Monday, February 8, 2010

Emily Blunt Makes Disability Fashionable

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In a series of photographs featured in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Ms. Blunt can be seen posing with crutches.   Isn’t she vulnerable and sweet?  Images of differently abled people rarely appear in mainstream media and to have an able bodied woman affecting disability not only creates the differently abled as invisible, it presents an unrealistic image of what disability looks like.

Crutches are not a fashion statement; they are a mobility aid. There is nothing chic about crutches because they help to mark a persons body as faulty to the outside world, due to our understanding of disability.  Crutches mean limited access, and exposure to disableism, therefore the idea that they can enter a fashion shoot in the same way as a pretty dress or a nice pair of shoes is highly offensive.

An injury or a disability often means pain and some cases chronic pain.  While Ms. Blunt is quite happy to hold the crutches because it costs her nothing, I daresay Ms. Blunt would be far more resistant to taking on the pain that comes with this mobility aid.  An able bodied person cannot represent a disabled person because they cannot know what it feels like or have an understanding of the limitations that are imposed. 

One of the ways in which we express power over others is through appropriation.  You can see this happen time and time again when Whiteness takes on parts of a racialized identity because it appears to be cool.  The above image is of exactly the same vein.  Who is represented in the media and how they are represented, often speaks loudly as to which bodies are valued. Why show a real differently abled person when we can have an able bodied person play that role?  This image asserts that the differently abled aren’t really meant to be seen, unless it serves some larger narrative.

H/T Jezebel