By Jamie Lesley Burch (Contact)
To be delivered to: GQ Editor Jim Nelson & Staff
The day following the July 15, 2011 publishing of an unethical GQ fashion article that linked people with Down syndrome to the clothing choices of people in Boston, MA, with adjectives like stagnate, putrefy, and inbreeding, advocates had gained media attention by speaking out against GQ's Down syndrome discrimination. From Boston to across the nation people began discussing the negative effects this type of prejudice creates through Facebook and Twitter. The media coverage continues because the article by John B. Thompson has since been revised by removing his detrimental statement, "..... Boston suffers from a kind of Style Down Syndrome, where a little extra ends up ruining everything.", but an explanation from the magazine or apology from the author has not been issued. There is an uproar of hurt, disgust, and action from family members and advocates in the disability community. Thompson and others need to know how harmful their views, words, and choices are to people with Down syndrome and their families. Their future family member, child's classmate or next door neighbor could be someone with Down syndrome who has to face degrading stereotypes like this everyday.
How have others responded?
The Boston Herald interviewed community advocate Dafna Krouk-Gordon president of TILL Inc., in GQ magazine slams Boston with slur against people with Down syndrome, who said, "They are doing societal damage by using those kind of examples.", and parent Melanie McLaughlin who said, "It makes you feel like somebody really stabbed you in the heart."
Dr. Brian Skotko, MD, MPP from Children's Hospital Boston's Down syndrome Program blogged his take titled Mock My Pants Not My Sister and said, "If my friends who are black were mocked, they would not take it. If my friends who are gay were slurred, they would not take it. My 400,000 fellow Americans with Down syndrome have been cheapened, and I will not take it."
The Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress wrote to GQ Editor-in-Chief Jim Nelson after numerous requests from their membership explaining, "how offensive, demeaning, and hurtful this comment is to people with Down syndrome and their families."
The National Down Syndrome Society wrote about the retraction, to request he educate himself, and further advocated with the statement, "When people with Down syndrome are inappropriately referenced, it sustains and perpetuates these low expectations and negative stereotypes and further impedes the acceptance of people with disabilities in schools, the workplace and the community."
Washington Post author Jennifer LaRue Huget told readers what she teaches her children about talking about others, "Making jokes at other people’s expense isn’t kind, it isn’t respectful, and it’s not funny.", in What is ‘style Down syndrome‘?.
FoxNews reported on GQ's Down syndrome slurs in an interview with Dr. Brian Skotko who has a sister with Down syndrome and has fueled the advocacy efforts around this issue through his social networks, Thrive blog and message on the show.
How has GQ responded?
Since removing the original slur GQ has done very little. They haven’t told their readers why they allowed the offensive material or why they decided to retract it. Now copies of a blanket response has been sent in reply to the concerned citizens who emailed GQ at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, this message to those who decided to email does NOT make up for the widespread damage they have caused:
"We received your letter and absolutely understand that we have caused many of our readers and their loved ones pain. Hurting anyone’s feelings or being disrespectful or cruel was certainly never our intent, but your letter helped us understand how poorly chosen our words were. What we initially posted was insensitive and ill-informed, and we’ve removed the offensive language from the website. We deeply regret our error in judgment. There is no excuse. We are both very sorry.
Sean Fennessey, editor, GQ.com
John B. Thompson, writer, GQ.com "
Only select people will receive GQ's email while the rest of America waits for GQ to admit their wrongs, say sorry, and shed a positive light on such a disastrous situation. Everyone is wondering why GQ has not taken responsibility by respectfully addressing their mistakes.
Boston.com writer Joan Venochi recapped this situation in an article, A magazine with style, but no taste, and reported, "A Condé Nast spokesman, responding via e-mail, said, “The author has personally responded to the people who reached out concerning this matter.’’ Even the GQ publishing company thinks the matter is handled.
Campaign letter and petition with six hundred signatures was sent to GQ. The letter contained this message, "You still have a chance to turn this unfortunate situation around and help our society presume the best about people with Down syndrome. Today marks tens days since you published a Down syndrome slur, and marks the tenth day your company has not apologized for publishing it. An official acknowledgment in response to this serious diversity intolerance matter will create positive publicity for your company, and Down syndrome awareness as well. Altering your article’s original content, and sending form emails to those people who wrote to your editor, isn’t enough and doesn’t reach everyone affected."
Folowing action plan sent out to all petition signers
-Call 212-286-4258 Condé Nast President Bob Sauerberg to ask him to publish apology by Oct. for Ds Awareness Month
-Cancel all Condé Nast Publications
-Email email@example.com, GQ Editor Sean Fennessey: What is being done to correct the Ds discrimination in GQ magazine from July 15?
It's your turn to be heard. Sign this petition asking GQ for a formal public apology and share your thoughts through your networks about why GQ owes their readers, people with Down syndrome and the general public a response. A brief form letter email from GQ to concerned writers is a good first step but not good enough. The author, editing staff and those with final approval at the magazine should have never let the offensive material be published and emails to a small portion of people doesn’t reach everyone hurt. Ask GQ to apologize to America. Your support will help gain momentum in fighting against society's detrimental attitude toward people with Down syndrome and this type of disability oppression.
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