This is a bit of a sensitive topic, and I hope I won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. I have a lot of respect for the women I wrote this post about, and I don’t mean to demean them; but I think their stories are an important indicator of a lot that’s wrong with our society.
Oh boy. Am I the only one who found that viral article about the aspiring model with Down Syndrome…kind of disturbing? The girl is lovely, and her courage and intentions to fight discrimination are admirable; but I feel like she is really not helping the situation. Her mother says “she really wants to change the way people discriminate against disability,” and “it is time people realized that people with Down syndrome can be sexy and beautiful.” Is becoming a fashion model really the way to go about that? I kind of doubt that anyone impressed by her portfolio is suddenly going to see the inner beauty in every other person with Down Syndrome, including the less fit and stylish ones. I’d expect more of a voyeuristic response, along the lines of one headline: “She lost weight so she could become a model. Wait till you see her ‘after’ photos!”
I have a similar reaction to the size 22 model who made the cover of People Magazine. I’m not sure if she’s really changing people’s opinion about the beauty of overweight women so much as she’s changing people’s opinion about the beauty of beautiful, fashionable, make-up-plastered overweight women. Her slogan is “eff your beauty standards,” but I don’t see how she’s really doing that. She may be widening the beauty standards a bit, but not enough to include the majority of us, who don’t have a strikingly beautiful face and a lot of cosmetic talent.
Does inner beauty count more than outer beauty? Of course. Are people with Down Syndrome or fat people often seen as inferior? Yes. But I really don’t see how these women are going to change people’s beauty standards by conforming to them. Instead of protesting the culture that values nothing but sexiness, which is the culture that idolizes the modern fashion model,
these women are looking for acceptance by joining that culture. In effect, they’re saying, “I object to the idea that only beautiful, sexy, fashionable women are valuable. And I’m protesting by making myself as sexy and fashionable as possible.” If the girl with Down Syndrome were to share just her “before” photo, no modeling agencies would be interested in her inner beauty. So why is she playing by their rules?