What and How Do You See?
“It is special to see yourself like this. When you usually cannot look at yourself in the mirror.”
It is no secret that mainstream institutions establish and convey the standards and preferences for who we should be, or should aspire to be; standards for who is and should be seen, touchable and touched: white non-ethnic, heterosexual, married with children or aspiring to be, moneyed, lean and fit, able and gender conforming, to name a few.
Advertisers communicate these acceptable standards through the people included and depicted – and excluded and not depicted – in their campaigns. Historically, and to a large extent today, print and digital media contain either images of people, or, in the case of store window displays, mannequins of people, that reflect those values and ideals. These practices have been a topic of discussion in sociology and media studies since the 1970s, and have been a part of mainstream and pop psychology for as long, and of political and philosophical conversations for longer.
Despite the consciousness raising efforts regarding this phenomenon, it persists in all of these arenas, but that is another post.
Still, these discussions provide an opportunity to learn something not only about what you and we do and do not see, but also about how; about your and our collective practice of seeing, and the assumptions and ideals that inform it. You may not even know that there is a “how” to seeing: you may believe, as many people do, that the things that you see – yourself, others – are life as it is.
Fortunately for us, people are using social and other media to turn these standards on their heads, allowing us to learn and experience our ways of seeing through the eyes and experience of people who do not fit the bill.
pro infirmis was founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1920. The organization advocates for and supports people with disabilities through a wide range of programs, including political advocacy and legal assistance. pro infirmis collaborated with writer and director Alain Gsponer and produced this 4-minute video to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which occurs each year on December 3rd.
What and how do you see?