Why You Should Stop Spreading Inspiration Porn

There’s a strange phenomenon on the internet that we, in the disability community, refer to as “inspiration porn.” The general idea of this is where abled people use pictures of disabled people to exclaim how inspirational they are simply for existing, or using it to guilt abled people into trying harder because if a disabled person can brush their teeth, then surely you can do anything

A shining example of inspiration porn being used to guilt abled people.

In the interest of full disclosure, before I became disabled, I didn’t realize how harmful this was. I fully admit that I participated in perpetuating this. I’m positive I shared a viral inspiration porn post at some point in time, and used it to inspire me to push harder. So, understand that this post isn’t to vilify people for taking part in inspiration porn but, rather, to show people how harmful it actually is so that you can learn to do better.

Why is inspiration porn harmful? Well, for one, having a disability or chronic illness does not automatically make you a morally righteous person. Just this past week, people watched in shock as Sen. John McCain returned from his cancer treatments to vote to proceed with hearings that could have potentially removed care from millions of Americans. The idea being that because he was sick, he would suddenly change his views and sympathize with the poor, disabled, and ill people in the country.

Bad people get sick, too. Disability doesn’t equal morality.

Inspiration porn objectifies disabled people. It is absolutely wonderful to celebrate the accomplishments of disabled people, just as it is to celebrate the accomplishments of abled people. However, when images of disabled people are accompanied by slogans such as, “what’s your excuse?” or “your excuse is invalid” disabled people aren’t being lifted up or celebrated. We’re being used as a tool to guilt abled people into trying harder.

Are you sure about that??

It ignores the fact that there are many different types of disabilities and perpetuates the assumption that disabled people shouldn’t be able to do anything. This just is not true. Take the pictures here of people running with prosthetic limbs. Their disabilities allow them to run with the help of aids. I don’t need prosthetic limbs, but my disability keeps me from running due to wild heart rate fluctuations and dizziness. Yet, the effect of these images leads people to say things such as, “well, did you see that picture of the little boy with no legs who competed on a track team? He’s disabled and can still do stuff like that, so why can’t you?” Well, Brenda, because we have different kinds of disabilities which allows us to do different types of activities.

It puts pressure on disabled people to think that they have to be an “inspiration” to matter. It’s not enough to live our lives and learn how to work with our disabilities, we also have to inspire millions of abled people to recognize how “lucky” they are to be abled. It sends the message that if a disabled person is capable of completing simple tasks, then abled people should be able to do 1000 times better. It’s like saying, “hey, watch out abled peeps, disabled people are accomplishing things which makes them look equal to us, so we need to work harder because we’re obviously better and more capable than they are at everything.” Yes, everything. I have seen images of a disabled person getting dressed accompanied with the message of “what’s your excuse,” because, apparently, abled people are also supposed to be better at getting dressed than disabled people.

Hey! Look at this person being a decent human being. Let’s make him a hero!

It acts like people are heroes simply for treating disabled people like human beings. Disabled people date. We have sex. We fall in love. We get married. We have kids. These things aren’t happening in spite of our conditions, our conditions are part of us. Being disabled doesn’t make someone automatically unworthy of love. I often see images being shared around social media, like the one posted here, that makes a hero out of anyone who recognizes that disabled people are human beings and treat us as such. You shouldn’t treat disabled people humanely just to be thought of as a hero, you should do it because we are human beings with the same inherent value as every other being on this globe.

(There’s a great hashtag on Twitter, #disabledandcute, which I highly recommend checking out. It’s great proof of just how beautiful, sexy, gorgeous, and handsome disabled people can be.)

And, finally, perhaps the most harmful of all the effects of inspiration porn, is the notion that our lives aren’t worth living. When someone tells a disabled person “you are so inspiring, I don’t know how you do it, I couldn’t live like that,” what they are telling us is that they see our life as miserable and unworthy. We are essentially being told that we are inspiring just because we haven’t killed ourselves. You want to know one of the hardest things about being disabled and chronically ill? How we are treated and viewed in society.

