chapter  4
41 Pages

Real Little Women

The Multisensory Experience of Dwarfism
ByMarsha F. Cassidy

Lifetime’s Little Women: LA borrows the real housewives’ formula to follow the everyday lives of six dwarf women. In the context of current disability scholarship on performance art and the sensate experience, this chapter argues that LWLA makes possible a multisensory unity with the series’ stars to dismantle cultural presuppositions about little people.

The chapter begins by focusing on the little women’s distinctive mode of movement, as they climb, walk, run, and fall. Next, a discussion of their sexual subjectivity points out their entanglement in cultural biases about feminine beauty and sexiness. A concluding section delves beneath the surface to investigate the inner body and the deeper sensations of discomfort and pain in the little women’s unique experience of conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. Affective empathy with the dwarf body in reproduction intensifies a situated revelation that rouses the viewer to greater knowledge.

Because LWLA exploits reality-style television to give the viewer an unrestricted look at the dwarf body, with all its particularities, this chapter suggests that the series risks reproducing the “stare” of ableism and freak show entertainment. Although at times the series may skirt close to freak performances of the past, the series succeeds in boldly incorporating little women into the televised community of American housewives.