Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Why, yes, that's -exactly- my first thought

about Aimee Mullins, an athlete, actress, double amputee, model, one of "50 most beautiful people in the world," and Georgetown graduate with a double major in history and diplomacy, who's skied, made track and long jump records on her prosthetic legs;

out of all that, this would be the bit that I'd focus on:

[Mullens] owns 10 different sets of prosthetic legs, from her titanium sprinting legs ("my brother calls them my 'robo-cop legs,'" she laughs) to the intricately carved ashwood museum pieces she once modeled in a fashion show for designer Alexander McQueen. At a recent media event, she sported fashionable white skinny jeans, gold sandals and a dark pink pedicure. "


and lament, does it -have- to be PINK?

and then,

" It almost makes it sound like these (pictured) legs are her “real” ones and she keeps a fashion array of other prostheses to keep her hotness factor up in social situations! eesh. (ooh, the novelty of seeing a disabled person displaying traditional sexuality! tittilating!!) sigh. "


(h/t Kim, and trin; there's no way I'm linking or going over to the source, but you can guess).

Yes, fuck YES. Christina Jesus forbid that a PWD might keep a "fashion array" of prostheses, display "traditional sexuality," or (this is my favorite) make it look like the legs that have BEEN her real legs since she was frigging one year old, if you read the fucking article, are her LEGITIMATE, -real- legs.

I mean, we all know how fucking -important- it is to remember and -keep- the bodies God/Mother Nature gave us, riiiiight?

So many ways to not be "real."

Well, you know what, fuck "real."

THIS is the part that interests me:

First she was a world-class athlete, having run track at Georgetown and holding records in sprints and the long jump. In January she was voted President of the Women's Sports Foundation by the likes of Danica Patrick and Maria Sharapova. Her accomplishments are each impressive enough on their own, but when you take into account that she's done it all on silicone and titanium legs, she's just making the rest of us look bad.


Competitive, you see. Or, as she puts it,

Her athletic background and competitive drive are what propel Mullins through every new experience and challenge. "In athletics, the idea of possibility is presumed," she says. "It's not 'if,' it's 'how.' And that is how artists, and fashion designers, and musicians see the world. It's not possibility, it's potential.


Yeah, it's the kind of story we Americans love: beat the odds, made it to the top, a winner, inspiring. Feel-good. Forget all the other people who -don't- succeed; it makes us/them "look bad."

Well, fuck me, sometimes, you know what, it's OKAY to feel good, vicariously even. Sometimes, it's OKAY to admire the hell out of a remarkable person without butbutbut. And, hello, can we focus on this bit just for a second:

It's not 'if,' it's 'how.' ...It's not possibility, it's potential.

It's the American Dream writ large--the best side of it. Funnily enough, it's the same message I took away from "Sicko," and yes, I'm still planning to do a full post on that.

But yeah, that optimism, the "can-do" thing. I think, you know, sometimes, on the loosely defined (American) left, we can throw that baby out with the bathwater of "o but look, the System, the System, the System is broken. Irreparably flawed. -No-, it isn't enough to say, "here's how we can make things -better-," partially, for now.

It's not good enough. Nothing's good enough. I Blame I Blame I Blame.

Which is really convenient, you know, especially when we're talking about people who may just be more in need of immediate relief than we are.

Or when we want to cover up our savoring of the delicious bitter-bitterness of our own hearts in the safe language of "systemic" blaming.

And you know something else: that is also a titanium-toed kick in the ass for me as well (personal shit, not getting into it right now).

Sometimes, you know what, you got to just go and -do.-

And forgive yourself-and others-for not being fucking perfect the first time, or ever.

39 comments:

Renegade Evolution said...

That...that is just the biggest case of WHAT THE FUCK I've ever seen. Seriously, the woman is a goddamn inspiration on so many levels...smart, amazing athlete, beat all the odds, motivated, all around amazing...

and pretty.

Let's tear her apart for that.

GAHHHH!

Renegade Eye said...

I agree with the other Renegade.

I think amputee over-achievers get a pass.

Roy said...

Wow. Yeah, that's a mess, isn't it?

Her accomplishments are each impressive enough on their own, but when you take into account that she's done it all on silicone and titanium legs, she's just making the rest of us look bad.

That line really bugs me.

