Monday, 26 June 2017

Inspiration Porn | What is it & why is it problematic?

Inspiration porn.
Inspiration porn is the calling of people with disabilities inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their disability. The term was coined in 2012 by disability rights activist Stella Young. (wikipedia)

This is a topic that I've wanted to tackle on my blog for a long time but it's one that seems to get quite a negative reaction, mainly from abled people, whenever it is discussed. I've had enough of people not understanding why inspiration porn is problematic though so it's time to give my take and opinion on it!


I started by heading to Twitter to get an idea of who knew what inspiration porn was, especially in terms of abled people and disabled people and the results were just about what I expected. The response of both groups was nearly 50/50 which has made things a lot easier when comparing the results of the two groups. It's important to note that this was only a poll made up of 255 people, a very small size and it's likely that the people who follow me are more likely to know what inspiration porn is compared to those who don't follow me. Just something to keep in mind.


I was very happy to see that 67% of those that responded did know what inspiration porn is, with 33% not knowing what it is. The split between the 2 groups was completely expected though, 26% of those who responded and considered themselves abled didn't know what it was compared to just 7% of those who responded that considered themselves disabled. Not surprising at all. 23% of those who responded who considered themselves abled said that they did know what inspiration is, however I honestly expected this figure to be much lower due to the response I get when I point inspiration porn out. People often don't understand why I have a problem with an article usually along the lines of 'guy asks disabled girl to prom, isn't he great.' Such an article is problematic because suddenly this scenario is inspirational because it is a disabled girl involved, a person that society expects and believes not to be a desirable date.

Disabled people are also often used to show abled people that they can do anything. When the Olympics and Paralympics came to London in 2012 there were plenty of examples of this. Messages of 'if disabled people can play sport then you can too' were littered everywhere and people were baffled when disabled people declared them as problematic. Time and time again we speak up about how disabled people do not exist to prove that anything is possible or to make abled people feel better about themselves. But, inspiration porn just keeps on happening again and again.

Quite simply, disabled people do not exist to inspire you.

I bet you've seen and probably even shared those memes on Facebook along the lines of 'the only disability in life is a bad attitude' and photos of young children on prosthetics running. The first word that comes to people's minds when they see images like them is 'inspirational' because society assumes that being disabled is a bad thing and because of this we get memes of disabled people with the caption 'still smiling' because apparently, we don't have anything to smile about. Personally, my disability is my unique selling point and has actually gained me some pretty incredible things in life including being invited to contribute to an actual published book. That never would have happened without my disability so I have plenty to smile about and I'm not smiling despite my disability like some people think. Actually, I'm smiling because of my disability.

As I said above inspiration porn is also often used to make abled people feel better about their lives. Inspiration porn is often used to suggest that abled people don't have it so bad in life because after all, you could be disabled. Again, this comes from the idea that it is a bad thing, if not the worst thing ever, to be disabled.

I truly don't think I'm all that good at verbalising my thoughts on inspiration porn and why it's problematic though so let me direct you towards some people that are much better at doing so. As mentioned above Stella Young was the one that coined the term and her Ted Talk about the issue is probably the best piece of media about the issue that I've ever seen, go have a watch!

I really love this post titled Explaining Inspiration Porn To Non-Disabled People, it's set up as a Q&A between a disabled person and an abled person and it explains what inspiration porn is, why it's bad and it's roots really well.

Disabled activist Dominick Evans also wrote a really good post about inspiration porn in 2015 and his words hit the nail right on the head.

Mik Scarlet, a disabled broadcaster, journalist, actor, musician and all around amazing human, also recently wrote a post about inspiration porn in which he outlined when it is okay to be inspired by disabled people, have a read!

I'll leave you with this quote from the fabulous Stella Young: My everyday life in which I do exactly the same things as everyone else should not inspire people, and yet I am constantly congratulated by strangers for simply existing.”
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