BBC3 will soon be airing a show called Britain’s Missing Top Model in which eight contestants described as “Some of Britain’s most beautiful disabled women” compete to for a photoshoot to become Britain’s top disabled model. Is this a step forward or a step back for women with disabilities? May be it is both. Do women with disabilities have the same right to have their bodies exploited as women without disabilities?
Almost 30 years earlier, Harlan Hahn wrote powerfully about amputee devotee relationships. (Did you know that there are several sex magazines devoted exclusively to amputee women’s bodies?) Hahn’s work was critical to our current understanding of the social construction of disability. Other amputee women have suggested that there are two kinds of potential sex partners, those who find their amputation attractive and those who find it repulsive. In their view, it is healthier to have a relationship with someone who thinks it attractive than someone who finds it repulsive.
Both men and women with disabilities are increasingly engaged in modeling. Rollmodelz is an emerging agency exclusively featuring disabled models.
What does the emergence of models with disabilities tell us? What kinds of disabilities are acceptable to in these models? What, if anything, does this tell us about our broader understanding of disability?