You all know I’ve got a passion for fashion, but it’s always been a challenge to find clothes and styles that accommodate my disability. It can be frustrating, especially when I see something I like and then realize, “Oh, that will never work on me!” And, unfortunately, my experience is all too common. The fact is, fashion is just not disability-friendly. So you can imagine how happy I was to hear about the Aerie ads featuring women with disabilities and illnesses modeling the clothing brand’s lingerie — so happy, actually, that I wrote my first essay for Yahoo about how meaningful this is to women like me!
Although we’ve been seeing more and more companies taking steps to be more inclusive in 2018 (thank goodness; it’s about time, isn’t it?!?), it’s still pretty rare, especially when it comes to people with disabilities. We’re typically an after-thought, if we’re given any thought at all. Needless to say, I had a lot to say in this essay and, honestly, the words just seemed to flow from my fingertips to the keyboard — words about how women with disabilities are typically seen and how these Aerie ads help squash long-help (and false!) misconceptions about what it’s like living with a disability.
Here’s an excerpt of the piece, in which I try to find a very respectful way to tell the world that I’m not here for any of its blatant ableism…
There’s an underlying assumption that people with disabilities shouldn’t be comfortable in their bodies because disabilities aren’t “normal.” A disability can’t be normalized or seen as mainstream. A disability can’t be sexy. Women with disabilities are often not even seen as women. Our sexuality and femininity takes a back seat to our disability. A part of ourselves, a part of our identity is erased in the process.
I’ve struggled to belong, to live my life as a disabled woman in an able-bodied world. Seeing women like me in national ads makes me smile at myself in the mirror and makes me hold my head a little higher. Instead of feeling like I need to hide the disabled parts of myself, I now want to show them — real and unafraid.
You can read the full piece here and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat! And of course, feel free to share my essay on Facebook, Twitter or even your local refrigerator. If you share on Twitter, be sure to tag me @melissablake so we can connect! I can’t wait to hear from you! Love you all… xoxo