The REAL problem with ‘inspiration porn’.

Another little dose of honesty here. In disability activist circles there is much talk of ‘inspiration porn‘ (the late great Stella Young had a TED talk about it that went viral) – the inspirational memes that proliferated online and in viral emails (back in the day) that feature images of disabled adults, teenagers or children doing some everyday activity or some out-of-the-ordinary thing, paired with some words that encourage the able-bodied viewer to thus believe that anything is possible, not feel sorry for themselves, and generally be inspired by the awesome attitude of the disabled individual.

Let me be clear: in an of itself, I do not think that drawing inspiration from others who clearly have some extra shit to deal with in this world, or who are amazing to us for one reason or another, is a bad thing. I really don’t. Particularly if the inspiration being taken is rooted in an understanding that this world can be a harsh and obstacle-ridden place for us disabled people.

However, there are definitely instances of ‘inspiration porn’ where the message being delivered is harmful to disabled people; they are harmful for the reason articulated perfectly in the following excerpt from this article:

“Instead of paying attention to the conditions that make disabled people’s lives difficult, inspiration porn focuses on attitudes of disabled persons as the thing that will make one’s life better or not,” Erevelles said. “[Inspiration porn] takes away from the actual issues that disabled people want folks to pay attention to – like the lack of access, like exclusion from schools and community activities, the ways in which people stare at you, the ways non-disabled people are so uncomfortable being around disabled people except for when they are a source of inspiration.”

“People are inspired by a child with disabilities coloring, but not by someone with a disability fighting for their rights, because in the former the subject is happy, while in the latter they are frustrated and angry”

Yes!

So you see, the reason ‘inspiration porn’ is a problem is because it can obscure the fact that disabled people face a lot of discrimination, oppression and marginalisation in all societies on this planet, that no amount of positive thinking and attitude adjustment (although those things are useful on an individual level) will remedy. It’s perfectly okay and humane (and human) to recognise a strong spirit or the positive inner qualities of disabled people; but it is more important for people to recognise and DO SOMETHING ABOUT the systemic barriers disabled people face to participating and contributing to society, and living full lives.

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The Art of Living, & my Bill Nighy encounter

“I’m just a girl on a journey. A journey to finding more with less.”

Shira: In Pursuit of More

Here is a blog I follow and enjoy that you may also enjoy – In Pursuit of More – Living with (just a little) less.

Shira, the blogger, writes about her passions: living the idea that giving, sharing and gratefully enjoying the simple things enriches our lives, and talking about our relationship with our food, our bodies, and our neighbours. Check out the About page to see her beautifully articulated statement of purpose in full.

To me, this site is simply about appreciating life fully, simply, following the ethos of “less is more”, and embracing healthy living. Posts are thoughtful musings on life, healthy living, and recipes spiced with wisdom and philosophical inspiration.  With her recipes, she explains how each achieves “more” with “less”. Confusing? See this recent post to understand what I mean:

Recipe: Lively Yellow Potato Salad

Shira was lovely enough to ‘like’ one of my posts one day and, consequently, I discovered this wonderful site. Other than her writing, I adore her food photography: sensuous and thoroughly appetising. Always a treat to behold!

Given the kitchen in the house I live in is not accessible, I do not cook often. It is an almighty bother to do so as it takes me twice as long as the estimated preparation and cooking time. Instead, I more frequently satisfy my craving for variety fine food by eating out at inexpensive eateries city-wide whenever I can (budget permitting). However, I am planning to try her Quinoa Protein Bites recipe next weekend! I have never tried Quinoa before. I am excited 🙂

Some other treats on my ‘desired’ to do list:

Recipe: DIY Peanut Butter Cups

Recipe: Sweet Life Coconut Chocolate Chews

For those of you who can run but have fallen into a rut with it, take heart, read this, you may be re-inspired:

The Less & More of Running (more or less)

Another site I am a subscriber of is POSITIVELY POSITIVE. 

“Our goal is simple: to bring uplifting voices and messages to our community every day. Our growing supply of blog posts, videos, and handpicked quotations are designed to remind us that there is good in every situation, and possibility in every person. Our contributors and guests hail from every conceivable walk of life, from Olympic Gold Medalists, to kids fighting for their lives, to everyday people wanting to make a difference in the world.”

– Positively Positive

Subscribe to the site or follow on Twitter, Facebook, et cetera for regular doses of brightness, encouragement, and positivity advice. I can tell you that as someone who is continually battling the darkness in my head, I truly appreciate the insights. More links to beacons of hope and light on the internet to come.

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On a completely unrelated note, I had an encounter last night with British actor of stage and screen Bill Nighy (eye contact counts as an encounter, in my book). After seeing an hilarious comedy show, I ducked into a nearby (chic – certainly too chic for little me) café in the city, and Nighy was sitting at the next table (trust me, it was definitely him) looking dapper and thin and what have you. I did not enter the premises in order to see him – I was feeling faint, needed sugar, and it was the first accessible, not too crowded place I came across. But I broke my budget to purchase dessert and stay there (like I said, too chic for me). As I waited for dessert to arrive, I resisted the urge to text everyone in the universe. We made eye contact several times, and this often happens to me in public places with strangers, in a rather rude way (apparently a woman in a wheelchair is a spectacle to some people) but I doubt the ‘disabled spectacle’ factor was why.

In fact I was concerned that he thought I was texting about him, given how quickly I pulled out my phone after unintentionally making eye contact with him the first time (but I did not do that… until later). For shame. Normally not fussed about actor/public figure sightings, but I have thoroughly enjoyed his work. In the highly unlikely event that you or “your people” read this, Mr Nighy, I offer my apologies if I made you uncomfortable. I was texting my ride home. And I’m a fan of your work.

A google search has revealed to me he is in town filming a movie with Aaron Eckhart, and Miranda Otto. I feel I should have known this, given what I am studying:

READ ABOUT IT HERE

So if you see him, DON’T pull out your phone. Let the man drink and write in his notebook (or was it a palm pilot? I can’t recall) in peace. And if you see someone in a wheelchair, have some empathy, and don’t stare. Being on wheels is neither odd nor remarkable. Mankind has been using them for quite some time.

Speaking of disability, Nighy is the honorary Patron of the CPFRIS (Crystal Palace F.C. Fast Results & Information Service) Disabled Children’s Club, and of the Ann Craft Trust, which works to ensure that organisations that support disabled children and vulnerable adults are aware of abuse and protection issues. He is also one of the Honorary Patrons of the London children’s charity Scene & Heard, a charity that teams inner-city children in Somers Town, London with a volunteer theatre professional to write short plays which are performed by professional actors in front of enthusiastic audiences and provide the children with an experience of success, pride and increased self esteem.

Films/programs Nighy has appeared in that I have enjoyed include State of Play and Love Actually. He was also in The Girl in the Café, written by Richard Curtis and directed by David Yates. The production received mixed reviews. I was, however, taken with the performances of Nighy and his costar Kelly Macdonald – the awkward love story between their characters. Both rightly received Golden Globe nominations for their roles. This is a clip – it features the first meeting of the two characters (in a cafe, of course):