to see this book never gets off the presses.
Person 5, Part 2- I posted THIS directly to Stonesong: SUPER SMUTTY SIGN LANGUAGE is a huge slap in the face of the collective Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and American Sign Langauge (ASL) community. This is extremely offensive, not only in the subject matter, because yes, we swear and use slang, and talk dirty, but that is the point- WE do. Kristin is not a fluent signer, she is not a member of the community, and is therefore misrepresenting an entire community, an entire language, a culture, a people. This book should not be published. Yes, there is freedom of the press, but there is also libel, cultural appropriation, and theft of a language. I am a Deaf professor of ASL and Linguistics who also teaches Deaf Culture, and this has just stunned me beyond measure. This is a tragic example of a poorly researched project and endorsement of audism- which is behavior based on the notion that people who hear, or the manner of acting like those who can hear, are superior to those who do not.
Person 6- I wholeheartedly concur with what everyone said below (Octavian, [redacted], [redacted], etc). You should be -so- ashamed of yourself, putting videos of yourself butchering MY language on the internet. I was hoping everyone who commented below was being oversensitive, but it only took one video to realize their objections to what you’re doing are completely and utterly justified. If you had any shred of self-respect, and respect for the Deaf community, you’d take this down — immediately.

Comments on: "UPDATE: ACTION Alert: Hearing Person Exploiting ASL for Profit" (62)

  1. I wrote to the contacts you provided and I also emailed Kristin on her YouTube site AND her facebook page: — please keep us informed if you get a response – and I will commit to the same. I posted an emotional response about this on my facebook page – dave j coyne – in cincinnati, Oh –feel free to find me – this community is growing stronger by the day! – much love — interpreter, ally & friend

  2. Colette H. Cabral said:

    I am not pleasured with her signing. There is misinformation about signing. She is offended our Deaf community and the value of our ASL. She needs to stop doing. Hope she thinks twice

    • Thank you for speaking up. I hope you will send a quick comment to the contacts listed in the post. The more people who communicate with St. Martin’s the better.

  3. This is a attempt to subvert the means and ways of ASL as a bon fide language by a novice who attempts to exploit this for her own personal gains. This is a sad example of people who take ASL and without honoring it as it should be honored, go for those signs which are offensive, and demean the essence of ASL. This, in no way is reflective of a true ASL learner. Just someone who thinks it’s funny to mock the language and be the center of attention via the dirty signs.

  4. dagrushkin said:

    Thank you for the contact info, Octavian. This is what I sent:

    Dear Editors:

    I am an Associate Professor of American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Studies at the California State University – Sacramento.  I am Deaf and have been an ASL speaker for more than 30 years.  

    I was appalled to find out today that not only is Kristen Henson doing her “sign language” instructional videos on You Tube, she is now in the process of having a book published of her highly dubious work through your publishing company.  I urge you strongly to discontinue any plans to publish this book, which the Deaf community finds extremely demeaning, for a number of reasons, which I will enumerate below:

    First, Kristen is NOT a fluent, competent signer.  In watching her videos, it is immediately evident that she not only produces a number of formational/articulatory errors, but she is also often grammatically incorrect as well.  As anyone knows, if you are going to teach a language, it should be taught correctly, and preferably by native models, which Kristen is not, by any definition. 

    Second, the “sign language” that she is teaching has no practical use for any sort of regular contact with Deaf people. Random sentences of a sexual or stereotypical nature are not how one typically initiates contact with a Deaf person.  Moreover, were someone to use these phrases with a new acquaintance, if they were not immediately slapped or punched, they would not understand anything that was signed back to them, since they obviously would not have learned any form of normal discourse. 

    Third, ASL has had a long history of being banned, dismissed, diminished and in general, disrespected by professionals and lay people alike.  To produce a series of ungrammatical and articulatorily incorrect videos (let alone a book filled with the same) perpetuates the notion that ASL is not a language deserving of respect and that where ASL is concerned, any sort of movement of the hands means that one  is using “ASL”, when this is clearly not the case. 

