Because I’ve seen a lot of it lately in my news feed and am getting fed up with all the comments under each video, I am going on a little rant about “Inspo-Porn”. Inspiration porn is when disabled people are portrayed as ‘inspirational’ or ‘extraordinary’ due solely to the fact that they live life with a disability. Often pictures or videos are captioned “What’s your excuse?” or “Despite [insert mental or physical disability] they are pushing boundaries!” when all they did was take a dance class or something. It makes me ill.
Now, I love a good deed, goals being achieved, or a cute promposal as much as the next guy. But it becomes a problem when the person doing the good deed is idolized simply because the recipient has a disability. It becomes a problem when the ‘goal’ is doing something ordinary, like getting through a medical procedure or getting good grades in school. It becomes an issue when people think “The only disability in life is a bad attitude”.
I am not ‘inspiring’ for going about my business. I am not ‘courageous’ because I had a good day. I don’t want strangers praying for me because they saw some video of me being me. I DO have a disability and it does, in fact, disable me.
Inspo-porn reinforces the ableist view that disabled people should be praised and glorified for doing what they do everyday. That some how, because they are disabled its an accomplishment or some great achievement just living. And yes, I understand everyone’s limits are different. What may be physically impossible for one disabled person may be probable for another if they work hard at it. And it could be completely doable for another without any restrictions. But I want to be rewarded for the goals I achieve WITH my disability, not despite it. Like graduating, earning a bachelors, or maybe one day having a great job. I don’t need to be rewarded by others for standing in line longer than usual, taking a test with a migraine, or being able to go to prom sans cane. Those ARE things that I struggle with don’t get me wrong, sometimes I can do them and sometimes I can’t. But they are not award worthy simply because I did them as a disabled person.
I’m not saying I don’t count little victories as victories at all. I will certainly reward myself and give myself a high-five for managing to get out of bed on a high pain day. But you don’t need to tell me how ‘courageous’ and ‘inspiring’ and ‘blessed’ I am for doing so. Would you throw a ticker tape parade because your teacher started class on time or your sister walked to the other side of the house?
Let me celebrate my victories, little or monumental. Do not exploit them so you can have a ‘cutsie, feel good’ video on your timeline. especially with disabled children. Sharing that video or posting that ableist comment is tearing away that child’s dignity, their privacy. I recently deleted a post I shared because I realized that the little girl in it was being exploited. The video of her singing to help calm herself during a medical experience was morphed into a messed up message of disabled people being sub-human. Whoever filmed the video, whatever their original intentions were, allowed it to be turned into something that catered to ableists and their agenda. Personally, I think the original video is cute. Not because she is “so brave” for enduring a medical procedure, but because of her incredible voice. She can sing! And no, she isn’t singing ‘despite her blindness’. She is just singing as herself, for herself. If you absolutely have to congratulate her for something, congratulate her on having a beautiful voice at such a young age.
To my abled bodied readers, I hope you now understand how these videos can make the disabled community feel. You don’t need to congratulate every, single accomplishment, we can do that for ourselves. You especially don’t need to reward someone for having human decency and treating disabled people like actual humans. That should be expected. Unfortunately, in so many places, it isn’t. Disabled people are people, bottom line. Inspo-porn videos only invalidate our struggle for acceptance, for inclusion, and for accessibility. Value people for their personality, their talents, what they bring to the world be it friendship or course changing ideas. Value people because ALL people have value.