Trailblazers Campaigns Officer Lauren West shares her thoughts on the controversial image of Kylie Jenner in a wheelchair.
Today, the 3rd December, is the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and the theme this year is ‘Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities’.
Empowerment is in an interesting word. To me, it symbolises freedom, control of my own life and a lack of restriction. As a wheelchair user, I view my wheelchair as empowering. Instead of being stuck in bed, I am able to go where I want, when I want. It puts the power in my hands.
I was horrified, then, to find out the reasoning behind reality star Kylie Jenner’s controversial photoshoot where she is sat like a living doll in a gold wheelchair.
Supposedly, Jenner feels her fame restricts her and the wheelchair symbolises this. I am unbelievably disappointed that this is the viewpoint of a so-called “role-model”. A wheelchair is in no way limiting. It does not restrict me; it frees me.
As Trailblazer, Laura Bizzey writes: [a wheelchair] is a lifeline for so many of us, so that we can go out and have the freedom that we deserve as human beings.
Hayley Gault also backs up this point by stating: It’s not a novelty or prop for many of us, it’s our freedom.
In a world where disabled bodies are seen as imperfect and undesirable, where they are viewed as broken and in need of fixing, what message does it send the world when a wheelchair is used as a prop? When it is used as a symbol of limitation and restriction? Trailblazers campaign to address the social injustice disabled people face and when “role-models” release images like this, it makes our fight so much harder.
But this isn’t the only problem with the piece. People are angered by the fact that there are so many disabled models out there. Models that would make any front cover spectacular. Ones that would promote disability as not something negative, but something empowering. However, these people will never get the chance to be on a front cover because they are not what society views as ‘sexy and beautiful’.
To see the highly controversial image of Kylie Jenner, click here.
We, at Trailblazers, are keen to hear your thoughts on this story. Are you angered by what Kylie Jenner has done? Or are you pleased to see a mobility aid on a front cover?