We’re launching the Stop the Stare campaign this Face Equality Week after new research, carried out for Changing Faces by Savanta ComRes, found that people with visible differences have experienced:
An increase in hostile behaviour when they go out in public, with a rise from a third (34%) in 2019, to over two in five (43%) in 2021.
A negative impact on mental health and wellbeing, with half of respondents (51%) reporting they have felt self-conscious or embarrassed as a result of their visible difference.
Feeling isolated and lonely because of their visible difference, reported by a quarter (25%) of respondents.
Being stared at, when people with a visible difference do go out, three in ten (28%) report this happens to them.
Stop the Stare explains the impact of staring and shares great advice to help stop staring before it happens.
Our advice and top tips have been developed with our volunteer campaigners and ambassadors. We hope you find them useful.
Top tips to stop staring before it happens
You’re less likely to stare if you are used to seeing people with visible differences. Popular culture makes this a challenge, featuring so few people with visible differences. That’s why we’re encouraging more brands, organisations, films and TV shows to positively include people with visible differences. Follow our social media channels for a more diverse and inclusive social media feed:
Parents tell us they get embarrassed if their young child points, stares or makes a loud comment about someone with a visible difference who they see in public. That’s why it’s so important to talk about and celebrate differences at home, from an early age. There’s a growing range of toys that feature positive representations of visible difference. Books are also a great way to introduce and talk about visible differences. Check out the book recommendations on our classroom resources page. And our butterfly activity pack combines celebrating difference with craft and colouring!
What to do if you catch yourself staring
Sometimes it happens. If you ever find yourself staring at someone with a visible difference or disfigurement, here’s our advice about what to do next.
Smile: It’s a simple act that lets the person you’ve been staring at know you’ve realised your mistake. With a smile, you can show that your stare isn’t going to escalate into a negative comment or worse.
Say hi: You can change your stare into a more positive exchange by simply sharing a warm greeting, like “hi” or “good morning”.
Say sorry: Own your mistake and apologise. It’s rude to stare, so saying sorry acknowledges this.
Give a compliment: If you’ve been staring you’ve probably noticed something else about the person, other than their visible difference. You can always make a comment to break the ice after you’ve been caught staring, admiring someone’s clothes or a skill they have.
Don’t shout: If you’re with a young child and they stare, point or make a loud comment, it might feel embarrassing for you, but please don’t shout at or pull a child away. It’s best to simply explain that everyone looks different and that’s a good thing. Remember to smile at the person your child notices, they’ll learn from your behaviour.
Alter your gaze: You may feel surprised or curious if you meet someone with a visible difference for the first time. They might come for an interview or be serving you in a shop. If you are worried that you are staring at their visible difference, look at the bridge of their nose for a few moments until you feel more confident.
The person you’ve caught yourself staring at has probably had to deal with lots of people staring and commenting before you. Don’t always expect a smile back or someone to want to start a conversation.
Sign up for our allyship email course
It’s great that you want to take action and challenge the prejudice and discrimination too many people with visible differences and disfigurements still face today.
Become a visible difference ally. Take our free, short course, to be a better ally. You’ll learn more about living life with a visible difference, and it covers topics like what language to use, why we may stare in the first place and how to stop the stare.
Our film helps explain the impact that staring can have on someone with a visible difference. Please share it on your social media, with friends, family or colleagues to help us explain why staring needs to stop.
We want to get more people talking about visible difference and disfigurement, the prejudice people can face, and how we can challenge stereotypes about visible differences. You can help by hosting your own Face Equali-Tea Party, which comes complete with conversation starters.
We campaign on everything from better representation of visible difference and disfigurements in film to preventing hate incidents and hate crimes. Get our regular supporter newsletter to keep up to date and support our work.
We know that constant stares, negative comments and abuse just because of how you look can really take a toll. Experiencing negative behaviours and reactions from others isn’t always easy to manage. But you’re not alone. We’re here for anyone with a visible difference or disfigurement on their face or body.