Ironically* titled “Disabilities Downplayed for ‘Britain’s Missing Top Model’ Contestants” (my emphasis), this article discusses a new televised modeling competition featuring only disabled models:

Among the eight lovely ladies who will duke it out onscreen are women without limbs, some who are partially paralyzed and one who is deaf.

See the images below or click here for the slideshow.

I have many of the same questions about this program that I have about Viktoria’s spread for Bizarre Magazine and Elizabeth had about Disaboom advertising. Notice that, of the eight contestants, at least seven appear white. Half are (let’s face it) artificially blonde. And they all more-or-less conform to contemporary Western standards of beauty. In only one photo (maybe two) is the disability even visible.

I guess, basically, what I’m asking is: Are we trying to challenge a hierarchal system by gaining access to the top of the hierarchy? From there, who will we look down upon? And, if there’s no one to look down upon, what was the point of gaining access?

As Audre Lorde famously said: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”


* Catherine writes: “Apparently this is an attempt to challenge the fashion world, but if we’re “downplaying” the disabilities, aren’t we attempting to obey the rules of the fashion world? What’s the point?” Special thanks to Catherine D. for the link!

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.