Jenner photoshoot exploits rather than inspires


The Jenner/Kardashian clan seem to be like a bubonic plague in modern media. You can’t turn left or right without seeing a statement, picture, or story about one of the several family members.

I’m not one to “keep up with the Kardashians,” however, word of their antics gets around, and at the level of media coverage they receive, they are almost unavoidable. It’s safe to say that I heard more about Saint West than I heard about pretty much anything else the day he was born.

But having these celebrity lives to follow is kind of like having that slightly problematic relative during the holiday season: they say things that aren’t the best, but it’s harmless right? As proved recently by the youngest member of this infamous family, Kylie Jenner, this is no longer a true statement.

Before continuing, I would like to make the statement that Kylie is 18 years old. She, in the eyes of the law, is a legal adult and, therefore, is accountable for her actions without the excuse of being a child who is unaware or uneducated.

In the December 2015 issue of Interview Magazine, Kylie is the cover story, with an exclusive interview and so-called “art spread” photoshoot. In this spread, Kylie, a person of physically normative condition, posed in and on a gold-plated wheelchair.

Now someone might wonder, “How is it wrong? It’s artistic!” Well, no, it shouldn’t be classified as art, it should be classified as ableism.

Ableism, saving you the google search, is discrimination or prejudice towards those with disabilities. Disability of any shape or form is not a fashion statement.

This piece is not edgy, raw, or bold. This is not provocative, groundbreaking, or a step towards inclusivity.

For Kylie, this whole shoot was just pretend. She can get up, walk away, and continue to live her life never knowing the true meaning of being in a wheelchair.

Disability is not a dress-up game. It’s not an accessory to move past when you finish making your quick dollar.

How is it that when Kylie does this, suddenly the wheelchair becomes a sexual piece, when people who are in wheelchairs daily get infantilized? When people with disability get looked at as broken things?

Using a wheelchair as a symbol for her “limitations” in her privileged life does not accurately portray the disabled community. For most, being in a wheelchair gives them the independence and control that they otherwise might not have.

Trivializing the real emotions and sentiment of those who actually experience disability for the sake of a fashion shoot is wrong. Anyone should be able to see that. She shouldn’t be able to claim that she “didn’t know it was wrong” or “is still learning” because this is basic human decency.

It’s ironic that Kylie has been running an anti-bullying campaign entitled “#IAmMoreThan” in which her followers can submit stories about the struggles with bullying they have overcome. In the article with Interview, she says that she wants to use her media presence to “to bring awareness, to inspire people,” and recently, she featured a woman in a wheelchair.

How can Kylie bring awareness to this woman’s disability when she goes and mocks it on a national platform? That is what this is in it’s simplest form — mockery, imitation — and I can guarantee that no one is flattered.

I am a person of disability. For a very long time I was in a wheelchair and I have no right to talk for those who use a wheelchair every day. Even so, Kylie has managed to disgust me. With everything in the media right now, I didn’t think this was possible.

Disabled Americans deal with this kind of poor representation daily. We have Donald Trump mocking a handicapped reporter in one of his speeches and refusing to apologize. Tourette’s Syndrome gets used as a punchline in jokes that have never been funny. Making a mistake does not make you retarded. Having your locker not looking like trash is not the same as having OCD. When a disabled model is used, it should not be unprecedented. Media should show a representative picture of society, and with over 60 million people falling under the disability umbrella in the U.S. alone, handicap shouldn’t be as much of a stranger as it is.

Frankly, I am tired. I am tired of disability being used to make normative people look openminded or charitable. My disability is not a prop. I am tired of the ignorance and lack of human understanding. The story of Kylie Jenner is one of the many stories of ableism in society, and it needs to come to an end.