When One Story Becomes the Only Story

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

According to Patricia Irwin Johnston’s book, Adopting After Infertility, there are 14 common stereotypes about adoption:
1. Adoption is second best.
Birth parents don’t live up to their real responsibilities, children don’t live in real families, and adoptive parents aren’t real parents.
2. Birth parents are irresponsible.
Even though it’s completely acceptable for people to become pregnant out of wedlock, society says that those who do, and place their child for adoption are irresponsible.
holding-hands3. The flesh and blood bond is sacred.
No civilized person would give up their own flesh and blood.
4. Family should come through.
If you’re too young to parent a child you birth, your family should accept the responsibility.
5. Birth parents forget about their child.
Not only do they forget, but they’re supposed to forget, according to the stereotype.
6. Real parents give birth.
People posing as parents adopt.
7. You can’t really love a child unless you birth him or her.
The love an adoptive parent has for a child is less than natural, less than complete.
8. The only logical reason to adopt is because you’re infertile.
9. Adopting is the easy way to have a child.
10. Real children were not adopted.
11. Adopted people are so lucky that saintly people adopted them.
12. Adopted people wouldn’t search for their birth parents if they were grateful to their adoptive parents.
13. When adopted people from open adoptions locate their birth parents, their adoptive parents become secondary.
14. Adopted people are less emotionally healthy than other people.

The mixed messages these stereotypes send boil down to one public image—or one single story—of adoption. However, the dangers of stereotyping does not just affect adoption. If you haven’t heard Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” I suggest you carve out 18 minutes of your day to imbibe this universal wisdom.


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