It’s just not funny (Picture: Getty Images/Instagram)
By now, we’re sure you already know all about ‘The Oscars Slap’ – heard around the world.
But just in case you somehow missed it, Will Smith took to the stage at the Academy Awards and smacked presenter Chris Rock hard in the face after the comedian made a joke comparing his wife Jada Pinkett Smith to G.I. Jane.
On the face of it, suggesting someone looks like Demi Moore is not a huge deal.
However, Chris wasn’t just making a mediocre joke out of someone’s personal style choice – he was poking fun at the fact that alopecia has taken Jada’s hair.
While we certainly do not recommend opting for violence in response to comments like this, it’s important to highlight that the ‘joke’ was simply not funny.
Dr Dilan Fernando, surgeon and medical director of hair transplant clinic The Treatment Rooms, explains: ‘It is important to understand that alopecia quite simply means hair loss, but there are many reasons why someone might experience alopecia.
‘Some alopecias occur as a result of scarring processes in the scalp which are often permanent, other people might experience alopecia as a result of treatment of medical conditions including cancer.
‘Hence, it is incredibly insensitive to laugh at a person suffering from alopecia.’
Conditions like alopecia can wreak havoc on a person’s self-esteem. This can be particularly potent among people for whom their hair is a key aspect of their self-image and gender expression, as is often the case with women and femmes.
As psychotherapist Noel McDermott points out: ‘Baldness is culturally defined and often acceptable in men but not in women.’
He adds: ‘Involuntary hair loss in women, especially on the head, often evokes very strong emotional responses.
‘As a psychologist promoting psychological health, I would urge anyone experiencing or witnessing alopecia to work at removing the stress responses to it.
‘If the cause is psychological, then having less of a taboo response culturally will undoubtedly help.’
Dr Dilan says: ‘Hair is a powerful tool of expression – we often cut and style it to reflect our identity. Losing one’s hair can therefore significantly impact self-confidence.
‘For my patients who are female or transgender and identifying as female, this is more so the case where the social stigma of alopecia is still a big issue.
‘Big strides have been made in recent years to help tackle this stigma but joking about alopecia is a step in the wrong direction – especially on a public forum like the Oscars.’
Indeed, Jada has been very vocal about her experience with hair loss, describing how she was left ‘shaking with fear’ when it first started falling out.
‘At the centre of what happened last night is Jada, who has previously been open about her struggles with hair loss,’ says Dr Dilan.
‘It’s important to remember that in and amongst the fallout from last night is someone who has suffered from alopecia and being more stressed won’t help.’
With that being said, Dr Dilan hopes there could be a silver lining here, in that addressing why Chris’ words were not funny may ultimately help lessen ‘the social stigma’ associated with alopecia.
Frankly, we’re a bit surprised we have to write this in the first place but if you somehow end up in any doubt, just remember that someone’s medical condition is not the butt of your joke.
That’s just bad comedy.
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