I imagine that you, my blog reader, knows someone who is disabled. We live in a relatively progressive country when it comes to rights for the disabled. The USA has laws protecting the disabled and active members continuously fighting for more protections.
I have never felt discrimination due to my disability. I attribute this to a high confidence level and my desire not to come across as a victim. I sit up straight because I hate poor posture. When I see someone slouch I feel like punching their shoulder blades. When I shake someone’s hand I don’t give one of those wimpy-lifeless-oh-you-might-have-cooties shake either. These are some of the things which have allowed me to exist in a world that holds stereotypes and misconceptions of disabled people.
I am a member of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which raises money to help the disabled in myriad ways, such as helping draft new legislation, help assimilate into employment, assisting with new medical adaptive devices, mental support systems and so much more. As you may know, Christopher Reeve was a talented screen actor and starred as ‘Superman’ in a succession of 1980s films.
Recently, the foundation started a 30 day social media campaign with the Raw Beauty Project NYC to challenge common misconceptions of women living with disabilities. They also aim to battle society’s perception of what is beautiful. The media portrays beautiful people as able bodied, slender, slightly curvy and with perfect facial symmetry. This campaign highlights the belief that beauty comes in different packages and should reflect intelligence, insight, inner strength and a sense of humor.
Additionally, the foundation wants to eradicate stigmas and redefine beauty beyond the unattainable representations so pervasive in the media.
Before I discuss in depth about the Raw Beauty campaign, I will share the biggest obstacle I have faced as a disabled woman: sex and dating.
The world of dating isn’t easy, all the more so for disabled women. NY men are eager beavers who want to cut to the chase. Within the first hour of a date, I was asked whether I could have sex. Not only is this inappropriate, much in the same way if I were to ask him how much money he makes, but rude. So here is some advice for disabled women and how to address a wayward oaf when this subject is broached:
“Sex? Yeh, well, I can’t have sex. You see, when I was injured my hoo-ha fell out and was accidentally stepped and crushed by a careless EMS guy. It now sits in an empty mayonnaise jar in formaldehyde next to my grandma Helen’s urn. One day I know some entrepreneur on TED TALKS will present disabled women with a prosthetic hoo-ha. I am super hopeful for such a scientific development since I was quite the nymph in my day.”
Bottom line: Tell him it is none of his business. If he wants to get to know you, he will.
Dating aside, misconceptions will abound. This is where the internet and social media come in. What better way to start a campaign than through social media?
Enter the Raw Beauty Project NYC. The project aims to spread messages encouraging disabled women to share photos of how they define ‘Raw Beauty’ on the internet. Friends and family are urged to do likewise.
I posted this photo with the message: “I support #RawBeautyNYC. Do you? Let’s redefine what is perceived as beautiful & transform stereotypes.”
Make sure to use that hashtag on all social media. Share this link with your friends to invite them. Find out more on the Raw Beauty website.
And if you are eager to learn more, please attend the groundbreaking photography exhibit that showcases the true beauty and sensuality of women living with disabilities by high-profile photographers on September 20, 2014 at ACA Galleries in NYC.
Go ahead, don’t be shy. Just think, dumping an ice bucket over your head to make a statement isn’t necessary. Participation in the #RawBeauty campaign promises to leave you looking your absolute most fab. There needs to be a global conversation about disability since third world countries remain in the dark ages.
As for me, hope, humor and faith have always sustained me, and allowed me to focus not on my disability but rather on my abilities. So wheels have replaced my legs as a primary mode of mobility, not a hindrance. I’ve gained a different perspective on the world surrounding me. Let’s make the #RawBeauty campaign go viral to show the world that the media doesn’t own the monopoly on the definition of beauty.
I am going to finish off with a funny anecdote which has nothing to do with RAW BEAUTY.
My friend came over with a birthday cake (Sunday was my bday), but when she opened the box we burst out laughing (It is a good thing my pal was wearing her waterproof gel liner by MAC cosmetics. After having liner run down her face too many times–after hearing my rants–, she learned fast).
So why did we break down? The gluten-pusher at a local bakery misspelled my name, which is MAGDA (Magdalena), to MADGA. Now, let me explain that my friend has Ivy League elocution and was certain the gluten-purveyor had my name down correctly. Note to self. Always write down your name. The other option is asking “On a scale of 1 to 10, how dyslexic are you?”
I couldn’t let it go. The moment could not be complete without a costume change to complement my dyslexic cake.
I wrapped a bandana around my head and stuck my favorite humungous, hillbilly fake teeth in my mouth. How repugnant is the bandana? It isn’t just me right? Why would anyone wrap one around their head? Apparently bikers and hippies find this look attractive.
I have redefined beauty twice in one blog post. Now that is RAW BEAUTY.
I support #RawBeautyNYC. Redefine what's perceived as beautiful & transform misconceptions about #Disabled women. pic.twitter.com/OQAOE1CiuE
— Magda (@PrettyCripple) September 2, 2014
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