Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to look good naked...with a difference

Series 6 of Gok Wan's 'How to look good naked...with a difference' starts at 8pm tonight on Channel 4. The difference being, you guessed it, it's all about disabled women.

I was actually contacted by several people to suggest I apply when the series first advertised for disabled women. As naked is one of the few states I'm completely confident in I felt that I probably wouldn't be the best person to apply, but rest assured when 'How to look confident in clothes as an impossibly big breasted shortarse' advertises for applicants I'll be there. Until such time I'll continue to worship Dolly Parton and Babs Windsor from a distance whilst ignoring their fashion 'sense'.

I'm not sure what I think about 'How to look good naked....with a difference'. Part of me thinks it's absolutely fantastic, building on the success of shows such as Britain's Missing Top Model it is great to see disabled women being featured more on television. Another part wonders, if this is already a series about teaching women to love their bodies the way they are, then why the need for an entire 'special' series featuring disabled women, shouldn't they simply be included as women who've had mastectomies have previously been.

I'm unusual in that I have gained most of my body confidence through becoming disabled. Like so many teenage girls I was eaten up with hatred and disgust for my body, which being bullied for my size and shape undoubtedly amplified. For many years I swung between hiding my shape under big baggy clothes and displaying it with tightly fitted clothes. It seemed not to matter which I did, I'd get equal amounts of abuse, as frequently from the people around me as strangers. I'm not sure what would have happened had I not started to become disabled in my early 20's.

Something changed in me the first time I needed assistance with personal care. I was working as a camp counselor at the time, living in the woods where fashion or appearance were so far down the list of priorities I wore pyjama bottoms and hiking boots until both fell apart. Whilst happy to be scuzzily dirty in an environment where we cooked over open fires and spent most of our days in and out of a lake, going to the doctor demanded a higher standard. Especially as my doctor was seriously, seriously sexy. And had mistaken me for a small child the first time he met me.

If he was to remain my surgeon I needed to get clean, which is not easy to do when you've just dislocated your shoulder and are forbidden from moving it around much. It's also a very embarrassing situation to be in. Not just for the cleanee, but often for the cleaner too. There was a distinct lack of volunteers to assist. Eventually the 16 year old girl employed to do the laundry offered to help, she had previously worked in an elderly care home and was used to assisting people with personal care. I've never forgotten her kindness helping me, she was so at ease with my nudity in a non threatening, non sexual way that I couldn't help be at ease myself. Over the following years I spent so much time having to strip to my bra for various medical professionals that I became used to being semi clad in a room full of strangers, which was later cemented by working as a glamour model.

That's also the secret to the success of 'How to look good naked'. Someone who is completely comfortable with nudity offering a sympathetic and supportive ear to enable and support women to address their body issues. For disabled women there may be other, more specific concerns such as suitable clothing for a wheelchair user, or how to be comfortable naked with drains or bags, but ultimately it's all about helping women become happy in their own skin. My hope is that next time there won't need to be a special, different series, just one which features all women disabled or not.

11 comments:

Gordie said...

I imagine that the reason they're having an all-disabled vesion of the show is to minimise people's tendencies to see the disability and not see the person. I know that my attitude to disability changed profoundly the first time I found myself in a situation where able-bodied people were in the minority. You're right, though.

alhi said...

To pick up on something very minor in your post, would you consider going back to glamour modelling?

LceeL said...

I saw the title in my reader ... I hurried right over here ... I thought there might be pictures. ;>)

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Gordie: I hadn't thought about it like that, but it makes sense,thank you.

Alhi: In principle, sure!

Lou:Lol, I'm so sorry to disappoint you ;)

The Goldfish said...

I'm unusual in that I have gained most of my body confidence through becoming disabled.

I wonder if this is very unusual? I'm the same for different reasons - although ditto with the big-boobed shame. What is it about big breasts that give everyone the license to comment?

Anyway, becoming ill and subsequent drug-induced weight gain took things to rock bottom, but as I began to come to terms with disability stuff, I began to feel that I might be letting the side down to continue to look at myself so negatively. I met disabled people with far less standard bodies than mine, who were nevertheless extremely attractive and confident and had few problems getting laid or finding partners.

Not that that fixed it straight away or that it was the only factor - not by a long chalk - but believing in the equality of others regardless of any physical characteristic they might have is ultimately incompatible with self-loathing based on having thick ankles or a big nose or whatever. And whilst I have met many disabled people with very serious self-image problems, some of the most sexually confident women I know are disabled women. Almost like it has to go one way or the other.

You do know about Bravissimo for the bosom issue? Their clothes are very dear but they always have a sales section and their stuff crops up on eBay if you can work out what size you are (you need a dress size and a level of curviness rating - e.g. 12 curvy, 12 super-curvy, 12 really super curvy etc.).

Achelois said...

Oh BG a girl after my own heart or should I say bosom. Is there something about a certain genre of EDS women who are very short, pretty tiny but with massive bosoms. Because as you know I am also made like that. As a tiny teenager I spent a great deal of time holding my arms firmly across my breasts crossed over with hands linked behind as only the bendy can do to try to avoid the attention and yes the pain, they grew at such a rate although the rest of me certainly did not that it hurt!

I don't know what I think about the whole thing yet or whether or not they should have made a separate series or not but my inclinination is that really for the purposes of inclusivity the disabled should be included in the normal programmes and not labelled as being different. I also think there is again the issue here possibility again about disability being 'obvious' to the naked eye, which when its tv to the masses does not help individuals with invisible disabilities at all. I don't doubt I just ask too much. me being me however forgot it was on having meant to watch it all week so thank you for the reminder and will have to watch on demand now!

Is my eyesight going funny of is your leg in the photo backbending more each day!! Mine are so seriously bendy right now I feel like one of those nodding dogs one used to see in the back of the car, swaying back and forth, back and forth except on occassion I do fall over and hurt myself instead of just rocking.

Ok I am off as having a serious attack of the bla bla's....

Fire Byrd said...

oddly I got to be more at peace with how I look after having had a mastectomy. it seriously doesn't bother me only having one tit, after all as someone once so nicely said you can only get on in your mouth at a time!
I only ever whitter on to myself about my huge belly with it's massive roles of fat..... that no-one lese notices....

Vanya said...
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Megan said...

I am interested in this particular show. So much of our society looks at beauty in one particular way. I think this show will, hopefully, go to show that beauty comes in different shapes, sizes, etc. And that people with disabilities are beautiful and should not be vieweed only as a diagnosis. Thanks for writing about this!

秘密 said...
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Joanna Cake said...

I think you've put your finger on the button there, BG! Having someone who is totally comfortable with nudity helping and advising you is absolutely key.

Being with Ruf who is quite happy to strip off and has no inhibitions in that area has been fundamental in helping me to analyse and overcome my own body dysmorphia. Im not totally cured yet but there is no doubt that I am well on the way to being totally confident in my own skin.