You have heard it before. You may have said it.
“You are such an inspiration!”
“(Person’s name) is so inspiring!”
I have heard it, and I have been the one supposedly “inspiring” people.
And I very much dislike it.
Disabled people are usually the main subject of what is known as “inspiration porn”.
We move a finger while disabled, we inspire.
If we can’t move, but we open our eyes, we inspire.
We use technology to live, we inspire.
We wake up and enjoy life, we inspire.
We smile, we inspire.
We breathe, we inspire.
See the pattern? We are supposed to feel miserable all the time, disability is such a tragedy, if we show any hint of happiness or enjoyment for life, if we show gumption, strength of character, if we have goals and self determination, if we prove to be able of complex thoughts, or even if we just want to have a good life, then we must be inspiring people.
But then what? What are you going to do with all the inspiration that might be filling up – and bursting out of – your heart and soul?
Inspiration is an action. At least it is the beginning of an action. If you say that we are an “inspiration”, and you don’t do anything, your words are empty and you are annoying me.
If you really feel inspired by things we do, things that are simply a reflection of our daily lives, if you feel inspired by seeing us living our lives, as human beings do, then you should take the next step: do something.
Begin with taking all your assumptions and grinding them to a slimy pulp that nobody wants.
After that, you can check your privileges and start listening to what we are saying, about why we protest, about why we need the rights that are denied to us.
Once you have done that, change your attitude toward us, maybe practice following our lead.
There! You’ve just earned the right to be “inspired” by us (and as a bonus, you will stop using “inspiring” when referring to us). Because while empty words will not make the world see that we do have the same rights as everyone else, even if some people might think we need to “earn” them, changed attitudes can actually begin to make a difference.
What you see as “inspiring”, the way we do things, the way we lead our lives, is not a superpower. It is just our way of navigating this – still – very inaccessible world. And that’s why it is so annoying to hear those “inspirational” statements. We are not lesser people who do extraordinary things. We are just people, doing ordinary things, the way we do things. It’s your assumptions – and bias – that blur your view of us.
The real thing here is that non-disabled people see disabled people as “lacking”, and seeing inspiration in ordinary acts done by disabled people makes the “normal” people feel better about themselves: “thank goodness I don’t have to live like that!” is the unspoken sentiment.
Now, if you are using “inspire” as praise for what I do or write, or because you believe that fighting for my rights, having goals, or even making plans for a fun time is so extraordinary or something disabled people don’t aspire to, please don’t. I know you mean well, but just don’t.
You can encourage and support me; you can say I am awesome, or badass.
Just don’t call me an inspiration.
Please, check the links for an explanation of “inspiration porn” and watch the video of Stella Young talking about, well, Inspiration Porn. I promise you, it will be the best 9 minutes of your day.