The other day I was hanging out with my filmmaker friend, Cheryl Green who runs the awesome blog “Who Am I To Stop It?” that focuses on Traumatic Brain Injuries. Cheryl is hilarious and makes funny movies about disability and is a great person to talk to about crip issues. In fact, she’s so fun to chat with that she will be the FIRST EVER special guest on some upcoming Accessible Intercourse episodes! We answered some really interesting, provocative questions while filming those and I loved hearing the perspective of a fellow disabled woman. Despite the differences in our impairments (mobility versus TBI), many of the repercussions of experiencing disability are the same for us and our conversations always reinforce my fervent belief in the social construction of disability. While talking with her we discussed the ubiquity of nondisabled people labeling us ‘inspirational’ for completing mundane tasks (“You can put on glasses by yourself? Amazing!”) which led to the topic of “Inspiration Porn.” For those uninitiated to the term, Inspiration Porn is all those annoying facebook memes with pictures of a disabled person doing something not that interesting (writing, walking, etc.) with captions like “The only disability is a bad attitude,” or “Your excuse is invalid.” (Sad trombone noise).
These ‘inspirational’ messages about disability are demeaning, dangerous and fatuous. They not only diminish the VERY REAL effects of experiencing life as a marginalized person but also perpetuate stereotypes and wildly inaccurate ideas about disability i.e., disability can be overcome, and/or disability is a tragedy but with a positive attitude, you can beat it and become “normal.” And if you can’t beat your disability, at least you can serve as an inspiration to nondisabled people who don’t understand how you can find a reason to get out of bed in the morning! The wonderful Disability and Representation blog ran a series of Inspiration Posts featuring nondisabled people, effectively turning the tables on this phenomenon and illustrating how truly ridiculous these memes are. I was grateful for these posts because I often feel silenced and devalued by the constant barrage of anti-disability messages and language found in the media, and also these fake inspiration posts happened to be very very funny.
Because Cheryl and I were/are fed up with mainstream disability representation and the pernicious ‘inspirational’ disability trope, we decided to do a PSA commenting on this absurdity. She came over to my house and we essentially wrote and filmed something on the spot, trying to highlight as many common misconceptions about disability that we could fit in a very short time frame. (This is the only time you will ever hear me say the horrendous phrase “wheelchair-bound,” FYI).
I hope our PSA will give pause to nondisabled people who have perhaps never considered the recklessly negatively implications behind these dubiously well-intentioned memes. Additionally, (and maybe more importantly) I hope disabled people like this, enjoy being ‘in’ on the joke, and appreciate our loving nod to crip culture.