We are not your cautionary tales or reminders to be grateful for your abledness. Images of a person who has been disabled by an accident that includes a line saying “be thankful for what you have because you never know when you may lose it” is another way of turning disabled people into tools of inspiration for abled people. It’s another way of saying that our lives are worthless and sad.

This idea that our lives are less meaningless than abled people’s lives is something we have to fight against every day. Abled people treat the word “disabled” as if it’s a slur, and it’s not because of how disabled people view the word. It’s because of how abled people view our lives. When I first got sick, I struggled to refer to myself as disabled, and had many people say things like, “don’t give up, you’re not disabled” as if admitting my physical limitations was a way of giving up on life.

Wading through a sea of messages telling me that my life is unworthy doesn’t make me feel strong or brave for living it, it makes me feel like my life has less value. Believe me, I hate being sick. I hate having constant pain. I hate having to face new limitations that get in the way of what I used to be able to do. But, I absolutely believe my life is worth living. I am fortunate enough to have an amazing life partner and feisty daughter. I have an awesome support group of friends, both online and face-to-face. I have things that I’m passionate about and I’m finding ways to continue to do them, in one way or another. And I love who I am as a person, and that includes my disability.

 

 

© 2017 spooniewarrior.com

SaideeWynn

I am a mother, partner, teacher, daughter, writer, and blogger. I'm working on turning my private hobby into a public one, whether the public asked for it or not. I have a BA in theatre and a Master's in Education (with a Montessori integration), making me a highly overqualified internet ranter.

10 thoughts on “Why You Should Stop Spreading Inspiration Porn

  • July 29, 2017 at 1:39 am
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    There are, unfortunately, a lot of problems in our society. Objectification is used everywhere, and not just on disabled people. It’s used on especially women.

    Another frustrating problem that you pointed out is the comparison this creates.

    Why can’t people be treated as INDIVIDUALS? I, personally, don’t like the phrase to treat someone as a Lady or a woman. The reason is because not all women are the same. Just because I’m a girl, doesn’t mean I like “girly” stuff. I’m an individual, and I’d rather be treated by my individual likes than what society says a woman likes.

    Well, the same things happen to us chronically ill. Supposedly all us chronically ill are “this way”. Supposedly, our illnesses are visible.

    Well, they aren’t!

    I love how you pointed these things out!

    Thank you.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2017 at 7:47 am
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    You’re a very brave woman, Sarah. Thanks for speaking up and sharing your heartfelt thoughts and views on what disability means. Do you have a suggestion of words or phrases that abled-people can use to replace offensive phrases, statements or questions such as the ones you mention here in the article? I ask so that I can learn to speak genuinely without offending. I admit that I’ve used some of these phrases in the past, and although well-intended to help disabled people feel better, I never realised the harmful effect it has upon those for whom I’ve uttered the words. Sharing your honest thoughts here will help educate me into becoming more sensitive to those who are less abeled.

    Reply
    • July 30, 2017 at 3:18 am
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      I love that you are open and willing to learn, as many people close off when these things are called out and simply declare that we have the problem. As far as things to say, it’s hard to pinpoint exact things since we are such a diverse group. Lol

      For the most part, we don’t need our disabilities pointed out. We need acknowledgement in the way of accessability (esp if you are planning an event somewhere, making sure it’s wheelchair accessible means a lot), but typically we want to just be talked to like you would any abled person. Part of the issue is that society views disability as so negative that people are trained to look at it as such a negative thing that people must try to overcome. I think that’s one of the things that compels us to tell disabled people that they are inspirational, bc we believe that living with a disability is so bad. But, it honestly wouldn’t be as bad if society didn’t view it so negatively.

      A lot of people have to instict to treat disabled people as “special” but we’re just regular ole Joe’s just with different limitations (but don’t use the phrase differently abled bc most of us hate it, lol). So, in short, listen to your friends for what they need/want, don’t call us inspirational unless we are actually doing something inspiring, and just talk to us like you would any one of your abled friends. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t say words of encouragement when we’re hurting, or feeling down, or feeling really sick (just like everyone else), but we don’t need to be encouraged to get through our every day life. I hope that helps and made sense. Lol I practically wrote a whole new post just in this comment!

