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I was shocked to see the message criticizing Emily Sanford's decision
(with her family) to undergo limb lengthening - obviously that choice
belongs to her and her family, and much thought must have gone into
weighing the benefits and drawbacks. The technology exists, and as
Emily pointed out in her reply, she has received its benefits. In my
opinion it would be more appropriate to respond with sympathy and
understanding than to criticize from the sidelines.
Where I live there has been a campaign underway to raise funds for a young man who is enduring limb lengthening now - he has rightly received a great deal of support from the community, fiscal and otherwise.
The documentary was wonderful - the presentation makes the point that we are all striving to be OK in this world, by presenting the subjects of the film as the normal people that they are. Frankly, the film focuses more on "abilities" than "disabilities", and that's a good thing.
**UPDATE** - the original posting by GhostMint from May 2006 appears to be missing. It was withdrawn?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Excuse me for not so much commenting on the film but explaining a bit.
I'm Emily Sanford (who played "Herself") in the documentary and I'd
like to respond to the first review, posted by GhostMint in May 2006,
since he found my profile to be an account of "disappointing personal
failure." I cannot look at the documentary neutrally because my life is
my life and unable to be edited like a film, but it is disheartening to
hear that some could perceive the clip of my life as representing one
who buckles to societal pressure and feels ashamed of her natural
Promoting a message of tolerance, diversity, and freedom from societal body ideals has been my primary goal ever since the first stranger asked about my appearance on the playground right through to the present as more strangers continue to ask me about the scars on my body from limb-lengthening surgery and why my hips sway when I walk. From ages fourteen to eighteen, I gave two-day seminars to the middle school and high school health classes in my town regarding dwarfism, limb-lengthening surgery, tolerance, and ethics. My parents called me nothing but beautiful my entire life whether I was exceptionally short, wheelchair-bound, or perhaps less visibly different after the surgeries but physically exhausted after a long walk. They made me feel that the decision was mine whether or not to have surgery. And yes, I did decide to have limb-lengthening surgery so that I could walk farther, carry more things, reach more things, and exert myself longer with less effort and less pain/exhaustion. However, if anyone remembers anything I have said, let it be that I never, ever did the surgery for cosmetic reasons. I will always be a dwarf and I will always be proud of that, primarily thanks to my parents' steadfast support.
I have a fifty/fifty chance of having a child with dwarfism some day and if s/he does have achondroplasia, I only hope I can do as good a job as my parents did in helping him/her to feel proud of his/her beautiful body. I will also put every effort I possibly can toward not allowing my decision to have limb-lengthening influence whatever choice s/he makes.
There is the anecdote in the film from my early childhood in which my mother described how I became aware that dwarfs looked different from average-sized people and promptly called them "ugly." My mother told this story to show her early concern that I had thought dwarfs were "ugly" when she had done everything in her power to help me think the opposite. I have endlessly had to tell people that I have no memory of making that comment since I was three at the time, and only have positive memories of learning about my dwarfism. One of the filmmaker's has a child with dwarfism and included that story to emphasize the worries parents naturally have over instilling self-confidence in their children who naturally experience shock when they first realize that they are not going to look like their parents or siblings.
So in conclusion, I could not agree more with GhostMint's appreciation of the film's values of tolerance and diversity. When more people think like he does, society will have indeed progressed. It is simply too bad that, for him, my profile in the film appeared to starkly contrast with the others. For more information, there is a book called "Surgically Shaping Children" by the Johns Hopkins University Press that discusses the question of when and how and who should decide whether or not a child should have an appearance-changing surgery. Lisa Hedley, the documentary's director, has submitted a chapter, as have I.
This film is a documentation of people who want the world to see their courage in dealing with short stature; The average sized person does have daily problems, but through this documentary, these individuals prove that they can rise above situations.We see how they also can have fun,get married,and pursue any career of choice.In my heart, I feel that the averaged size world must realize, there is no "norm" and a shorter person is just as able to handle every day activities. This film is great,and asserts that with a few alterations and adjustments, handicaps can be overcome.The spirit of a human being is indomitable, and one can achieve anything he desires.
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