Should we be fighting against someone publishing an ASL book with smutty words? This can of worms has expanded to a petition on change.org claiming that just such a book, compiled by a non-Deaf novice signer, exploits the Deaf community and American Sign Language, and beseeching St. Martin's Press to cancel publication of the book.
First of all, I do think that the outrage is appropriately placed. It makes me think of the Deaf Wage discussion in the UK, where their Deaf community is beginning to realize how many hearing people earn a wage from the Deaf community. Hearing people throughout American history have taken advantage of Deaf Americans and American Sign Language to make money. How many ASL dictionaries, for example, have been composed by hearing people with little or no ties to the community? I can point to many examples of online dictionaries with very little if any Deaf input. How much of the profit goes back into the Deaf community? How many Baby ASL books have been produced? How many millions have been created by leeches who latch onto the fact that ASL, even half-assed ASL, is so fucking beautiful that it'll make money no matter what?
The Deaf Wage is everywhere. How many schools for Deaf people or programs are run by people who don't know anything about Deaf people or work with our community? How many people prefer to hire interpreters than hire Deaf workers? How many people work in Deaf schools and programs but give nothing back? Meanwhile, there's Deaf people fighting just to gain a toehold in employment.
Kristen Hensen is making a Deaf Wage. She's been profiting from attention to her YouTube videos (which by the way aren't captioned... effectively cutting off the Deaf community from the opportunity to give her real criticism, perhaps on purpose) and now a book... But.
(You know me, there's always a but.)
Maybe a better response, instead of censorship, is to produce a better, more accurate book, created by Deaf people with a Deaf focus. Not because I think that's more fair–money will still be sucked away from our community. We do need a clear example of what differences would arise in a Deaf-centric publication.
For example, "Fuck you, you fucking fuck" should not be translated into ASL as "Middle finger you, sex fuck!" I mean it comes across as a psychotic individual saying "Fuck you, let's have sex!" We just don't have that expression in ASL. (We have others.)
It's like translating "ça me fait chier" as "please do pee on me" instead of "that pisses me off." (The French wouldn't be amused, either.)
I invite everybody to find interesting Hensenizations of ASL on her youtube (google, I won't link to that stuff)! And: go sign the petition.