Monday 16 December 2013

The -ism Series (2): Ableism

The term ableism refers to "a particular understanding of oneself, one’s body and one’s relationship with others of humanity, other species and the environment, and includes how one is judged by others".  Ableism reflects the value and promotion of abilities such as productivity and competitiveness over empathy and kindness. It has historically been used by certain social groups to justify their higher status in relation to "others", to justify a hierarchy and exclusion. The preference for "speciestypical normative abilities" might lead to the discrimination against people with disabilities as less able. This notion rejects the so-called variation of being, the biodiversity, the acceptance and accommodation of the people affected.

Most interestingly, ableism does not only refer to the obvious, to people one might automatically associate with. In fact, sexism is partly driven by ableism as it favours certain abilities and at the same time labels "the biologically fragile, emotional and incapable" woman as not having them. Like sexism, racism (claiming that some ethnic groups are less intelligent, i.e. less cognitively able than others) and other -isms are driven by ableism.

The Swiss organisation "Pro Infirmis" started the rather spectacular campaign "Because who is perfect?" in order to raise awareness for body diversity and the lack of representation of people with disabilities. Five persons with different disabilities were used as models to create mannequins that reflected their bodies. The mannequins were displayed in shop-windows next to the "perfect" mannequins. Here is a four-minutes clip (in Swiss German with English subtitles).

Wolbring, G. (2008) The Politics of Ableism. Development, 51, 252-258
Photos and clip via and via


  1. Beautiful posting, many thanks, Laura.

  2. Lovely project, amazing clip, touching.

    1. It really is. This organisation keeps having "different" ideas and approaches. Wonderful.

  3. This is a very special project, it's really something significantly beautiful and unique.

  4. Indeed, beautiful.

  5. This is in so many ways right and good. Thanks for sharing this here on your weblog.