Sunday 9 April 2017

Nerd Church - Disability Is Not Ugly

There's a new TV programme coming on in the UK, Katie Piper's Face to Face, which takes people with skin conditions and shows them how to cover it with make-up.

On an individual basis, I have absolutely no problem if you want to wear make-up. Whatever you want or need to feel like you is fine by me.

face made of makeup pic

The problem I have is not with the participants on the show, it's with this habit reality TV has of placing disabled people in the 'ugly' or 'Other' box.

Shows like Katie Piper's Face to Face, Too Ugly For Love, The Undateables, or Embarrassing Bodies are sending the message that disability means you are wrong.

They're saying that you should somehow be ashamed or embarrassed of who you are, and how you look.

Again, I am not criticising the participants of the show or, indeed, Katie Piper herself, who is pretty awesome.

I think that disabled people and people with skin conditions have every right to wear make-up if it makes them feel like themselves, and if it's what they want to do. And f**k anyone who says different.

Because it's your choice to wear make-up or not ...isn't it?

Not always. You will not know just how little choice you have as a woman in the West until you choose not to wear make-up.

Because I don't wear make-up (except a little nail polish.) And people react like you've told them you're a puppy assassin.

My skin allergies/contact dermatitis mean that a lot of cosmetic products will literally leave me in agony - I end up with what is essentially chemical burns wherever the product touched my skin.

To put it in perspective - severe poison ivy/poison oak reactions are a form of contact dermatitis. Now imagine that reaction with everyday skincare products.

Which products? Well, actually, I don't know until I try them. There are certain chemicals I avoid, but beyond that? It's trial and error.

People's reactions to this vary from accusing me of lying, to saying that I just haven't found the right make-up yet (maybe that's true - but I don't want the pain that comes with finding it, I really don't care about make-up enough to go through that.)

Generally, I now say that I don't like make-up - a sort of half-truth.

That leads to weird looks, but less people accusing me of lying, or trying to get attention, or being lazy (as if make-up is something that must be worked towards.)

I get less people doubting me than I do when I tell the whole truth.

lipstick pic

And I know of HR departments who discriminate against women who don't wear make-up to an interview.

Because apparently that shows a lack of effort and/or respect. Even though they would never expect a man to turn up to an interview in make-up (and it might actually go against them if they did.)

Never mind, either, that that's illegal. But who, at the end of the day, would be able to prove it?

But what about Embarrassing Bodies? That's about fixing people, right? And starting a conversation?

No. That show is about putting people on display. If they really wanted to help people, they wouldn't have named the show Embarrassing Bodies; and that's just for a start.

As for starting a conversation, it's probably not the kind of conversation we should be having.

A school-friend once talked about watching Embarrassing Bodies, and how gross and weird one woman's physical deformity was.

She didn't know that I have the exact same deformity - a very slight one, which I've had since birth, and which isn't visible on a daily basis (or to anyone without permission.)

My birth defect is not a big deal.

It'll only become a problem in very specific circumstances.

Honestly, 'fixing it' isn't on my to-do list - especially considering how potentially painful it could turn out to be to 'fix' something which is primarily cosmetic.

I wish I had the confidence to tell you exactly what it is - given everything I've talked about on this blog, it seems kind of silly to get stuck on this - but every time I think about telling you... I just can't.

Partly because of an Embarrassing Bodies episode that I didn't even watch, and the words spoken in that 'conversation' that it started.

Disability is not ugly. Don't make disabled people feel that way.

Nerd Church is taking a break next week but will be back on 23rd April.

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  1. This is so true. I haven't worn make up in over a year, I think, and my skin has got so much better. I have neurodermatitis (eczema). I could wear make up but some brands dry out my skin. I also don't remove my facial hair because it irritates the skin. People say it doesn't look professional but trust me, areas of irritated skin are even worse. And I actually do like myself like this!

    I don't need to wear make-up to look more beautiful. However, I have thought about getting colourful lipstick just for the fun of it - purple, blue, green.

    I'm also quite self-conscious about my right hand because the skin is never healed properly. I get really worried when I have to go to a job interview.

    It's not that I have a problem with how I look - it's that society tells me I should have a problem.

    1. Bless this comment!

      *Ahem* Sorry, I got v fandom speak on you then.

      I totally agree - if you want to wear make-up then I will be the first to defend your right to do so, but why assume that all women must wear make-up in order to be 'professional' (and then call them sl*tty if they don't wear it to your liking.)

      It's like, surely, in 2017, we have more important things to worry about?!

      And you are beautiful Sinead - as my mother would say, never let the b*****ds get you down!

    2. Your mother sounds awesome! :D

      It's surprising how many people go on about looking professional. We should be able to be look however we want and looking professional doesn't mean you are professional.

