Ableism and the Music Industry – A Few Thoughts

Here lately I am more and more interested in ableism and able-bodied privilege due to my own personal interests, the growing body of literature in Disability Studies, and in preparation for a solicited article I will be writing here soon on the History of Neurofibromatosis.

For some time, I have noticed that music videos (or other such videos where you directly see the person and band) almost always show the lead singer moving around, excessively moving around. And not just walking around. Not just jumping around. But doing all kinds of stunts, so to speak, too. This has generally bothered me. I find it sometimes distracting. And think how difficult it must be for the person(s) singing – so many things to keep up with at once. Such choreography also sometimes complicates and changes how we read the text of the song. But I digress.

Last night while watching Saturday Night Live during a segment where The Chainsmokers were performing, it hit me for the first time – the music industry, as it is right now and has been, is the embodiment of ableism. We virtually never see a singer who requires a stool or a wheelchair or simply can’t bounce around.

Where are the talented singers with real, permanent physical limitations?

One wonderful thing about YouTube and other such cultural sites of user created, user controlled media, is that musicians don’t necessarily have to have industry backing anymore.

What do you think?

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda