Written on November 02, 2019
Face Equality gives a name to something our community has always known: people with scars are just like everybody else.
It’s the idea that people with unusual appearances have equal value in society, that they deserve equal acceptance and respect. It’s the idea that people shouldn’t be defined by what they look like.
Phoenix Society hasn’t always called it Face Equality, but we’ve been advocating for acceptance and respect for decades. With statements like “Beyond My Scars,” “Burns are Beautiful,” and “You are Greater Than,” we’ve been reminding each other – and the world – that our scars don’t hold us back.
Face Equality is a banner to unite under as we advocate for awareness and acceptance of people with physical differences.
Changing Faces’ 2017 report found that more than 80% of people with facial differences experienced staring, comments, or unpleasantness from a stranger.1 In school, 49.5% were bullied because of their appearance.1 People target those who are different, and disfigurement is often an impossible difference to hide.
41.6% felt their appearance influenced their performance in school, including exams.1 Later in life, 55.7% of adults feel having a facial difference affected their lifetime ambitions for their career.1 When we aren’t supported by teachers and colleagues, when our interviewer has a strong implicit bias, we are never able to live up to our full potential.
Last year in Burn Support Magazine, we took a deep dive into film portrayal of characters with burn scars. What we found was pretty grim: 69% hid their scars, 62% were villains, and only 16% had any friends.2 This type of harmful bias against people with scars is exactly what the Face Equality movement is striving to change.
Because of stereotypical and biased media portrayals, many have harmful misconceptions about people with facial differences. Many people with scars worry they’ll never fall in love, start a family, or be able to make friends. Between other people’s biases and our own negative self-talk, it can be hard to get back to living.
Our “Burns are Beautiful” campaign set out to promote self love and the beauty of scars. Whether you use creative cosmetics to build your confidence or practice self compassion and self love through mindfulness, you have the right to respect yourself. It’s not always easy in a world that doesn’t always respect people with scars, and that’s where Face Equality comes in.
The mission of Face Equality International (FEI) is to mobilize the many groups and organizations, big and small, national and international, that support and represent people with disfigurements. Together, we hope to create the solidarity needed to gain global attention for the campaign for Face Equality.
“A vital step in any burn survivor’s recovery is accepting their changed appearance and gaining confidence in social situations. For many, this is a long, difficult journey – but it doesn’t have to be. Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors is proud to be a founding member of Face Equality International, an exciting step toward elevating people with scars and facial conditions. Together, we can reduce bias and promote acceptance on a global scale.”
- Amy Acton, Executive Director
FEI will raise the profile of disfigurement and put the issues people with disfigurements experience on the agenda of the UN Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), international bodies, companies and social media outlets.
1. Changing Faces. (2017). Disfigurement in the UK.
2. Badger, Karen PhD, MSW, and Acton, Niki. (2018). “Villains, Victims, and Vigilantes: The Portrayal of Scars in Pop Culture.“ Burn Support Magazine.