If you’re a frequent social media user, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled across “inspiration porn” at some point. Don’t worry—despite its name this subject is completely PG. In fact, it’s likely you didn’t even know you were seeing inspiration porn, because more often than not it’s disguised as uplifting stories with messages about positivity and perseverance. It might be a video titled “Deaf Baby Hears for the First Time,” or an article talking about a “brave” mother raising her Autistic child. No matter its form, inspiration porn is insidious, problematic, and incredibly damaging to the Disability community.
Inspiration porn is loosely defined as content that portrays people with disabilities as “‘inspirational’ solely or in part on the basis of their disability.” Essentially, if it promotes the narrative that a disabled person is “brave” or “heroic” for completing an ordinary task or simply living their life, it’s probably inspiration porn. The problem with this content is that it objectifies people with disabilities in order for non-disabled people to feel better about themselves. Random images of prosthetic-using athletes or graduates with Down syndrome alongside captions like “Your excuse is invalid!” perpetuate the notion that not only are disabilities something one must “overcome” in order to be happy, but also that disabled people are only valid if they can meet specific, ableist standards of success.
Messages of positivity and support are so needed right now, but it’s important we ensure that the stories we’re using to heal aren’t hurting others in the process. So, the next time you’re about to click “Share,” ask yourself two things: who is telling this person’s story, and would it still be “inspirational” if their disability weren’t mentioned?