Redefining Normal

Every culture around the world has ideas about what is normal and what is not. Unfortunately, here in America people with physical disabilities are seen as not normal. What I mean when I say normal is something that adheres to what is usual, typical, or expected within a certain culture. Because they are not considered normal, we do not usually see them in photo shoots that take up numerous pages in magazines, there are close to no clothing ads with handicapped models, and few – if any – TV shows where the main character is handicapped.

In the article entitled “The Handi-Capable Body” by Kris Castner , she talks about having a sister who is handicapped. In this article, Kris brings to light the fact that often times we look upon handicapped people with pity and we only see what they can’t do. As Kris said in her article, When I look at how people with physically disabled or challenged bodies are often portrayed on television, in ads, in photographs or in book series, it makes me more sad than angry. It makes me sad that some people can’t, or have never learned, how to “see” people with “disabilities” for who they truly are. There always seems to be this hang up on “making them better.” On “making their bodies normal.”…Regardless of the body, what each person has to offer comes from within it….there is nothing wrong with physically challenged bodies. It’s what you do with your body that matters, and that is a problem faced by everyone with, well, a body…I endeavour not to think of them as “a person who is physically challenged,” but to come to know them as a “person who is physically enlightened.””

Although we may see a handicapped person as disabled, the person who is handicapped may not see themselves that way. A great example is Nick Vujicic. He has no arms or legs, yet what he can do is amazing. Below is a link to a video about him.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSayMXTaQY8]

Also in Kris’ article, she talks about an “initiative to increase public acceptance of disabled bodies”. This initiative of promoting acceptance of not only disabled bodies, but all types of bodies in general is something that needs to happen soon. Eating disorder rates are rising rapidly because people don’t feel that their body is good enough. Dove has an initiative to promote body positivity, and more magazines and clothing lines are incorporating plus sized models into their magazines.

Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign

I feel as though if more and more companies begin to promote body acceptance, that the meaning of normal will be redefined to include not just one type of body. This normalization of various bodies will lead to more self confidence in many people, and possibly even lower eating disorder and self harm rates. This inclusion would also benefit the companies themselves; by showing that their products can be consumed by all different types of people means that they are opening up their markets to a wider group of people, and could potentially generate more income for themselves.

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One thought on “Redefining Normal

  1. I really enjoyed your post about this article. Growing up with a father who is blind, I’ve had a lot of exposure to how people treat others with disabilities. There is so much truth in everything you have written about how people with disabilities are treated differently by others without disabilities, or even how people treat others who don’t conform to “traditional” beauty standards. I think the fact that you included how those with disabilities feel about themselves shows that you are at least trying to look at both sides of the story, and trying to put yourself in the shoes of the disabled, something that others can sometimes tend to overlook.

    I agree with the points you make in the last paragraph about body confidence campaigns and the reduction of self-harm and the like. However, just because companies might profit off these campaigns doesn’t seem like enough of a reason to me for them to want to change. Is there anything that can really be done large scale to promote body confidence? Or are we going to have to take it one little step at a time? The connection between this idea and the idea of those with disabilities is interesting to me as well. Are these two really one in the same? Everything you have presented in this post certainly leaves a lot to think about the way people treat others, and about how people treat themselves.

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