Today, Paulette Leaphart began a 10-week long, shirtless walk from Mississippi to Washington D.C. as a way to bring attention to the shame around women’s bodies and disabled bodies. Leaphart has had a double mastectomy, and she wants to push back against strict definitions and bodily requirements of femininity and beauty, and instead embrace self-definition. She also wants to present an image of breast cancer that is not “a pretty pink story wrapped up in a pretty pink bow”, not white, conventionally feminine, and relentlessly upbeat.
Here is an article about her walk and the documentary about it: (CW: mentions of child abuse) http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/04/30/meet-the-woman-walking-1000-miles-topless-with-double-mastectomy-scars/
When I saw the title of the article, I was worried that it would be ‘inspiration porn’ about how brave she is for having had a double mastectomy, and for being a cancer survivor. And there is some of that, but mostly the article represents the walk as Leaphart’s self-determined activism for her own goals. She wants to encourage other people to celebrate and talk about their scars, and perhaps be less ashamed about their bodies after seeing someone with scars like them. Beyond documenting Leaphart’s walk, the film is collecting other people’s stories about their scars, both visible and invisible. This project seems not to shy away from the painful part of disability and trauma, which is frequently not the case with mainstream narratives around survivors. It is meant to primarily impact disabled people, not be an inspiration.