    Moreover, the Deaf community has had a long history of Hearing people profiting off not only our bodies, but also our language.  Kristen Henson is just the latest of such profiteers, and it is doubly insulting that there are many highly qualified, competent, Deaf people who are not being offered any sort of lucrative publishing deals, while a person like Kristen, without any training or cultural understanding, is being endorsed by your company.  

    I am sure that there are some who may think that Kristen Henson’s work is intended in a humorous vein.  However, given the history of disparagement of ASL, any such humor is immediately lost and instead it becomes yet another example of belittlement  of a culture, people, and language.  I am sure that many other cultural and linguistic groups would also find it insulting to have a non-native speaker publish work in their language consisting solely of sexual, racial and stereotypical concepts. 

    I could go on, but I think you get the basic idea here.  Kristen Henson’s work is highly offensive, inappropriate, and should not be financially or otherwise rewarded by your company or anyone else.  So once again, I urge you to immediately take action and discontinue any plans to publish this (or any similar) work. 

    Donald A. Grushkin, Ph.D.

    • Donald,

      Thank you for writing such an eloquent response. I appreciate you writing to St. Martin’s press and sharing your letter with us. I hope that we can continue to mobilize the community together until the right action takes place. Best, Tavian

      • Anonymous said:

        One of the publishers you linked to disavowed connection to this book, stating that they don’t publish that title and that they are a college textbook publisher….. Hmmmm…..

      • dagrushkin said:

        This is the response I got:

        Thank you so much for your e-mail regarding Super Smutty Sign Language by Kristin Henson. Your input is appreciated. Stonesong is not the publisher of this book; Stonesong and Mansion Street Literary Management are Kristin Henson’s literary agencies. We will forward your concerns on to her publisher, St. Martin’s Press.

        Alison Fargis

  5. I sympathised with the Deaf Community for their reactions regarding this issue.I think that it’s a disrespect for them and their language when “someone” uses it for exploitation.We,the Hearing Community MUST show respect and understanding to the language they speak because without it,they cease to exist!So pls. I urge the publisher to think LIKE A DEAF PERSON.How would he feel of HE WERE IN THEIR SHOES????!!!!

  6. […] For more information, see previous post. […]

  7. She has no right to use or borrow our language to make money off of us. It not belong to her it belong to deaf culture. Also I notice she sign so sloppy and teaching them the wrong thing.

    • Nicola, Thank you for commenting. Please take a minute to sign the press so St. Martin’s knows how many people are objecting. -Tavian

  8. This is what I wrote to the publisher:

    Tonight I read of the plan to publish a book on “dirty signs” by an admitted novice, Kristin Henson, and frankly, was incredulous that a respected and diversified book publishing company would stake its reputation on such a book.

    As a Deaf person who has been using American sign language for over 50 years and one who has lived and worked with all types of Deaf people as long, I beg to inform you that what you are considering is equivalent to publishing a teenager’s haphazard collection of street argot, selected for titillation purposes only. It is also roughly equivalent to publishing a sampling of public restroom graffiti and is in no way representative of language. Not only is this demeaning for you as a publisher, it pulls down your image in your other offerings which seem to be respectable.

    For true understanding of the cultural background, one must be interacting with Deaf people. This book is not contextual, not by a Deaf person, not culturally accurate, and not correct in portrayal of some signs, if one is to use the writer’s videos as an indication. For those who are serious about learning signs for explicit words, there are already publications for that purpose: e.g. Signs of Sexual Behavior by James Woodward and Dirty Sign Language: Everyday Slang from “What’s Up” by James T. Van. A wider survey of sign language books will reveal that there are several dozen different titles available by more distinguished and native users of ASL than your prospective writer.

    Please obtain the opinion of established linguistic experts in American Sign Language on this book before even considering it. They can be found at Gallaudet University, Washington, DC; the National Technical Institute of the Deaf in Rochester, NY and California State University in Northridge, California. |
    All of these institutions are highly regarded in their programs of teaching American Sign Language as well as teaching Deaf college students from all over the world. They will tell you that not only is this book inaccurate, missing important context, and culturally offensive, it is also fraudulent in that some signs are not even American Sign Language at all.


