Let’s Talk Inspiration Porn

Again? Yes again.

And again and again until it stops happening.

“These people are active and successful, what’s your excuse?”

– Generic Inspiration Porn

According to Wikipedia, “inspiration porn is the portrayal of people with disabilities as inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their disability. The term was coined in 2012 by disability rights activist Stella Young in an editorial in Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s webzine Ramp Up and further explored in her TEDx Talk.”

The problem is, with the exception of a few disabled folks such as Stella who willingly offer themselves up as PAID motivational speakers, authors, spokespeople, etc, there aren’t very many folks who actually want to be plastered over the internet with messages intended to teach able bodied people lessons or remind them of their privilege. Most of us are just regular people trying to live our lives. We just do some things differently than most people. We accommodate and adapt, because we have to.

I might be grocery shopping in a wheelchair, but I’m still just grocery shopping. It’s great that you’re inspired, but you’re blocking the mac & cheese. Please move. Let me shop. And for Pete’s sake don’t take my photo to show your social media friends you reached something on a high shelf for me, I’m probably not even wearing a bra!

Wasn’t my genuine thank you enough praise for your ego?

“Look at me, an able bodied person, being nice to a person with disabilities! See how great I am?”

Generic Inspiration Porn

We see these stories frequently. Someone invites a disabled kid to prom. Pictures go viral. The Someone is labeled a hero while everybody ignores the disabled person. A grocery employee lets a disabled customer take over stocking shelves for a bit (as unpaid labor). Story goes viral. A six figure college fund is raised for the store employee so he can get a degree and a better job. The disabled customer gets offered a part time position at the store.

“Oh you’re so inspiring! You give me so much hope for my child with disabilities!”

– Generic Inspiration Porn

That one is exceptionally hurtful. When it’s phrased like that it makes it seem like you had no hope at all before. Have hope for your disabled child NOW! That’s how we grow into adults who inspire in the first place; with the encouragement and support of our loved ones behind us.

Our lives as disabled adults are just that: lives as disabled adults. We weren’t doing the things we are now when we were your child’s age. We can’t even compare our lives now to our own lives at that age, so please don’t compare your child’s abilities with our abilities as adults. Your child is on their own timeline, with their own set of struggles and strengths. Their own perseverance should give you hope for their future, not whatever disabled adults are up to.

“Here’s my disabled kid. They’re my super hero but they’re also a huge burden. Here’s a bunch of really private stories about them that actually center me as the martyred parent. Buy our merch!”

Generic Inspiration Porn

A bit more specific, but still generic enough that there’s a certain stereotype. The Martyr Parent genre of Inspiration Porn is probably one of the most cringe-worthy. It’s rare that the child is ever consulted or involved in what content gets approved for public view. There’s limited (if any) privacy. Few topics are off limits.

In many cases it’s essentially cyber bullying, except it comes from a parent, so it’s considered “awareness” and is therefore “ok.”

Except it’s not. Disabled advocates have said over and over again how not ok it is to exploit disabled children and bare their entire lives for the world to see. They deserve privacy and the autonomy to choose what part (if any) of their story gets told. And how it’s portrayed.

Society keeps pushing person-first language, insisting that we call ourselves “people with disabilities” rather than disabled people, because apparently we’re “people, first.” It would be nice if they could remind themselves that we’re people when they’re looking for inspiration.

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