We’re not here for your inspiration

Im Juli 2012 veröffentlichte Stella Young, Redakteurin bei Ramp Up, den vielbeachteten Artikel «We’re not here for your inspiration»  in dem sie den Begriff «Inspiration porn» anhand eines auf Socialmedia oft geteilten Bildes erklärte (Um die Ironie der Geschichte, welche der Bild-Text-Kombination mit Pistorius inzwischen noch eine neue Dimension hinzugefügt hat, ging’s damals noch nicht):

Young schreibt:

«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“. Increasingly, they feature the Hamilton quote.»


Let me be clear about the intent of this inspiration porn; it’s there so that non-disabled people can put their worries into perspective. So they can go, „Oh well if that kid who doesn’t have any legs can smile while he’s having an awesome time, I should never, EVER feel bad about my life“. It’s there so that non-disabled people can look at us and think „well, it could be worse… I could be that person“.

In this way, these modified images exceptionalise and objectify those of us they claim to represent. It’s no coincidence that these genuinely adorable disabled kids in these images are never named: it doesn’t matter what their names are, they’re just there as objects of inspiration.

But using these images as feel-good tools, as „inspiration“, is based on an assumption that the people in them have terrible lives, and that it takes some extra kind of pluck or courage to live them.

For many of us, that is just not true.


I can’t help but wonder whether the source of this strange assumption that living our lives takes some particular kind of courage is the news media, an incredibly powerful tool in shaping the way we think about disability. Most journalists seem utterly incapable of writing or talking about a person with a disability without using phrases like „overcoming disability“, „brave“, „suffers from“, „defying the odds“, „wheelchair bound“ or, my personal favourite, „inspirational“.

If we even begin to question the way we’re labelled, we slide immediately to the other end of the scale and become „bitter“ and „ungrateful“. We fail to be what people expect.

Which brings us back to Scott Hamilton and his mantra. The statement „the only disability in life is a bad attitude“ puts the responsibility for our oppression squarely at the feet, prosthetic or otherwise, of people with disabilities. It’s victim blaming. It says that we have complete control of the way disability impacts our lives. To that, I have one thing to say. Get stuffed.

By far the most disabling thing in my life is the physical environment. It dictates what I can and can’t do every day. But if Hamilton is to be believed, I should just be able to smile at an inaccessible entrance to a building long enough and it will magically turn into a ramp. I can make accessible toilets appear where none existed before, simply by radiating a positive attitude. I can simply turn that frown upside down in the face of a flight of stairs with no lift in sight. Problem solved, right?

I’m a natural optimist, but none of that has ever worked for me.

Inspiration porn shames people with disabilities. It says that if we fail to be happy, to smile and to live lives that make those around us feel good, it’s because we’re not trying hard enough. Our attitude is just not positive enough. It’s our fault. Not to mention what it means for people whose disabilities are not visible, like people with chronic or mental illness, who often battle the assumption that it’s all about attitude. And we’re not allowed to be angry and upset, because then we’d be „bad“ disabled people. We wouldn’t be doing our very best to „overcome“ our disabilities.

I suppose it doesn’t matter what inspiration porn says to us as people with disabilities. It’s not actually about us. Disability is complex. You can’t sum it up in a cute picture with a heart-warming quote. So next time you’re tempted to share that picture of an adorable kid with a disability to make your facebook friends feel good, just take a second to consider why you’re really clicking that button.»

Obiges sind nur einige Auszüge aus Youngs Artikel «We’re not here for your inspiration». Ich empfehle den gesamten Text zur Lektüre.

Ebenfalls empfehlenswert sind die daran anlehnenden deutschsprachigen Artikel «Inspiration» von Laura Gehlhaar («Fremde klopfen mir anerkennend auf die Schulter allein deswegen, weil ich existiere. Und genau in diesem Moment fühle ich mich zum Objekt degradiert. In diesem Augenblick verschwinden mein Charakter, meine Eigenschaften und mein Wesen hinter meiner Behinderung.») und «Wir sind hier nicht zur Inspiration» von Raúl Krauthausen.