    • Dianrez, Thank you for sharing your letter with us. Please sign the petition as well and share with your friends and our allies. Best, Tavian

  9. Way to go Tavian! I signed the petition!

  10. Signed the petition! Just and FYI, on her website she says that she didn’t study ASL at RIT, she studyed animation.

  11. Kim Kula said:

    Where can I find the petition? I want to sign the petition! Thanks.

  12. You think it is alright to steal our beautiful language ? God had his purpose for deaf to have own languages for purpose. You stole and advantage of our rights as deaf. You all need free ride all the way. It is CRIMES in our world. You acted this by wrong theory of our cultures by destroy deaf reputation. It is time for deaf to turn table back to you. It is your final warning to stop make money off from deaf community.
    Semper FI

  13. Anonymous said:

    This is the response I got:

    Thank you so much for your e-mail regarding Super Smutty Sign Language by Kristin Henson. Your input is appreciated. Stonesong is not the publisher of this book; Stonesong and Mansion Street Literary Management are Kristin Henson’s literary agencies. We will forward your concerns on to her publisher, St. Martin’s Press.

    Alison Fargis

    • Yes. Stonesong promised to pass on the correspondence to the publisher. The literary agencies should be aware of the issues at hand.

  14. It is actually very interesting that both the publisher and this young woman has a hearing loss. She admits she is a novice at signing. Poor decision on both to print a book on this topic when she is not fully fluent in signing nor fully makes her videos accessible. Hopefully, they think twice.

  15. Although I have not seen the videos, as a hearing teacher of ASL and a certified Interpreter for the Deaf in Texas and a huge advocate for Deaf and Deaf culture….this is very disheartening. Why does someone, who y’all say is not qualified, feel that it is right to offend Deaf and their precious and beautiful language? Again, I have not seen any of the videos and I don’t really want to add to the number of viewings but I just might have to so that I can see for myself how rude, disgusting and inconsiderate this woman is being.

  16. It isn’t just about her signing skills. It is about a person exploiting a language and culture that does not belong to her for profit while demonstrating extreme cultural insensitivity. I posted the contact information for bedfordstmaritn because at the time of writing the blog post, that was the only e-mail address that I could find that worked. I received a response from them and they suggested I go to a contact webpage (the same one I visited yesterday) and there isn’t an appropriate contact person/department listed. I have asked the person who responded to me to actually give me a direct e-mail address.

  17. I was born deaf – i think youre all over reacting. If you dont like it….write your own stupid book. Some of these long winded and asinine comments about culture and blah blah blah just makes you look ignorant. You dont like a book…shut up and get another one. I quit using sign language because youre all too obsessed on controlling how its used in your “culture”. You wont use it like a language but more like abbreviated yoda…which NO ONE talks like in real life, books, or tv. Youre all just LAZY not to use complete sentences. But you will raise a stink over what is free speech farce comedy.

    • You are entitled to your opinion. You might want to take some time to educate yourself on the real issues at hand: cultural appropriation, exploitation, systems of power and privilege, oppression, and the content which is racist and sexist. Along with linguistic research in ASL.

      • Staci Miller (from awesome Austin) said:

        Tavian- I admire what you are doing. I’m not sure a petition is going to work but it is worth a try. I think we need Deafies to sign in a vlog on You Tube and using this social media asking everyone (hearing and Deaf) to not to buy this book (boycott). I’m a former History and Government teacher at Deaf schools and Deaf myself and know that in this Capitalism nation- she is gonna do what she wants to do however she wants. I just hope she has a consience but if she is after $$$$, don’t think so.
        If we could have every Deaf person in every city at every bookstore where they sell her book- we could try to influence hearing people not to buy the book or explain-these are NOT ASL, please be aware of this but we can’t stop them from buying if they want to.

