Social Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Does pretending to be something you are not hurt people who actually are what you pretend to be?

Asked by SuperMouse (30772points) January 5th, 2012

This week an episode of Taboo featured two people who are living double lives. One pretends to be paraplegic, the other is a wealthy man who rides the rails and pretends to be homeless. On another board, members are arguing that the woman who pretends to be paralyzed hurts people who actually are. I am not sure I am buying that argument and have a hard time seeing how that would happen. What do you think?

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24 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

…how? Did they explain how? I can’t really see how it would have any effect, shy of doing something horrendous while pretending to be part of a group of people.

marinelife's avatar

How would it hurt another person? No, I can’t see it.

downtide's avatar

I’m trying to put it in context of something that’s relevant to me, so I’m imagining how I would feel if I met someone who was pretending to be transsexual. And, no, I don’t see it either. It wouldn’t hurt or even bother me. It just seems a bit weird, like maybe they have some sort of mental disorder.

Mariah's avatar

I can only picture it hurting others if they were gaining anything from it. Like if the wealthy man was begging on the streets and taking money that other “real” beggars could be receiving. I think it’s kind of sick and they’re probably getting sympathy that they don’t deserve, but I don’t think it’s doing any real harm.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I can see the cases of transablism as trivializing those who are disabled, but unless they’re taking resources from others, I’m not really up in arms about it. As for the wealthy dude… does he let a poor guy use his wealthy stuff and pretend to be rich? Because obviously, he should.

wundayatta's avatar

She hurts their reputation, perhaps?

Coloma's avatar

Well..I think anytime we practice deception on even a subtle level it alters someones perceptions of us.
So, in many ways, yes, obviously to a greater or lesser degree.

At the far end is sociopathology.

Pretending to be the UPS guy when you’re really an axe murderer would gravely hurt the victim of your next delivery. lol

mangeons's avatar

The only things I can really think of are giving what they are pretending to be a bad name, and (if they are pretending to be handicapped or something similar) taking handicapped parking spaces and things like that away from people who really need them. Other than that, I don’t really see how it hurts them.

muppetish's avatar

I thought of something along the lines of @downtide, but for when someone pretends to be “gay” or acts “gay”. Sometimes you’ll hear “They give us a bad reputation. That’s not how we actually at.” This kind of collective identity confuses me. I do not expect all gay persons to perform the same way. I do not expect all paraplegic persons to act the same way (or to be going through the same situation.) Yes, they may share one common component of identity, but that doesn’t mean they are a collective and thus may be hurt by someone else’s performance.

I suppose they may feel initially feel as though their situation is being belittled, but it doesn’t inherently hurt them. Though it can make the performer look like a complete ass.

Bellatrix's avatar

If the ‘pretender’ was seeking and acquiring publicity that painted people who really are in that situation in an unrealistic, untruthful or demeaning light as a group, that could be damaging.

The only other thing I can think of is in terms of providing evidence and support for those who suggest many people dealing with whatever condition is being mimicked are malingerers. There is another thread where a jelly has suggested many people suffering from mental illness are not genuine. I don’t know if that is true or not, but if there are people who feign mental illness, that does harm genuine sufferers if those genuine sufferers then face doubt and scepticism about their diagnosis.

There are plenty of people out there who argue homeless people are there by choice and nobody has to be homeless. So, if people really aren’t homeless and pretend they are, they add fuel to this fire. It is not my belief I should say. Those who are pretending would be the exception rather than the rule I would say.

Mariah's avatar

I also wonder about their intent. Do they want to learn about what life “on the other side” is like? I’d find that kind of admirable, actually. I have heard of models dressing up in “fat suits” to see how they get treated differently. That’s an interesting experiment. If, on the other hand, it’s some kind of compulsion… @Aethelflaed raised a good point, it kind of trivializes it. If somebody with a working digestive tract told me they wanted to get their colon removed just for fun, I’d be kind of offended. That someone actually thinks they’d prefer to be stuck in my position when I’d give anything to be normal. No real harm done, however.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I see this happen all the time with what we call “stolen valor.” Hero-wannabees who dress up in military uniforms, or in their OWN uniforms if they’re already military, and wear awards which were never awarded to them. Most of the time, the families of guys who are killed in action get very little else besides his medals. Guys who lose limbs in battle get almost nothing else besides the awards for valor. In my opinion guys who wear awards they were never given should spend serious jail time.

Judi's avatar

Reminds me of a Popular book I read when I was young. It was called “Black Like Me.” It was a white man who tanned and took drugs to appear black an then went in the south to see what life was really like. He then wrote a book about his experience. When he revealed the truth, it was not received well.

Blackberry's avatar

No, it’s just kind of stupid, like upper middle class white kids trying to be “urban”.

Blackberry's avatar

@CaptainHarley No joke, I met a guy that simply used the fact that he was a marine and went to Iraq to try to get laid….....

CaptainHarley's avatar


Well, did it work?? LOL!

Blackberry's avatar

@CaptainHarley Not at all lol. I told him you need more than titles to get laid.

CaptainHarley's avatar

ROFLMAO!!!!! : ))

flo's avatar

I don’t see how it can’t hurt them. I mean if someone gives money to the rich person, it is money that could have gone to a real homeless person, right?
A benevolent person finds out he/she was fooled, next time they come across a real needy person they might pass them. And that could be you or me.

Bellatrix's avatar

Then that would be a harm would it not @Flo? If a bad experience with a charlatan stopped you being generous for fear you were being duped again.

mangeons's avatar

@Bellatrix She said she doesn’t see how it can’t hurt hem, not can.

flo's avatar

@Bellatrix that is my point, as @mangeons pointed out.

Bellatrix's avatar

Yes, got it @Flo. Thanks. Note to self. Don’t Fluther before breakfast.

flo's avatar

@Bellatrix you should see mine

I’m thinking probably people who fake being handicapped are most likely to do other bad things so…

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