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You Don't Need all Your Limbs to be a Badass. Or a Role Model.

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I find it exciting when a ‘first’ happens in this giant global culture of ours. We’ve already done so many things. We can fly, transplant organs, vaccinate against disease, send people into space (and get them back!) and visually communicate with someone thousands of miles away. In the US, all adults now have the right (theoretically, anyhow) to vote! When I was younger, I thought we humans had our shit together. HA!

When I got to college I started to realize how much parts of my identity were, as I was realizing they *were* part of my identity, being mis- and underrepresented. I was in awe when I met one of my professor’s partner and adopted kids. A family with same-sex parents was something I’d never actually *seen* in person, it was a (premium cable) TV story line. I also had absolutely no clue that it was possible to love my body as is; that I didn’t have to be thin to be worthy of love and respect. I did have vestiges of disability and womanhood not being HORRIBLE, but that was also a mixed bag.

That is why I’m excited about Viktoria Modesta & her new video. In it, Viktoria, a person with a partial leg amputation is seen as a role model. Not a role model for other disabled people, but someone that all people aspire to be like. Period. Full Stop. No qualifiers needed. No attempt at making her inspiration porn. She is just a bad ass fighting for the people, against what seems to be a version of current the Russian government that does things like trying to ban homosexuality or jail a female punk band for denouncing Putin the Orthodox Church. People look up to her not because of or in spite of her disability, but because she advocates for herself. Yes, her disability might be the reason she needs to advocate, but that doesn’t define her. As much as this video is related to her missing leg (it is a visual focus), it is so much more about the fact that she is a powerful person.


                                    Images from Prototype video

She is also shown as a sexual being without being fetishized. This too, is rare. During the second verse she lying on and writhing around in sheets. The next scene is of her on a sexually-charged naked kiss. In context with the kissing scene, it seems to me that she was receiving head while singing the verse. Receiving oral pleasure is often seen as the dominant role in that act. Once again, she holds the power. The next visual is her, after they are finished, getting sorted and her stump is exposed to the audience to see. This normalizes her power. She too, no matter how badass she is, still has to get herself together after sex. It is an excellent mix of qualities that are worthy of being a role model. Strength and vulnerability. Win.

While there is plenty of great take-away here, I feel it is important to be critical of things too. She has a pretty standard model-body. That gives her a big swath of privilege regardless of her missing limb. If she were fat, then I would be yelling about if from the rooftops, not composing a blog. The video is also done as part of an ad campaign for Uk’s channel 4. While I don’t think that necessarily takes away from the message, it is something to be aware of going forward. Lastly, in doing some research on her I found this quote, “By being positive with a strong spirit and not showing cliché signs of self pity, victimization or demanding special treatment, I really believe there is a chance for disabled people to get the respect and acknowledgement they most desire”. WTF? No! Not cool. As Stella Young says in that link gave about inspiration porn (seriously, watch it), “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp”. Overcoming disability isn’t just about attitude, it’s about the fact that the world is structurally limiting for a lot of people. Being a positive person won’t change that. I hope that Viktoria realizes her error and changes her message.

Even in light of these issues, this video still has a lot of value. Watching it, as a disabled person, it made me happy. It wasn’t so much about inspiration in relation to my own disability as it was cheering a long to the fact she was giving the finger to her oppressors. That is definitely something I relate to.

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