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...
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.