The photo of the two actors with their limbs digitally removed. Source: vox.com

The following are my thoughts on an article AUCD news (twitter) reported on that is called, “Why Playing Sports While Disabled is Always a Radical Act” and the article called, “Vogue Brazil digitally removed limbs from actors to promote the Paralympics and completely missed the point.”

Sports have been used as a means to challenge social and political norms throughout the years. A prime example of this happening today is Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback, who sparked a movement by staying seated for the national anthem. These movements have been documented in the past and are still prevalent today. Athletes have the ability to challenge social and political norms, but what if no one is watching them? What if they are never given the opportunity to be seen or heard?

The 2016 Paralympics lasted 11 days, yet no Paralympian related hashtags trended on any social media (Perry, 2016). Why is that?? Athletes like Paralympians have been (or what seems to be) erased from media and other areas of today’s society. An example of this erasing is when Vogue Brazil decided to promote the 2016 Paralympics games by hiring two models and digitally removing their limbs to make them look like amputees, all the while giving it the caption, “we are all Paralympians” (Perry, 2016). No, you are not a Paralympian and the worst part about that story is that Vogue Brazil actually had two amputee athletes on set for the photo shoot, yet they opted to use models without any disabilities (Desmond-Harris, 2016).

I guess I just have a hard time understanding why. Why would they intentionally remove model’s limbs? Why not use the real athletes? Were they trying to

Same actors from previous picture with the two Paralympians that attended the photo shoot. Source: vox.com

attract more attention? They sure got the attention, a lot of negative attention that is. Which in my opinion is sad because the focus of their photo shoot, according to Desmond-Harris (2016), was to highlight and promote the 2016 Paralympic Games and the two models used in the photo were ambassadors on the Paralympic committee, so why wouldn’t they want to use real athletes or models who had disabilities? What really upsets me is that those two models were ambassadors for the Paralympics, yet when the time came to publicize the event, they (in my opinion) did not advocate for those they were representing.

Now this is not to say that there isn’t any coverage at all on disabled athletes or Paralympians, but majority of the coverage is tainted by society love of stories about “overcoming” an obstacle in life. “Overcoming”, when phrased about individuals with disabilities is highly misleading and takes away from the reality of the situation for these individuals. You never overcome a disability, period.

These athletes with disabilities and Paralympians have the ability to promote change and be heard via a large social platform, yet we spare them no airtime, tweets, or posts. So when are we as a society going to change? When are we going to recognize, focus, and promote individuals with disabilities in the media? When are we going to stop erasing them from our society and start highlighting them?

(A thought that I had after writing all of this was, “where are individuals in the field of social media production? Are there any new anchors or reporters who have disabilities?” If anyone has an answer to that let me know!)

References:

Perry, David. (2016). Paralympics Games: Why playing Sports While Disabled Is Always a Radical Act. Retrieved from: http://www.rollingstone.com/sports/paralympics-games-sports-as-a-radical-act-w439261

Desmond-Harris, Jenee. (2016). Vogue Brazil digitally removed limbs from actors to promote the Paralympics and completely missed the point. Retrieved from: http://www.vox.com/2016/8/27/12660082/rio-2016-vogue-brazil-photoshop-paralympics-disabled