    3. Don't encourage her. XD She'll be impossible.

      And if *I* swore she'd murder me. (Hence all the *s).

      A lot of people who look professional, in my experience, don't have a clue what they're doing!

  2. I don't understand why we're still having the makeup debate. It's 100% a person's choice to wear makeup and 100% none of anyone else's business! Those shows sound like they think they're doing something good, and maybe in retrospect some think they are, but they sound pretty degrading to me.

    1. The thing is - if they honestly thought they were doing good, they wouldn't be called things like 'Too Ugly For Love'!

      Thanks for the comment Em :)

  3. Hmm... I feel mixed feelings. I haven't seen the show, but I don't think it is really advocating that idea. Personally, the way I see it she is more so using make up as a tool for them to return normalcy. Not because they are ugly, but just to make things like daily life easier. But then again, I think I would need to watch the show to be able to truly know how they are presenting it.

    1. I just feel like it's part of a wider picture. And like I said, I have no problem with people who want to wear make-up - but when you hold that up as the ideal - or the norm - for disabled people, I feel like it's saying a lot more than it seems to on the surface.

  4. Ok wow, I've never heard of any of those shows, but the names sound horribly offensive! As for the Face to Face one, I agree. I think anyone with a skin condition has every right to wear makeup or cover it up, but I don't know, the show itself seems like it's sending a message that you SHOULD cover it up.

    I don't wear makeup either, although my reason really is that I just don't like it, and also now because I don't like putting any more chemicals in or near my body than necessary. I remember when I was a teen, the women in my family were always trying to get me to wear it, even just at family occasions like holidays. So yeah, *that's* our society. People pressure women to wear makeup. Except, oddly enough, I've never felt pressured by anyone other than my family, aside from certain events or performances where makeup was absolutely expected and I didn't mind wearing it. But then I've never had a "normal" job where I was expected to wear makeup just to go into work. I hate that it's like that. Like you said, no expects men to wear makeup, so why us? I'm also fine with it if anyone WANTS to, but no one should HAVE to.

    But yes, I agree with this post. Disability is not ugly, and I definitely don't think we should have shows just to put it on display and "fix" it.

    1. Such an awesome comment! Thanks Kristen :)

      Thinking about it - they are all British shows. And are all made by Channel 4. Starting to think this is a Channel 4 problem above all else!

      Yeah, Face to Face gives the impression of being good for people with skin conditions, but the very fact that this is a show based on covering your skin condition with make-up (which apparently is life-changing, and makes people feel more like a woman. #RollsEyes) kind of undermines that.

      Again, I will fight for ANYONE who wants to wear make-up to express themselves. It's a personal thing, and you should totally have that choice.

      But shows like this imply there's something wrong with looking disabled. Which there just isn't. It's telling that one of the main ways we see disabled people on screen is through shows like this.

  5. Ugh, I'm so sorry people give you crap about not wearing makeup -- it's especially shitty on account of you having allergy problems that make it impossible for you to wear makeup, but ALSO it's not okay for them to be telling people what to do with THEIR OWN FACES. I don't wear makeup most of the time unless I want to look fancy, and I don't think anyone's ever said anything to me about it AS THEY INDEED SHOULD NOT, so I'm really sorry that it keeps happening to you. Blech.

    And also, I so agree with everything you're saying about these TV shows. Anyone can make any choices about their lives and faces that they want, but there is absolutely a tendency in the media to act like it's not fine to be disabled. If the media could even take, like, ONE WEEK off from sending out shitty, unfair messages that invalidate most of humanity, that'd be swell.

    1. *signs up for that week off* It'll be great. We can all sit there and just... not be pressured to change ourselves in unnecessary ways!

  6. YES. I couldn't agree more with all of this. Actually things like this infuriate me so much...and even recently I read a book where the characters all got a magical facelift/boob job as part of their new career and I was just like??? What the heck. I hate how some random person in society has got to decide what's "beautiful" and then that's the end of it. Such rubbish. There are all types of beautiful and discrimination against it just so low.

    (Also I wore make up for 4 minutes and then scrubbed it off and howled into the void because I HATE the way it felt on my skin. 😂 I'm 23 and have basically never worn make up. Not even sad about that.)

    1. Ha, feel free to join the rebellion!!!! (We have cake.)

      And wow, that book sounds really random!

  7. I haven't heard of this show so I don't know how it is presented. If it's to show how they can change their looks and more like a tutorial then I don't have a problem with it. Most of us have had skin issues (I still get zits) and it's nice to know how I can hide it and not be self conscious.

    1. Picking people with skin conditions in particular and making *that* the focus of the show - makeovers for disabled people... in the sense of the wider trend, I do have a problem with that. I don't have a problem with individuals doing this, but a themed show? No, I can't support that.


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