I’m a woman and I’ve never read FHM in my life. I’m also a feminist. So I never thought I’d be thanking FHM for anything.
To me, the most important part of my identity is my physical disability. So when I heard last night on The Last Leg that FHM had listed the three hottest female Paralympians, I was very pleased.
When I blogged my pleasure and thanks to FHM, I was criticised on Twitter for my views by a woman who said FHM objectify women. We shouldn’t be objectified, she continued, adding that being pleased about this is a bit like applauding the BNP for deciding to hate a new minority.
So why am I pleased? I’m pleased because by doing this feature, FHM are showing that they recognise that female Paralympians - disabled women - are as beautiful as anyone else. They are showing men that it is all right to look at physically disabled women for their beauty, and to think of them in the same way as they would think of any other physically perfect model in their magazine.
My point in being pleased is that women know that FHM and magazines like it exist. Feminists know that men read these magazines. If they are going to objectify physically perfect women, then why not disabled women?
When I was growing up in the 90s, the view on disabled children falling in love and getting married was still that they never would. We were considered Undateable, unlovable romantically and as for anything else, if it was thought of, many feared that their child’s only chance was a trip to Amsterdam.
Even as late as 2008, a survey of 1044 UK adults by the Observer asked whether participants had ever had sex with someone with a physical disability. The response? Only 4% of those surveyed said yes. Seventy per cent said no, and they didn’t think they would. The other 26% said no, but they would not rule it out.
I have no way of knowing whether any of those adults were physically disabled themselves but if none of them were, then only 4% of adults in the UK would have thought of disabled people in a sexual way - and that was as recently as four years ago. Or it is possible that all of the 4% were physically disabled, which would be even more worrying to me.
Four years later, a mainstream men’s magazine is proudly admitting that it thinks three female Paralympians are beautiful. And, feminists, the photos are perfectly innocent; all three women have kept their clothes on.
Guess what, world? Disabled men probably read FHM too. And disabled women want to be admired for their looks. We want to find love, romance, and yes - even sex - just as much as anyone else.
Now please tell me - am I still wrong to be pleased about the feature?
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