Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Introduction of International Media Standard for Persons With Facial Differences

Introduction of International Media Standard for Persons With Facial Differences 
Media urged to take care with language, tone, and imagery when covering facial disfigurement

Children’s Craniofacial Association (CCA) is proud to support the new International Media Standard on Disfigurement launching today, February 5th, 2020, by Face Equality International, the global alliance representing people with facial differences.

Formed 12 months ago, Face Equality International’s first major priority, as defined by its 33 NGO members, was to produce internationally-applicable standards for print and digital media, television, radio, streaming, and other forms of visual broadcast. The new Standard is designed to both guide best practice in reporting on the lives and issues experienced by people with facial differences, and to prevent misrepresentation, stereotyping, and prejudice. The unanimous view of the alliance’s member organizations is that people with facial differences and disfigurements are far too often described in the written and broadcast media in negative, overstated, or outdated terms such as ‘horribly disfigured’ or ‘scarred for life.’ A recent example from the UK’s Daily Mirror was the use of a headline that read “Disabled girl banned from nursery as her ‘deformed skull will scare other kids.’"

People with craniofacial syndromes and other facial differences are also often portrayed as objects of pity and sympathy in television, film, and news reporting. A recent news story in the United States of America about a woman whose face transplant read,“Her body is rejecting a transplanted face — and one solution is unthinkable,” as though having a facial disfigurement is “unthinkable.”

Recent examples of negative broadcast incidents include the talk show host, Wendy Williams, mocking actor Joaquin Phoenix and his cleft lip by tugging on her own lip and referring to him as “oddly attractive” a day after he earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

Member organizations speak of people they support as experiencing endemic, low self-esteem in our global, “look-perfect” culture. People with facial differences also experience social isolation, ridicule, staring, bullying and low expectations in school and discrimination in the workplace. Many are the targets of abuse online. In many countries, disfigurement goes hand in hand with poverty, prejudice, and exclusion. Much of this can be perpetuated by poor media reporting, and uninformed broadcast coverage. The goal of FEI’s Media Standard is to combat these preconceived notions and to improve the lives of individuals with facial differences.

FEI member organizations also believe that more often than not, media reporting is unintentionally thoughtless or uninformed, rather than malicious. We believe reporters are happy to cooperate when offered guidance. This is why the alliance wants to work closely with media professionals to support them in thoughtful reporting.

The International Media Standard on Disfigurement is the result of the alliance working closely with media professionals, journalists, and its member networks over the past year to create a benchmark that tackles any uncertainty or awkwardness around how to portray, describe, and depict people with facial differences in the public eye.

In an effort to encourage respectful, responsible journalism and broadcasting, the alliance wants to support professionals in getting it right, without having to publicly denounce them. The Standard has been thoroughly user-tested by member NGO staff, volunteers, and users with the intention of counteracting stigma, while giving a voice to those who often get overlooked, and showing what it’s really like to look different in our global media culture.

James Partridge, founder and Director of Face Equality International, says:

“The media is fascinated by stories about children and adults who, like me, have distinctive faces, but the way we are described — in headlines, pictures, films and words — needs to be thought about much more carefully than at present. Too often stories that could usefully inform the public are distorted by words like ‘deformed’ or by implications that the person concerned dislikes their face. Many media organisations do get it right, but not as often as they could. We want to work with media professionals, agencies, and organizations to support them in getting it right every time.”

Erica Mossholder, MBA, Executive Director of Children’s Craniofacial Association says, 

“We believe this Media Standard is important because it highlights our on-going effort advocating public acceptance for appearance diversity, and the FEI is doing the critical work of engaging with media and governing bodies to suggest tangible guidelines for how people with facial differences should be respected, represented, and included in the workplace, media, and beyond.”

CCA is proud to support the FEI’s new Media Standard and are happy to supply and share it upon request. Please note, while Children’s Craniofacial Association prefers the word “difference,” to “disfigurement,” we honor the use of “disfigurement” when preferred, such as it is more widely accepted in the UK and parts of Europe.

Thank you for reading. Please click the link below to access the Face Equality International  media standard.

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