      • Thanks for the suggestions. We do need to have a long term strategy in the event St. Martin’s decides to go to press. We want to go on record with our objections to the book being published. A major publisher publishing this book lends credibility where none is due. If you decide to make a vlog or want to help organize action, let us know!

    • oh, how did i “quit” sign language…i got a cochlear implant…wow oh wow how awesome it works…and the so called “community” is offended and determines that i couldnt accept myself or some stupid thing like that. The fact is…no one should be blind, deaf, or anything…but a lot of deaf people i meet are so anti technology or enhancement but its ok to use their pda, chatbox, videobox, or any of that…but God forbid i try to hear things, speak orally, and not use sign language.I thought i should clear that comment up.

      • JJ,

        I have no problem with Cochlear Implants. I understand your decision to get one and respect your right to get one. It is unfortunate that you feel you cannot remain a member of the deaf community despite having a CI. Attitudes are changing. I wrote a blog post about my feelings about Cochlear Implants last year and got a lot of positive feedback. The general sense is the real problem is language and education deprivation that accompanies the decision to give a child a CI at an early age without a guarantee that it works and without a guarantee that the child will learn language, become independent, and economically self-sufficient.

  18. Tavian, Educate myself? Are you FKN kidding me? – This whole setup of how the deaf community believes it should function in terms of how to react to polarized issues is so elitist its stupid. Ive been trying to “educate” deaf people to quit pigeonholing themselves into being the victim and change their approach to ASL linguistics. Why have a signed language thats so abbreviated that half of the comments deaf people post online display poor grammar because they write the same way they sign. If they werent so hung up on their “internal” idea of how “deafies” should function maybe their “culture” can start addressing how it can be easier to function in society with a few changes in attitude. And because arguments with deaf people always never get resolved…I am outta here…and good luck wasting more time over a stupid free speech item.

    • JJ,

      No I am not kidding you. The issues I listed for you are issues of concern to all minority populations including African-Americans, Native- Americans, Asian-Pacific Islanders, the overall disabled community, and so on forth. I agree that we should stop seeing ourselves as victims. That is WHY we are objecting. Because we choose not to be victims and to demand equal, appropriate treatment which includes respect of our culture, our language, and our personhood. Best, Tavian

    • Mike Ford said:

      JJ, your ignorance is in not understanding that ASL is not English. It has its own structure, which is not an abbreviation but simply a different grammar. The fact that you think it appears ignorant is your problem, not the fault of the language.

  19. Anonymous said:

    I am severely disabled and many of my peers use ASL as a primary means of communication. I learned it in Perkins School for the Blind to speak with friends who were DB (deaf blind) and later to speak with friends and peers with autism, Cerebral Palsy and others who cannot speak. This language is for those of us who understand its value and beauty, not for “able bodied walkies” who don’t need or want to learn it correctly. I find it insulting that this book does not give credit of value to the community that use’s it primarily the Deaf & disabled community. Why would anyone who doesn’t live our lives and respect our people, world and culture write such an inaccurate piece of trash is beyond me! This book should be banned and apology given to the Deaf and disabled community whom she has insulted by her behavior and attitude!

  20. Anonymous II said:

    BCM (a hearing interpreter) and all hearing persons should NOT teach ASL courses AT ALL ANYWHERE!! They stole/steal jobs from deaf/HH who were/are skilled users of ASL! THINK ABOUT THAT.

    FYI, I signed the petition. (I am 2nd & 3rd generation deaf and I taught ASL for 22 years. I hold MA degree in Linguistics and I am a RID-certified interpreter
    including CLIP-R.)

  21. Anonymous Terp said:

    Kristin (by the way, you got her name wrong), is not “stealing” your language for profit. She is bringing ENGLISH idioms to ASL. Sure, she’s no expert, BUT SHE HAS A DISCLAIMER THAT SAYS SO ON ALL OF HER VIDEOS. She has support from at least one interpreter, and is taking ASL classes to LEARN MORE. All of her phrases are USER GENERATED, meaning THE HEARING PUBLIC suggests them. I think you’re making too much out of this, and the threats against her need to stop. If you really do feel your language is being stolen, FEEL FREE to make videos/publish a book yourself. Stand up, go ahead, but VIOLENCE/THREAT OF VIOLENCE IS NOT THE ANSWER.

