Commodification and the Status Game
This unit on disability this semester has surprised me in many ways as this is a subject that I had been thinking about but never actively enough to get something done. With every class, I grew more intrigued with the world and experiences of disabled persons and their interactions with their abled spaces. These experiences question the fundamental assumptions of gender and sexuality because in more ways than one they become the exceptions to rules that are now unmentioned in gender and sexuality. Like the woman in the picture above, if she’s had a mastectomy and hysterectomy, does that make her body trans-?
The thing that most interested me about our conversations on disability was the act of commodification in navigating their space. By revealing to abled persons in a public space, do disabled individual commodify their experience and gain in some way a pass into the abled world by making it easier for them to be understood. Even the language around disability, to “revel”, “disclose” a disability denotes some sort of secret that once told to someone and put on display can become a ticket to a peculiar social status where one is neither excluded nor included from the abled world. This relationship is analogous to queer individuals, especially those who identify as femme. In both these cases commodification serves not only for monetary profit but for social profit as well. Take for instance the images that Kristen showed us of the model Aimee Mullins.
In this picture, her discloser of her prosthetic legs especially in such an intimate setting as the bedroom create a personal space with the viewer that is non threatening. Whereas in this photo,
…she chooses to not make as apparent.
On one hand Mullins work debunks traditional notions of the disabled while at the same time creating new archetypes.
Same can be said for this photo here of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s wedding.
While this photo presents a non threatening view of gay marriage, it also forms a new stereotype of what gay couples look like.
As Rosemarie Thompson wrote in her article by creating more main stream images of disability and queerness we can “….imagine [these experiences] as the typical rather than the a typical human experience, can promote practices of equality and inclusion…” Moreover, I think that by adding fully understanding the political and social implications of images can we truly get to “realistic” representations.