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Let's Talk About Inspiration Porn

Updated: Mar 20, 2023



Ever heard of it?


Chances are you've seen it. You're scrolling online and come across a picture of someone with Down Syndrome playing a sport, with a caption like "your excuse is invalid", or "before you quit, try". You see a news story about a student with cerebral palsy being elected Prom Queen as an act of charity. Or someone with a disability tak


es the “winning shot” at the high school basketball game… the list goes on. This is Inspiration Porn. The (rather controversial) term was first used by successful Australian comedian, public speaker, and disability rights activist, Stella Young. In short, "inspiration porn" is the portrayal of people with disabilities as being inspirational to people with disabilities on the basis of their life circumstances. Young says that “I use t


he term porn deliberately, because they objectify one group of people for the benefit of another group of people”. In this case, a person with a disability is used as a means to make someone who is considered “normal” feel better about themselves. Yuck.

Even if done with good intentions, the messages conveyed through Inspiration Porn support the idea that someone having a disability is “tragic”. Disability isn’t terrible, and a person with a disability shouldn’t be considered brave or inspirational for simply existing. The true tragedy is that people with disabilities suffer from misrepresentation and the way non-disabled people view them – as someone to be pitied or praised

So, how do we avoid Inspiration Porn?


First, we can adjust our thinking to acknowledge the fact that disability is not an affliction, burden, or tragedy. When we scroll, let’s remember that whenever we see something that portrays a person as valuable “in spite of” or exceptional “because of” disability provides us an opportunity to discuss, enlighten, and yes, inspire others to work toward change.

After all, “disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does.” – Stella Young

You can watch Stella’s 2014 TED Talk “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K9Gg164Bsw Advisory: Language


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