‘Queer Eye’ Star Karamo Brown Sparks Discussion About an Ableist Phrase

Karamo Brown‘s never been one to shy away from a discussion about respectful communication and the role language plays within upholding certain power dynamics, and the latest online discussion he’s sparked is further proof of this.

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Related | Queer Eye Co-Stars Karamo Brown and Antoni Porowski Didn’t Talk During Season 1

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On Thursday, the Queer Eye star took to his Twitter to pose a question to his followers about using the common idiom “falling on deaf ears” — a phrase he thinks is ableist.

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“Someone just said to me, ‘I feel like my message is falling on deaf ears…’ and I told them that I felt that ‘saying’ is inappropriate,” Brown tweeted. “It seems disrespectful and rude to the deaf & HOH community. She said I was being over sensitive. Thoughts?”

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Someone just said to me, “I feel like my message is falling on deaf ears…” and I told them that I felt that “saying” is inappropriate. It seems disrespectful and rude to the deaf & HOH community. She said I was being over sensitive. Thoughts?

— Karamo Brown (@Karamo) May 23, 2019

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And for the most part, many — especially members of the d/Deaf/HoH community — agreed with Brown, pointing out that the phrase implies a false equivalency between having issues with auditory processing and “choosing not to listen.”

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“Thank you! I don’t like the phrase because it implies that deaf people can’t listen,” one person responded. “I put 10x more effort into communicating than hearing people.”

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Thank you! I don’t like the phrase because it implies that deaf people can’t listen.

I put 10x more effort into communicating than hearing people.

Thank you for being aware & using your platform to recognize and elevate Deaf/HOH perspectives 💜



— Chrissy🌈🎬💜 (@life_laughter_) May 23, 2019

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Deaf here! I think the saying is a bit ridiculous as being deaf isn’t a choice like ignorance. It depends on the person tho, I’m not TOO bothered by it. However, it does rub me the wrong way

Thank you for being aware & using your platform to elevate Disabled & Deaf perspectives!

— Anderson “Andy” Pleasants (@pleasantandy) May 23, 2019

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i also use it to identify myself. it brings up a good reminder that we are individuals and ok with different identities. good place to start with is asking.

— seanna davidson (@seannalee) May 23, 2019

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It depends… As a Deaf person, I’ve teased my friends & family, “You’re going Deaf!” If it’s light, I’m not offended. If it’s “He’s deaf & dumb!” That’s not okay ever. Or making up signs in the air. AND don’t tell me for the 100th time you want to learn sign (& not learn after).

— Sheena McFeely (@SheenaMcfeely) May 23, 2019

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Even activist Nyle DiMarco chimed in, writing, “I think it depends on the context. It also depends on deaf individuals. However if we can find a better word/idiom, then always go with that!”

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I think it depends on the context. It also depends on deaf individuals. However if we can find a better word/idiom, then always go with that!

— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) May 23, 2019

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As a result, others also began suggesting alternate phrases to use such as “talking to a brick wall” or “talking to them is like trying to make a call in a cell phone dead zone.”

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One of the best I heard used the other day is, “Talking to them is like trying to make a call in a cell phone dead zone.”

— Matthew Wilson (@Matt82181) May 24, 2019

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“Talking to a brick wall”

— katie • MCMLondon (@katiejenmish) May 23, 2019

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All in all, an extremely productive conversation. Read all the replies to Brown’s query here.

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Photo via Getty

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