“Wheelchairs are not a fashion accessory” – Chronic Illness bloggers hit back at Kylie Jenner Photoshoot

By now, we’re getting pretty used to the Kardashian clan trying to break the internet. Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit that the reality TV family like to cause a little bit of controversy in the media.

This week, Kylie Jenner followed in footsteps of her half-sister Kim Kardashian and was subject of a war on social media for a raunchy magazine cover. However, this particular image really struck a nerve with some people, and for good reason too. Why? Because Kylie was pictured sexily draping her body over a gold wheelchair!

The image is one of the three Interview Magazine December/January 2016 covers shot by Steven Klein and runs alongside a feature with Kylie entitled ‘The Surreal Life’.

Since news of the images launched, the online community has gone wild with comments and speculation as to why the quite clearly able-bodied Kylie Jenner was pictured using a mobility aid.

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Chronic illness bloggers have been particularly taken-aback by the release of such images and took to Twitter to let the public know how it feels to use a wheelchair as a part of their lives.

We spoke to four bloggers about the struggles of their conditions and why it was irresponsible of Kylie Jenner and Interview Magazine to let these images be seen by millions of people worldwide.

Beth from Mermaid in Disguise has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, meaning her muscles and joints are loose. This results in chronic pain and constant bone dislocations. She has to use a wheelchair, crutches or a walking stick due to the sheer amount of pain she experiences each day.

Beth said: “I hate the fact that in the Kylie Jenner shoot the wheelchair is just seen as another prop and not something essential in a lot of people’s lives. I also hate how sexualised the shoot was as the disabled community already struggles with being fetished.

“It also angers me that there are so many disabled models out there who cannot get work modelling or in the fashion industry because of their disability but Kylie can just casually use one as a wheelchair as a prop.

“I know many people who are too self conscious to go out in public in their chair because of people staring and even shouting abuse. I’ve been quizzed on my disability and even spat at by kids. Kylie doesn’t have that to contend with when she decided to use one.”

Shona from shonalouise.com agrees with this. She has Marfan’s Syndrome which affects her mobility and means she needs a wheelchair to be able to get around for long periods of time.

Shona said: “The total lack of respect for people with disabilities is what annoys me the most. They wouldn’t do a photoshoot with her having a colostomy bag or a catheter so why is it OK to sit her in a wheelchair?

“If they want to have someone in a wheelchair in a photoshoot then approach one of the amazing disabled models out there who would be more than willing to help, just don’t mock us.”

Tania from When Tania Talks also has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and may have to use a wheelchair in the future to support her mobility.

Tania added: “As a teacher, I’m concerned about the message this image sends out to young people – both able and disabled.

“Can you imagine what a young person goes through when they have to face the fact that they will live the rest of their life from a chair and to then have a celebrity tell them that it’s a limit just adds an extra barrier in their way?

“It also teaches those that are able bodies that their disabled peers are ‘not as good’ or ‘not as capable’ as they are. This is not the right message for young people.

“I am also saddened that the interview on her experiences of bullying, which could have helped a number of people, is being overshadowed by a picture that has no connection to the point of the article. By using this image, the article is actually bullying a group of already vulnerable people – a number of whom will have experienced bullying because of their disability.”

Having a disability has a wider impact on a person’s life than you might think. Sarah from Sarah in Wonderland also has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome along with various other conditions, but also has to deal with anxiety and depression.

The Kylie Jenner images struck a chord with Sarah as she is beginning to lose her independence because of being in a wheelchair, and is currently trying to raise money to fund a power chair so she doesn’t need somebody to help her leave the house.

Sarah said: “I think it’s making a mockery of disabled people that need wheelchairs. She’s sat in her golden wheeled throne, able to get up and walk away whilst we’re in agony or unable to walk.

“Do you know what’s worse? She was dressed up as some weird dominatrix doll, what kind of insinuation is that? I really don’t get it at all.

“I cried my eyes out when my condition got to the point that I’d need a chair, I’m still very conscious every time I go out in it and although I’ve accepted that I need to use one, images like this just highlight everything wrong with ableism. Wheelchairs aren’t props, they’re not fashion accessories, they’re a lifeline.”

Interview magazine reacted to the bad press with a statement as printed in the Mail Online stating: “Throughout the Art Issue, we celebrate a variety of women who are both the creators and subjects of their artistic work, and the Kylie feature aims to unpack Kylie‘s status as both engineer of her image and object of attention.

“Our intention was to create a powerful set of pictures that get people thinking about image and creative expression, including the set with the wheelchair. But our intention was certainly not to offend anyone.”

What do you think? Let us know at @Fashion_North.



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