During the Connecting Wall round of the show, the words scar, blot, stain and stigma, were all connected as “marks of shame”.
Thanks to the actions of you, our friends, supporters, ambassadors, and campaigners, amplifying our message on social media, we got people talking about why words matter. We’ve been able to shine a light on the continued use of outdated tropes and stereotypes that see negative representations of visible difference and disfigurements persist across popular culture.
We have secured an apology from the BBC and have been pleased to speak directly with the host of Only Connect, Victoria Coren Mitchell, and we are looking forward to meeting the production team behind the popular quiz show.
We have also spoken with Nichola Garde, Creative Diversity & Disability Content Lead at the BBC, who contacted us this morning after receiving our letter earlier this week about the incident on Only Connect. Nichola has committed to working with us and we will be meeting with her to plan how we can ensure creative teams can better represent visible difference and disfigurements in the future.
Our ambassador, Tulsi, says:
“It’s so great that Victoria took to social media to quickly address what happened, recognising it was a mistake and speaking with Changing Faces. And I’m pleased to see an apology from a BBC spokesperson; but we don’t campaign for apologies on their own. We want people to work with us and better understand the experiences of people with a visible difference, so they recognise the impact of words, negative representations and outdated tropes that use differences like scars to signify ‘villainy’ or ‘shame’.
“That’s why we’re happy that the Only Connect team is going to meet with us and we will continue to work on this issue with the BBC to ensure all their creative teams are aware of how to better represent visible difference and disfigurements.”
Changing Faces released research in 2021, carried out by Savanta ComRes with people who have a visible difference, and they found that three-quarters (74%) of those questioned think popular culture is changing to be more inclusive, but people with visible differences are being left behind.
People with visible differences also report long term impacts from not seeing people who look like them represented in society and across popular culture. A third have low levels of confidence (34%), and three in ten have struggled with body image (31%) and low self-esteem (29%). A quarter (24%) say it has affected their mental health.
Heather Blake, our Chief Executive, says:
“Our supporters have helped us raise awareness of the fact that we still live in a society where using stereotypes and tropes that indicate there is something wrong or problematic with visible differences like scars, too often goes unnoticed or unrecognised.
“Only by speaking out and challenging what happened on shows like Only Connect will we be able to make positive changes for the future. We’ve seen from the quotes and comments on social media posts that not everyone agrees with us, and they don’t understand the impact that words can have.
“I was pleased to be able to talk to Victoria Coren Mitchell, host of Only Connect this week, and her personal commitment to addressing this issue was much welcomed. But our message wasn’t directed at Victoria, and that’s why we are delighted that the BBC has committed to work with us too. As an organisation they have a huge reach and ability to shape the cultural landscape. Imagine the impact we can have when the creative teams working at the BBC better understand the experiences of those living with a visible difference or disfigurement in the UK today.”