With disability / amputees in the media being a peculiar issue, I was intrigued to see a Belgian fellow arm amputee exposing herself for a disability campaign with this message subtitle (in English:) "Look into my eyes ... I said, my eyes".
Of course you cannot just look into her eyes because you really get seriously distracted here:
- She is stunnigly beautiful. One has to look at all of her, not just the eyes. I find it impossible to just look at her eyes.
- She is not just beautiful all around - this is a topless / bra / breast outline exposing photo. Any hormonally driven person will accept her command to say "stare onto my bra and what it contains, please" - but to look into her ... eyes?
- And then there is her short arm. Missing arms and hands are just about as relaxing as missing eyes, lips or noses - not a bit. It really distracts and makes it further difficult to "just" look into her eyes. I cannot even look at images of myself where I am not wearing a prosthetic, I find them not cool at all without prosthetic and they are definitely distracting. A very important role a prosthetic has is to ease interaction by at least releasing some of the tension caused by visual distraction through a missing limb.
So, I am not sure I understand this correctly - but that message and that visual do appear to contain a few - not just one - double binds.
French TV clip:
Here is an interview with her, in English:
And despite her being a charming lady and good looking, I don't think people take away that much from seeing that particular poster. Particularly not in relation to the subtitle that asks the observer to look into the model's eyes (but not elsewhere). Most observers probably will realize "um... that made me stare now, didn't it" - but not much else.
Why is she not fully dressed? Why doesn't she wear a prosthetic? And why can't she a bit more switched on about her actual appearance being so much of a distraction? I mean, if she wanted everyone to look into her eyes, she definitely could have gotten that with a different photo.
On the other hand the poster is relevant - it does allow everyone to look at Tanja being beautiful and disabled and in a way learn that her asymmetry is more normal and unspectacular than may meet the eye. It is just there. Nothing about it really. So after spending a moment getting the visuals adjusted one will say, screw it, I will stare her down now. Bring on these eyes! But things take a moment to take in.
Yet, visuals and subtitles here clash, create contradiction, cause tension. I have a Cafepress.Com shop and there is a T-Shirt that says "made u look".... and *that* is what I call a honest subtitle for distracting and disturbing visuals. Because that is what that poster did - it made me look. And if she had worn blue antlers it would have made me look even more. Really, it made me a bit worried about the future of disability empowerment.