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Dr. Baden Addresses the Phrase “You’re Adopted” When Used as an Insult

Posted in: College News and Events

Headshot photo of Dr. Amanda Baden

Dr. Amanda Baden, Professor in the Counseling department, was recently quoted again regarding how and when children are told they are adopted. There are times when the phrase “you’re adopted” is used as an insult and Dr. Baden addresses this concept.

Dr. Baden notes, some people invert this idea; they invoke the fantasy of being adopted to create distance from their families. She’s heard people who believe their families to be particularly dysfunctional say things such as “I hope I’m adopted” because “they didn’t want to have a genetic tie to people who they saw as somehow different, somehow wrong,” she says. “And so they hoped that they weren’t going to look like them, act like them, carry their blood in some way.”

Between nonrelatives, however, “You’re adopted” can be shorthand for something else entirely, and something arguably crueler: that the person in question was abandoned by his birth parents because they didn’t love him. In instances such as the Dodgeball scene, “They’re saying, ‘You’re not lovable. Someone somewhere didn’t want you,’” says Baden, who has researched adoption stigmas and “adoption microaggressions.” “I think it means, ‘You weren’t worth it.’”

Baden also notes that the impressions of adoption that people get from pop culture tend to be that adoptees are either special or defective; superheroes or “bad seeds” with troubled or tragic pre-adoption backgrounds, or a mix of the two (see: Clark Kent of Superman and the titular characters of Jessica Jones, the Hercules myth, and Dexter, respectively). Many popular adoption story lines also involve the family keeping the adoption a secret from the adoptee (see: Rafael Solano on Jane the Virgin, Jon Snow on Game of Thrones).

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