Britain’s Missing Top Model is missing some key points

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

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!

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Unveil Women’s Rights

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Some basic women’s rights are hidden between the veil or hijab of a traditional Islamic society. In some parts of the Islamic world there are abuses of women’s rights: rapes against women, forced marriages, harassment, spousal abuse and rape, less employment opportunities, oppressed property rights and education rights, female genital mutilation…

My newest design shows a Muslim woman wearing the hijab protests against the oppression of women’s rights, shouting: Unveil our rights!

Unveil Muslim Women's Rights

Unveil Muslim Women's Rights

On June 6th, 2009, President Barack Obama called for France to lift bans on the wearing of hijab in schools. In his Cairo speech, he talked about women’s right to wear the hijab in Western Europe, with an emphasis on other women’s rights, especially education. Here is what Obama said:

I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear: issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

The Muslim Women’s Rights theme emerges this week through the protests of Iranian women against the results of the presidential elections on 12 June 2009. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election with 66% of the votes cast. Many international analysts doubt about the authenticity of the results and think that the vote count was fraudulent, favoring Ahmadinejad. Iranian people protested massively all over the world, with placards and t-shirts with the slogan “Where is my vote?”.

Thousands of Iranian women took protested in Tehran’s streets this week against the regime, hoping for CHANGE in their situation as women, hoping of a future without gender discrimination, which is a devastating reality in Iran. In Iran, women are regarded as second-class citizens.  Through Iran’s legal system, they do not have the same legal rights as men, especially in cases of divorce, inheritance, property rights, crime… Even child custody! Furthermore, according to Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Ahmadinejad has made it easier for men to practice polygamy and harder for women to access public sector jobs. According to journalist Azadeh Moaveni, Ahmadinejad mandated the way women dress and even censored Web sites dealing with health issues like breast cancer. Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karrubi, opposition candidates, promised to change parts of the Iranian constitution concerning women’s rights, so many women demonstrated holding the picture of Moussavi.

The veil should be a matter of faith, not a matter of politics. In fact, unveiling women’s RIGHTS is much more important than unveiling their face, even though for some Muslim women removing their veil is an act symbolizing freedom and equality.

Young activists

Friday, August 8th, 2008

I have created this Thomas Sankara T-Shirt series, especially this design where Thomas Sankara is speaking and showing his fist, in a star which has the colors of the Burkina Faso flag. Thomas Sankara is a former Burkina Faso leader, who stood up a lot for Africa’s freedom and African women’s rights.

So I’ve been contacted by a client today, who wished to have this design … on baby t-shirt! I explained her that I avoided putting this design on kid t-shirts, because I didn’t think there would be so young activists out there! In fact it’s a “harsh” series of designs, very political, very profound, with very strong slogans. I never thought kids would wear this. She replied: “We have got to start them early…”

Thomas Sankara Toddler T-Shirt

A couple of months ago, another mother contacted me and requested a kids hoodie with a slogan against the use of child soldiers, for her 12-year-old daughter.

Kids become politically aware youth if they learn to live and grow up in a politically aware family. You have to discuss politics at home, in front of the kids, so they can develop interest in politics and in what is going on in the world. Don’t change the topic if they ask you questions and don’t let them center dinner conversation to what happened today at school: discuss politics with your children and read the daily news with them, explain them all about elections and teach them about political figures they should be aware of!

For the back-to-school season, Ina Mar Art and The Earth Shop designed especially for politically and environmentally aware kids and youth original green notebooks, human rights notebooks and disability awareness notebooks and journals.