The names Sierra Sandison and Bethany Townsend might not ring a bell, although you might have seen their pictures on Facebook or other social media. In their own way, both women stood up for themselves to throw off the heavy weight media can sometimes bring. Sandison was crowned Miss Idaho 2014 earlier this year while carrying her diabetes type 1 insulin pump, while Townsend posted pictures of herself with two colostomy bags in June.
The fact that women are beginning to step up and bare all, willing to show who they really are, is something I applaud loudly, and stomp my feet while doing it. The media far too much tells society how to behave, what to look like and how to show a front that isn’t really there. “No more,” is what women are beginning to say. If you check how viral exactly both women’s pictures went, do a simple Google check to find out!
Social isolation is a topic I’ve been interested in for a very long time. With 15% of the world population having some sort of disability, there is a lot to strive for.
Isn’t it time people focus on ABILITIES instead of disABILITIES?
Whether some people want to admit to or not, when they hear the word ‘disabled,’ the word ‘beautiful’ is not immediately linked. In their minds, disabled people are old, sit in a timeworn, ugly wheelchair, wear even uglier clothes and are by far, less beautiful than able-bodied people.
Disabled people are also often regarded as a separate part of society, when disabled people in fact fight hard to be part of that society. The question if the disabled community is a culture in itself, is one that will take some time to answer.
Similarly, certain people tend to think that disabled people simply cannot or don’t contribute to life. True when that person is totally incapacitated, but untrue to their families and loved ones. Untrue when disabled people contribute to life in a non-profit way when they give time to others in a similar situation, or in a situation where others simply need a shoulder to lean or cry on.
The media – the loudest and harshest critic of all – reference disabled people as unconventional, and are therefore overlooked by them. Their rule of thumb is this: disabled people aren’t or cannot be beautiful, so they don’t fit in their magazines, television programs or films. One sentence to counteract all this: “Disabled people aren’t broken, so stop treating them as such.”
Being chronically ill, or having any kind of disability – physically or mentally, not everyone is less intelligent or less capable. It doesn’t make you any less, and it doesn’t change your core values. What does change are some of your outward perspectives. Some of us don’t have a size 0, but some of us don’t want a size 0 anymore. Some of us can’t wear high heels, but some of us don’t want to wear high heels anymore.
Likewise, some of us now enjoy nights in as opposed to stalking the city every weekend. Some of us use walking aids, or are in a wheelchair, not because we want to, but because we physically have to. We spend more time in places we don’t like, but have to. Perspectives or outcomes change, core values don’t.
Like Sandison and Townsend, many people wear and use devices to help them live a fulfilled, happy life. People shouldn’t be stigmatized for something they never asked for. It makes me wonder if some healthy, able-bodied people are so shortsighted they think disabled people chose their current lifestyle. When they “come out” and show their devices to the outside world, they shouldn’t feel afraid of how people will react. Disability is something that can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Disabled people are as much part of their local, national and global communities as much as able-bodied people are. They are a very, very fair representation of those communities and want to be part of it just as much.
Stepping up, showing us their real life empowers them as well as many others. No more deviating from other, “normal” looking people. We’re 100% similar as any other human being; we have a heart, a liver, a spleen, as well as eyes and ears if graced by senses. We’re 100% the same whether others are white, grey, black, purple or green. Some of us are missing a bolt or two, or are buzzing around in an electric wheelchair… nothing more, nothing less. One hundred percent the same.
Beauty is of all ages, just ask Michelangelo’s David in Florence. In modern art at least, twisted, disabled bodies become works of art. It makes us think very hard why we’re so obsessed with beauty and the need for utter perfection. The media only allows disabilities in small bits of imagery, and not one byte more.
Commercially, it’s great to see retailers being part of a small shift, to see them jumping on the bandwagon to promote fair representation, with Nordstrom and JC Penney both having ad campaigns involving disabled people.
In a world of selfish selfies and “wanting to look perfect,” seeing disabled people step up, showing they are real people, and as beautiful and stunning as the next person, is the trend for 2014 in my regard. Long may it continue.
For more info, please check these websites:
Show Me Your Pump: #showmeyourpump
©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.