Two days ago I read an interesting post at Crip Confessions. The post was titled “But Won’t You be Ashamed? or Cripping Pasties”. A little background is needed. The author is going to the 2016 AVN Expo and Awards in Las Vegas. Essentially she is attending the “Oscars of Porn”. What struck me as thought provoking was the following paragraph:
Much talk of clothes and the like have provoked side conversations coming up, including one that included the title query. I have been very open about my plan to wear pasties and frolic. I explained this to an acquaintance, and one of their first questions to me was “Won’t you be ashamed?” They were baffled I would have the audacity to wear pasties generally, and especially among porn stars – who include those with medically sculpted bodies toward social beauty, rather than away like my medically enhanced body.
I will leave aside the issue of wearing pasties to make a more general point about disabled bodies. It is hard to appreciate the unique beauty associated with disabled bodies. To be more specific, it is hard for me to appreciate my body. Nearly 40 years of paralysis has taken a toll on my body and aging has not helped. I have surgical scars on my back; long railroad tracks that go from the top of my neck to the crack of my bottom. I have another surgical scar on my hip. I have an ugly scar on my hip where I had a significant wound that nearly took my life. My left hip is dislocated and is a few inches shorter than my right leg. I have a sweeping and profound scoliosis. My fused spine has started to cork screw to the right. I suspect my hearing is deteriorating. I wear glasses and am profoundly near sighted. My body has been profoundly altered by time, surgery, and the natural aging process. Disability is a cruel in its glacial ability to change the human form. I know why people stare at me. Most people with an atypical body will understand the implication of those stares. Back to Crip Confessions:
With OI, I have a protruding sternum (which is its own sexual aid, but that’s a story for another day) in between my asymmetrical breasts that are, as one OI stated, east west boobs. Instead of pointing forward, they point to the sides. I’m fat. I’m compact in the core, and have relatively small extremities in comparison to my core. I have a short neck. My hair is in a middle stage of growing out, so a bit meh. And I’m not awesome with make-up. I use a wheelchair and will have a weirdo little service dog in tow. I’m likely missing other aspects of my body that they might be thinking; regardless the point is I’m not a typical person or a body-beautiful human.
I am assume OI is Osteogenesis Imperfecta. The disablement here is not relevant. The important thing I share with the writer is the fact I love my body. She truly loves her body. I truly love my body. This should be the mantra of all people with a disability. Again, back to Crip Confessions:
I love my body, even when it’s in pain or falling apart at times. Surely, it’s not every day that I see beauty but I damn sure try to shed the weight of internalized ableism. I deserve embracing my body, after too many years covering up myself in baggy clothes. I have spent so many years beating myself up about my body not conforming to standards of typicality.
Internalized ableism is deeply ingrained in our collective conscious. I know this because like all people I have internalized ableism. My ableist bias comes out when I least expect it. I look across campus and see a guy traversing campus in a wheelchair and silently think “that guy is screwed”. My next thought is an amused sort of internal mocking. Once in a great while I wake up and see my wheelchair and think “what the hell is a wheelchair doing next to my bed”. I then shake my head and think where did that come from. When these sort of ideas spring to the fore I think of Robert F. Murphy and his book the Body Silent. I know the books dedication by heart:
This book is dedicated
to all those that cannot walk–
and instead try to fly
My paralyzed body has empowered me to lead a very different sort of life. I have tried very hard to fly. My metaphorical effort to fly has hit many a speed bump. I have experienced things that no typical bipedal person could understand. I have flown over ableist bias with grace and dignity. I have also been hit by the same bias and been thoroughly beaten. Through good times and bad my body has endured. It has served me well. I would love to think my body has been medically enhanced for the alternative is decidedly unhealthy. Negative body imagery is what far too many women endure. In theory I have a healthy perception of my body. I understand I am different. I adapted to paralysis long ago. It is just part of life. Despite the love I have for my body I have a confession to make. I do not like to look at my body. You will not find a mirror on the wall in my home. My image reminds me of being the other, a fact when I am in the comfort of my own home I choose to ignore.
William J. Peace, PhD is a scholar and advocate of disability rights. His research interests include bioethics, disability studies, body art and modification, and the history of anthropology. Peace has published articles in The American Anthropologist, Journal of Anthropological Research, and The Hastings Center Report. This piece was originally posted in his own blog Bad Cripple.