I'm having trouble with it. I feel like.. hrm... "She did all this stuff, and that's awesome, but, ferchrissakes, she's disabled. See, you should be doing better than her." It's like, the article builds her up and talks about the great things she's done, but has take a shot at her too- she's impressive, but we ought to be able to do better than her... because we're not disabled you know.

It sounds like she's done a lot of great things, so I don't understand why people would want to tear that down, but I also don't understand why an article talking about the things she's done takes a shot at her, either.

Am I just reading that out-of-whack?

belledame222 said...

No, that's well put.

and yeah, i do think there's something about the tone of that that invites a tearing down, subtly, if probably not consciously; that's what i was trying to get at with the whole, that's a very American/competitive thing.

but, yeah, the levels of stupid and offensive in that comment, you can't really blame the article author for...

and heh: yes, Renegade E, meet Renegade E...

Anthony Kennerson said...

Oh, so let me see...

She has a degree from Georgetown,

She's done things athletically that most normal people with working appendages couldn't begin to think of accomplishng,

and, she's quite attractive,too.

So you'd think that that would be enough to shut the "patriarchy blamers" up and get them off her???

Uhhhh....nope.

Because even overachieving double amputees can become sexbots and slaves to men.

I surely hope that the Twistyloution gang doesn't meet up with Ms. Mullins anytime soon. If there is any justice in this world, they'd be wearing one of her protheses for a tail...if you get my drift.


Anthony

Trinity said...

"Am I just reading that out-of-whack?"

No, that's a really common thing and it can get very annoying. Like people are all

"omg you went to the corner store IN A WHEELCHAIR?"

and you're, y'know "yeah. i'm buying groceries."

so yeah, there IS some of that in there.

but also, personally I think that SOME recognition, some of the

"hey look you did that and it's tough in general but also you dealt with [either physical/mental impairment or social impairment from society not being set up right for peole like you] hey, that's pretty sweet"

is good. yeah, sometimes some of us DO just do cool shit and deserve people saying "hey, sweet."

it's a quite fine line sometimes. but yeah you're right to notice it.

Chuckie K said...

Excuse me for being msyelf for a moment, but I have to address, "the System, the System, the System is broken. Irreparably flawed." Because of course, the basic marxist take is not that the system is broken, but that it is what it is. And what capitalism and bourgeois society are the most progessive social system in history and have produced grater freedoms and materiaal weel-being than the ways of living out of which they developed. Unfortunately, they also by the same mechanisms that produce those freedoms and that well-being produce massive, violent repression and wholesale destruction. I suppose that in other contexts that breadth of view would qualify as love/hate.

On the question of abilities, differential abilities and how to value them. When I watch, say, a person whose legs constrain their movements in ways most of us do not experience climb stairs, for example, I see an amazing concentration of effort, and deft, graceful exactitude of motion that put my indifferent, shabby efforts at walking to shame.
Admirable though smart, motivated, good-looking and athletic are, this choice of object for adulation and derogation has already fallen prey to more preconceptions than we can elaborate.

KH said...

I’m not sure I get this. I doubt there would have been a complaint if Mullins weren’t an amputee, or if SI had run an otherwise identical article about a non-amputee female athlete. Not because that other article wouldn’t be offensive, but because we’ve all already fully covered that topic. There have been other posts about this magazine. No need to revoice the same objections for the nth time; you either buy the analysis or you don’t. It’s plainly the fact that Mullins is an amputee that introduces the novel element, the special added offense. So we now are told that the objectifying sexual interest of SI’s readers, writers, & editors doesn’t respect even this boundary. The readers' lust invades even the space of amputees & prostheses, which apparently are felt to have some heightened claim to freedom from the male gaze. It’s especially gross, fetishistic, when amputees get dragged into it. But these are mostly or all non-amputees who seem to be claiming that amputees have a particular claim to freedom from sexualization. Or do I misread things? And if I’m right, is this a claim amputees actually want made on their behalf? Doesn't it participate in its own way in some rather hinky attitudes about disability? (I usually begin to perspire when the word “even” is placed before my name or that of some group I belong to.)

Anonymous said...

we don't live our lives to be inspirations, it's really pathetic when the media takes the easiest most-cliched angle....

sometimes it's hard though because we want to break the taboo between disability and sexuality so it makes it difficult to draw the line between fetish and promoting what we really are---real, human, sexual *gasp* beings.


stacey
www.xanga.com/her_record_skips

belledame222 said...

