What a Body Can Do: Rethinking Body Functionality Through a Feminist Materialist Disability Lens

Authors: Carla Rice, Sarah Riley, Andrea LaMarre, K. Alysse Bailey

A burgeoning body of literature shows a positive relationship between body functionality and positive body image. Although still nascent, research centering experiences of people with disabilities and bodily differences develops this literature. In this article, we offer directions for this research, bringing body functionality into dialogue with feminist materialist disability theory to examine relations between people’s bodily perceptions and the socio-material worlds they occupy. Feminist disability theory re-imagines difference through an affirmative lens, conceptualising body image as relational and processual, and approaching difference through four orientations: difference is basic to the world; difference is not deficiency; difference is not the problem, our inhospitable and ableist world is; and centering difference exposes the mythical norm. We apply this lens to body functionality research, and outline implications for research, practice, and theory, arguing that building a bridge between these frameworks offers a stepping off point for exciting directions for body image research.