Saturday, 28 September 2013

Feminist critique of Guinness ad featuring wheelchair basketball

Below is my response to the Ramp Up Article on the new ad by Guinness, which can be found Here

There is another aspect to this ad which has not been addressed above but is of real interest to me as a person with a disability and as a disability feminist; its portrayal of masculinity.

The ad plays into stereotypical notions of masculinity, it seems to be saying ‘even though you’re disabled you can still be a real man!’ and this is problematic for a number of reasons, not least being the adoption of almost hyper-masculine identity as one of the few ways men with disabilities are shown in the media. It dichotomises gender once again and sends the message that the only way you can assert your gender identity (as it is often over-shadowed by disability) is by enacting it a particular way, if you want to be read ad ‘still’ a man, you must do the following; as the men in the ad are shown to do:
The men’s masculinity is demonstrated by doing the ‘manly’ thing of sport together, running into each other aggressively and having a beer at the end of it all. I do think this is reflective of some men’s experience who are in chairs, and as a woman who is a wheelchair user and has played basketball with ‘the boys’, I know this to be true. However, I have an issue, as I said above with gendered stereotypical representations being the few ways we see people with disabilities, when at all, in the media. 
As an aside but an extension of this discussion of masculinity; the ways we see disability and sexuality and masculinity in the media it is almost always in the context of men needing sex-workers to fulfil their ‘manly’ desires. Where does this leave women with disabilities, except to a-sexualise us further then we already are. What does it do for young people with disabilities sexual self-esteem/capacity to pickup when one of the few ways our sexuality is represented is in the context of someone having to be payed to get close to us? I am not anti sex-work I just think that we need to be shown having happy healthy relationships and full lives and this is not happening, we are only shown in very particular ways. It is these narrow ways of having sex and the interconnection of this with gender identity which I think contributes to the feeling of loss which many people post-accident experience; because their bodies can no longer preform compulsory able bodiedness or heteronormativity in the way society values and rewards.
anyway I digress...
I also have been aware when playing basketball with ‘the boys’, that this hyper-masculinity on the court can also be accompanied with a level of sexism towards women (I wont repeat some of the comments I have been subjected to personally). Disability and sexuality is often only shown to be able to be enacted or reclaimed post-accident within a narrow homosexual framework of ‘’I can be a rough and tough as the next guy’’. This is problematic as it reinforces sexism and normative ideas/standards of what we need to do in order to be valued as a friend or lover. Sexuality, like gender, like disability, is complex and influenced by the society in which we live. It would be great if we could see a real diversity in the ways we are represented, so that 16yr old kid who wants to get all excited about that book they are reading could feel that they just as valuable for engaging their mind in ideas as the spots people or athletes are who choose to engage their bodies.

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