What Inspiration Porn Isn’t

Do you want to know my definition of a pet peeve?  It’s pretty simple.  A pet peeve is something annoying that people do that is totally unnecessary, in my opinion.

There are several that get under my skin.  People who don’t think I am intelligent because I am a wheelchair user make that list, as well as people who give me their word they will do something and then don’t follow through.  And it’s probably best not to get me started on people who talk to my caregivers in order to get information about me while pretending that I am not in the room.

All those things are bothersome. But perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves is what I and many of my friends in the disability community call “inspiration porn.”

The phrase was first coined by the late Australian journalist and comedian Stella Young, who had Osteogenesis Imperfecta or OI. She defined “inspiration porn” as “the misplaced admiration of disabled people because of our disabilities.” YouTube is full of videos of people with disabilities doing everyday things like driving cars, swimming, gardening and playing basketball. And all of that is great, but I doubt most of the people in those videos would describe what they are doing as inspirational. My guess is they would say they were simply living life just like everyone else.

Honestly, it used to bother me. Intensely. When somebody, especially a stranger, would come up to me and tell me that I was “inspirational.”

They were trying to be kind. They were trying to give me a compliment. I understand. But from my perspective, working with my physical circumstances is just what I do. There is no other option. I wake up every morning, get dressed, eat an English muffin and go about my day. From where I sit, there is nothing about it that I would call inspirational.

I don’t believe people are inspirational because of their disabilities. On the other hand, I love it when someone admires what I do. But my hope is that people admire the way I love my service dog or that I am a good writer, or because I make a delicious Eggplant Parmesan if I do say so myself. I especially love it when I hear that I influenced someone to alter their perspective or to look at a situation in a different way.

The fact that I live with cerebral palsy? That simply is what it is. Taken on its own, I don’t think there is anything admirable about my existence.

Therefore, I admit I was somewhat skeptical when about six of my friends posted the same video to my timeline on Facebook.

The video was of girls in a dance class who were performing a routine with several girls who were wheelchair users. Thirty seconds in, I was hooked.

The routine used dance moves and the gliding of the wheelchairs to create a performance that was so gorgeous it brought tears to my eyes.

Why did I like it?

First, this is inclusion at its finest. The dancers from the class didn’t simply dance around the girls who used wheelchairs. In fact, several times they used the wheelchairs as props so the girls from each group could create beautiful moves together. And they achieved that goal. At the start of the routine, a young woman in a wheelchair gliding across the floor was guided by several dancers without disabilities.  I also read the description of the video that said the young women who were wheelchair users wore white while the dancers without disabilities wore black by design.  The reason?  The women in black wanted to be seen as the “shadows.”

Secondly, this was not simply a routine that was adapted to people with disabilities. Instead, it focused on the strengths of the wheelchair users. Many could move their arms in circles, so at several points in the routine, that is what all the girls did. Some could move their arms a little; some could move their arms fluidly. But because everyone was moving their arms at once, I’m willing to bet that not many people in the audience noticed the difference.

Additionally, there were not parts of the routine where only the girls with disabilities were in the spotlight. At all times, all the girls worked together to coordinate unified moves, and the focus throughout was on the group instead of any one girl or cluster of girls individually.

And what was the end result? I hope that each of the girls who are wheelchair users that participated take from the experience some of the same things that I have taken away when I danced.

  • That your disability doesn’t define you.
  • That it is not only okay but often necessary, to be creative and look outside the box.
  • That you shouldn’t let a disability stop you from doing anything you really want to do. That sometimes it is okay to ask the world to adapt to your needs.
  • That often support comes from places that you would least expect it.
  • That you can reach out to other people and ask them to help you be your best.
  • That there are times the lines blur between what you think you can’t do and what you are capable of.
  • That most people are more the same than different.

And I hope the only things the audience saw were strength and beauty.

No, this video wasn’t the typical inspiration porn that is seen on YouTube so often. It has been viewed more than 11 million times.  The reason, to me, is clear.  This video features girls from two walks of life who are enabling one another to be the best version of themselves.

What is not to love about that?

 

 

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This entry was posted in Accommodations, can do, dance, Following Dreams, Helping people with disabilities, inclusion, kids with disabilities, Making people comfortable, overcoming challenges, wheelchair dancing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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