By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Speaking out against dwarf-tossing

Angela Van Etten, an old friend from Little People of America, has written an excellent commentary for the Huffington Post on what’s wrong with dwarf-tossing. (And good grief, Arianna. “Weird News”? Really?) As you may have heard, a state legislator in Florida wants to repeal that state’s law against dwarf-tossing on the grounds that letting drunks hurl little people across barrooms would somehow help the economy.

Van Etten does a good job of explaining the difference between people with dwarfism who exploit their short stature for profit, like Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer, and people who allow themselves to be exploited — that is, the tossees. Among other things, dwarf-tossing is dangerous, because people with dwarfism have unstable spines.

In 2002, Van Etten and her husband, Robert, were interviewed by John Stossel, then of ABC News’ “20/20,” who mocked their opposition to a campaign led by a dwarf to overturn the Florida law. Fortunately, the law held.

I had the privilege of interviewing the Van Ettens during the 2002 LPA national conference in Salt Lake City, and they pop up several times in my book “Little People.”

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  1. John Stossel is a punk- being mocked by him is a badge of honor.

  2. Nancy Mades

    It makes my skin crawl that anyone would find it entertaining to toss another person across a room regardless of that person’s stature. To find it entertaining to toss a person whose spine is already compromised is unconscionable.

  3. wilson tisdale

    Some day Florida will fall off.

  4. James Harvey

    Not to condone dwarf-tossing, but where is the line where the government should be able to say, “You’re a competent adult who understands the risks, but we’re not going to let you do that”?

  5. Aaron Read

    @James. That’s the same argument for legalizing drugs, isn’t it?

    I know, I know…apples and oranges. But it’s all food for thought, eh? 🙂

  6. James Harvey

    Yes, it is the same argument for legalizing drugs, but Dan’s positions often seem to tend toward the libertarian side of things.

    Plus, many of the arguments against legalizing drugs rely on the incompetence of the adult (e.g. because of an addiction) or the criminal things that drug users do to be able to pay for drugs.

    The prohibition against dwarf tossing may go a long way toward stopping the objectification of little people, but it reinforces the misconception that little people aren’t adults capable of making their own decisions, and need special government protection from themselves.

    • Dan Kennedy

      James, I am decidedly not a libertarian. I’m a liberal with a strong interest in freedom-of-speech issues.

  7. Rich Kenney

    Except when Michael Graham speaks…

  8. Seriously? It’s possible to use drugs repeatedly without injury- I’m sure we all know people who use and haven’t suffered brain damage.

    This seems more analogous to the injuries people risk when they play football. Yes, some people know and would continue anyway, but it’s lousy public policy to let them.

  9. Jim Morrison

    Seems to me that every American has (or should have) the Constitutionally protected right to debase themselves by engaging in stupid, dangerous, and even immoral behavior. Otherwise, what would be the point of college?

    Seriously, Dwarf-tossing is positively repugnant, but I would argue that it’s no more so than the multi-million (billion?) dollar ‘Jackass’ franchise. Where to draw the line?

  10. LFNeilson

    Couldn’t they modify it a little bit, maybe include executive tossing, bar-owner tossing, or how about legislator tossing? Oh, they aren’t conveniently size-appropriate. Or is it that maybe they wouldn’t submit to such treatment? Why? It’s demeaning! It’s discriminatory. It’s barbaric.

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