Excuse me for being msyelf for a moment, but I have to address, "the System, the System, the System is broken. Irreparably flawed." Because of course, the basic marxist take is not that the system is broken, but that it is what it is. And what capitalism and bourgeois society are the most progessive social system in history and have produced grater freedoms and materiaal weel-being than the ways of living out of which they developed. Unfortunately, they also by the same mechanisms that produce those freedoms and that well-being produce massive, violent repression and wholesale destruction. I suppose that in other contexts that breadth of view would qualify as love/hate.

Sure; but you see here (for example) we seem to have run into the phenomenon of people, who for -whatever- reason or combination of reasons, have cobbled together some spavined, incoherent mess which is 3 parts selectively radical feminism and -very- selectively sort-of critique (if you even want to call it that) of *mumble* capitalism, 2 parts generic hairshirt, 5 parts undigested crap from elsewhere floating around in the blind spots, 4 parts nihilism...i lost track of all the parts.

the POINT is, it's a mess.

and unfortunately it's not the first time i've seen something -like- it.

but yeah, absolutely: part of the whole point is understanding that each system carries inherent contradictions, and the seed of its undoing -as well as- the seeds for potential new systems.

it's not a -monolith.- it's not.

that's part of the problem.

the other is that a fair number people are fuckwits, but well we knew that.

belledame222 said...

that is, part of the problem being that i don't think a lot of people tweak that it isn't a monolith, i.e. that "it," whether it's the Patriarchy or Imperialism or Advanced Capitalism/Corporate Hegemony or Xenu, is just a way of framing things, one of many. It shouldn't be -reified,- okay, and it certainly ceases to be helpful if you're at the point where you're going, "damn, it's sooo big, all i can do is huddle here and impotently wave fisties and long for some sort of not-at-all-symbolic-orgasm-like "Revolution" that will happen...um, somehow.

belledame222 said...

hey, welcome stacey.

belledame222 said...

and yeah, kh, i think you nailed it. from which i will tentatively predict a spiraling outward of ever-more offensive appropriations of other peoples' shit in order to add that extra -zing.-

listen, y'all would tell me if I/this site ever got that one-note broken-record, right? I mean, you do see -some- evolving over the months and years, right?

belledame222 said...

the other part of it of course is: um, it wasn't THAT sexualized. she's standing at a damn runner's block; it's not like they had her in lingerie doing the spread-eagle.

and no, i had never heard of "mammalian lordosis," and even if i had i doubt that would have been the first or even the fortieth thought i had looking at that pic. but then, I don't think I would have thought My Little Pony was just asking for it, -either.-

some peoples' brains scare me.

wonder what they'd do with a Rorscharsch test...

KH said...

It's not even clear it was a thong. And whaever you think of porn, most people wouldn't call that porn.

belledame222 said...

anyway yeah, stacey, I hear you. I do think this woman sounds pretty damn cool, though. And I don't exactly find her "inspiring," herself--I'm not an athlete, much less a runner, and have no desire to be--but between her own, well, like I said, very American attitude (made me think of Twyla Tharp, also, although i can't remember the exact passage) and "hey, cool, modern technology" (-that-, i found "inspiring"), yeah, well..anyway, i like the article, or at least -her-, a lot better than the blogular responses i'm talking about. mileage may vary of course.

but you know, sometimes, it's not just "oh wow look at this person who beat incredible odds, violins, yadda;" it's, for me anyway, "hey, look, people having a rich and fulfilled life, how nice."

belledame222 said...

i just think to myself: if these were, like, right-wing dudes, wringing their hands about the Salaciousness of it all, would people not find them, besides everything else, just a tad suspect and creepy?

perhaps not.

KH said...

It'd express the same resentment in a different register.

KH said...

She's the person who was in one of the films in Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle, right? As a lioness, with clear plexiglass (or something) prostheses.

KH said...

Okay, duh, it's in the SI article, & they were a clear acrylic. The heels, or soles, had a blade that she cut up potatos with.

belledame222 said...

yeh, never saw it, but just from the description: kickass.

KH said...

She's really charismatic, probably doesn't require praise from the likes of me.

