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Inspiration Porn Is A Reality, And It Needs To Stop!

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I wanted to write about this very unique concept, something that we have been engaging in for so many years without really thinking about it – Inspiration Porn.

What Is Inspiration Porn In Essence?

To understand this, we’ll have to first understand a few definitions:

1. Disability

A disability is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory or some combination of these.

2. Inspiration

Inspiration is a feeling of enthusiasm you get from someone or something, which gives you new and creative ideas.

3. Sympathy

Sympathy is a feeling of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.

Now, when these three terms are joined together, they make what is called ‘inspiration porn’.

So, How Do You Define Inspiration Porn?

Inspiration porn can be defined as the portrayal of disabled people as inspirational, merely or on the basis of their disability.

Why Is It Called Inspiration Porn?

It actually has a very interesting explanation, which is, that just like people watch porn to feel good, similarly some people look at the disabled and objectify them to feel good about the fact that they are not in the place of the disabled.

I want to share a few of my personal experiences regarding this so that it is easier to understand the concept.

#Experience-1: “How Do You Bathe And Eat On Your Own?!”

So the other day, I was in the metro and there was this lady sitting right next to me. And like most people, she asked me about my disability. I replied very politely that I had a spinal cord injury; she then further asked me this very personal question, she looked at my legs and said: “so, since you are on a wheelchair ‘how’ do you bathe and eat?”. I was taken aback by the audacity of the question and had an instant urge to tell her that “I am really sorry that I didn’t know about the fact that the non disabled use their legs to eat or to bathe”, but because I was in a good mood and I didn’t want to spoil it, I said I can manage all my personal things on my own very well, to which she replied “oh! that is so brave of you, even I sometimes feel so lazy about doing things on my own but you do it daily, and had I been in your place I could have never done it. And your parents must be so proud!

And I was like yes, they are proud of me, but not for the fact that I can do my personal things on my own but because of the fact that I was able to score well in boards, for the fact that I got into Lady Shri Ram College. This is why they are proud of me and not just because I can do things sitting on a wheelchair.

How many of your parents have told you that “Beta, we are really proud of you for taking a bath today!” None, right? Because this is nothing extraordinary. I agree that there are several other kinds of disabilities which require a lot of effort to do basic things like these and they should be appreciated for it, but that does not mean you should generalise disability and assume that all disabilities impact the individual in the same way!

#Experience-2: I Use Social Media Just As Everyone Else Does

I love taking pictures of myself and I frequently post them on my social media accounts. A lot of times people comment on how brave I am. I understand where it’s coming from, but it leaves me puzzled because how is posting a picture brave? It’s just an ordinary picture of me, smiling or sometimes pouting and there’s, literally, nothing inspiring in that. Nothing extraordinary. Just a picture of me. A cute one though!

#Experience-3: Treat Me Equally

So, my school used to organise a little fest sort of thing every year for the primary wing students and I never used to miss it! I was in fifth grade and I was having fun in the fest and there was this game where we had to shoot the balloons. I thought of giving it a try and I did, but I lost. Because I was cool and fine, I was okay with it. I didn’t mind losing at all. But, despite losing, they gave me the prize. Mind you, I wasn’t the only one who had lost that game. There were a lot of kids who were standing there but out of all them, they decided to give me the prize. Probably, because they thought that the fact that I tried was more than enough

Now, things like these happen quite often to me and a lot of my friends. Our Instagram feeds are full of posts where they put a picture of a disabled with a caption “If they can do it, so can you“; or, maybe, “They did it, what excuse do you have?”. They think of us as lesser than others. They make such a big thing out of something as basic as smiling; they’ll post a picture of a disabled person who is smiling and they’ll write ‘respect’ as a caption. This happens because, usually, people assume that a person with a disability can’t do anything on their own. They can’t smile or can’t live a happy life, and if they are able to do so, they should be congratulated for it.

I want to tell you an interesting fact:

I am not always happy. I do feel weak a lot of times. I feel sad on some days and, on the other days, I’m just my usual happy -go- lucky self. And the interesting fact here is that this is normal, that’s how everyone feels and I don’t want anyone to come and tell me that I’m brave because I’m smiling! Imagine this. It is the happiest day of your life. You are really happy and are smiling. Everyone is coming to you and telling you how pretty you look today and then you see this random person who you have never met in your life. He just comes to you and tells you that he thinks you are very extraordinary because you are smiling. How would you feel? Confused? Weird? Or, maybe, awkward? Because this compliment doesn’t make any sense right? This is exactly how I feel.

