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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Inspiration Porn

"Inspiration: The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something."


Inspiration Porn
is a touchy subject for many disabled people. Most have very strong views on it and are quick to condemn anyone that may indulge in it. Whether it's a picture like the one to the left or someone on the street telling you how much of an inspiration you are for leaving the house, many disabled people and particularly those with obvious physical disabilities will have come across it at one point or another. I've had it many times. Almost every time I have a night out with my sister I get someone loitering around me or eyeing me up, and I know at one point or another they'll pluck up the courage to come over. I also know, unlike for most young women on a night out it isn't because I'm about to get hit on. I know this because a lot of the time it is older men or women. Usually they're drunk and they invade my personal space to tell me "It's so great to see you out, you're the most beautiful girl in the place." Then they'll smile like they've just done their good deed for the day and earned themselves some karma points before walking off. Usually then my sister and I will have a great laugh about the ridiculousness of people. Or the ones that come right out and say, "You're such an inspiration. I can't believe how you're so positive and happy all the time." The subtext to which could be, "Your disabled life must be so terrible, if it were me I would be depressed 24/7."



So I get it. I get why it's annoying. I could very well be offended by the fact that these people assume going out is some great feat for me or that I need to hear I'm beautiful. I could rant about the fact they look so pleased with themselves or the fact some probably just pity me. I could feel objectified that people use us to make themselves feel better or as a way to motivate themselves. I could tell them I have a great, but average life where I do nothing of consequence most days and I'm therefore not an inspiration at all. I could be snarky and show them how stupid I think their attempt at making me their inspiration porn is. But what would any of that achieve?

Instead I try and see it from their, albeit perhaps misguided, point of view. I would say 9 times out of 10 their heart is in the right place. To me intention is everything. I think most of the time they don't even realise what their subtext might imply. And even as a disabled person, there have been times I have been inspired by other disabled people. Likewise there have been times I've been inspired by non-disabled people for getting on with things that I thought I couldn't handle. Isn't that the same thing? Isn't it pretty human to admire those that do things you think you'd struggle with? And don't we often think we'd struggle with a lot of things we might actually handle quite well if put in that position and only realise after the fact?

I think the key thing here is educating people, not condemning or attacking them like I've seen people do. Sometimes I feel a lot of people go in guns blazing when it comes to this stuff. Personally I think that only leads to alienating us further. You might succeed in stopping a person from finding you an inspiration but you may end up making them afraid to interact with disabled people at all in case they say the wrong thing. Most of these people you don't see again but you may have a lasting affect on how they engage with people with disabilities in the future. The ones you will see again, rather than vilifying them for something that may have been a harmless mistake or lapse in judgement, why not take time to show them there's more to you than your disability? I know you might not think it's your job and people should just know but that attitude doesn't improve things either.

I understand why we want to change many of the preconceptions about disability and society's need to brand us as inspirational just for being might be one of those things. But maybe just take a moment and think about the fact many of us do go through a lot. Would we down play it so much had we not been dealt this hand? Would we belittle the daily struggles and achievements able-bodied people take for granted if they weren't our own? I don't think we would, so maybe we should give people a break. Acknowledging things you've been through and what you've overcome doesn't always equate to feeling sorry for yourself or pity.

When someone says to me they don't know how I am so happy and positive, despite what I've been through and tell me they couldn't if they were in my shoes, I always say the same thing. You would, because there's no other option that leads anywhere good. In life you have two options, keep going or don't. And that's applicable whether you're disabled or not. Everyone has struggles or obstacles in life, whether you want to consider your disability as either of those or not. Life is hard. Maybe more of us should be inspired by the little things. It's better than tearing each other down, which is another trait of today's society.

3 comments:

  1. So brilliantly written Sara! :)
    I've had so many people so 'Ohh you're an inspiration' when I was younger I hated it because I saw it as just pity but like you said I'm starting to realise that people mean no harm and a lot of people just aren't educated properly in how it is to live with a disability xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!
      I was actually really nervous about posting this, because I know some people have a really strong opinion on it sometimes. Which I totally understand. But yeah, that's what I think! :) xo

      Delete
  2. Aww you had no need to be nervous, everyone's entitled to their own opinion :) xx

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