James Partridge, Founder of Face Equality International

Wearing facial protection will soon become normal, according to the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 spokesman David Nabarro in an interview with the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p089cz1s

Despite conflicting evidence about whether face masks are effective in protecting people from Covid-19 (eg: eyes can still be recipients of the droplets), Nabarro said people had to come to terms with the new reality of living with the virus — and with a vaccine many months from being available, that meant that wearing some form of facial protection will at least give people some reassurance.

For people with facial disfigurements, this would be a double-edged experience. On the one hand, a far greater degree of civil inattention would result in social interactions of all sorts especially on public transport and in public places — which would be a healthy step towards ‘face equality’ perhaps.

Everyone would be invisibly different and appearance would cease to prompt aesthetic judgements. Instead everyone would be judged by their talents, personality and even attractiveness — or for their ingenious face masks. Uncalled-for staring, ridicule and intrusive questions would disappear.

I recall being cared for by nurses and doctors in the 1970s when everyone wore hospital masks in burns and plastic wards and finding it very gratifying that I was not taking them at face value. What I liked were their skills, their empathy and even, on occasion, their flirtatiousness!

But on the other hand, wearing face masks will prevent people seeing my face and those of many people with cleft lips and palates, cranio-facial conditions, scarring from accidents and violence, the aftermath of facial cancer or facial paralysis or with a skin condition like psoriasis or acne. We all need to be seen, respected and accepted so that the absurdly perfectionist face-value judgements of our global society are challenged and thrown into the dustbin of history.

So I find myself in two minds about face masks.

One things is for sure, a new cottage industry of ‘fashionable’ face masks could mushroom as I was reminded when speaking to two colleagues of the Face Equality International alliance in Taiwan last week. They both wore home-spun masks with aplomb. I could even see faces appearing with logos and adverts and other guff… Save us from that, I hope!

male wearing protective face mask

Anyone strongly for or against face masking? Tweet to us at @FaceEqualityInt or contact us via Facebook or Instagram.

References: https://www.fast.ai/2020/04/13/masks-summary/

Photo credit: Julie

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