I was reading this article by Alessandra Stanley, “Disabled, and Seeking Acceptance in Fashion” (Published: December 1, 2009), about “Britain’s Missing Top Model”, a reality show on BBC America, that pits disabled women against one another to compete for a photo spread. I was absolutely appalled by two quotes:
First stupid quote – powered by stupid people:
Mr. Phang says to a photographer, “It’s kind of nice working with deaf girls because there’s not those sort of irritating questions.”
I thought I had an eye problem and had to read it again and again, until I was convinced: yes, he really said that! yes, they published it too! yes, he is still a public person! If you can’t deal with the disability of a person, just ignore it, step on it, make fun of it, use their disability to profit at their expense! Hurray!
Dear Mr. Jonathan Phang, is it that she can’t bother you with irritating questions, or is it rather that you don’t bother listening to her, or don’t know sign language? Mr. Phan, you just gained a solid place in the disabled community! You have two disabilities: your enormous imbecility and your uncomparable insensitivity! I am just wondering something, Mr. Phang: Every disability has their advantages. If the deaf model, Kelly Moody can’t be bothered with your irritating fashion nonsense-advice, she can just discretely turn off her hearing aid (oh yes! can you “shut down” the models’ irritating questions? nope!). And I love going shopping with my friend Anke, because I don’t have to carry anything, I just put everything on her lap or hang it on the wheelchair! That’s so practical… So what’s the advantage of your intellectual disability, Mr. Phang? It must have some advantage… Feel free to twit me the answer @Ina_Mar…
Second stupid quote – powered by stupid people:
Rebecca’s disability didn’t cause me any problems,” a photographer says after shooting Rebecca, 27, a stunning brunette who was born with a deformed hip and wears a prosthetic leg. “It was just the fact she’s not really in shape. Most models are pretty toned, slimmer, more agile.”
This reminded me of what this disabled friend, Anke, once experienced. A model agency refused her application. Because of her disability, they reasoned, she would much more easily get tired and would not be able to handle the stress of the job. Yes that is true. Anke has the Friedreich Ataxia and sometimes the physical limitations of the progressively handicapping neuromuscular degeneration of this genetic disease turn simple everyday cirmustances to … just tiring ones. But why are they comparing her to an abled-bodied model? I’d love to quote Disability Bitch here, a disabled BBC journalist: “It’s not just that I’m lazy, although I am, it’s that it takes me all the energy I can muster to wobble to my local coffee shop on the end of my walking stick. The fact I can only go such a short distance before collapsing into the nearest sofa demanding painkillers, does not make me a lesser person than the ones who drag themselves up mountains. I know what I can and can’t do and I know how to not do it in style.” (Disability Bitch hates disabled mountain climbers, BBC, 22nd October 2009).
Dear “Britain’s Missing Top Model”, dear photographer who pronounced these words, please decide: What are these girls? Where do they belong? Are they models? Are they able-bodied models? Are they disabled models? Are they beautiful disabled girls? Are they just girls representing the beauty of disability? Set the rules of the game. Then judge them according to those rules.
If they are disabled AND models, “toned, slim, agile”, why aren’t they in the normal model show?
If you’re not judging them as “models”, but rather use them to raise disability awareness, then you can’t expect from every girl in wheelchair to be “agile”. Some are, some are not. You can’t expect from every deaf girl to speak absolutely clearly in front of the camera. You can’t expect from every girl with amputated legs to walk elegantly on high heels. Some can, some are still trying to, some cannot.
Did you create this show to prove that disabled girls can be skinny too? Or to prove that disabled girls can be beautiful, sexy, witty, successful, and that they should follow their dreams?
Did you create this show to prove that the modelling industry is not so closed and narrow minded? I don’t know if that aim is succeeded… Where are the fat models? Or just the normal ones? The unconventionally beautiful ones? Those that don’t follow today’s unrealistic beauty standards? There are some stunningly beautiful disabled girls who might not be able to roll their own wheelchair, or walk without their assistance dog, or reply to journalists’ questions. Where are they? Were they “too much” for the general public?
Why do you call them “missing” models? Call them “models with missing parts” or “models with missing abilities”, but the girls are not the ones who are missing! They are in wheelchairs, on prosthetic legs, blind, wearing cochlear implants, but they’re out there and living!