A Guest Blog from the very gorgeous Sarah Willow, a Beauty, Lifestyle and Disability Blogger
The internet blew up on Tuesday night when pictures from Kylie Jenner’s Interview magazine photoshoot were released. Kylie is depicted as an absurd doll-like figure in a gold wheelchair for a Steven Klein editorial, and I'm really not okay with it.
I refuse to post the images from the shoot here but Google them and make up your own mind.
I was very vocal on Twitter about my opinion on the photographs. My outrage stemmed from the fact Kylie, an able-bodied celebrity has the ability to get up and walk away from that chair. A wheelchair is not a prop, it’s not a fashion statement, it’s a necessity for many disabled people. Apparently the images were to highlight the ‘limitations of fame.’ How on earth does a wheelchair represent limitations? A wheelchair is freedom for so many disabled people, for me. A wheelchair means we can live a ‘normal’ life. We can go out, we can do things that everyone else does, despite our disability. The fact that she commented on ‘limitations’ just shows how ill-informed she really is; we’re only limited because of the ableist society we live in and when well-known celebrities like Kylie Jenner are appropriating this view, it’s extremely harmful to many of the disabled community. We deal with a lot of limitations on a daily basis, from accessibility to discrimination – but a wheelchair is freedom.
Furthermore, the styling of the shoot is ambiguous, are Kylie and her team insinuating that those of us that use a wheelchair are sub-human? Are we aliens? Not normal? Unnatural? The stiff doll-like dominatrix costuming is not only weird but overtly sexual. So many disabled people are on the receiving end of fetishisms. Are you even aware that these people exist? These fetishists see a disabled body as a sexual object and nothing more.
I'm all for seeing a wheelchair on the front page of a major magazine, the day that happens I will rejoice. But why not give disabled models a chance? There’s so many out there that simply can’t find work because of their chair/disability. Models of Diversity are doing amazing work trying to alter this but we still need to break down a lot of walls. Not only that but Enhance the UK's Undressing Disability campaign is trying to lift the taboo surrounding sex and disability; they photographed REAL disabled people in their underwear highlighting the importance of understanding that disabled people ARE people and have relationships. We need the younger generation to see this, they need to know that it’s okay to be different, it’s okay to be disabled, and to love yourself. We don’t need inconsiderate celebs making a mockery of disability.
Opinions vary, obviously, what’s the point in us all being the same? I know people that aren't bothered by the Kylie Jenner images and I'm not criticising their lack of interest, so why abuse me for having an opinion? I've been on the receiving end of trolls for my stance on this, I've been called ‘pathetic’, told that I ‘use my disability as a weapon,’ and I should ‘walk it off.’ As a chronically ill woman, who uses a wheelchair, do you know how hurtful that is? Unfortunately, unlike Kylie, I can’t ‘walk it off.’ I've shed many a tear over having to use a wheelchair and spent a lot of time worrying and agonising over how I'm perceived by able-bodied people. I'm self-conscious, people stare, people treat me like a child, but it’s better than not being able to go outside at all. I've been on the receiving end of verbal abuse due to my disability and others have had much worse, Kylie has no idea what it’s like to be disabled. Nobody would choose to be in a wheelchair if they didn't have to. It’s not glamorous; it’s not a fashion statement. Although those of us who do rock a chair are pretty damn fabulous! See what my gorgeous friend Vicky says about it HERE.
Pat on the back for the Kardashian/Jenner PR team, the controversy certainly caused a reaction.
However, don’t mix up limiting and empowering.