Men are Pigs

Men are pigs. Yes, me too. I leave the toilet lid up. I spit. I scratch. I don’t deny it. I never cared much about it until now. Most of this article is for couch-potato Neanderthals like me. Something came up that has me a bit concerned about my chest-thumping brethren.

What happened was I got an e-mail from a deaf woman asking me how she could get her hearing husband and kids interested in learning ASL. From the tone of her e-mail, she appeared to be rather frustrated.

Answering on behalf of the kids was easy enough. I surmised that if ASL was presented in a fun and interesting way, most kids would find it enjoyable. I recommended an ASL CD-ROM program featuring plenty of fun ASL lessons and games.

As for the husband, I hedged a bit. Sure, I figured, if a deaf woman told her hearing boyfriend or husband how important ASL was to her, then that boyfriend or husband would certainly put in the time and effort to learn. However, a grim reality lurked in the back of my mind.

Face it, it’s the truth: A high percentage of hearing men simply do not bother learning sign language. It’s personally starting to bother me. Up until now I’ve been loyal to my fellow male pigs, vociferously defending our right to burp, scratch, and watch Monday Night Football. But no more.

Why am I annoyed with hearing members of my own gender, you ask? Simple. Every time a deaf guy I know dates or marries a hearing woman, 90 percent of the time that woman signs. Even if the guy has exceptional speech and residual hearing, the woman still goes out of her way to learn sign language.

But when a deaf girl finds a hearing boyfriend, sheeesh. It’s a totally different story.

Anytime my wife and I visit one of my friends, my wife is guaranteed a good time because my friends have wives and girlfriends who sign fluently. But when my wife and I visit her friends, I’m often uncomfortable because their husbands or boyfriends don’t sign worth peanuts. Conversation rarely goes beyond the superficial “How ya doing” and “Nice car.”

In a nutshell, my wife gets to chat up a storm with my friends’ significant others while I’m stuck twiddling my thumbs with hers.

The same thing often applies to hearing families of deaf people. Hearing mothers and sisters appear to know and use more sign language than most fathers and brothers. Aunts and nieces also seem to have the upper hand over uncles and nephews.

No, this is not scientifically proven. This is entirely subjective and I know there are exceptions. But I’ve personally seen enough to surmise that the females are running circles around the males in the sign language department.

So why the discrepancy? After asking around, a couple of theories popped up. Theory one: Men are pigs. Because, hey, we’re men.

Most men, especially macho types, are not too crazy about self-disclosure, sharing feelings, and communicating (barf!). The very nature of ASL requires that you reveal your thoughts and feelings through visual expression. You simply cannot use ASL with a poker face. Through ASL, you often allow others to see your innermost feelings.

Yuck! I can just see the Chicago Bears’ Fan Club running for the exits, trying their best not to puke.

For most deaf men, this is not an issue because they’ve been signing all their lives. But when it comes to hearing guys, I can see how they might not be too turned on by the expressive, aesthetic nature of ASL.

Theory number two came from a good friend who happens to be a sign language instructor. By her own admission, she feels that in some sign language classes there's a subtle amount of male-bashing. Classes are usually full of women who are happy just to get away from their lazy, dirty-socks-on-the-floor husbands. So when one poor innocent guy signs up for ASL 101, the ladies nitpick him to death.

Personally, I haven't seen men avoiding ASL classes because they're wary of male-bashing. Quite the opposite, I know some guys who signed up for ASL solely because they knew the classes would be packed with women. Nonetheless, my ASL instructor friend insists that slowly, subtly, some women pick and peck at the men until they wind up with no motivation to return to class. If they're already henpecked at home, she wonders, why would they want to be henpecked in class?

Even if the female students are generally nice, it’s still hard on the guys because conversation amongst classmates most likely revolves around women’s issues. In this case I totally understand why a guy would want to bail out. I can only stomach my wife’s conversations with her friends to a certain point before I chuck it and reach for the sports pages.

Hey, we’re men. But still, it would be nice if more guys signed up for ASL classes.

Some people may challenge my assessment of the knuckle-dragging, uh, male species. And I challenge you back: Go ahead, walk into any sign language class and observe the disproportionate ratio of women to men (if there any men in there at all).

Rather than male-bashing, however fun that may be, I would just like this article to serve as a wake-up call. My observations are, as I admitted, entirely subjective and based wholly upon my own personal experiences. For all I know, there could be a large number of ASL-competent men out there whom I’ve never had a chance to meet.

But if you know a hearing guy who has ties to the deaf community and he doesn’t sign, do me a favor: Get him to drop the remote and drag him to the nearest ASL class. Thank you!