It’s a lingerie site that has long been more or less secretly the dream of teenage girls. The American brand Victoria’s Secret owes its fortune to a seductive image on glossy paper, a caricatural model of seduction but which hits the mark at the age of entry into sexuality. At least, until the #MeToo era.
Since then, this successful formula has been gradually accused of sexism and, in order to recover from plummeting sales figures, the brand has reviewed its marketing. To echo the times, Victoria’s Secret has therefore recruited women who are supposed to embody diversity: black models, LGBT, etc. Among them, Puerto Rican Sofia Jirau, becomes the first model with Down syndrome recruited by a major brand.
Could this initiative help change the way young people see disability? Some teenage girls approve of the process. At this age so focused on the metamorphoses of the body, a beautiful image would be more effective than a long speech, confirms child psychiatrist Daniel Marcelli: “It is undeniably more effective, to change the representations of a teenager, to show him a person capable of seducing than to tell him “we must accept the differences”. »
Stigma, among the youngest, would have already receded
However, highlighting the beauty of people with disabilities that we want to promote is a double-edged sword. “Showing those who are beautiful is a bit like another form of discrimination, denounces Daniel Marcelli. In my opinion, it is a watered-down and almost cute vision, whereas trisomy 21 is a pathology of certainly very variable intensity but sometimes severe. We will only really promote difference when we are able to present someone unsightly. »
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Other weapons would be preferred in order to change the social outlook on disability, continues the doctor, who argues that the stigma, among the youngest, has already receded. The children he receives would have become more tolerant. Where before they “kept their disabled comrades at a distance”, he testifies again, they now rub shoulders with them more often at school.
Even if much progress remains to be made, children with Down syndrome, or others suffering from autism spectrum disorders, are welcomed into ordinary classes. The media image has also already played its role. The appearance of actors with Down’s syndrome in films or television series has made it possible to attract the sympathy of the public and contributed to breaking out of invisibility. “Also, children with disabilities are much less the object of mockery and rejection than in the 1980s”, greet the doctor.