Emma's Summer Contemplations - August 11th

This Sunday’s Crip Camp was about art as a vehicle for change – and maybe more specifically: the political “Disability Art”. During the Crip Camp webinars there are always at least two occasions when participants are asked to answer so called “Fireside Chats”; questions that you are supposed to answer by your own and that are there to stimulate thought and lead to further discussions. This Sunday one of them was:

What are crip aesthetics?

Spontaneously, it feels a bit tricky to talk about a specific aesthetic only valid for crips. Does that entail crips having a certain style, or that crip in itself is synonymous to a certain style? Are there crip mood-boards which you can use when decorating your home or creating new outfits? And if so: what do they look like?

A friend of mine and I often discuss different styles. We have many times found that there is quite a difference between her, as a walking person, and me, as someone sitting down, when it comes to aesthetics. Due to our different abilities we have completely different possibilities concerning our looks. It should be pointed out that when I say “possibilities” I do not mean the physical ability of what you are able to wear – that is all about being a skilled detective when shopping –, but what you in a normative society can get away with. Both of us have seen how I am able to wear much crazier stuff than her, just because I always got the crip card up my sleeve. My (pink) electric wheelchair makes it possible for me to be all swag in golden sparkling skirts, snake patterned silk shirts, necklace on top of necklace, leopard patterned boots, green lipsticks, and heart shaped glasses. Just because Disability is an event already in itself. When I was a kid my motto used to be “give them something to stare at”. But now, as older and – hopefully! – somewhat more aware of the indoctrination in normative ableism, and how that might be expressed by playing according to the premises offered by the non-disabled, I rather think that it is exactly this which might be considered crip aesthetic. Where my friend easily can get “too” spicy, I am all spiced up just by being me, so why not heat it up yet another notch! Not to give the viewer something to look at, but to express myself and consequently my disability identity as well. It is hard to talk about “pride” and “living yourself” in a Swedish context; here everything is low-key and Scandi Chic. But somehow, I am still thinking that that is exactly what I am doing. My reality (if there is even such a thing as a subjective reality – as a theoretical philosophy major, I am not so sure about that…) involves gold sparkly skirts, heart shaped glasses, and spicy lipstick. My reality also contains a pink electric wheelchair.

Maybe that is how I define crip aesthetic. My own mood-board where my wheels most definitely are a part of it, but also all of that extra stuff which I can get away with, unlike my walking friends. Of course, this is something deeply personal. Just as one might wear leopard boots one might wear slippers. The crip aesthetic is hence perhaps better defined by the model of crip identity; how has your crip identity affected your looks? To what extent?

My answer to the question of what crip aesthetics is, would perhaps because of that be:

The very Show in freakshow!

Emma Åstrand

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