Representations of Disability and reproduction




Crista Couture, photo by Jen Squires- image from here 


I found this article a really powerful piece and wanted to share a few words around it- as someone who explores experiences of (in)fertility and who is beginning to examine amputation from a sociological perspective, there was much within the article and its images to inspire . The author of the piece Crista Couture describes not seeing any bodies ‘like hers’ when looking at maternity photos (i.e. images of pregnant women) so decided to make her own pictures, despite not having had professional photos taken without her prosthesis on before. The article, despicts the rationale for these photos as well as sharing the visual outputs such as the one above.

Christa describes ‘it wasn’t just that I didn’t see any amputees in maternity photos — I didn’t see any kind of disability. At all. Or really any other body differences. It turns out maternity photo shoots, like the rest of the depictions of women readily available, abound with thin, white bodies’

When it comes to bodies, the normative depiction is of the entact, sculpted, ‘perfect’ form- the idea that, as Margrit Shildrick (2015) has described, bodies can be ‘leaky’ is absent from such narratives. Bodies that are altered, transformed or different from this pervasive norm are absent from representations within society, not only of bodies, but certainly from reproduction.

The social construction of this norm therefore centres around being exclusionary – the ‘othering’ of any bodies that do not conform to the ‘white, thin’ narrative therefore happens by virtue of the construction of what we see the pregnant female form to be in contemporary society. Whilst we then rarely see the celebration of the pregnant disabled female form, we also regularly do not see the ordinary reality of those who have experienced the loss of a limb through amputation. Amputation by virtue of its defintion relates to removal, of an absecnce or loss, pregnancy on the other hand is a period of creation, growth, of multiplication, Crista’s photographs demonstrate a postive reminder that bodie are capable of adpating, changing, altering and that this is part of their strength.

In producing images that celebrate the corporeal form as it is, Crista Couture and photographer Jen Squires have created a powerful set of images- beautiful in their depiction of the pregnant form, and celebrating the body for its realness. The mono-perspective of the human form serves a minority who identify with such images of perfection and the industries which promote the (often unrealistic) quest to achieve such forms,  whilst reinforcing the idea that all bodies should be prefect.We need to see difference as part of the reality of bodies and only through seeing representations of diverse forms will that be achieved. 


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