Thursday, August 6, 2015

Inspirational Silliness

I have some online friends who challenge my perceptions with various posts.  One of these people is writer, David Walker of BadAzzMoFo, Cyborg (DC Comics), Number 13 (Dark Horse Comics), Shaft comic (Dynamite Entertainment), Darius Logan: Super Justice Force, and much more.  Recently he posted a Ted Talk video of Stella Young. (  She discussed disability and Inspirational Porn.  This is a cultural phenomenon where people of disabilities are used to inspire those without.  It is not just disabilities, people who have come out of certain traumas somewhat intact are treated this way too, traumas including childhood sexual abuse, childhood physical abuse, sexual assault, and domestic abuse.

This made me think about my personal experiences.  Many of us with physical disabilities are not given the access and tools we need to function, that is more a disability than the actual medical issue.  I may be reiterating what Ms. Young said in her talk, but her points are valid and poignant.  This holding folks with disabilities up on a pedestal and objectifying them and their struggle is a disservice too.  I have had people do that to me.  I felt like, “Hey get me off this pedestal, I am afraid of heights.”  Or, “Dude, this pedestal is so high I am getting a nose bleed.”  Some think they are empowering us, but in fact objectification does the opposite.  It makes us part of the other. Normalization of disabilities would be better. We need to see a wheel chair or hearing aid like we do a pair of glasses or a pair of left hand scissors.

I am writing this on the 25th Anniversary of the passage of Americans with Disabilities Act, July 26th, 2015.  I was at University of Oregon when that piece of legislation was passed.  I had been active in Students for Equal Access (the Disabled Students group).  At the time we had been working for the passage of this legislation, so our organization was extremely politicized.  People with disabilities just want to be seen as every day people.  If we are extraordinary it is because who we are, not our disabilities. 

I will admit I was one of those who bought into the lie of Inspirational Porn.  This is something I will no longer allow. I will remind myself that just getting up and functioning in and of itself is not some monumental accomplishment.  As a kid I did not think it was that big of a deal.  What I will strive for is to become the best me I can be. I will not be someone’s inspiration based on just being able to function. That is just silly. 

I understand that some may see my being able to overcome my daily and life challenges as inspiring, but do not objectify me.  Realize I am an imperfect human being; there are things about me that are unpleasant as there is about all of us.  I am more than my disabilities and history.  They are definitely part of who I am, but they are not all of what makes up the person I am.

This is similar to the Noble Savage objectification of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples.  Putting folks up on a pedestal takes some of their realness and their agency away.  This is what happens with Inspiration Porn to those with disabilities.  When people break out of the roles that society assigns them, society gets upset and uncomfortable.  Putting people into boxes and roles they did not choose is a disservice too.  Society is misplacing its expectations on people and it is not a healthy endeavor.   Human beings in general need to let people be flaws and all.  Acceptance is what everyone strives for, and trying to fit people into cookie cutter expectations does not work.  This Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion. 

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