With the turn of the new year, the British disability advocacy group, Enhance the UK, is selling calendars featuring scantily-clad models with disabilities. Their goal is to break down the misconstrued ideas of disability and prove that disabled people are sexual beings – just like everyone else. Sporting little more than lingerie or swimsuits, the models are featured posing in London taxis and and in front of British landmarks like Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. They are hoping to turn a few heads. The CEO of Enhance the UK and one of the models for the calendar, Jennie Williams, stated that “all too often disabled people get ignored and desexualized, even ‘babied,’ being seen as people who just need looking after and not wanting or capable of having an active, healthy sex life and loving relationship.” Her group wants to “change the way society views sex and disability.”
The calendar is available for free, but a donation is requested. All funds raised goes towards the Undressing Disability campaign to “ensure better, inclusive sex and relationships education for disabled, young people.”
It says on their site that “if you’re hoping to make someone’s Christmas extra special this year then you’re in the right place.” However, I am not quite sure how many non disabled people would purchase one of these calendars as a Christmas gift. So I guess I am just curious as to how effective these calendars actually are. Furthermore, does “sexy” really need to be reduced to this? Just wanted to hear/read all of your thoughts!
Here’s the link if you want to take a look around:
Last weekend, I stayed with my mom in center city and took a cab by myself back to Temple. When I got in the cab, the driver told me that he had just dumped his last passengers. Not really sure what he meant, I let out a slight laugh. He responded, “no really. I told them to get out. The lady was a bitch. I wanted to run her over.” This time, I did not laugh. For he obviously wasn’t satisfied with that response last time, and I surely didn’t want to be the next “bitch” he tried to run over. “Oh,” I said, trying to calm myself by focusing on the city life far outside the walls of the cab. He looked back and smiled at me and said, “Yah. But it was kind of bad, because her son couldn’t walk. I told her she should have gotten an abortion. Was that mean?” Upon not receiving an answer, he looked back at me and said, “Come on. Tell me it was mean. I don’t care. It’s true.” What I wanted to tell him was that he disgusted me. That that disabled boy’s little finger was probably worth way more than he would ever be. That I would much rather be in any other cab in Philadelphia right now than his. Yet, my anxiety surrounding the driver far outweighed any other emotions I had towards him as a person, and I responded, “Yah, I guess that was kind of mean.”
That following Tuesday, I leaned over in class and told my friend sitting next to me about the conversation. She told me that I should relay it to the class. But for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to raise my hand. My friend was right; it was completely applicable to our class. In fact, the incident seemed so strangely fitting that it was as if God had directly plopped the man down right into the driver seat of my cab. However, I couldn’t raise my hand. It isn’t until now that I am typing this blog that I have realized why. The truth is, the conversation was completely disheartening for me. It was so disheartening, that I almost wanted to pretend that I had never met the guy. In erasing his memory from my mind, maybe it would also erase such terrible ignorance, superiority, and bigotry from the world. Even though we have spent several weeks discussing such discrimination that still exists in the world, I guess I still always felt like it was getting better. That such extremist views no longer existed outside the pages of history books. Part of me wonders whether or not the cab driver would have shared such comments with me had my mother or any other adult been in the car. Yet, even if kept to himself, it wouldn’t have mattered. What he voiced to me is still the opinion that he holds towards all disabled people. And if he has this opinion, who’s to say that many others don’t share his same beliefs? What I thought would be a quiet ride back to my dorm, ended up being a truly eye opening experience that illustrated the great wall of misunderstanding and intolerance that continues to separate the non disabled from the disabled. We still have a long ways to go as a society until those with disabilities receive the equal rights that they deserve. And these rights will not be granted through remaining silent.
During my PE class in freshman year of high school, my best friend and I were frolicking around the gymnasium laughing and spewing off quotes from The Ringer. Another girl approached us and asked us how we could possibly find a movie that made fun of mentally challenged people to be funny. She then followed up with the fact that we have a “special girl” in our class, and we should at least have the heart to keep the “stupid quotes” to ourselves for the next hour.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, here is the trailer:
As you have probably already guessed, the girl shut us up. In about 30 seconds, I went from hysterically laughing to feeling incredibly uncomfortable. However, this uncomfortableness didn’t stem from my own actions, but instead from the girl’s misunderstanding that our intention was to make fun of those with disabilities. Obviously one of us had interpreted the movie wrong — for I had never seen The Ringer as offensive towards those with disabilities. First of all, I saw the release of The Ringer as a breaking moment for the disabled community. The movie features more than 150 actors with intellectual disabilities — far more than any other Hollywood film has ever had before. Furthermore, the characters do not take on the role of the stereotypical victims, villains, or heros that often make up the representation of disabilities within Hollywood. Instead, the characters are not only fully rounded and genuine, but also very talented at producing comedy. They invite the audience to not laugh at them, but with them. Through their humor, the characters emphasize not their disability, but their inherent humanity filled with their own unique abilities, quirky thoughts, and lovable personalities.
*SPOILER ALERT* Throughout the movie, Johnny Knoxville, the star of MTV’s Jackass, comes to respect his fellow disabled athletes as equals and accepts them as close friends (Yes. If anything… The Ringer should be critiqued for its predictable plot). I saw this plot as an attempt to draw in teenagers — your typical teenage boy who watches Jackass — and transform the negative attitude they hold towards those with disabilities in the same way that Knoxville was transformed throughout the movie. With the production of The Ringer, a new door in the entertainment world was pried open to the uncharted territory of disabilities. Yet, the fact remains that disabilities continue to be almost absent from American film and television. People are still not comfortable with disabilities. They don’t know how to appropriately deal with them. Therefore, the easiest thing for them to do is to either not put themselves in a situation where they have to deal with disabled people, or to superficially stick up for them from a distance without actually taking the time to understand. The girl in my P.E class took the second route. She in fact had never seen The Ringer. Instead, she merely jumped to the conclusion that any movie about disabilities would be negative. During an interview, Peter Farrelly, one of the producer’s of The Ringer and a longtime volunteer with Best Buddies, stated: “My whole point in making this movie is to make people with mental disabilities accessible, make people know who they are and feel comfortable with them.” Unfortunately, the girl in my P.E. class never allowed Farrelly the chance to accomplish this goal.