Sassywho said...

grrr, my post on disabilities the other day was more about how we have come to have high expectations and compartmentalize those with disabilities...... and this just pisses me off.

as Trin said, um yes sexual people, and yes being sexual is an integral part to their humanity, which is there regardless of whether or not you try to strip them of such.... because "having no legs and all... no one would really want to see you without your hair flowing, buttocks in "start" mode, and your pink prosthetics" it's arrested adolescent analysis like that in which the most ridiculous feminist stereotypes are based upon.

the pose itself being sexual is debatable, but unlike an 18 year old Stokke, Mullins posed for this... acted with agency and sounds smart enough to reject anything that would have made her uncomfortable. I would be somewhat swayed if perhaps she was featured with a small blurb and displayed in a bikini, I know know if it was the other pictures of her or profiling all of the other amazing things about her.... that, well, sort of made it seem as if they wanted to feature her more for than pink legs and a shapely ass. but who knows?

But that's right go ahead and strip that away from her in the name of revolutionary, she probably slept with the editor anyway....

*I do not believe that, but this kind of thing reminds me of women getting ahead in the 80's.... under constant watchful eyes and quite often unfounded rumors of sleeping their way to the top*

arrogantworm said...

Listen, y'all would tell me if I/this site ever got that one-note broken-record, right? I mean, you do see -some- evolving over the months and years, right?

No worries, you haven't become a broken record yet. If I didn't see what looks like constructive dialog, you'd be read once a month for humorous purposes. Since my admittedly annoying self is still here, I think you're fine.

RachelPhilPa said...

BD, I assume that you are referencing the recent post by the radical feminist blogger that we know and love so well - you know, the one with commenters named after marine lizards, American small-denomination coins, and organs that circulate blood.

I do read that blog off an on, and I do think that the blogger in question has good things to say about the pervasiveness of the rape / pr0n culture.

And I do think that there are things to critique in the SI article.

But I'm really getting pissed off with this radfem blogger, because she just assumes that every woman who dresses in anything other than this blogger's approved uniform is automatically "pornalating" and deluding herself, and is therefore allowing herself to be a tool of the patriarchy. There's no concept that, just maybe, perhaps, a woman (or man or person of any gender) could be proud of herself, her body, and her accomplishments; could be self confident and show her body in a flattering pose as an expression of her self-confidence.

So what our beloved radfem is doing is taking away Ms Mullins' agency and right to define and control herself, in the same way that right-wing pseudo-xtians do. The vocabulary may be somewhat different, but the overall concept is the same - "You must submit your free will to my ideology".

Said blogger didn't seem to think about the fact that the photo in question was taken by, and owned by, Ms Mullins herself. That one fact makes a big difference.

I am femme; I do like to wear clothes that are attractive; I do wax my brows and paint my toenails. But, I do it for me, not to "pornalate" myself for the benefit of men, or whatever. I've spent too much time being ashamed of that, and of subsuming my femininity to meet some narrow, rigid, utopian definition of feminism.

As far as the disability issue, I've not got much to add. I have a chronic pain condition that is mostly hidden, but occasionally makes walking difficult when it flares. I'm in the odd position of being as clueless about ableism as your typical able-bodied person, but being really able-bodied (unless one considers being awakened by pain 5 times a night able-bodied).

RachelPhilPa said...

Ouch...must learn to use preview...that last sentence should read "I'm in the odd position of being as clueless about ableism as your typical able-bodied person, but not being really able-bodied...

R. Mildred said...

Meh, the only hawt prosphetic legs are those cheetah leg thingies.

Why on earth you'd want an actual leggy leg with that as a possibility beats me.

I am also unsure why it's impressive that she's got a long list of qualifications that are in no way impeded by her not having any legs.

OMG she has no legs, therefore...her ability to use her brain is remarkable!
Someone was holding their anatomy diagram upside down when they wrote that peice.

arrogantworm said...


OMG she has no legs, therefore...her ability to use her brain is remarkable!


I've noticed that's a huge problem right there. If someone isn't considered up to snuff by the general population people seem to think whatever's different about them bleeds over into other areas negatively. Kid gloves, dismissal n' talking around said people instead of to them seem to be all the rage.

belledame222 said...

Yeah I agree, but still, I think that in general, someone who's a model, quirky/indie film star, winning athlete AND has a double major degree from one of the better esteemed schools out there, is pretty impressive by anyone's standards.

Mat said...

What really gets me about them making an issue of the fact that she's being photographed in her prosthetics is the fact that, in most common situations, I would never imagine taking off MY prosthetics (which I've worn daily since I was four) for photos, and I imagine any number of them fall into the same category. And mine are carefully crafted to be attractive and stylish. It's a huge business, even.

