Saturday, December 4, 2010

I am not your inspiration.

I cringe every time I see a story about a person with disabilities doing something, anything. Why? Because the words "inspiration", "heartwarming", "overcoming obstacles", and similar set off my gag reflex.

My brain and body work differently from most people's. That doesn't make me inspiring. It makes me different. I happen to do things that most people with similar disabilities can't do. But guess what? I do things that most people without disabilities can't do either. It isn't inspiring that I do backflips, or teach kids to fly, or anything else that's a bit out of the ordinary. It just is. It's my life, not some story to warm the cockles of your over-privileged little heart.

And when people get all gooey over someone with a disability doing things within the realm of what's expected for a nondisabled person? I kind of want to go on a rampage with a spork. It is not inspiring when 2 people with Down Syndrome date. It's 2 adults having a life, and it's disrespectful and infantilizing to go "awwww" at it. When an autistic woman rakes leaves to pay for medical treatment, that's not adorable, that's a really sad statement on this country as a whole-don't be all "ZOMG I AM INSPIRED", but be disgusted that to afford necessary treatment someone has to go door to door. If you're going to be inspired at all by that, be inspired to change our world.

If you find yourself saying "That's so inspiring, I could never live with what that person does. And they do all by themselves! My heart is warmed!" you need a privilege check. Badly. It'd be upsetting if someone said it about you, and it's damn offensive when you say it about us.

Don't be inspired by us because we happen to be different. If you must be inspired, be inspired by our vision, our ideas. Don't be inspired by our existence. It's just my life, and I'm living it for me, not to warm your heart.


Kathryn Bjornstad-Kelly said...

Seems like calling some disabled people "inspiring" is an excuse not to do anything to change the way people with disabilities are treated. Like, "You can't pay for your medicine? This lady paid for her medicine and didn't whine like you; you should be more like her." I hate that, and I hate seeing people like me treated like they're cute. Or even worse, they're inspiring for doing something completely normal. I once read an article that talked about how inspiring this autistic boy was because he graduated high school. I wish I was making that up.

Lance said...

Thank you for this. <3

Super Heather said...

Interesting perspective! I always thought it was a natural (and good) human response to feel inspired when we see other humans overcome obstacles...

Watching others overcome their obstacles makes us think we can overcome ours, and motivates us to try...which makes the world a better place.

I agree that it can be insulting to find out what others think of as our obstacles. For example, I am thought of as pretty good at science for a girl...which indicates that my gender is perceived as an obstacle to my career in science. It's not the greatest feeling to find out I'm someone else's benchmark for minimum performance standards, but I would find it hard to begrudge the inspiration to anyone who looks at me and thinks "if she can do it, so can I." Thoughts like that lead to positive action. I might try harder to outperform people who see me as a minimum standard...but that too is positive action.

People are inspired by others who overcome all kinds of different obstacles, (Gravity, poverty, ignorance, abusive family situations, inclimate weather, shyness, inconveniently timed flat tires) not just insulting perceptions of obstacles.

Neurodivergent K said...

Please don't condescend to me. Actually. No please. Just don't fucking do it.

When people think I "overcame" my family situation, I am every bit as pissed off as I am when they say "OH HOW CUTE YOU CAN TIE YOUR SHOES". Inspiration porn is objectifying.

Do not use my disability to wank off to. That's what all that heartwarming inspiration porn is...people using this group they consider "less than" to say "I am better than that. let me go whack off to what I can accomplish, if this little defective can manage THAT".

It's disgusting. Don't be Like That.

russianspy1234 said...

A similar sentiment: