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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lovely Video and the Disabled Body

My body is unique. My left hip dislocated 40 years ago and as a result my left leg is about two inches shorter than my right. I have a severe scoliosis and thoracic spinal fusion. The skin on my back is distinguished by faded long rail road track surgical scars. My curved spine is not getting worse but it certainly is cork screwing my body to the right as I age. There is not a single symmetrical part of my body. I am all odd curves and mismatching body parts. When I swim or simply take off my shirt people stare at me. I do not mean a passing stare but flat out rude prolonged stare. I do not feel like a freak but many strangers think this. The irony to me is I am in very good physical shape. I am slender--a whopping 143 pounds. I am strong--strong in the sense I am built for endurance and long handcycle rides. Put me in a weight room and I will become instantly bored and capable of lifting little weight compared to other men. I am a man of motion. Movement is a constant.

I am pleased with my body. It has served me well. I hope to die with a battered body, one that was used to its fullest extent. I rail against physical loss as I age. Getting from floor to wheelchair was once a simple process when my son was a boy is now exceptionally difficult. I suspect my hearing is getting bad. I tire more easily as steep hills take me a while to get up.  All in all though I have fared well. This thought process is out of the norm. Many people with disabilities struggle with their body image. I get this. Our bodies are perceived as deformed or defective and are routinely medicalized. Here is where I really depart from the norm. I find disabled bodies attractive. Culture is inscribed on our bodies. I have seen many disabled bodies. I find scoliosis fascinating. I see a man or woman shirtless with a profound scoliosis from behind and think their body is gorgeous. A profound scoliosis is  akin to a tree that has grown in an unusual fashion due to environmental variables. I find amputees and the residual limb equally interesting. All disabled bodies have an element of beauty to me. This point was reinforced today when I saw the below video.

I love this video.  According to the Huffington Post the video was created by Pro Infirmis. What resonated with me was how much the people with a disability enjoyed the process of having their body duplicated in mannequin form. Even better was the fact the mannequins were put in store windows in Zurich to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I do not care one iota about the reactions to the mannequins by the general public that walked by. I experience those sort of reactions daily. I care about the people with a disability that got to celebrate and enjoy their body. This is all too rare. Remarkably, I even like the title of the video: "Because Who is Perfect? Get Closer". No human is perfect. No body is without flaws. Like the other people in this video my body is simply different. In that difference I see great beauty. I wish others thought the same way.


Second Summit said...

I'm crying.

So much beauty here.

How differently the temporarily-able-bodied would see people if mannikins like these were mixed into shop windows everywhere, without comment or emphasis. If people with visible disabilities were seen as 'ordinary' in such contexts.

And I am blown away by the love and respect offered by the model makers and the way that their measurement volunteers responded.

Thanks so much for this.

william Peace said...

Second Summit, Exactly--much beauty was present. The very best of humanity in fact. Sort of restores my faith in people. I have seen mannequins in stores. They are usually dreadful. Horribly dated wheelchair with female mannequin sitting awkwardly in really ugly clothes located in worst place in the store. Interestingly fashion types seem open to atypical bodies. Aimee Mullins for instance has had a good career as a model.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

Beautiful video, and beautiful reflections in your post. Thank you.

Erin Manning said...

This is beautiful. Can I share on Facebook?

william Peace said...

Erin, Share this with the world. So rare to have disability and beauty linked together.

apulrang said...

I was compelled to blog about this myself. It's funny. I put off watching the video all day, because I'm so often disappointed by videos and such that are promoted as moving or inspirational. But boy am I glad I finally watched it. I like your comments. Our disabilities sound somewhat similar. Did you find yourself identifying most with the woman with the spinal curvatures? I sure did.

william Peace said...

Apulrang, I too dread any disability related video that is deemed touching or worse inspiring. This is one of those rare exceptions. I identify with all people who have a profound scoliosis.

gun@KME said...

Wow, I'm pleased that this action for the 3 december has been acknowleged so far away from Zurich. Yesterday somebody I got a mail from Italy in response to the video, now I've read your blog post. Best from Zurich, Denyse

william Peace said...

gun@KME, The viral nature of the internet is amazing. I wander were you involved? If so all involved should be praised. People just do not get the overwhelming negativity associated with having an atypical body. To have our bodies valued and respected is out of the norm.