But I suppose that's different, right?

Zenobia said...

some peoples' brains scare me.

wonder what they'd do with a Rorscharsch test...


They remind me of the Victorians putting skirts on their furniture in case the chairs might start getting it on with each other, or not putting books by make authors next to female authors. I didn't read all 93 comments, but in the picture one of them described as "softcore porn" Aimee Mullins is wearing an entire dress. It might be a short one made of lace, but it's a dress nonetheless.

That attitude does actually remind me a hell of a lot of some particularly whacky missionary kids. I used to hang out with.

Also, "pinkulation"? "pornulation"? Argh! Protect your sanity; defend the English language!

I do like to wear clothes that are attractive; I do wax my brows and paint my toenails. But, I do it for me, not to "pornalate" myself for the benefit of men, or whatever.

Well, there's a distinction between style and "pornularamification" or whatever. And there's nothing to feel guilty about: some of the greatest feminists, such as Simone de Beauvoir for instance, were very elegant and feminine in appearance, but she also risked a hell of a lot, including her own life sometimes, for her writing and activism (she had death threats for her position on abortion for instance), which means a whole lot more than sitting at home blogging in a nun's habit, twirling your chin whiskers.

Cassandra Says said...

Don't forget the Twisty motto - never let an opportunity to sneer at another woman for her sartorial choices under the guise of feminism pass you by.
Gads, she's a self-involved twit.

belledame222 said...

btw, if i hadn't said, welcome, zenobia, glad to have you.

R. Mildred said...

They remind me of the Victorians putting skirts on their furniture in case the chairs might start getting it on with each other

Actually that was because there was people, who of course have no modern equivalent, HELL NO, who would get really offended at the sight of anything that could be described as "legs", which was a really filthy word at the time.

In short, peole where getting offended that their own brain was cussing, and blaming the person who had failed to adequately cover the part of an object that could be described with a cuss word.

Fortunately we live in far more enlightened times.

Trinity said...

"And I don't exactly find her "inspiring," herself"

well y'know

one part of what's difficult for me now that i'm not in radmode is that i see both sides.

i took tae kwon do for several years. it was very very difficult for me. i chose it precisely because my disability made it a challenge. i chose it to face those demons.

and i did well.

when some folks called me inspiring?

did i smell the stereotype in a can?

yeah.

but i also said "thank you."

so i'm kinda tired actually of the critique. because some of us ARE overcoming personal hurdles. and other people knowing you did...

well, it's like the "radfems" saying don't wear pink for the sake of th' wimminz.

it's not really going to profoundly affect other pwd if someone, say, says to me

"hey, that thing you did was a fkn awesome pile of win."

Scarred the Feminist Pit Bull said...

Thank you, Belle Dame, for posting on this article.

This was a damn disturbing article. Its near-subliminal sneering jealousy was petty and trying to **hide** its pettiness. This was necessary and educational about the dark side of the American psyche and the media. I'm glad you threw light on this...

belledame222 said...

hey, that thing you did was a fkn awesome pile of win."

Well, yeah.

I guess it's one of things like, you know, referring to eloquent black writers/speakers as "articulate." Some terms sort of take on a life of their own after being used with particular connotations for far too long and often. But yeah, I suppose you can't really universally codify the -reaction- you as the would-be-Offended-Person are supposed to have any more than any other feeling.

Trinity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trinity said...

"But yeah, I suppose you can't really universally codify the -reaction- you as the would-be-Offended-Person are supposed to have any more than any other feeling."

Yeah. I spent a lot of time reading stories of other PWD who'd dealt with some really hard shit and forcing myself to see only the supercrip thing.

It just made me... artificially angry in circumstances where I really was actually thinking "hey, that's cool."

Or was thinking "wow, this person's story is being presented in some really canned ways and I don't like that... BUT, rock bottom? Yes, that IS cool and IS inspiring."

I felt like I was supposed to not have complex mixed reactions for the sake of liberation so I tried to suppress the "hey, that is cool" half.

Now I'm like... y'know, there *is* a history here and it's bad and I don't like it, but that doesn't mean I'm going to look at every article that says "this person did some cool shit" and see it as obnoxious.

To me there's a difference. There's stuff I find hella annoying (see comments to recent LJ entry on this) and then there's stuff that, well, doesn't much offend me.

And that SI article? Just made me feel good for one of my own, to be totally honest. :)