09 August 2013

One conversation creates change. Another post on Embarrassing Bodies.

Embarrassing Bodies was on the TV last night. I didn't watch it, a friend texted me to tell me it was on. I replied that I think the title is offensive, the content's exploitative and the viewers' reactions are callous, but thanks for thinking of me.

I wrote about how I feel about the show here. While many people disagreed with my opinion (the conversation below the post added such richness), I still maintain that Embarassing Bodies is for gross-out viewing, and perpetuates misperceptions, voyeurism and disgust about an illness or disability because of the sensationalism of title, content and promotion.

There was a comment on that post suggesting I am annoyed about the show because I'm directly affected by an issue it covers:

"You cannot make judgements on an entire viewing audience based on the fact that some people watch it and make fun of the people on it. Of course those are the people who will be most vocal. Sometimes we have to take a step back and realise our own issues can sometimes cloud how we think of things and are we getting our back up about a show or is it more to do with our own lives and problems??"

While I take that feedback on board, and responded to it too, I think that it is often those who are affected by the issues are the ones that can make a difference in creating change. We can't sit back and do nothing when the media misrepresents us. And we shouldn't be seen as angry or bitter when doing so. I'm not going to be meek and mild. Of course I'm going to be annoyed when the show is covering a condition I've lived with my whole life and I've worked my whole life to change perceptions about. Wouldn't you? Ichthyosis is part of my identity.

When the show aired, I ranted a bit and tried to educate people about Ichthyosis by tweeting my blog link and responding to some of the awful things said about Ichthyosis during the show.

Note the way Gem, the TV station, promoted the show. Again, tell me why I don't have reason to be annoyed at the sensationalism of illness.

And then this happened. She's a medical student, according to her Twtter feed...

And this too. :)

I know I shouldn't be, but I was so worked up over seeing awful, hurtful responses to Ichthyosis. So when I got an apology and some changes of mind, I saw it as an educative win. It made me smile. And there was so much love on Twitter that night. So many of my friends are also speaking out against the show, and see why I have these thoughts. Thanks everyone!

I'm not going to sit back and do nothing when people have developed a certain mindset about a condition that they've not seen humanised outside of an exploitative TV show. I'm using my voice and personal experience to create change. Because I don't want the next generation of beautiful children with Ichthyosis (or other visible differences, illnesses and disabilities) to read that a gawker or ignorant person was too disgusted to look at them after watching a segment on TV. How can we hold how head high and be proud with the sorts of attitudes I've exemplified here?

Sometimes it takes a small conversation to create change. It takes a real person to tell their personal story.

Edit: @Jados_Y has since sent me and the Ichthyosis community a very sincere apology.


  1. You know where I stand on this babe. Right beside you. They've done the same to Parkinson's.

  2. Have you heard from the Channel or the producers of Embarrassing Bodies? It seems they're the ones who should be embarrassed.

  3. Carly, you won't how I feel about that show...I applaud you for this and your previous post about how disgusting and degrading it is.
    You have many people not standing behind you, but next to you...cheering xxx

  4. Hi Carly, I am so with you, as you know....and with pay respect to you and the way in which you tell a whole world of your community about 'how it is' for someone to be 'judged, commented upon, etc'. I am going to DM you now and hope we can chat a bit about the course I am teaching at Uni right now. Denyse

  5. Hi Carly, yet another time when you have to fight for the right to be heard...and seen. Honestly, the tweet about "if" you were degraded etc is so passive aggressive. People..if you have offended you have offended...no "if" or "but"
    I am going to DM you about the course I am teaching at Uni this semester called "Inclusive Teaching for Effective Learning". Denyse

  6. I must admit to not having thought about the potential impact on other people with the conditions shown on the show, or the implications of the title and for that, I apologise. I have worried about the people who participated, but I think not enough.

    Having said that, I don't watch the show regularly, but I have watched it and it never occurred to me to laugh at the people depicted. I admit that I thought it might be providing a service, in spreading understanding of the conditions that cause particular looks or behaviour and helping the people who encounter those with the conditions to be less embarrassed.

    By which I mean, if you've never met anyone with a particular visible condition before, no matter how much you might want to, it's hard to completely repress surprise, for instance. Or if you've never known someone with Ichthyosis, for example, you mightn't know whether shaking hands is a good idea or painful. Of course, you can ask, but if you're trying to be sensitive, that might be difficult. That's how I interpreted the 'embarassing' part.

    On reflection, it was naive, but it never occurred to me that people would view this as a freak show, something to be laughed at. I thought of it as education that might get to people who otherwise mightn't have this information and possibly make easier the lives of people who were either suffering in silent embarassment with non-visible conditions or from lack of understanding with visible ones.

    I'm sorry that I didn't think it through far enough and to you Carly, and anyone else hurt by the show, I apologise. I can't help hoping though that, since the show does exist, I'm not the only person who sees it the way I have.

  7. Awesome post! All so true xxx Phoodie

  8. I think the worst thing about Embarassing Bodies is that it is a wolf in sheeps clothing. It claims to exist to destigmatize illness and conditions deemed 'embarrassing' and yet the title of the show and the promotion of the show is purely voyeuristic. As for people who make comments about people appearing on the show ( on twitter...hmm how brave is that) they should be the embarrassed.

  9. Beautiful Carly,and absolutely right I don't watch the show actually don't watch commercial TV in part because of the way they encourage people to look down on other people. SO many issues caused by this sort of thing and I'm very glad to know you and watch you stand up and make your voice heard on these issues.

  10. Good on you Carly for standing up for your views. Change happens in small doses. x

  11. I've never watched this show ... and now I can promise I never will.

  12. Wow, good on you, I say. I don't watch Embarrassing Bodies, but was intrigued by your blog title on Maxabella's linky... Bravo for using your blog and your voice to speak up and bring awareness about the way ignorance can be so hurtful. Hats off to you, luv! x

  13. Carly, one of my favourite blogs is Miss Miggy Stayed home. It's about a mum whose little girl has limb differences and every Friday she does a special needs spot light and highlights kids with special needs and the journey their family has been on. It is one of my favourite blogs and I think it does much to educate people and has a focus on empathy, respect, love and understanding.

    Please check it out and definitely look at the special need spotlight part.

    It's on my blog roll.

    have a great weekend xxxx

    PS stay strong and fabulous x

  14. I can understand your response to this program - and yes, I do have an understanding of your skin condition, and follow the blogs of several people similarly affected. I think the point of the program is not that our bodies are embarrassing - but that WE are embarrassed by them, or the problems they present with. I am astonished that some people put up with a condition which is treatable, because they are ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it. I think the purpose of this program, as they say in the introduction, is that 'there is no shame - we are all the same'.
    I hope that you continue to find acceptance in your life - I think you are a wonderful ambassador, and a role model for all those affected with Ichthyosis. Regarding comments on Twitter - it is a forum where a lot of people hide behind anonymity and where messages are left without prior thought - which is why I don't use it.

  15. It's not something I would ever watch, even though I do find medical conditions and the research into them fascinating. x


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