Remember when we were kids and all we wanted to do was grow up and be an adult?
From Ted.com (click on the link for the transcript):
Stella Young is a comedian and journalist who happens to go about her day in a wheelchair — a fact that doesn’t, she’d like to make clear, automatically turn her into a noble inspiration to all humanity. In this very funny talk, Young breaks down society’s habit of turning disabled people into “inspiration porn.”
The image below is an example of the “inspiration porn” that Young talks about.
Now, you know me, I love my quotes but there are times I look at some of them and think, no that’s too saccharine or too optimistic or too out there. On another day, looking at the same words but with different emotions, the quote works. It’s very subjective.
But, many of us have had experiences that have left us shaking our heads. Life does not stop because of a chronic illness or disability. Some of us are able to continue to work, go to school and participate in various activities. Some of us can’t or can only do it on a limited basis. And I truly appreciate when someone who doesn’t understand how I feel, has good thoughts or wishes for me.
But, I’ve had people look at me on days that I’ve felt like shit but have to go to an appointment and they say something like “Keep it up and you’ll only get better”. I half expect cheerleaders and a marching band to magically appear and accompany me as I drag myself to my appointment. I know they are trying to say something uplifting but they get hurt or mad as you try to explain that what they are saying doesn’t help mentally or emotionally. They just want to be seen as being positive and encouraging.
There is a fine line where someone may not understand what our lives are like, but is genuinely happy to see us able to do something and someone who wants to cheer and “rah rah” us for doing something we have to do, no matter how awful or in pain we may be.
But, if I feel I need to be cheered or “rah rahed”, I’ll let you know. Then cheer away. We all deserve and need that sometimes. Just let it be our choice.
Here are some quotes from the video. Do you agree with what she is saying or do you feel differently due to your experiences?
Yeah, we’ve been sold the lie that disability is a Bad Thing, capital B, capital T. It’s a bad thing, and to live with a disability makes you exceptional. It’s not a bad thing, and it doesn’t make you exceptional.
And these images, there are lots of them out there, they are what we call inspiration porn. (Laughter) And I use the term porn deliberately, because they objectify one group of people for the benefit of another group of people. So in this case, we’re objectifying disabled people for the benefit of nondisabled people. The purpose of these images is to inspire you, to motivate you, so that we can look at them and think, “Well, however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person.”
So I have lived in this body a long time. I’m quite fond of it. It does the things that I need it to do, and I’ve learned to use it to the best of its capacity just as you have, and that’s the thing about those kids in those pictures as well. They’re not doing anything out of the ordinary. They are just using their bodies to the best of their capacity. So is it really fair to objectify them in the way that we do, to share those images?
People, when they say, “You’re an inspiration,” they mean it as a compliment. And I know why it happens. It’s because of the lie, it’s because we’ve been sold this lie that disability makes you exceptional. And it honestly doesn’t.
And I know what you’re thinking. You know, I’m up here bugging out inspiration, and you’re thinking, “Jeez, Stella, aren’t you inspired sometimes by some things?” And the thing is, I am. I learn from other disabled people all the time . . . We are learning from each others’ strength and endurance, not against our bodies and our diagnoses, but against a world that exceptionalizes and objectifies us.