"Look at me": disability, representation, and the female body

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of New Brunswick


This thesis explores the representations of women with physical disabilities in the media, as analyzed by women with physical disabilities themselves, and then subverts and challenges those representations through the women's construction of new photographic imagery. The goal is to allow women with physical disabilities to participate in the research process, work collaboratively with the researcher, and challenge how women with physical disabilities are represented. The research is grounded in feminist theory, critical disability studies, and arts-based inquiry; and uses methods of focus group interviews and photographs. Participants found the media representations to be complex, containing what they felt were both positive and negative components. The strongest reactions came from sexualized representations of women with disabilities. Discussions also centered on the lack of representations, the importance of including people with disabilities in the design of media representations, and the connection of disability with pain and pity. When it came to the construction of new photographic images, the participants used the photographs as a way of visually expressing their responses to the representations they saw during the focus group. Keywords: disability studies, arts-based inquiry, feminism, visual media, popular culture