Znuage: Definition of Audism

By Znuage
Nov 02 2006 11:36AM
The word ‘audism’ first showed up in print back in 1992, written by Harlan Lane, however he credits the invention of the term to Tom Humphries’ unpublished 1977 doctoral dissertation. Despite the term being created in 1977, it did not start being used until Lane used it in his work. Nowadays, it is increasingly being used among the deaf culture, by hearing and deaf people alike.

What is audism? The scope of the word includes group institutional and group attitudes, practices, and oppression of deaf people. Going deeper, it is the concept that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear, and that deaf people should attempt to be like the hearing people as much as it is possible to be. Basically in the deaf culture, audism is similar as to racism or sexism, except instead of being judged because of your race or sexual preference, you are judged on your ability to hear.

What are Audists? Simply put, audists are people who practice audism. Audists, hearing or deaf, tend to shun Deaf culture and the use of sign language, especially American Sign Language as it is different from spoken and written English. Audists may refuse to use sign language in the presence of a person who depends on sign language in order to communicate. Audists tend to have misconceptions about Deaf people, such as they all cannot write well because English is not their first language, that the ones who can speak well are smarter than the ones who can’t, that life must be terrible if one cannot hear and one should do everything and anything to help their hearing such as hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Myself, I have experienced various examples of audism. Such as when I used to work at a shop along with my ex husband. Many times, customers would ask my ex husband about me and say how wonderful he was to hire someone like me. He would reply with “Um. She’s my wife.” They then would say “Oh! What a kind person you are to marry a deaf person.” I also relied on writing on paper to communicate with my customers who could not sign and had experiences with certain customers who refused to write to me and demanded that I somehow, magically, understand them vocally? When they realize I just simply couldn’t, they would end up getting angry at me! Or when my mother, friends, lovers tell their friends and relatives that I am deaf, more often than not, the reaction is “Oh, I’m very sorry to hear that!” Why be sorry? What is the point in saying that? Some of these people even have the guts to say that to me “I’m so very sorry, it must be so terrible to not hear music!” How can it be so terrible for me to not be able to hear music, when I have never experienced hearing it in the first place? That is your misconception, that is your assumption. These are only a few of the many experiences I have lived through. If you have ever had the misconception that deaf people were to be pitied or to be thought as lesser in any way, you need to sit down and reexamine your thoughts. How would you feel if you were in our shoes? Being perfectly able to read, to understand, to communicate in our language, and yet have to face discrimination due to people’s misconceptions of what means to be deaf. We are simply deaf, and should only be treated in one way, as a human being who just happens to be a deaf individual, and is perfectly capable of surviving in this world.


9 thoughts on “Znuage: Definition of Audism

  1. hi im a hearing ethnian anarchist writing a small news-zine called Mutiny in Sydney Australia – we heard about the Gallaudet protests, wanted to report on it for this issue but were confused about the issues – thank-you for your article, it has cleared up some of the issues here – and have certainly opened up my ears, since ive never really dealt with this type of oppression before. btw, what does the sign mean (in the protests) that look like the gesture people use at a rock concert – index and pinky out with the middle two touching the palm? I just wanted to include some of the protest slogans within my news item since the protest-signing just seems so inspirational – everyone in unison – keep up the good work!


  2. This a.m. I was thinking about all assistive hearing device products and promotions WILL have to come with a textbox warning risks. Or deaf individuals can sue and milk millions like..too bad Philip Morris co.

    One documentary film “Celica’s story” made by Bionics I think does have that on the back of DVD cover.

    Anne Marie


  3. I’ve edited Znuage’s article to reflect proper gender. I thought about editing it when i posted it here, but felt it was not my place to do so until Znuage was aware of the error. thanks for stopping by, Znuage – we look forward to more of your writings!


  4. Ha! This is Znuage [Zoee Nuage], I was unaware that my article ended up here, although I’m not all too surprised.

    My apologizies for stating Lane as a female while he is clearly a male. I was unaware… and i am unable to edit the article as once it gets published at associatedcontent.com i am unable to edit. Unfortunate. Sorry about that guys!


  5. I have been thinking about definition of audism how it comes in a range. It seems intentional to unintentional audism depending on one’s own level of awareness that transmits into a deliberate action or not really. I do agree that apologizing or wowing does not excuse such shortsightedness. Also I question whether ignorance should hold one responsible like manslaughter considering a deaf person gets damaged from it?

    It will be really interesting and indeed liberating to get this whole issue crystalized for civil rights protection, that is, landing any asshole in a court for the act of audism.

    Anne Marie


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