This week it has been reported in the Press that the BBC received a complaint about a joke from Gary Lineker which commented on his colleagues’ hair loss.  We would like to make it very clear that the complaint DID NOT come from Alopecia UK, as seems to be the impression some media outlets are giving to the general public. 

Alopecia UK was subsequently approached for comment about our stance on ‘bald jokes’.  The following was provided to the Telegraph newspaper:

"It’s a shame that those in the media still use that platform in a way that reinforces negativity towards hair loss. Whilst we haven’t seen the specific comments made by Gary Lineker, we would expect they will have been jovial in nature and with no malice intended. However, jibes about hair loss contribute to the ridicule that many face and emphasise this idea that hair is not important, which spans across all types of hair loss including Alopecia Areata which affects men, women and children. It doesn't make it easy for people to then open up and talk about how their hair loss has affected them.  We increasingly hear from more and more men who struggle with hair loss. In today’s society it seems that jokes about bald men are more acceptable than jokes about bald women or children and this can lead to men with hair loss feeling they are not supported when they struggle to come to terms with their change in appearance. In general, jokes about anyone’s physical attributes feel extremely outdated and this includes ‘banter’ about hair loss."

However, to add to this. We have since watched the clip from Match of the Day and we believe it is clear that Gary Lineker’s comment about the start to the premier league season being ‘real hair-raising stuff at times…unless you’re Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy’ was entirely without malice. Neither Alan or Danny, both men with Androgenetic Alopecia, were offended by the ‘hair-raising’ quip and it was something that we’re confident many others with hair loss would smile about too. We feel the media are obviously have a slow news week! Resulting in them pulling a small charity, that is working hard to support those who do struggle, into an unnecessary media storm in a teacup whereby we are seeing very aggressive comments coming into the charity from the public at large who obviously think that we have made the complaint.  Which we have not.

As with a lot of humour, it’s all in the delivery and intent behind it.  There is a big difference between Gary’s comment and The Sun newspaper (another media platform) who earlier in the year referred to those with hair loss, in an article about alopecia research, as ‘slapheads’. It is this kind of ‘bald joke’, derogatory in language, that has no place in 2019 and can be truly upsetting to those with alopecia. And if language like this is tolerated by the media, it can feed down into other areas including the playgrounds where it can be extremely damaging to children with alopecia, some of whom already struggle with bullying.

Many with hair loss are able to have humour about the condition. In fact, humour can be a coping mechanism for many who lose their hair. Alopecia UK has found itself between a rock and a hard place with this particular story. We were asked directly ‘Are bald jokes acceptable?’.  This is presented as a yes or no question.  As a charity representing many men, women and children who struggle with the psychological impact of hair loss every single day of their lives we are hardly going to say ‘yes, bald jokes are acceptable’. We would obviously prefer that bald jokes were a thing of the past. But is that the same as saying that we cannot have a sense of humour about baldness? No. We can retain a sense of humour and as long as any individuals with hair loss to whom any comment is directed are in on the joke too (as we firmly believe to be the case in the recent example).