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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why I Didn't Wear The Socks

Down Syndrome International (DSi) came up with a sock theme for World Down Syndrome Day. Last year it was initially called "Odd Socks" campaign. I scratched my head over that one because I didn't understand the message that was being conveyed, or that was supposed to be conveyed. I didn't want to promote a theme of "Odd" with celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Day.

Enough people emailed DSi expressing concern about the phrase "Odd Socks." They said it was a language barrier and it just meant the mismatched pair of socks were odd, not that the person wearing them was odd. Still, odd? and socks? for Down syndrome awareness? DSi stuck with the sock theme, just changed the name to "Lots of Socks." While the name sounded better I still didn't get it.

The description of the campaign is they want people to wear lots of socks to raise awareness for Down syndrome on WDSD. Do they really want people to wear lots of socks ie more than the 2 that go on your feet? So you're supposed to decorate the outside of your clothes with ... socks? Are you supposed to wear 3 socks on your feet? My feet would get too hot for that. Or do they really want lots of people wearing socks?

And these 'lots of socks' aren't just any socks - they should be brightly colored, printed, long socks. Or wear the Lots of Socks logo on your clothing. The premise is to wear something that would get noticed so people will ask you about it and you can tell them about WDSD.

But, socks? How does that conversation look?

"So, what's with the socks? Why are you wearing those socks with your pant legs rolled up?"
"Oh this? It's World Down Syndrome Day! The date is celebrated on Mar 21st (3/21) because people with Down syndrome have 3 copies of the 21st chromosome."
"Oh. Ok. So uh, what about the socks? How does that figure in to Down Syndrome Day?"
"I don't know really. Just to get you to ask me about them so I can tell you it's World Down Syndrome Day."

Why not just hand out business cards to people stating that it's WDSD?

No one would see my socks anyway. They would be covered by my jeans and boots. I don't wear leggings so I wouldn't be able to wear socks pulled up over my leggings to show them off. I probably wouldn't notice most other people's socks either. Even if I did notice I wouldn't comment to someone about their choice of socks. I wouldn't stop a stranger to ask why they were wearing mismatched socks. More than likely I wouldn't ask an acquaintance that either. If they were a good friend of mine I would hope that they would share with me the importance of the date and not wait for me to ask about their socks.

Another thing is that tweens and teens are wearing these type of socks on a regular basis. There are places that sell mismatched socks like this one and this one. So would someone even ask about your socks when wearing these type of socks is the in thing to do anyway? Go around to any school on any day and you'll see this fashion - it's not particular to the Mar 21st date only.

What do socks have to do with Down syndrome anyway? In my mind I tried to break it down to see if I could find a connection.

The logo does sort of resemble chromosomes: 

Here is a picture of Kayla's chromosomes. Glancing at this it does look like pairs of socks. Except for chromosome 21. They are the shortest and smallest of the chromosomes and don't even look like socks from this view. Just a few squiggly lines.

Also, the logo is 3 evenly paired socks (representing chromosomes?). Yes it's the number 3, but it's showing 3 pairs. Down syndrome is one extra chromosome on the 21st pair. Trisomy 21 has 3 single chromosomes; not 3 pairs. Not a total of 6. So the logo of 3 pairs of socks doesn't match up with what Trisomy 21 is either.

On the one hand this does seem to be a very visible campaign that is spreading. People are having fun with it. It does bring a sense of unity as people far and wide can, and do, participate and feel connected to a loved one who might not live in the same town. They can say, "hey, I did this for you!" My newsfeed was full of pictures of people showing their socks. Classrooms, schools and communities were involved. It's spreading. People are now talking about WDSD and wearing their 'socks'. Socks are becoming associated with Down syndrome. It's not bad publicity, but is it good publicity? Ok so people are talking about wearing their socks on 3/21 for Down syndrome, but beyond that what awareness is it spreading?

There isn't a theme to go along with "Lots of Socks" to explain why the use of the socks. It's just - wear socks for a conversation starter. If there was a catchphrase with the socks, something along the lines of "Socking it to Stereotypes" or "Put a sock in it, discrimination!" I might be able to get behind it; I might feel like there was some meaning behind the use of the socks.

But the actual theme of WDSD was "Health and Wellbeing - Access and Equality for All". How did the wearing of brightly colored, patterned, mismatched socks help promote this theme?

I have nothing against anyone who wore the socks and promoted it. There were even a couple people who tagged me in photos and I smiled because they did it as a way to show support for Kayla and other people they know who have Down syndrome. And I appreciated that.

People did have fun with it. It was easy to do. I really do get that.

I just don't get the connection, so I chose not to flaunt my socks.

Instead I made Kayla and Lucas a Tshirt that had this logo on the front

and the back said "Celebrating Differences" with the generic WDSD logo (and I completely forgot to take a picture of them that day).

I went to Kayla's class and talked about her chromosomes and read the book "High Fives and a Big Heart."

That evening we participated in RDS Runners World Down Syndrome Day Virtual Run/Walk event. 3.21 miles.

We all participate and celebrate in awareness campaigns in our own way. This is just the reason I didn't participate in the Lots of Socks campaign. 

I found out about this after the fact, but one of my FB friends had a friend come up with 21 Random Acts of Kindness that their local Down syndrome group participated in. They handed out these cards when they completed one of these acts so the beneficiary would know what it was about. I love this idea. I wish I had known about it before the day ended. And I hope it's ok for me to steal this idea for next year!

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meriah said...

I'll share this to - you said it perfectly, Michelle

vicsped said...

This is great! I love your analytical thought process. Always nice to actually use our brains to think about things, isn't it? Agree 100%

Anonymous said...

I am glad I am not the only one who questioned the mismatched, lots of socks theme. I did not understand it either and would not ask someone why they were wearing random socks...I really like the idea of the 21 acts of kindness! It is a much better idea to get people talking and thinking about acceptance and promoting Down Syndrome awareness! Thanks for your blog!

Unknown said...

Spot on. Why do DS awareness campaigns have to be goofy and child-like?

Emily @ Words I Wheel By said...

I wasn't feeling the whole sock thing either, and I'm loving your thoughts on it.

Unknown said...

Like you I just can't for the life of me figure out the connection between socks and Ds. if it were explained better I would be more on board. But I'm just confused so i didn't wear them either. I see that it's fun and I also enjoyed all the sock photos in my facebook/instagram feed but I just wish I knew more about the decision to choose socks as a theme.

Becca said...

Yep, I agree wholeheartedly. Glad you addressed this! "Oddly" enough, Samantha's school had a "mismatch day" at school the week prior, for school spirit. I was more than happy to put her in mismatched socks that day. But Down syndrome? Nope, I just don't get it.

Astra said...

Totally agree, Michelle!

Beth said...

I love what you did!!!