by Rachel Kinbar in News on Monday 18 November 2013

Last week while innocently browsing the internet, I came across a video that left me feeling kind of … weird. Okay, so there are lots of videos that do that, but usually I know the reason why right away. But this time, I couldn’t figure out my discomfort.

The video was about a man who was born without arms and who is now a chassis and body component designer for race cars. There are probably a lot of people who would consider that a dream job. Not me, but I can still see the appeal and crazy street cred that comes with a career like that. Thing is, the video wasn’t about his cool work. It was about how he has no arms.

This bothered me for days, until I finally took my problem to Google. I cannot remember my search terms, but I was able to figure out that I’m not the only person dismayed by some of these videos and that there’s a term for it — “inspiration porn”.

Defined in an article titled, We’re Not Here For Your Inspiration, inspiration porn is ‘an image of a person with a disability, often a kid, doing something completely ordinary – like playing, or talking, or running, or drawing a picture, or hitting a tennis ball – carrying a caption like ‘your excuse is invalid’ or ‘before you quit, try’.’ Or in the case of the video I watched, How Do You Get Through YOUR Day?

It turns out that disabled people generally aren’t too keen on being objectified in this way. Here’s another quote from an enlightening xoJane article:

‘People seem to think they’re ‘honoring diversity’ or some such when they do this, but there’s a fundamental disconnect between inspiration porn and recognizing the basic humanity of disabled people. People who insist that we’re so inspiring are turning us into objects, not people. There’s no room for disability rights, disability pride or even basic respect in this framework.’

I’m not saying all inspiring videos featuring disabled people qualify as inspiration porn. There are truly inspiring videos about disabled people who have accomplished amazing things — and they’re inspiring because they’re amazing, not because they’re disabled. Meet the Superhumans qualifies, in my opinion.

I would suggest asking this simple question to determine if something is inspiration porn or not: ‘Would what they’ve done be called inspiring in the absence of disability?’