What does it truly mean to be inspirational?

Hey there, beauties! Today’s blog topic is a good one so let’s get to chatting. Chances are if you have a disability, especially a visible one, over the course of your life you’ve probably heard: “you’re such an inspiration” or “you’re so brave”  more times than you would like to admit, am I right? Today, we are talking all things “inspiration porn.”

What is it you ask? Well for those of you who have never heard the phrase before, Wikipedia defines it as the portrayal of people who experience disability as inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their disability.

Essentially, the idea of being an inspiration to most non-disabled people, if you are disabled, is embedded in a narrative of pity. The extraordinary things we supposedly do are not extraordinary at all. There’s nothing at all notable about getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, getting on the bus, or any other mundane tasks humans do every single day. It’s actually quite the opposite. Most people may not realize it, but it’s actually an insult to some to consider everyday living to be so inspiring. The implication that this is all disabled people are capable of, is equally as problematic. In fact, many people with disabilities find the idea of being inspiring incredibly uncomfortable.

More often than not, society tends to believe that the disability community is overreacting. Typically our thoughts on the issue are disregarded and our feelings about being inspirational are often silenced by the rest of societies noble intentions.  

Even with all the strides that have been made in terms of equality in the disabled community, there still tends to be a lot of archaic and outdated thinking when it comes to a disabled individual’s capabilities. It is sad but some people believe that the fact that we are able to do anything is deemed an accomplishment. In order to change the idea that the lives of disabled individuals are automatically inspiring, we’re going to have to change the entire narrative of how we view disability in this society. It starts with changing people's perceptions and we must redefine what society deems inspiring.

This is where education and advocacy is key. We all know that knowledge is power; if only the naysayers understood that disability was like any other aspect of life. We adapt and overcome and what is normal to us is just the way things are. Disabled lives are resourceful lives. Just because that is a vital part of how we make it all happen on a daily basis doesn’t necessarily qualify us as being inspirational.

The fact is, disabled individuals much like able-bodied individuals are an eclectic mix. They are performers, lawyers, doctors, scientists, and much more. They are making great strides and advancements in the medical field, world of law, and in the greater artistic community. Some might even say what they are doing actually IS inspiring, and they would be right.

So the question now becomes, how can we separate the idea of actually being inspiring from this long history of patronizing and pity that so often accompanies the idea of disabled inspiration? Advocates in the disability community have struggled for a long time with this. Here’s a tip: next time someone calls you an “inspiration”, challenge them! Ask them what exactly have you inspired them to do differently? That gets the conversation going and puts meaning back into a word that merits it. That goes for anybody, disabled or not.

We at Slick Chicks think this is a conversation that has long been overdue in our community. We also think that the paradigm must shift again. We must place more emphasis on education and advocacy in order to show what it truly means to be inspirational. Going out in the community isn’t it. Being a mom doesn't count. Having a job so you can pay your bills does not make you an inspiration. Actually, making a difference in both your local communities, states, and in the world as a whole can inspire everyone from every walk of life no matter the ability.

The idea behind “inspiration porn” has been met with conversation and controversy among those with and without disabilities. Now, we want to open up that conversation to you. Leave your thoughts on the phrase ‘inspiration porn’ and let's begin to shift the narrative and peel back those labels to see the person and not just the disability.

“Be the light in the darkness to inspire and to enlighten others." - Debasish Mridha

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See ya in your skivvies!
Shannon and the Slick Chicks Team

3 comments

  • Nina thank you so much for your comment we appreciate it and please feel free to comment as much as you wish we enjoy engaging with our readers and we are glad that you are part of our family!

    Shannon dawn
  • Nina thank you so much for your comment we appreciate it and please feel free to comment as much as you wish we enjoy engaging with our readers and we are glad that you are part of our family!

    Shannon dawn
  • I definitely agree. I find it patronising and insulting to be called an inspiration just for going and doing my own grocery shopping. It’s not a big thing for me, it’s something I do a few times a week, I haven’t had to fight to manage it – all I had to do was accept that maybe it was time to look into wheelchair use. What I DO want to inspire, though, is more discourse about access and inclusion in general society both from other disabled people and non-disabled alike.

    I also find “inspirational stories” about disabled kids in terrible conditions trouble me (for example I recall one about a young boy in an impoverished community in Asia somewhere who pushed himself to school on a skateboard). While he certainly has tenacity, we need to focus on why disabled children in some parts of the world go without what they need, rather than applauding their ingenuity – and worse, some people use these poor kids as examples of why disabled people in more affluent societies need to “stop complaining” even as their medical care or welfare is being cut.

    Sorry, I could rage for hours on this!

    brainkittens.com

    Nina

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