    • Anonymous said:

      Who has made any suggestion of violence here? This is a straw man or red herring statement intended to distract from the real points. Cut it out! Deaf people have the right to be pissed without being accused of being practically terrorists!

    • I have not seen any suggestions of violence on this blog or elsewhere. I do not endorse violence and I want to make that clear here that nobody is suggesting bodily harm. I would not rush to say that an interpreter’s support validates what Kristin is doing. There is a long history of audism and skewed power dynamics with interpreters. Not all interpreters participate in audism, some are wonderful allies who understand and respect deaf consumers but experience has taught me and many others that there are a great deal of interpreters who have demonstrated little or no understanding of the systems of oppression and privilege. Anyone who says that an interpreter’s support validates what Kristin is doing needs to take a long, hard look at that interpreter’s complicity with hearing privilege (and other privileges) as well and examine that interpreter’s processes in becoming an ally/advocate for the empowerment and advancement of the deaf community.

      • Anonymous Terp said:

        First, I just want to say that my previous post was written in an emotional state– Kristin has been receiving death threats via email, youtube, and other electronic avenues. Not blaming anyone here, just a fact.
        Reading all of the comments here, watching some response videos as well, has left me with a sour taste in my mouth– and after a day of thought and reflection, I have to agree with what has been said here on this blog. I can’t dictate how a community should feel because of my preconceived notions of a hearing person’s view of a Deaf world. I feel terrible. My role as an ally/advocate needs to be reexamined, and I’m going to be having some serious talks with my mentors/Deaf friends.
        I do believe Kristin is not acting out of malice, but then again, I’m sure that people thought the same thing of the government when we were putting Japanese-Americans into internment camps during WW2.

        Anonymous Terp, Rethinking Perspectives.

      • Anonymous Terp,

        I am sorry to hear about the threats of violence and death. As Elena said in her comment to Kristin the other day, we are trying to plant seeds of consciousness here, not incite violence. Our focus should be on education, dialogue, consciousness-raising, and non-violent resistance.

        Speaking of consciousness-raising, I am glad you have chosen to re-examine your privileges and invite you to continue to participate in our dialogue. We have been having conversations in the deaf community as of late in regard to privileges, systems of power and oppression, and the such. In the near future, I hope to host a conversation specifically about interpreting, audism, and power dynamics within consumer-interpreter relationships. Your input is welcome.

        In the meantime, the community has been focusing on: privileges within the NAD and the larger deaf community; the meaning of siting the Bear Hunt Statue on the campus at California School for the Deaf in Fremont; and Kristin Henson’s work. For further information, if you are interested, visit the following sites: (ASL version with a link to English version) and which is an ASL version and contains a link to the English version regarding the NAD and privileges in the larger deaf community; the follows is in regard to the Bear Hunt Statue (this includes both video and text).


  22. My twin sister Xylonda and I was so shocked of what we saw on Kristin Henson’s YouTube videos. It’s show no respect for deaf communtity/culture and disrespectful to deaf people. Kristin should use ASL in the right way instead using them in inappropriate way. We are both deaf, Kristin should see how it feel in deaf shoes and what we been through. My twin sister Xylonda and I signed DO NOT PUBLISH KRISTIN HENSON’S SUPER SMUTTY BOOK petitions is great idea to prevent that to be publish.

    PS: Sign Language is a beautiful gift from God. _\m/

  23. Stephen Weiner said:

    As an adjunct ASL instructor at Boston University, I agree with many of those who have made comments that Kristin should take accredited Deaf Culture, Deaf Lit, and ASL courses to better understand that ASL is not a form of mimic and cannot compliment speech, which is what was clearly displayed by her. I only hope that after reading many of the comments and suggestions made by the members of the Deaf community, Kristin will see it that she simply made a mistake, promptly remove the videos, withdraw any intent to publish anything to do with Deaf culture, including but not limited to ASL.

