**** Trigger Warning: Discussion of ableism and inspiration porn…
In the last year, I have come across a term I hadn’t really been aware of in the past. The term is Inspo-porn or Inspiration porn. There are whole websites dedicated to this stuff. A prime example is The Mighty, I won’t link to it as I don’t want to give the site any extra clicks.
There was something of an outbreak of discussion around this issue in disability communities a few months ago. Petitions were started and signed. Attempts were made to engage with particular websites to address the issue, unfortunately, they were fruitless.
I have at times struggled to get my head around what makes something inspiration porn and what makes something just a good story. Today I read a great article making it abundantly clear. Another great perspective is from a personal perspective here.
It’s really easy to get distracted and think this is all about people doing the wrong thing by taking action they believe will be positive in the life of a disabled person. Often this is action taken by a peer. But I think worrying about that is not the issue at all, what is the issue is the reporting. The using of such a story, which may or may not be a story about an action that is positive for the disabled person involved, for the generation of clicks, traffic, and virality. That is what the issue is.
As it is said in the linked article a very common reality is the passive presentation of the actually disabled person and promotion of the “normal” person doing such a “wonderful” and “selfless” thing. As I said the action taken is not the issue. The issue is the way the disabled person is presented which perpetuates an ‘othering’ of disabled people.
Because clearly the poor disabled person could never have been successful in life without this “inspirational act” so let’s spend a whole bunch of time promoting their selflessness and talk about how they felt doing such a wonderful thing.
Well, I call bullshit. This really doesn’t help anyone. Well, it does. It helps the reporter get clicks and pad out their portfolio. But really who does that actually benefit. What public interest does it serve?
But what if it this thing is even more insidious than that.
Click bait is one thing and is crappy and terrible as it is, it’s just an internet thing.
What is not just an internet thing is the actual human persons who read this shit. The humans that are tacitly giving approval of it. The actual humans who’s ableist attitudes are just being confirmed.
Attitudes like – those disabled people are poor souls aren’t they. Those disabled people really do live a horrendous and horrid life, they must be so miserable and spend their entire life wishing they were something else.
Again I call bullshit…
Becuase it is bullshit. I know lots of disabled people that are more than happy with who they are and the life they live.
Sure we disabled people have challenges. But so does every human person inhabiting the planet.
And that there is the rub. It’s a human issue. Just because I am disabled doesn’t make me less human. That person who has mobility challenges and uses a wheelchair are not less human.
All this inspo porn does is to ingrain ableist attitudes. It perpetuates the idea that disabled people need rescuing because they are less than.
Ableism relies on all of us to turn a blind eye to it. To click on the click bait and smile. To not challenge the status quo of attitudes. To not challenge the idea that disabled people only get to live fulfilled lives because “normals” do something special to enable it.
To me, the most damaging part of ableism is the othering of people. I’m othered as an autistic, friends are othered because they have a spinal disability, some are othered because they happen to be downs syndrome, or deaf, or blind etc.
What if we keep this othering up. Where does it end, where is the final place, who is left as acceptable and whole as a human person.
George Orwell in his wonderful Animal Farm sums this up in a sense, watching that farm society cast off its shackles to become the egalitarian harmonious society of “All animals are equal” and gradually implode itself into “All pigs are equal.”
In the end we aren’t all equal, we are all different. We all have different strengths and challenges. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.
But not being equal is not the same as being less than. It’s not the same as being of less value. It’s not the same as being unworthy.
It’s ableism that resulted in generations of othered human beings locked away in institutions. It’s ableism that gave health workers the gall to suggest to parents they should give up their children and forget they ever existed. It’s ableism that resulted in those locked away in these institutions to be abused and damaged by those their to apparently care for them.
Indeed, it is the very fact of the othering that ableism creates that enabled those abusers to ever rationalise their abuse as just doing their job, just following orders, or indeed at times, doing what was “best” for them.
Inspo porn, it just ingrains an ableist mindset. It must be stopped.