I saw the tweet from Matt Lucas this morning and his observation about use of language in the media.

This is something that we are all too aware of at Alopecia UK. We have seen front page newspaper headlines refer to people with alopecia as ‘slapheads’ in the past. As such, use of language in the media is an important topic to address. For a national newspaper to casually refer to Matt as an ‘amiable egghead’, I think it puts out the wrong message. There is an undertone of ridicule there. Is this acceptable? In what way does this impact on a larger scale? In what way does this casual use of language shape what is perceived as acceptable? In what way does this then influence behaviours and communications among society generally?

We are well aware that there are children (and adults) with alopecia that have to deal with name calling and bullying, sometimes on a daily basis. Do they not have enough to deal with without huge society-shaping structures, such as national newspapers, further reinforcing the idea that looking a certain way opens you up to ridicule?

Recently we put out a video where fifteen children with alopecia aged 7-11 interviewed Matt Lucas. It was a heart-warming video in which Matt addresses how he dealt with classroom ridicule as a child. All of the children came away uplifted with huge smiles on their face. Matt is a role model for them. Alopecia can take away so much, including confidence and self-esteem. To see someone who has gone on to be successful in life, despite having alopecia, is inspiring for them to see. One parent told us, ‘[name] had a huge smile on his face after the call and most importantly to us, spoke about his alopecia and the experience with confidence and pride!’.

Speaking out about alopecia is difficult, especially so if it’s faced with potential ridicule and people poking fun at you. As someone commented on Matt’s tweet, “on a good day I’d laugh it off, on a bad day it would break me”. Those with alopecia don’t just have to be brave enough to speak out, they need to be brave enough to take on the backlash as well. It was disappointing to see such criticism from some people in relation to Matt’s tweet, especially so as he wasn’t taking offence, he was simply making an observation. An observation that is an important one to make, especially from a man who has become a role model to so many young people with alopecia. 

So thank you Matt Lucas!  I (and I'm sure many other children, young people and adults with alopecia) really appreciate you speaking out in order to highlight this use of language in the media so that it can be discussed and considered further.  I am pleased that as a result of today's interactions from Matt on Twitter, there has been a new alopecia awareness article published by another national newspaper. Thank you to The Independent for this piece.  We were delighted to support with this and the alopecia community in our online peer support group rallied around this morning to help compile content for the piece, 'As Matt Lucas speaks out, 10 things people with alopecia want you to know'.  Thank you to all involved.