One of the amazing things about the internet and social media is the ability to share information and ideas and our work. It’s also a great way to promote and share the work of others that we love. It is also a way to share things that make you a little bit crazy and a little bit mad. Although it doesn’t usually bother me to the point I’m frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog just looking for some poor unfortunate soul to go “Here doggie, doggie. Nice doggie,” I’m starting to get a little irritated at the prevalence of “inspiration porn.” What is that, you ask?
“Inspiration Porn” (as applied to disability) also known as “cripple porn” : A story or image of an individual or group with a disability that emotionally moves or inspires others (usually non-disabled individuals) due to the perceived achievement or perseverence of the disabled individual over the obstacle of continuing to live each day.
Yes, there’s more than a little sarcasm in that definition. I ought to know since I just wrote it. 🙂 I know far too many people with disabilities who truly are exceptional and inspirational, but they’d be just as fantastic and amazing without their disability. Living your life, like everyone else, doesn’t make you inspirational so why should it make someone with a disability the best thing since sliced bread? (And by the way, because I cannot resist the lure of history, sliced bread first hit the shelves in 1928 in Chillicothe, Missouri.)
Yes, I recognize that having a disability can make life a little more complicated and little more creative due to lack of access, societal barriers, and just plain asshattery, but there are also complications to being a person of color, a woman, GLBT, and poor. There are even people with disabilities who can claim those statuses as well. Their inspiration factor must be incredible! (Okay, I’ll stop the sarcasm, really). But in some ways, it is offensive that someone believes that life with a disability is so utterly miserable, so without happiness, or joy, or value, that just getting out of bed in the morning is a remarkable achievement. If one more person mentions how “brave” I am because I hold down a job, own a home, and can dress with some modicum of style, I think I may spit. Preferably on them.
Last week, I was sent an image of a person in a wheelchair fishing; it was part in silhoutte at sunset – very pretty. From what I could tell, it looked like a great image and as I have a friend who happens to be a wheelchair fisherman I thought I’d send it to him. And then I saw the accompanying text:
“Just because your legs don’t work anymore, doesn’t mean your heart doesn’t.”
I rolled my eyes. I rolled them so hard, they rolled out of my head, across the floor, up the wall and across the ceiling! I won’t entertain you with the expletives that accompanied the eye-rolling on their jaunt around the room. Finally fed up, I decided that I would single-handedly endeavour to battle this behemoth that is “inspiration porn.”
And voila, below is my first effort, as a person with a disability, to take back our images, and take back what it means to be inspirational, and to do battle this subversive trend of seeing people with disabilities as the beaten-down and broken down, as the sad warriors against an evil world, as objects of people’s pity, and recipients of insipid, disingenuous, unearned and unwanted pronouncements of how “inspirational” we are.
Sorry, but I’m a jerk, just like everyone else.
Image: Re-edited image of a man in a wheelchair in silhoutte. Above him are the words, “Just because your legs don’t work doesn’t mean your heart doesn’t” crossed out and in script below it says, “What the hell does THAT have to do with fishing?!” – If anyone knows the copyright owner of the original image, please let me know, as I’d like to appropriately credit the photographer.
And for those of you who came here looking for actual porn….um, no.