  24. Please. I’m a culturally deaf person, you all are making much ado about it. Don’t you all have better things to fight for??!!! Geesh.

    Sooner or later, the world at large will want to have nothing to do with signing deaf people because they protest over everything. Pick your battles!!!

  25. FYI, Kristin is taking ASL course now. She is willing to work with deaf people in improving her dirty signs. Why can’t you guys learn to work with her? She asked me if I could help, I have not decided yet as I don’t have much free time. The thing is she is NOT obligated to use ASL. She can use mixture of ASL, PSE, SEE, Signed English, etc. Because many in deaf culture do not use strictly ASL. A Deal with it.

    • Thank you for the update on Kristin’s education in our language. She is not always willing to work with deaf people- I have seen some comments in the past where she has ignored or deleted comments making suggestions as to improvements to her signs. Comments that were respectful and civil. She has shown a reluctance to engage in cultural exchange in understanding the deaf community and their objections. If she were genuine in her desire to improve her signs and be an ally to the deaf community (not necessarily ASL but the over all, multi-faceted deaf community that uses ASL and English-based modes of communication), she should at least respond to our concerns in this regard and come to understand what the issues at hand are. Hint: They aren’t just about her signing skills- but the idea of cultural appropriation for profit and content that is sexist, racist, and misogynistic.

  26. Dianrez said:

    Tavian is correct in saying “take a long, hard look at that interpreter’s complicity with hearing privilege (and other privileges) as well and examine that interpreter’s processes”. It isn’t just certain interpreters, but a larger number of people who have problems with boundaries and sensitivity.

    Kristen’s choice of advisers or people to quote have included Richard Roehm and Tom Bertling, people who have gone on record as unsympathetic to ASL, Deaf culture and Deaf self-determination. These people are the type that believes the majority rules, the majority is right, and the minority has an obligation to conform.

    Though it may feel like shouting into the wind, Deaf people have reasons to stand firm in fighting bad works that undermines our cultural position in society. One was to expose oppression of ASL and enforced oralism. Here it is exposing distortion and exploitation of elements of our culture.

    Free speech may support bad works being published, but free speech also supports our fighting them as a type of defamation.

  27. Grateful Interpreter said:

    If you don’t understand why people are making a big deal out of this, think of it another way. Suppose Kristin took a few classes in Arabic and decided to publish a Super Smutty Arabic phrase book. Would that be OK? Would the publishers jump at a chance to put it in print? Would people mock native speakers of Arabic for expressing their outrage at such a proposal? The perception would be totally different because Arabic is not misconstrued as a rough approximation of language as ASL often is.

    ASL is a language. Super Smutty Sign Language is not OK. The publishers should not put it in print. Native speakers should feel supported expressing their outrage!

