When people think about feminism, one of the issues that tend to be brought up the most is how women tend to be oversexualized by the media and by others in their lives. Many minority women are often the targets of this over-sexualization, especially women of color and LGBTQ+ women. This issue is talked about so often that people tend to forget that there is an opposite end of the spectrum, and it is more of an issue than most people think. I'm of course talking about women with disabilities and how they tend to be desexualized rather than over-sexualized.
People would tend to think, "well, how is this an issue? Doesn't this technically mean that women with disabilities are seen as people first?" Well, that right there is the problem; they're not. In general, people with disabilities are not seen as people, they are seen as animals or weird mythical creatures that need to be changed in order to fit in with society, or at least, that was how I was seen for most of my life. This is why the desexualization of women with disabilities is just as much of an issue as over-sexualization of women is.
I have mentioned in a previous article that I am on the autism spectrum, so a lot of things that come naturally to other people don't come naturally to me (i.e. social skills and making friends). What I never mentioned was how others would often find me sexy, and once I tell them that I'm on the autism spectrum, they automatically don't think I'm sexy anymore. This was a kind of mindset that not only confused me but also made me feel worse about my autism than I already did. How could a disability be an automatic turn-off to a lot of people?
This has been part of the reason why I've been struggling with self-image issues since I was in middle school, and even more when I got my diagnosis a little bit later. While most of my self-image issues have always been more interior than exterior, it still has affected me terribly and I just wanted to feel beautiful in my own skin. When I was sixteen years old, I was given the opportunity to model at the Access Ridgewood Fashion Show and this was the first time to my memory where I felt hot.
I understand that on the surface, the desexualization of women with disabilities doesn't seem like a problem, but knowing how people with disabilities are treated in society, it is more of an issue than you think. This issue has been the reason why I've been struggling with my body and self-image for so long and why so many other women with disabilities have been struggling with body and self-image. If we stop belittling people down to their disabilities and treating them like human beings, the stigma against people with disabilities wanting to be sexy can end.
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