Why You Shouldn't Call Disabled People An "Inspiration"

More often than not, we have a hard time talking about disabled people without calling them "inspirational" — and while they very well can be, as body-positive blogger Imogen Fox puts it, "I am not an inspiration because I am a disabled person."
Fox, who runs the blog The Feeding Of The Fox, posted a photo of herself on Instagram, writing about what she really hears when someone tells her that she's "brave," or that they "couldn't battle" what she does.
"I am not brave, I do not endure or suffer, and I am absolutely not an inspiration," she wrote. "When you say those things, you make my life & in turn my body less worthy than yours."
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Though Fox originally posted her photo in July, her post began circulating again this week when fellow body-positive blogger Megan Jayne Crabbe (@bodyposipanda) re-posted it.
Fox wrote that she understands that most people are coming from a good place when they try to compliment people within the disabled community — but it can come off as insulting, nonetheless.
"Saying you couldn't battle what I do suggests that a) I possess something you don't (I don't) or that b) living in my own skin is so horrifically unbearable you need super powers in order to manage it," she wrote.

I am not an inspiration because I am a disabled person. I am not brave, I do not endure or suffer and I am absolutely not an inspiration. When you say those things, you make my life & in turn my body less worthy than yours. Your good health is a privilege. But that doesn't in turn make my body somehow unfortunate or undesirable. Saying you couldn't battle what I do suggests that a) I possess something you don't (I don't) or that b) living in my own skin is so horrifically unbearable you need super powers in order to manage it. I realise that feels to you like a compliment, that it comes from a place of kindness, a compliment, but it is insulting. In reality many won't have any idea of what it is like to live the life I have lived in an impaired body, so your frame of reference for what might or might not be difficult is both limited & likely impacted upon by what the media have told you about my life as a cripple (similar to how you've been told you have to look as a woman, and we've all agreed that's bullshit, right?) My body is more than my impairment, it's more than any perceived limitations. Suggesting I'm inspiring due to a blip in my genetic code means that everything I have worked for as a person is worthless & that my impaired body is the only part of me anyone sees. I want to inspire you because I write powerfully & love radically. I want to encourage you because I am an ally in this political movement. I want to be seen as a critical thinking with important messages. So be aware, when you repost disabled bodies, when you talk about us in comments, when you praise us. We don't want to be your inspiration porn we want to be noticed, acknowledged & appreciated for what we offer as people

A post shared by Imogen's Body Lovin' 🌺 (@the_feeding_of_the_fox) on

Fox tells Refinery29 that although she doesn't feel that it's her responsibility to educate people, she chooses to do so when she has the energy.
"Language is always vital when it comes to discussing oppressed and marginalized groups," she says. "When people use language that was developed to oppress us, segregate us, belittle us or categorize us, you are perpetuating the oppression we face."
In other words, the way we speak about other people (and ourselves) matters.
"As a teenager I remember going to pubs and clubs and people congratulating me on my being there," she says. "People just don’t understand the nature of what they’re saying or how awful it is to be picked out of a crowd because I am a disabled person over anything else I might be."
"That feels like the overwhelming issue, people feel they have a right to know," she adds.
"My body is more than my impairment, it's more than any perceived limitations," she wrote in her Instagram post. "Suggesting I'm inspiring due to a blip in my genetic code means that everything I have worked for as a person is worthless & that my impaired body is the only part of me anyone sees."
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It's 2017, and we need to move past reducing people who are disabled down to, well, their disabilities — and nothing else.
"We don't want to be your inspiration porn. We want to be noticed, acknowledged & appreciated for what we offer as people," Fox concluded her post.
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