Face Equality International Wants Disfigurement Recognized As A ‘True Disability’
Global non-profit Face Equality International is fighting hard to ensure that facial differences and other disfigurements are appropriately recognized and protected as a sub-category of disability rather than being dismissed, as is all too often the case, as less important primarily superficial and cosmetic concerns.
Read the Forbs article here.
What is Face Equality?
Face Equality is about recognizing that every face is different and unique, and that regardless of facial appearance, every person deserves to be treated fairly and equally. The value of every person should be determined by their unique contribution to society, and not by how they look.
The campaign for Face Equality was launched in May 2008 by the UK charity Changing Faces, and in 2019 became an international movement called Face Equality International (FEI), as non-profits and NGOs from around the world came together with the aim of creating a world in which people with facial disfigurement are accepted and valued as equal citizens, free of prejudice and stigma. The aims of FEI echoed with FACES' mission of upholding the rights of people with facial disfigurement and so it was only natural to join the movement.
Why is Face Equality important?
Attitudes towards appearance have a real impact on people's lives
Despite saying that "we shouldn't judge a book by its cover," the reality is that appearance does affect how we perceive and interact with one another. The 2013 survey by Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation, on the perception and experience of Taiwan's public towards appearance showed that:
1 out of 5 people in Taiwan have once been treated differently because of their appearance (ex: being laughed at, being called names, etc.)
Of those who were once treated differently, two thirds said the impact was negative (ex: loss of self-confidence, don't want to interact with other people, etc.)
76.7% of respondents believe that appearance plays and important role in social relations.
55% of respondents are conscious about their physical appearance, 16.6% of respondents have a physical characteristic that causes them distress and 11.6% of respondents are not satisfied with their appearance.
17% of respondents have kept distance with someone because of their different physical appearance, 14% have called someone names because of their different physical appearance, 10.7% have criticized someone because of their different physical appearance, 4.6% have laughed at someone because of their different physical appearance.
Attitudes toward appearance clearly disfavor people who have a visible facial difference.
An implicit association test done online in 2014 revealed that the public easily associated negative characteristics and stereotypes to people with a visible facial difference, perceiving them as having less confidence, more easily feeling inferior, being lonelier, etc. People with good looks have popularity and success, while people with facial disfigurement live less fulfilling lives, they have less abilities so we shouldn’t have high expectations towards them, they have less friends, etc. Implicitly perceiving people with facial disfigurement has having more emotional issues or being less achieving further perpetuates negative stereotypes and stigma that have serious implications in their daily lives, ranging from staring and unfriendly comments, to denial of equal opportunities and even bullying and violence.
What is being done to promote Face Equality?
FACES’ organizes educational activities in schools, businesses and communities to explain and promote Face Equality.
Through Face Equality Week held annually around May 17, FACES wants to raise awareness about the issue of discrimination based on appearance and change people’s attitudes towards facial disfigurement.
FACES advocates with government and businesses to remove barriers and discriminatory practices that affect the equal rights and access to equal opportunities of people with facial disfigurement.
Participation in Face Equality International
In 2018, FACES became one of the founding members of Face Equality International, an alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), charities and support groups which are working at national, regional, or international levels to promote the campaign for Face Equality.
How can you support Face Equality?
Individuals can become aware of the negative impact of implicit attitudes and stereotypes on appearance prevalent in society, stand out and support Face Equality.
Schools can promote inclusion of children with facial disfigurement and teach about respect of differences.
Businesses can promote a culture and practice of respect of facial difference, as well as guarantee equal opportunities.
Media can adopt a positive representation of facial difference and disfigurement, thus contributing to changing attitudes and prejudices and adhere to the International Media Standard on Disfigurement.
Government can actively address discrimination and unequal treatment through the development and implementation of better policies.
Facial Disfigurement and My Fight for Face Equality
Written by James Partridge
An honest memoir of the battle after severe facial burns; it’s a practical self-help guide for anyone with a facial difference and a manual for health professionals trying to help them. And, finally, it’s a manifesto for face equality, rooting out the stigmas of face-ism that oppress us all… and urging new face values in our 21st century world.