Posted: Dec 06, 2013 10:30 AM
 
Zurich storefronts are using "disabled" mannequins to promote awareness. This new concept of beauty is offensive to some, and I'm OK with that.

Many times I've admired department store mannequins, even wished I was shaped a little more like them. I know that they aren't a good representation of what a human looks like, and I know they just feed into our unhealthy view of beauty, but still… I think they're nice to look at.

They were made to be perfect, and the imperfect ones are tossed out.

I select an outfit from the display, but once again in the changing room I'm frustrated to find that the neck opening is too big for my narrow, sloping shoulders. The sleeves are too long for my short arms. I have a physical disability, and mannequins cannot be trusted. It's not their fault, really. They were made to be perfect, and the imperfect ones are tossed out.

What an amazing thing to see this video on Jezebel. Jung von Matt/Limmat, a German agency, worked with fashion stores to create a line of mannequins that is startlingly imperfect, but undeniably beautiful. Watch the video:

These mannequins aren't what we'd define as "pretty." Even I find them to be shocking. They aggravate my sense of beauty. I have been trained in a certain aesthetic… disabled mannequins (or should I be politically correct and call them "mannequins with disabilities?") do not fall within the very narrow scope of what I've been brainwashed into believing is beautiful.

As I look at these mannequins, all I can think of is Picasso, and his wild, fantastic interpretation of beauty. Everyone with a disability is struggling. Struggling for independence. Struggling for respect. Struggling against the status quo. Struggling to find just one lousy shirt that fits right. And struggle isn't pretty to watch. It's hard for us to look upon a body struggling to stand upright and be fine with it. It's so uncomfortable that often, I believe, if we can't fix it, we'd rather not see it.

But these mannequins, in Zurich storefronts, ask us to rethink what is beautiful. These are not the deceptive molds we usually see… these mannequins can be trusted. They are reality. Because the reality is that even models get photoshopped to hide cellulite. The reality is that no one is shaped like a Barbie. The reality is that human beings defy molds… plastic or otherwise. We cannot be constrained to a series of measurements. Inches (or lack thereof) do not make us beautiful.

Because the reality is that even models get photoshopped to hide cellulite. The reality is that no one is shaped like a Barbie. The reality is that human beings defy molds… plastic or otherwise.

The beauty here, as I see it, is that people love each other enough to deny the expectations of their own industry. How beautiful, the dignity that Jung von Matt/Limmat and the participating department stores are granting to people for whom dignity is such a precious commodity. How beautiful, the expressions of those who are seeing their bodies as admirable, perhaps for the first time.

I'd even go so far as to say that the looks of shock and disgust from store passers-by are beautiful. Maybe they pass this store every day, and maybe each day their disgust lessens, even if just a little. Let these mannequins wear us down. May they redefine normal for us. May they keep us from double-taking at the next wheelchair or prosthetic limb. Let these new molds offer us a good look at reality. Let's stare at them, since they won't mind. Then, maybe when we see this reality in flesh and blood, we will just think, "I saw this dress once that would look great on her!"

More on diversity

I can't tolerate the word "tolerance"
What we've learned from MLK
Did you just call my son "disabled?"

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