The Problem with Inspiration Porn

“Inspiration Porn” is an increasingly growing, but unfortunate, trend. Inspiration porn can be images, videos, or other forms of media that objectifies people with mental or physical disabilities. These images and videos praise people with disabilities for simply existing and doing things that are typical for “healthy” people. For example:

images

Here are my personal thoughts on why seeing people who are disabled being called “inspiring” bothers me. As a disabled person, it really bothers me when I’m being called an inspiration solely on the basis of the fact that my body looks/ functions differently. My disability is my version of normal, so doing normal things being called “inspirational” is just my version of normal. Calling me an inspiration for doing normal things paints me as a victim of life and glorifies ability. It makes me feel like I have less worth as a starting point in life. “Look at you out and about! You don’t let anything stop you. You are so inspirational.” “Thanks, I’m just getting my groceries though…” I’m not trying to be inspirational, I’m just trying to live my life and do everyday things, just like everyone else. I could be a HORRIBLE person who abused my significant other and stole money, but if a video went viral of me dancing, I’d be an inspirational person, not for my personality, but because of something in which I had no choice in the matter. Stella Young once said, “I dance as a political statement because disabled bodies are inherently political, but I mostly dance for all the same reasons anyone else does: because it heals my spirit and fills me with joy.” I want to be an inspiration because of who I am as a person, not my circumstances in life.

So what are acceptable things to share about disabled people?  Celebrating the accomplishments of someone, whether they’re disabled or not, is okay if the celebration is focused on the accomplishment instead of the disability. If you wouldn’t congratulate a healthy person on the accomplishment, you probably shouldn’t share it when it happens to a disabled person. Stephen Hawking and President Franklin D Roosevelt were famous and influential men who happened to have disabilities. Hawking was one of the most influential people in the world of physics and President Roosevelt was a phenomenal president who did many great things for our country. They weren’t outstanding because of their disabilities, they were outstanding despite their disabilities. Hawking once said he wanted to be remembered as “a scientist first, popular science writer second, and, in all the ways that matter, a normal human being with the same desires, drives, dreams, and ambitions as the next person.”

Inspirational porn is often framed in a light that guilts healthy people into doing things or to try harder. Phrases like the one used in the image I used earlier (“if this disabled person can do it, you can too”) or things like “what’s your excuse for not doing this?” can shame and manipulate a healthy person into feeling bad or like a failure.

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At the end of the day, everyone on earth is just using their bodies to the best of their abilities, and doing so isn’t something to share on social media as “inspirational.”

Interested in hearing more? Comedian and journalist Stella Young put it beautifully in her 10 minute Ted Talk:

 

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