May 1, 2015

Unattractive kids and why I'm a bad person and, well, bye...

Sometimes my opinion pieces trigger a flood of negative comments. I very rarely see these coming. I never write pieces to be controversial. I write what I believe, and usually I imagine that most people feel the same way.

So when Essential Kids asked me to write a piece about a woman who was worried because her child was unattractive, I was amazed by the response.

I discuss it with Lana below. And I apologise to Lana for the way I ended the video. It seemed reasonable at the time. Watching it over... well... I have never laughed so hard in my life.


this will make sense when you've seen the vid


  1. Kerri - I have to say how disappointed I am in this concern - "What if he had stayed so physically unattractive that people thought he had something wrong with him?"
    The difficulty with having a facial disfigurement or difference is the way people see it as unattractive, and can't 'get past' their appearance. There is so much emphasis placed on physical beauty and any facial differences or disfigurements result in others having low expectations of that person'a intelligence or quality of life.
    I hope that I'm breaking down the stigma around facial differences - so that it's not a burden to look different. Changing Faces is a really great resource for people to become educated and supported in the area of facial difference.

  2. But @Carly Findlay I don't think we disagree at all. I think your point is exactly the point underlying my piece. Visible difference is a huge challenge in our society because of the emphasis on physical beauty. It SHOULDN'T be that way, and your work does so much to break down those stereotypes... but your work and writing also speaks of the way it IS. I read your blog and I know the challenges you face every day because of people's stupid prejudices. And this mother was concerned that her daughter would face exactly the same prejudices. And when my friend's son was born looking like he had a syndrome, I was concerned for him and for my friend. I knew that it would make life fucking hard for them both and I didn't want that for them. No-one wants a child to have a difficult passage through life, whether because of physical differences or emotional issues or ill health or whatever. But my point was that we can't protect our kids from pain and we have to teach them to accept who they are and be the best and strongest they can be. I think you are doing amazing work in breaking down the stigma of facial differences, but the work isn't over, there is a long way to go (sadly), and I don't believe you would judge anyone for worrying that their child would face the challenges you so unfairly have to face. Really hope that explains it x

  3. I wonder how people would feel if the mother refused to acknowledge the differences in her child, thus failing to get any assistance or to equip the chid for a life with additional challenges. Would that somehow be better? Kudos to the mother for being able to be objective enough to seek guidance in how to deal with it. I do not know too many Mums who have not thought at one point or another "oh God! What if 'little Billy' is not really as gorgeous as I think he is? What if he is ugly and I don't know". But there is a difference between this kind of insecurity and an understanding of what IS... And um *cough splutter* cut people off often? PMSL

  4. Lee-Anne WalkerMay 2, 2015 at 8:54 AM

    Hi Kerri and Lana, dropping by after a long break to read this most interesting post!

    I read your piece at Essential Kids Kerri, and completely agree with what I think is a very empathic understanding of the woman and her child. I didn't see any implication that natural good looks are better than inner qualities, just a realistic acknowledgement that it will be harder for an individual to navigate a happy passage through life if she/he is physically unattractive.

    And listening to the clip I find myself agreeing with both of you! Lana because she so vehemently defends the idea that all children are attractive in the eyes of their loving parents, and Kerri because she insists there is a standard criteria of basic physical beauty which some people just don't fit (despite all the mothers' love in the world). I see Lana as the 'heart' and Kerri the 'intellect' in this matter.

    I think the reason the woman attracted such vitriol is because her comments about her daughter were seen as unmaternal and somehow disloyal. She isn't meant to voice her realistic appraisal of her daughter - the old "a mother's love is blinding" notion.

    I've never been deluded about my 4 children's character or appearance and it has nothing to do with my (equal) love for them. When my second son was born he looked like a mini-Neanderthal Man with his sloping forehead and oversized nose. He did have small ears though! His tiny wizened face frowned up at visitors who when, glancing into the crib, didn't know quite what to say. One said, "Oh what a gorgeous...bunny rug!" Another, "What beautiful...ears!" I just said, "He's pretty ugly isn't he?" and giggled. Sue me! (He's grown nicely into his face) :)

  5. Hi Kerri. I want to add to this conversation because through an unfortunate illness in my childhood, I had the experience of suddenly becoming that child. My illness caused disfigurement to the side of my face, the bulk of which I'm glad to sad wasn't permanent (you can only slightly tell now - many people can't at all) but it was signficant from the ages of 7 to about 14 and then somewhat present until my mid 20's. While there might be some difference in reaction from 'outsiders' when the affliction is clearly medical and involves some measure of disability, the issues my mother faced were not so different to this case.

    Since that time, my mother has been unable to tell me I am pretty, beautiful, attractive or any of those descriptions you might want to use. She just could never bring herself to do so (and habits die hard - she still can't). Instead, I was encouraged to keep a back seat on things I would really have liked to do, in some effort to protect me from other people. My confidence and self esteem was pretty much zero. My advice to this mother would be - DON'T DO THIS. As a mother it is your job to tell your kids, every single day, that they are beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful - as well as smart, nice or whatever else you can. As a kid, if you know your own mother doesn't think you can cut it in the world, then that becomes an undeniable fact that you can't get around without a hell of a lot of work in adulthood. I missed out on so much for nothing. It took me forever to realise I was just as good looking as other people and actually even if I wasn't, it wouldn't matter. I'm making up for lost time. I also have 3 kids of my own who I'm sure are in no doubt of how beautiful they are to me. None of this means that they aren't pulled up on bad behaviour, and they know they are responsible for their own actions in the world. But certainly they will know that they are not less than, and certainly never due to their appearance.

    As a mother you must build up - not protect. The protection is well intentioned, but in the end, it is harmful. You need to build strength in, and not a wall around, your kids.

  6. What a very sad story. And really wonderful advice, thank you. x


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