Dwarf? Little Person? Midget??! Ruby.

15 Jun

Dwarf. Little Person. Midget.

Just three of the commonly used terms used to describe someone living with a type of restricted growth condition, including pseudoachondroplasia. I, as an individual with such a condition, am not a fan of any of these terms, and I’ve been thinking about why – so thought I would share my thoughts, in case anyone reading this ever wants to make reference to a person living with such a condition. Before I begin, however, I ought to state that when mentioning such terms, I am not condoning their use – and mean no offence to anyone who disagrees with what I say – as I’ve stated, these are merely my opinions on the matter.

So, what got me thinking about this? Not that someone had called me by any of these terms, but because I have been engaged in many a conversation lately about how to refer to someone who is living with dementia. NOT as a sufferer, NOT as a victim, nor any other term, which may imply that these individuals cannot remain their own person, but as ‘a person living with dementia’ is the answer! At a Dementia Friends Champion training day that I attended just last week, this issue was discussed again – about how media refers to people living with dementia, and how this contributes to a negative outlook on these people and their lives, as though they have become their disease, rather than a person living with it. As the population ages and dementia becomes a topic which is increasingly discussed in the media, the terminology used has become more of a talking point – to ensure that individuals living with dementia do not become ‘sufferers’ in the eyes of others. However, this made me think – as people living with dementia are gaining awareness of a ‘correct’ way to acknowledge their condition, then why is it still acceptable to group people with a growth condition under a term with negative association?

Let’s begin with the most obvious, and most widely acknowledged offensive term that is sometimes (though thankfully not as often now!) used to refer to someone who has a growth condition – Midget. Not only is this often factually incorrect as a description, because a ‘midget’ used to refer to someone short in stature that is in proportion, whereas many growth conditions leave individuals with disproportionate bodies, but it is derogatory – particularly now it is known to be an offensive term.

Then, a more widely accepted term used by many (particularly in the US I realise) is ‘Little Person’. Whilst many people with growth conditions are happy to be referred to as this – I’m puzzled as to why, and would respectfully ask anyone who considers labelling me as this, not to. Why? Because ‘little person’ to me, is belittling, a term more appropriate for a literal description of a child, not an adult who just happens to be shorter in stature than average. I realise that societies tend to categorise people who are ‘slightly different to the “norm”’, but the use of ‘little person’ is not something for me, thanks!

Dwarf, defined as ‘A person with a usually genetic disorder resulting in atypically short stature and often disproportionate limbs.’ (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dwarf). Definitely a widely acknowledged and used term, even in the medical field… so I suppose I ought to accept that – but only, I believe, in a medical environment – where my medical condition and height may be relevant.

The point I’m trying to make is – much like people living with dementia don’t lose their individuality and become their disease and should be named by their chosen name they have lived by their whole life – that people who happen to have a growth condition are far more than that condition. They are just people who are living with a growth condition as a part of their life. Much like you may be an individual living with anything – whether that is impaired vision, freckles, or blonde hair. I, am an independent, adult woman, capable of most things that any other person is – I do not need to be labelled, and my height has very little to do with anything. Nobody wants to be labelled when the label being used has negative connotations – and I am no different. I go by Ruby, and Ruby alone. Not ‘dwarf Ruby’, nor ‘Ruby the Little Person’ or ‘Ruby the Midget’… and I would challenge anyone who tried to refer to merely as an example of a type of growth condition! I do not allow my medical condition to affect the way that I live my life, so I certainly don’t want it to allow me to be labelled – and I believe this is probably the opinion of many living with a growth condition… the preferred reference is by name – even if some people are more accepting of the widely used terms! So please, if you’re unsure how to refer to someone of shorter stature, remember, the answer is, as with anyone else….BY THEIR NAME.


p.s. For reference, if I was going to be a ‘dwarf’…. I’d probably be Sleepy – particularly after the intense period of coursework I’ve been doing recently 😉



8 Responses to “Dwarf? Little Person? Midget??! Ruby.”

  1. Erin Sullivan June 29, 2015 at 4:49 am #

    Hi! So this comment isn’t directly related to this post but I’d just like to thank you so much for this blog. I have pseudoachondroplasia, I’m 18 and I’ve been having surgeries since the 4th grade to correct the problems with both my dwarfism and hip dysplasia. I’ve never known anyone in real life or on the internet with pseudoachondroplasia and when I found your blog I was overjoyed, I could relate to so much of what you post (especially the Taylor spatial frame, yikes that thing sucked) and it’s just so nice to see someone else sharing the same struggles as me and overcoming them.

  2. funinplanning July 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    Reblogged this on Fun In Planning and commented:
    My son has the same condition as the lovely Ruby, I love her blog and it’s nice to read about how she doesn’t let it affect her living a normal life

    • rubysoniaallen July 8, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

      I’m pleased you like my blog, always nice to hear it from someone connected to a life involving Pseudo in some way! 🙂

  3. Kara October 16, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    Labeling people is normal human behavior and is necessary. How else would we explain the differences from one person to another? If someone asked why you are so much shorter than other people, would saying, “She’s Ruby,” give them any information? Of course not. Having dwarfism does not take away your name and I doubt anyone is calling you dwarf as a way to get your attention. I really don’t understand the discussion about what to call people with dementia because no one calls them “dementia.” People may say things like, “My mom has dementia,” or “He is suffering from dementia,” but they would never say those things in place of the person’s name. And people who have dementia ARE suffering. It’s a terrible disease that causes a great deal of pain to the person that has it and their family. I am suffering from a multiple terribly painful back conditions. It is appropriate to say I am suffering from them, because I am!
    My primary point is that labels are necessary and should be there. I wish people would not be so touchy about what words are used to describe them. Dwarfism is the appropriate medical term, so I see nothing wrong with shortening that to dwarf. Obviously that label does not negate a person’s individual name and I don’t think anyone is using it in that fashion unless they are just a total moron. I am white. That doesn’t mean that label takes precedence over my name. No labels do.
    Anyway, I will now cease talking about this particular pet peeve.

    • rubysoniaallen October 16, 2015 at 10:26 am #

      I’m not engaging in a debate about this, as I said, these are my opinions- and my experiences. However, I’d like to point out that actually, yes, I have experienced people calling me some of those terms in place of my name. And that ‘suffering with dementia’ isn’t the term to be using either, ‘living with dementia’ is.

      It’s clear this labels thing bothers you, but I think unless you’ve experienced it yourself in this manner, then I may not be able to express my point to you.

  4. Sarah October 4, 2016 at 1:36 pm #


    I am a student at University studying Product & Furniture Design, I am currently carrying out a Major Project on ‘Problems People Face within the Supermarket’, I have explored a range of different users and the issues and problems they face when shopping within supermarkets on a day to day basis: e.g. trolleys, shelving etc.

    I have recently read your blog on your website about the condition – within a supermarket environment, I was wondering if you had any problems or things you wished were better for your shopping experience.

    It would be greatly appreciated, and I thank you for taking time to read this comment.

    Kind Regards,

    Sarah Wharton

    • rubysoniaallen October 7, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

      Hi Sarah,
      If you send me an email, I’d be happy to discuss this with you – I have a couple of ideas that you might be able to think about. Send a quick message across to rubysallen@hotmail.com and I’ll reply 🙂

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