  28. (posted this on facebook but I feel a re-post is in need) — . I was thinking a lot today about the comments surrounding claims that this issue is minor and “no big deal”, as well as, “why all the fuss?”, and “can they [Deaf members] leave things be?”. From what seemed to be everyone: hearing and Deaf – and many variations of the two groups. I say to those who believe this issue may be minor and “no big deal”…to ask yoruself, what you are comparing this situation with? Compared to cancer, HIV, starvation – indeed, you can justify your remark; however, there is another side to this coin. I see this whole situation like a pebble (some may say a rock, and others may view a boulder) being thrown at a glass house or lets be honest, even the idea of stoning (now lets replace the ideal of a person with intangible, but real concepts, i.e. community, culture, feelings, and knowledge). When stoned, negative effects impact its target (the result, death). The process of stoning is built from the growing amounts of attacks, each at a time, contributing to the destruction of its target. Each audist act (as in the paradigm that ability to hear (and the use of speech) is better than, and is the way toward a “higher quality of life” is like one of the stones. If this is true, and Kristin believes, after knowing the responses from a large number of people’s opinions and the severity of the consequences of moving forward will have on people & truly understand the numerous objections from Deaf members, interpreters, allies, families, and friends, Kristin and her affiliations did not heed to the community that is impacted the most, the Deaf community. I struggle accepting this. This concludes that she (and her affiliates) knows moving forward will not provide toward a high quality of life for many (actually documented, almost 3,700 people but are only three days with the petition effort, we know there are more). Those who raise issue about this do so because we can for all those who cannot, e.g., our youth, senior citizens, those who have passed, and for future generations. These audist acts are like stones, each hurting – and participating in audist acts adds and perpetuates the growing number of culturally appropriated attacks on Deaf community members – that is my issue, in a nutshell, with all of this. Further, you Tavian also identified, that this particular audist act is also complicated by the fact they are racist, sexist, ableist in ethnocentric ways. These behaviors were never acceptable nor will they be. I will be sad if they do not address our concerns, and frankly upset because I would like them to stop this project, trash the book, and write a public apology. Thanks for posting and taking this on Tavian – you are a true leader. best wishes and keep on keeping on…

  29. […] After word got out that St. Martin’s Press would be publishing Henson’s book, many in the deaf community spoke up online about their displeasure with Henson’s lack of knowledge of ASL and insensitivity to deaf culture. Deaf rights activist Tavian Robinson wrote a blog post about the book and started the online petition. “It isn’t just about her signing skills. It is about a person exploiting a language and culture that does not belong to her for profit while demonstrating extreme cultural insensitivity,” Robinson said in a comment on his blog. […]

  30. Bren Rennie said:

    I am so very disgusted here. Kristen is hearing and isnt supposed to teach ASL. In Deaf Culture, only Deaf people teach ASL not hearing! I hope Kristen will be outsed.

  31. […] this blog post, Tavian Robinson (who went on to start the petition) accused Henson’s phrases of being […]

  32. Samuel Donovan said:

    I am embarrassed by some of the comments by deaf people here. They lack depth, perspective, education, grammar and simple civility. As for the book, it will succeed or fail on its own merits, and ASL purists are free to rush into print books showing how to talk dirty in proper ASL form.

    • Samuel,
      First: this is not only about ASL purism. This is about cultural appropriation, exploitation, and content that is sexist and racist. Second: I do want to comment on your critique of deaf people’s command of English. Poor command of English is a result of the following factors: a broken educational system; the medical-industrial complex looking to make a quick buck; the bastardization of American Sign Language; lack of communication and language access at home; socioeconomic status and race; and many other factors. I recognize my education and language privileges. To that end, I hope you recognize your critique of deaf people’s grammar comes from that same privilege and focus on the real issues at hand. Again, not solely about the purity of ASL nor about censoring obscenity. Last but not least, I do agree that civility and refraining from threats of death/bodily harm is important.

  33. Dianrez said:

    “They lack depth, perspective, education, grammar and simple civility.” The person who wrote this reveals himself to lack these qualities…in order to understand privilege, he may need some explanation.

    “Privilege” as used here means a position of superiority to other Deaf people because of better ability in some areas: in your example you are speaking from privilege in English and education. Hearing privilege implies effective superiority because of ability to hear and speak. Privilege also can come with a lack of sensitivity or understanding of those without abilities. White privilege, for example, can be accompanied by a lack of compassion for those who are disadvantaged because of color and/or economic status.

    Since the internet became available to Deaf people, more are becoming brave enough to use it for communication and to share opinions. With that, there has been a kind of unwritten understanding by Deaf people of privilege not to criticize the English of those less favored. If not for a fortunate combination of factors such as involved parents, great teachers, enriched environment and luck, we could be in the same situation as our Deaf brothers and sisters with poor English and gaps in education.

