Thursday, 26 February 2009

Arm alarm

People's irrational prejudices never cease to astonish me. There have been demands for a TV presenter to be taken off screen because her incomplete arm "might scare the children".

Twenty nine year old Cerrie Burnell was born missing the lower section of her right arm. It's not a big problem for her but it clearly is for some viewers who complain that their children are "asking difficult questions" and "might have sleep problems".

Some of the comments received on the BBC's website were so venomous they had to be removed. What on earth stirs such extreme reactions to something so harmless?

Yes, it might upset children who haven't seen such a thing before, but many aspects of everyday life can be alarming on first acquaintance. Coming to terms with these things is rather more mature than trying to hide them and pretend they don't exist.

If the critics don't think Cerrie should be showing herself to respectable society unless she looks "normal", what do they want her to do instead? Shut herself away somewhere where nobody can see her, keeping herself to herself and not embarrassing those with delicate sensibilities?

Their attitude seems to be that only those with a complete, fully functioning body are socially acceptable and anyone "incomplete" should hang their head in shame and crawl away into a corner.

Well, if anyone should hang their head in shame it's those who can't see someone like Cerrie as a human being rather than something freakish and monstrous.

I'm glad to see that thousands of people have come to her defence and said they see no problem with her TV appearances. Several charities have also supported her and regretted that people's attitudes are still so narrow-minded.

Tell you what, Cerrie. You just go, girl, and ignore the pea-brains.


  1. How are children going to know what is different if they aren't exposed to it? I say it is a good thing.

  2. Timely post Nick, I don't know if you saw the BBC news report last night about David Cameron's son but that put disability in the spotlight in a positive way. Somebody who has a relatively minor disability should not have to hide it away (for instance Jeremy Beadle never his Poland syndrome). There was a guy in my class at uni who had one leg (the other was lost in a car accident), he never once let people make an issue of this and his attitude to diability has always inspired me. These things can happen to any of us so hiding it from children projecting a perfectionist world view is ridiculous.

  3. Muddy - Exactly, children need to be aware of difference in order to understand it and allow for it.

    Aidan - Yes, it was good that Ivan Cameron's death was covered so prominently, with a lot of discussion about disability and the issues around it. As you say, it's just something to be dealt with rather than turned into a big deal.

  4. Ridiculous! In fact, I lament that we don't have more people with disabilities in front of a camera. I'm sick of the pretty overdone talking heads that bear little resemblence to real people. I have a friend with the same affliction and the only thing he can't do? Cut his own fingernails! He's a legend!

  5. Baino - Very true, where are all the other disabled presenters? Actually the BBC has at least two others - Frank Gardner, who uses a wheelchair, and a blind reporter, whose name I forget. Your friend has clearly adapted very successfully and refused to let it limit his life. Impressive.

  6. Such is the shallowness of media whores. The world doesn't revolve around the sun at all, it revolves around TV so it has to be perfect.

    I answered the door to two little boys last week, they were looking to play with my daughter. As stood in the doorway waiting, they spotted my son in his wheelchair and started whispering...
    "Who's that?"
    "That's the other little boy that you don't talk about. Mammy says you don't ask any questions, ok?"

    I cracked up laughing when I heard that! A bit of de-programming on my part had them in his bedroom chatting away to him in no time.

  7. In ... I can't remember what it's called! A John Wyndham book. Anyway in that people with abnormalities have to go and live 'outside' where everyone else lives. There's one character in it that has 6 toes, like me. I guess in that world both she and I would be outcasts.

  8. A sanitized world is what these idiots want, with botoxed foreheads and perfect lips and hairplugs for the guys, how dare he be bald, how dare she go grey, and armless, dear gawd, pardon me while I puke.

    Stephen Hawking
    Ludvig Van Beethoven
    Christy Brown.
    Vincent Van Gogh.

    Oh GAG!!

    Paris Hilton, oh yeah.


  9. K8 - "The other little boy you don't talk about". That's going to make him feel great, isn't it? And how amusing that once you cut through mammy's nonsense, they were chatting away quite happily.

    Liz - There are a lot more "abnormal" people than we realise. My father was born with three thumbs and one of them was removed to make handling things easier.

    www - That's right, let's sanitize every difference so we are all standardised clones. Never mind what's inside, as long as the outside is "respectable".

  10. And what about children who are themselves "abnormal"? Shouldn't the images on television reflect them, too? The ignorance and insensitivity of some people is mind boggling.

  11. Nicole - Absolutely. Though I think such children are more likely to be seen on TV as they fit the "endearingly vulnerable" category. But "abnormal" adults are just seen as a problem.

  12. The question I asked myself when reading this was,"Why arent' these parents sitting down and discussing this with their children? Why are'n't they explaining? "

    Sickening people.

  13. Magpie - Precisely. Why do they try to shut her out as if she's an alien from outer space? Her short arm is just a fact of life, not some kind of threat.

  14. I am genuinely shocked that this has happened. Even with all of my cynicism I thought people would be beyond this kind of ridiculous behaviour and way of thinking.

  15. FG - I know, I just can't believe people are so petty and squeamish and aggressive about something that's so straightforward.

  16. I think that brave young woman should be considered an inspiration. There were a lot of children born in the 60's to mothers who had taken the drug thalidomide, which caused such deformities. And by the way, the word "deformity" refers to anything out of the ordinary, and should not be considered a pejorative.

    This woman has accomplished a lot for herself and should be applauded for not feeling inferior and withdrawing from life. She is anything but inferior, although the idiots who are offended by her appearance are. What kind of values are they instilling in their children?

  17. Heart - I don't hear much about the thalidomide children these days. I don't know if they're dead or keeping out of the public eye or leading ordinary lives or whatever.

    It's great that Cerrie is determined to succeed in life despite other people's prejudices.