      Reply
  • July 30, 2017 at 8:55 pm
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    My favorite was when I was home from school yet again and watching some dr. phil-like show where a kid with cancer was mountain climbing, and my father told me that if she could do that, then I had no excuse for being “lazy”. Like, forgive me for being chronically malnourished and exhausted and not having the resources like Make-A-Wish like she did.

    Reply
    • July 31, 2017 at 1:34 pm
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      I am so sorry you have to deal with that! It’s not okay, at all. And I’m sure they wouldn’t show the massive amounts of pain that kid was probably in afterwards and the weeks of recovery it took.

      Reply
  • August 7, 2017 at 6:12 pm
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    Certainly there are many imperfect people on all sides doing what they believe is right. As the saying goes many do good few do it well.
    I believe some people cam be cured. Is it pornographic and onsensitive to those who havent been cured to advocate for cures and believe in cures. I certainly believe in cures and successfully advocated for curative research in the national pain strategy. Some people in pain might argue money for cures would be better spent on managing pain. They argue people who advocate for cures dont understand that pain is incurable.
    Itstoo easy to fall into viscious circularity of reasoning in painful conditions.

    Reply
    • August 9, 2017 at 3:44 pm
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      I’m not arguing against cures for diseases or pain. If a cure exists, then that is spectacular. If I could end my daily pain, I would. What is harmful is when the only stories being told about disabilities are the stories of people being “cured,” which sends a harmful message that a) all disabled people should want to be cured (which isn’t true), b) if you aren’t “cured” then you’re doing something wrong bc others have done it, and c) that the only thing that makes a disabled person’s life worth living is if they’ve overcome their disability. We absolutely should celebrate even the smallest victories, whatever those might be, but we also need to see stories centered around disabled characters where the story line isn’t about overcoming their disability. At this moment in time, not everything has a cure that has been discovered. So, to assert that only disabled people who are able to “cure” themselves are worth noting, is incredibly harmful to all of the people who live with disability every single day.

      Reply
  • August 10, 2017 at 12:44 pm
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    I agree with most of what youve said. There is nothing morally wrong with someone who isnt cured or even with someone who doesnt wish for a cure. A persons worth should not be based on whether they have an illness or not. The critical issue ive raised is whether and to what degree government should focus on cures or treatments to manage illness. Currently with the exception of conditions like cancer and hiv government has neglected the issue of cures as robert dworkin stated in the federal pain research strategy and there are many researchers and organizations who are not interested in cures. Their focus is on new and improved management of illnesses.
    I have taken the position that we should
    Explore the issue more fully and fairly and ask people if they want research on cures and if so how much money should be spent on such.

    Reply
    • August 10, 2017 at 3:36 pm
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      I completely agree that funds and resources need to be devoted to finding cures for chronic illnesses. I’m sorry if I made it sound as though I didn’t or as if I thought it was wrong for anyone to wish that.

      When I refer to inspiration porn, I don’t mean sharing real stories of people living with disabilities to show what life is like with disabilities or even posts/information that is highlighting research or possible cures. I’m referring to graphics, like the ones above in the post, where abled people use images of disabled people to either “inspire” abled people to work harder, or hold it against other disabled people as “well, they can do that, so why can’t you? You just aren’t working hard enough,” or in a “be grateful for what you have bc, like this person, it can all be taken away.” None of those are helpful to either abled or disabled people. They inherently devalue disabled lives and turn us into objects to be used as they see fit. That’s incredibly harmful to disabled people everywhere.

      The only time I have issue with someone sharing things about a “cure” is if the so called cure isn’t well researched or documented and is essentially snake oil that they are trying to sell to people already hard up for money. Then, when it doesn’t work, they tell us that we must not have used it correctly or worked hard enough at it, again putting the blame on us for our illnesses. Those aren’t cures, those are scams that are spread around as cures by people who aren’t living with chronic illnesses or chronic pain. But real actual research based cures? I’m all for that!

      Reply

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