    • Samuel Donovan said:

      Dianrez, I was simply stating a fact. Many of the comments do lack simple civility. This was not judgemental – I’m simply pointing out that if you’re gonna make a dent in anyone’s thinking you got to express it in a way that has a fighting chance to succeed.
      I find your comments somewhat interesting but you, like Tavian, seem to be hung up on buzz words such as “privilege” and “education” — and reality is never as simple as socioeconomic buzz words imply. Perhaps it worked on your graduate thesis (a guess on my part) but it is funny how many different shades of gray there are in the real world. You assume I had involved parents, great teachers, an enriched environment, etc. You could be wrong. Think about that.

      • Samuel,
        Those words are not buzz words. They have real meaning for me. After 17 years of unpacking my privileges, examining my attitudes, and processes of unlearning and relearning ideas about the world I live in, I know privilege is very real and I see them as clear as day. My graduate thesis and my PhD dissertation has nothing to do with the topics at hand. None of those words appear in my dissertation except exploitation- and that’s in a completely different context with different meaning.

        As for your last statement there- I could be wrong. So by some miracle, you managed to master the English language. Congratulations. Good on you. Still ignorant of the struggles others go through and rather insensitive. So you’re critiquing the way people are discussing the issues at hand. That’s an easy way of derailing the discussion without critiquing the actual points of our position.

  34. Samuel Donovan said:

    Dianrez, I was simply stating a fact. Many of the comments do lack simple civility. This was not judgemental – I’m simply pointing out that if you’re gonna make a dent in anyone’s thinking you got to express it in a way that has a fighting chance to succeed.

    I find your comments somewhat interesting but you, like Tavian, seem to be hung up on buzz words such as “privilege” and “education” — and reality is never as simple as socioeconomic buzz words imply. Perhaps it worked on your graduate thesis (a guess on my part) but it is funny how many different shades of gray there are in the real world. You assume I had involved parents, great teachers, an enriched environment, etc. You could be wrong. Think about that.

  35. Brenda Dencer said:

    I sent an email to The Daily Dot, and received an answer. Below is his response and below that is my email.

    Hi Brenda,
    Thank you for taking the time to write. I appreciate your concerns and feedback. To be clear, the Daily Dot is not advertising her videos. We wrote a story on her YouTube series and inspiration. Given the response to the original story, we published a follow-up article that addressed many of the concerns raised by the Deaf community about the series and her signing abilities. I hope that helps clear matters up.

    Best, Austin

    On Tue, Jul 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM, Brenda Dencer wrote:

    Hello, Austin. Kristin’s web page and your website are probably getting many hits. Unfortunately, the hits are for the wrong reasons. I respectfully ask that you remove Kristin’s links (or however we get your website—I’m lost in that area). Nothing that Kristin offers is germane to our profession or has any redeeming value. Added to that, her signs are made inaccurately. Watching her is painful. She’s young and seems very sweet. Please do her the favor and stop advertising her embarrassing videos.


  36. Brenda Dencer said:

    Can anyone approach YouTube and ask that the videos be removed for any/all of the reasons above??

    • No, Brenda. You need to read Youtube’s guidelines. Kristin did not violate Anything. Shame on those who want to censor books and/or arts. You don’t like it? Don’t watch it. Many have flagged Kristin and reported her video to YT, all YT have determined is that her video is not suitable for younger kids, ergo, she has an R rating. She has not violated anything. You want to be able to censor books? Go move out of USA, to a country that allows it all the time. All this buzzword of privilege and such is really a bore. Please. It’s just another latest fad….. my opinion of course. Kristin’s videos are really humor, it’s not meant to be a serious teaching of dirty sign langauge. I may not watch her future video because these kind of things are not my thing, but she has every right to do it.

      • Brenda Dencer said:

        Thanks for your response, Candy. After I sent the post about removing her posts, it occurred to me that doing so would constitute censorship. It’s unfortunate that her choice of items to teach are offensive on a very basic level, but it is her right to do so. It’s also my right to protest her videos and my right to seek options that I feel right for the circumstance.

  37. Brenda…

    Yes, you have these rights too. We all have a right to our views and a right to protest, etc.

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