If you’re active online, then you’ve probably come across news bits on Madeline Stuart, the 18-year-old Australian girl who has Downs Syndrome and is aspiring to be a model. Madeline’s mother, Roseanne, says, “I think it is time people realized that people with Down syndrome can be sexy and beautiful and should be celebrated.”
While Madeline has received a lot of support in her venture, it is a little worrying to see that someone who could possibly be functioning in a diminished capacity wants to be part of the cutthroat modeling industry. Even more disturbing is this need we have to find everyone “sexy” or attractive.
Even if Madeline succeeds and becomes a model, it will not change the beauty standards that pressurize women to have a certain shape, skin color, height, weight, or facial features. In all likelihood, she will get support and attention for a while until the next viral story overtakes her. Is this all for her own good?
The most pressing issues this raises are – do we want people to find mentally impaired people sexy or hot? Even if someone in a diminished capacity consents to do something, is it true consent? Are we opening the door to people being abused and taken advantage of?
Usually young adults with Downs Syndrome have a mental age of an 8- or 9-year-old. Only about 20% of people with Downs have jobs and even then, they usually need a sheltered work environment. If you keep this is mind, Madeline could already be an inspiration to many because she lives an active life.
I hope that Madeline finds happiness in life and I hope those who are supporting her in this venture will continue to support her no matter how it goes from here onwards. Rejection and disappointment can break down the strongest minds and I hope that never, ever, happens to Madeline.
I’ll let the final word be from Roseanne, Madeline’s mother, “I actually feel sad for people who may never experience the unconditional love of someone like Maddy.” And let the final opinion on the matter rest with the readers themselves.