The Crippendales is a documentary on Channel 4, which follows a group of men who want to strip. The twist being they all have disabilities.

I watched this programme with trepidation, because I don’t believe stripping is an empowering vocation for men or women, and I certainly didn’t want to see a group of men with disabilities being made fun of or pitied. It’s about the narratives of disability that get to me, which I’ll come back to another time.

I hate the idea of this, but I needn’t have worried. This was one of the rare programmes that covers issues relating to disability, without being unable to see past the disability to the human story beneath. I especially liked the way they recorded one of the men stating that his disability had given him opportunities to grow in ways he had never anticipated before he had developed a disability. It’s rare to see this echoed in popular culture, who seem to prefer the narratives of SuperCrip, TragicCrip, EvilCrip etc. It’s also rare to see programmes like this reviewed in the mainstream press, and so it was great to see this one (and another disabilitypositive) programme reviewed by the Guardian.

Some of the responses on the BBC Ouch forum show how these men were regarded by viewers as sexual beings- and that in itself is a shocking thing to see on TV. The Disableds are not supposed to be sexual beings.

I was considering why I thought it was okay to watch this show, whilst I would not consider it okay to watch a “normal” strip show. And I ended up thinking was about power in society. Perhaps it feels okay to watch this because the physical impairments of the men featured seemed to offset the usual physical strength that is associated with masculinity? In fact, it may be to do with the humerous and cheeky characteristics of the strippers, which ensured the audience of women on hen nights got the combinatoon of sexiness, laughs and the illusion of availability that makes for good strip shows?

This is the website about the film and the Edinburgh Festival show is on August 16th, if you’re going. I wouldn’t usually be hawking a strip show, but in this case I think I’ll make an exception.

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