Monday, August 11, 2008

In the eye of the beholder

The recent show Britain's Missing Top Model has challenged perceptions about disability and attractiveness perhaps for the first time in the main stream media, but away from the spotlight many of us confront those perceptions as part of our everyday lives.

After struggling for ages with what to say and how to say it, really it comes down to this. Disabled people are not supposed to be attractive. We equate looking physically attractive with qualities such as youth, vigour and good health, whereas disabled people are supposed to be tragic unattractive figures. Even better if they drool or lick windows too. We all know where we stand with that.

Of course it's not that simple. What is? Disabled people come in all shapes and sizes just like anyone else, and just like anyone else disabled people cover the whole spectrum of physical beauty. The difference with disability though is how that challenges our innate perceptions and fears.

People are afraid of disability and disease, almost as though some primal instinct to keep us safe from contagion is in operation. Fear breeds prejudice and confirms such negative perceptions by ensuring disability remains something slightly secretive and shameful, kept away from the mainstream where unfamiliarity continues to breed contempt.

Disabled people being physically beautiful challenges all those perceptions and forces us to think about issues we'd perhaps rather not. Instead of comfortably being able to see disabled people as on the margins of society, as less than equal objects of pity, looking at beautiful people who just happen to have disabilities confuses and forces the uncomfortable thought that disability can and does happen to everyone.

Once that thought is placed it's but a short step to many more unpalatable truths. The biggest one being just how far we all have to go before equality is even a tangible concept.



5 comments:

Ms Ordinarée said...

Once again Bendy,well said.

My experiences at a Supermaket near to my mum's on Sat (which I blogged about) illustrates the very point you are making here ( I think anyway). Several times (no word of a lie), People (male and female) commented that I was quote: "too pretty to be" handicapped/crippled,etc. Now as you know I am not ugly, nor am I stunning, but I am fairly good looking. But to me the comments are not a compliment. They are a shock that people still equate disability with being "unattractive" and in this world we live in that I suppose also means that us folks with a disability are also "undesirable" too. Very shallow.

However, I do toil with this subject some. like I blogged, its a reflection of Society: Many people have little or no contact with people with a disability. So they rely on the good/bad images which the media/government etc provide. Of course at least here in the UK people have some perception of disability. I mean, in some Societies healthcare is so poor to 90% of the population that the majority those with Disabilities die very young or else are locked away from view due to stigma which is as debilitating as any physical and many mental symptoms themselves..

On the flipside, am going to blog later about the guy today who asked me out on a date! I had to break it to him that a) Hubby would have to come or b) might not be a good idea.
Thing is, I think it takes us back to this subject though, as he did seem very shocked that I was married..I mean, a Bint in a chair who has pinned a guy down long enough to marry him?? WOW

LOL

Hope you are OK? I am in for a long night I reckon, sorry didn't get back to you earlier,will do so tomorrow when Hubby is back at work (long story).


Sorry also for whittering in *your* blog, as well as bloody mine!! :-)

Laters :-)

Ms Ordinarée xox

Ps (who is amused that security word verification is "leggie" LOL)

PPS, when u bloggin about our day?? ;)

cogidubnus said...

Hon, if the photographic clues you've provided so far are genuine, then you really DON'T have to worry about whether you're attractive or not...and that is totally unrelated to your disability...quite simply you're beautiful...

More to the point, I genuinely fail to see why any disability should affect in any way the perceived "attraction" to anybody, male, female or whatever...and when all's said and done what the hell do the looks really matter anyway...

I'm in my fifties getting fat, my missus has just reached sixty...we've both seen better times, and they perhaps haven't treated us that kindly...yet to my eyes my missus is ever the beautiful soul she always has been...and she says I'm still the ugly old scrote she married!

Dave said...

Hi BG,
You and your fellow posters may be missing a few fully functioning bits but there's nothing disabled about your brains.
My missus is also as beautiful to me as the day we met. She calls me a grumpy old git. I wonder why?

Dave said...

Hi BG, thought you might like this
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/12/swedish_aids/
Dave

BenefitScroungingScum said...

MsO: Quite right sweetie you've hit the nail on the head there, if we had a pound for every person who's told us we're too pretty to be disabled I reckon we'd be off living the life of luxury somewhere hot!
The psychology behind this does interest me though, just why do we (as humans) equate good health with good looks, and then of course the issues that can raise both positive and negative.

Cogi: Thank you as ever. Yes, the photos are all genuine, and although I probably wouldn't describe myself as beautiful I do know I'm a very attractive woman. This post (and hopefully more to follow) is prompted by the fact that so many people make the too pretty to be disabled comment and I think it's really interesting to think about why that happens.
I think in fairness disability does affect how attractive someone is perceived as being, but that it's got far more to do with the complicating factors that can bring than it does any physical attributes.
I think the way you and your missus describe each other is lovely, sounds like a great marriage to me...more men with your attitude around please! x

Dave: Thank you muchly. Sounds like you've got a wonderful relationship too. Oh and thanks for the link, very interesting, clearly the shop have no idea of the (mainly japanese) toys for men currently flooding the market ;)