November 2, 2017
- Think about whether you want to be an ‘authoritative’ source of information or the purveyor of ill-informed messages that contribute to distress
- Think about the power you have
- Choose your words and tone of message carefully
On Thursday 26 October 2017 you published an article about an Australian teacher diagnosed with Bell’s palsy in pregnancy. We strongly object to the way this article was sensationalised. The same story was also reported by The Metro but was less sensationalised and far more acceptable.
A usually stunning primary school teacher gave birth with a totally lopsided face, after being struck down by paralysis just two days before going into labour with twins
You are perpetuating a very negative stereotype that if someone does not fit into your narrow view of ‘perfection’ then they are no longer beautiful. We would also strongly urge you to refrain from using highly offensive phrases such as – lopsided, to describe a serious medical condition.
Your headline said:
Ms Logie endured her appearance for four weeks before it returned to normal
This statement is outrageous and unacceptable. The desperation to sensationalise is the only ugly thing about this article and perhaps the journalist and editor responsible for this offensive language should take a long hard look at their narrow view of the world.
The Daily Mail and other newspapers are keen to report on these stories where there is a sudden change of face. They are also keen to report on success stories where people recover or have smile surgery. Newspapers such as yours seem to take comfort in seeing people get back to, as they put it, ‘normal’.
Some people living with facial paralysis are completely happy and content with their lives and never seek surgery. Some would like some help via the NHS. According to a Freedom of Information (Fol) request sent to clinical commissioning groups in England in 2017, only 12% routinely fund all types of facial palsy surgical treatments. Similar Fol requests were sent to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Wales, psychological distress alone will not normally be accepted as a reason to fund surgery.
Yet here we have a situation where a national newspaper will quite happily cause psychological distress to people with facial paralysis by declaring someone ‘usually stunning’ until they have developed the condition or by saying they have to ‘endure their appearance’. Your message increases pressure on those with an unusual appearance to believe that their appearance is in some way unacceptable and they are ‘blighted’.
For people born with facial paralysis this is ‘their normal’! Would you single out other minorities because of their race, religion or disability? You would not say someone in a wheelchair endured their appearance. It should be no different for someone with a facial difference.
WE ARE ALL EQUAL
Facial Palsy UK – supporting people with facial paralysis due to any cause.
A registered charity in England & Wales (1148115) and Scotland (SC045086)
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