We Will Not Hide
International Face Equality Week is May 15th – 19th 2023. Counteracting Stigma with the #WeWillNotHide Campaign
Dear Face Equality Activist,
Right now, consistent hostility and erasure leads people with disfigurements to internalize the idea that they should be hiding, when we should be accepting what people look like, and celebrating difference. This year's theme is counteracting stigma, to do this we must demand for people to be seen.
Let Penny tell you why this has become the central theme for this year's campaign...
Why I Will Not Hide - by Penny Loker
I was reminded yesterday (by the time you read this it will probably have been last month), that one person can make a difference. I was reminded that I was that person; that I made a difference. That the start of my advocacy work started with a spark of anger, that led to an email, that led to a story, that led to a difference.
In 2013 while looking at a photo essay on CNN’s website as I often did each day, I came across a story about the impacts of agent orange in Vietnam. How the use of this chemical during wars and subsequently after, was having an impact on children born to mothers who had been exposed to it. How it was creating birth defects that the mothers and the countries they lived in were ill-equipped to deal with. As a result, the children were often institutionalized and looked after by carers, underpaid, and with very few resources. The point of the essay was to highlight the impacts, and I hope, to get help for these kids and young adults living in these institutions.
Before I could even get to the first slide there was a warning, it read “Warning: The following photographs contain graphic content of severely deformed children. Viewer discretion is advised.”. I’ve lived with my difference my whole life. I’ve been called every name in the book, stared at, laughed at, everything, and anything outside of being physically assaulted. Let me tell you, I’ve never been SO mad after reading a sentence in my life. I didn’t know it was possible. It was like a switch had been flicked on, one I didn’t know existed. For some reason when I read that sentence, it was like I realized this invisible chain had been attached to me my whole life and I ‘Hulk’d’ out of it and became a different version of myself.
Making a Difference
Long story short CNN did make a change and removed the warning; they also went a step further to feature me in an article. 2013 was the year of the Boston Marathon bombing, so when my article was published, I didn’t think it would be seen much.
In yesterday’s meeting one of my fellow attendees realized that it was me who was in the article from 2013. He had read it when he was a teen at age 15, looking for information about our shared condition. He mentioned one of the few things that did come up was my article and that it made him feel less alone.
When you put things out on the internet, most times you don’t think about the wider impact beyond the scope you as the author envisioned. Whether that’s a tweet, a reel, a vlog, a blog, or whatever it is, and however you engage, we just do our thing and then go about our daily lives. Not realizing that someone in the future may find that, or that an audience you never knew you had was listening, or reading your words and that it impacted them.
I’m still working through that, but also realize that back in 2013 I stepped out from behind my own fears to declare I Will Not Hide!
We'll be sharing more #WeWillNotHide stories like Penny's in the lead-up to IFEW. Check out more details on the campaign here.
Kindest regards from the FEI team.