This is part of a series of articles to combat coulrophobia (the fear of clowns), educate the uninformed public about the consequences of masquerading as “scary clowns”, and defend #REALCLOWN. CLICK HERE to read the other articles to help combat the “creepy clown” stereotype.
Unfortunately, it’s time to revisit the clown phobia issue…
Coulrophobia — Is it an irrational fear?
We as a clown community need a unified response to this situation. It needs to be carefully crafted, since it is difficult to take a clown seriously. When we come across people using fake “clown phobia” as an excuse to get attention or be rude, it is difficult to respond at that time while we are in clown and be effective. Most times the best thing to do is ignore them and walk away when possible.
But we do not need to accept it. Especially when it is people who know better, such as people in the media, companies who use offensive images of clowns to promote their products, and people who just don’t “get” that is not right to be disrespectful. I gently approached this subject in an earlier blog post, called “You are a gift” — read it here. But sometimes you need to take more deliberate action.
What can we do?
Write a letter. Be professional. But let the offender know that you do not approve of their actions.
When possible, money talks: stop buying their products, stop watching their programs. You get the idea.
But unless you contact the offender with a professional letter or email, your boycotting efforts are wasted. While Facebook or other social media platforms may garner an immediate reaction, it is NOT the best way to go about it. Professionalism is the key! Or else your efforts will be written off as a nut.
Here is a sample letter you can keep on file. You will need to adjust it to your circumstances, but it is a starting point.
I found your recent portrayal of a clown in you commercial/program (be specific and add the date and name of the show or product) offensive and disrespectful. Clowns are good people who volunteer their time in hospitals, nursing homes, and for special events across this country. They are someone’s grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, or someone’s child. Your portrayal of the clown as a creepy character is very disrespectful to a wonderful group of people who just want to make people smile.
Your commercial/program promotes bullying a specific group of people that are different than yourselves. Please reconsider this for the future so children are not encouraged to call people names or disrespect them just because they are different.
I am not saying that everyone has to like clowns. But your portrayal is hurtful, disrespectful, and promotes a needless phobia. In the future I will reconsider watching your program, buying your product, etc (you get the idea, personalize it).
Your real name
Aka clown name
My Own Example
Recently my daughter Julia was in a promo spot for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus on a regional newscast. We posted the video in last week’s blog entry >> CLICK HERE << to watch it.
The anchorwoman Candyce Clifft was rude and disrespectful to clowns before and after the segment that involved another anchor getting a clown face painted on him. Her comments were totally wrong and uncalled-for. I hope the Ringling Bros. PR department had something to say to the manager of the station.
Here is the letter I sent:
I was very disappointed in your recent lead in comments when Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey was in town. Your references to clowns as creepy were hurtful and inappropriate. The clown in the segment applying make-up to the anchor is my daughter Julia Bothun. She is 19 years old and living her dream of becoming a circus clown with the greatest show on Earth.
Like so many clowns, my daughter experienced bullying and shunning in middle school because she was different. Clowning was a wonderful outlet for her. She never let unkind comments keep her from her dream. We were lucky enough to move her to a school where she was more accepted for being different. But the fact remains that name calling and stereotypes promote bullying. Your behavior before and after this segment was very unprofessional. You used the work “creepy” three times and made it clear you did not like clowns. I believe you let your personal opinions get in the way of what could have been a very nice story.
aka Pricilla Mooseburger the clown
I think we need to frame this issue for what it is:
What about tolerance? We are being asked as a society to be tolerant to a wide variety of things we may not like, endorse, or approve. But is this the right thing to do.
Why can’t clowns get the same treatment? Why does walking into a room suddenly feel like we’ve been cast as the monster in a old horror movie, with everyone shrinking away in mock fright?
Why are we treated differently than other forms of humorous creative expression? You don’t see stand-up comics, actors, authors, or caricature artists getting verbally abused or bullied. It’s time we stand up and be heard!
Another clown’s story
Bravo! I recently received an email from a clown who volunteers at a nursing home and her experience is so often our experience. But before you get depressed there is a happy ending! Here is an excerpt of her email:
As I watched the videos you just posted, most particularly the one with Julia putting makeup on the T.V. person, it reminded me of what has been happening to me. I did not like it when I heard the female news person say she was “freaked out” with the painted on mouth of her coworker and when she made some other comment about not being a “clown person.” She actually grimaced and shuddered at the end of the newscast. I found that to be inappropriate.
I wonder what in the world must have happened to some people in their past that they are rendered nearly paralyzed with fear when they see a clown — even from a distance. I am sympathetic to anyone with a phobia and I would never impose my clown persona on anyone who is clearly terrified at the mere sight of me.
However, it seems to me that some of these people rather enjoy the attention they get when they act “freaked out” when they see a clown. I find it insulting to me as a professional; as well as juvenile and inappropriate on their part to be behaving in this manner.
This “saga” continues on a weekly basis for me with some adult employees still “acting up” when they see me at the a facility where I volunteer. Some of those who work there act absolutely ridiculous when they see me coming down the hall. They hold notebooks to the sides of their face to shield me from their view as we pass in the hall and some dart into adjacent rooms to avoid me. Once when I happened to be in a room where one of the “fearful” happened to be, she turned her back, fluttered her hands up and down like a bird in flight and hid her face in the corner of the room.
I move about, silently ignoring them, but it angers me so much that people treat me as if I were a creep for being a clown and that they do not trust me and do not want to get anywhere near me.
We all hope that in clowning there can be a happy moment. I had one such moment when I did finally get through to one adult who was terrified of me. It took nearly six months.
I asked her what would help her to be able to be comfortable in my presence. She told me that if she could see what I looked like when I am not in “clown” it would show her that underneath the greasepaint and wig, a “real person” was there. I asked her what her favorite treat was. The next time I saw her I had a brown paper bag with a photo of myself, her favorite treats and one of my “I hugged a clown today” stickers. She opened the bag, thanked me for the treat and pulled out the picture. She very carefully examined my picture and then said, “I’m not so afraid now.” I told her something else was in the bag for her. She pulled out the sticker, put it on her blouse and came around from behind the desk and hugged me. That was one of the happiest “clown” moments I have ever had!
How have you defended yourself against such bullying and rudeness?
Post a reply below or comment on our Facebook page about your experiences and successes with approaching people who are afraid of clowns — either faking it or having a true phobia. We would LOVE to hear some more happy endings!
Here are more articles I wrote about the topic of “Creepy clowns”. Please share these with your fellow clowns, and with those who think dressing up as a clown to scare people is funny:
- Stopping Scary Clowns – Part 1
- Stopping Scary Clowns – Part 2
- Responding to “You might scare kids”
- Clowns are gifts, not creeps
- Great come-backs for “I hate clowns”
- Why creepy clowns are wrong, wrong, wrong
- She faced her fear of clowns!