You know people assume that we are not capable enough of doing great things. According to them, the fact that we are living with a disability is already enough and they think that we cannot go beyond it. Hence, they call us an inspiration all the time because disability is something bad and living with something as bad as that, well it’s an accomplishment already.

Let’s get back to my experience in the metro where the lady said that she thinks I am brave because I bathe every day, while she, the non-disabled one feels lazy about bathing. Here, she assumed that if I am able to do my personal things on my own, that’s it. That I can not do better and greater things and, hence, I should be congratulated for it.

And this is one of the most harmful effects of inspiration porn where a disabled person is made to feel incapable of doing better in his/her life

Another harmful effect is it contributes to discrimination. I remember how some of the teachers used to behave differently towards me. Even though most of my teachers were very supportive and empathetic, there were some teachers who probably weren’t used to teaching a child with a disability. So, what they would do was that they would never punish me. My friends would place bets that “Dekhio agar tu homework na bhi dikhaye na, toh bhi ma’am tujhe toh kuch ni bolengi!” (Even if you don’t submit your homework on time, the teacher won’t say a thing to you!)

I would tell them otherwise and tell them that I will get punished if I do not submit it on time. So, on some days, I’d deliberately go to school without doing my homework, and while every other kid used to pray that they don’t get the punishment, I used to wish the opposite. Not that I was very fond of punishments, of course not, but because I did not want to feel different. My teacher would never even realize it. But this behaviour of hers contributed to inspiration porn, it contributed to discrimination.

This behaviour makes a lot of us feel that disability is something that we need to overcome to achieve normalcy, and it shouldn’t be that way. Yes, we do have daily struggles to overcome and it’s not always very easy to overcome them, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to objectify us. Disability is something that exists. It’s just there and it cannot be removed.

I also want to clarify something really important that it’s not that I don’t want people to get inspired by me or that I don’t want them to call me inspirational. No, I do want to inspire others! In fact, the ultimate goal of my life is to inspire as many people as I can. But, not like this! I want you to call me brave but not for eating on my own or for bathing on my own. I want you to look at me crossing the horrible roads of Uttam Nagar, escaping terrible accidents, and then call me brave because that is something which demands effort and courage. And that’s how I want you to get inspired by me to be brave.

I want you to call me an inspiration for being kind and humble. I don’t want you to think that I value life because I am disabled and because I fought hard for my life at a very young age. But I am a human and I love people. I want you to see that. I want to inspire you for being kind and helpful and loving, no matter what my life history is. I want to make my parents so proud of me but not just because I can manage myself on my own but by being successful someday, no matter whatever field I choose, and for meeting their expectations and being a good daughter to them. That’s how I want to make a difference in your lives.

You see, I do appreciate when people call me an inspiration for the right reasons. I love it when people come to me and tell me that I was able to make a difference in their lives!

I want to be an inspiration but for all the right reasons and nothing else!

You must be to comment.
  1. Aniruddh Shrivastava

    You have aptly deliverd your perspective on this. And what you said is fair enough. Even I feel the same. But the fact is that it is too difficult to be neutral. It is not easy to see things as they are. Common assumption in our society is that if one is not normal as per the societal standards, then he/she requires empathy and compassion. I believe it’s not completely wrong because compassion and empathy are moral virtues which everyone should strive for.

    If I am not empathetic, don’t you think it dehumanizes me?
    Ramps are being built in public spaces for disabled. Do you think it’s a wrong idea? I don’t think so. Because it’s making life easier. We have lifts and elevators too. If a teacher doesn’t punish a disabled student it’s not wrong. What if it demotivates student? I believe punishment and reward should be equal to everyone as you said. But our society is not progressive and rational enough to understand this.

    Problem arises in making fair judgements. We are not good enough when it comes to making fair judgements. It is hard to make a balance between compassion and rationality. Because we haven’t learnt this in our schooling education. Books taught us to be empathetic but didn’t teach us to make fair judgements.

    While the issue is important, the name(Inspiration porn) given to it is ridiculous.

    1. Srishti Pandey

      Hi Aniruddh! I’m sorry you felt this way but the entire purpose of this post was to make people more empathetic instead of overly-sympathetic to persons with disabilities. And ofcourse it is too difficult to be neutral and ofcourse we have certain different needs which need to be acknowledged, and no where did I oppose this. The basic idea of this article was to avoid being sympathetic and ofcourse to appreciate people with disabilities but for the right reasons. To try and be empathetic instead of making it look like their life is unworthy or a curse.

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