Body-positive blogger explains why you shouldn't call disabled people 'an inspiration'

Blogger Imogen May. (Photo: Instagram/Megan Jayne Crabbe)
Blogger Imogen May. (Photo: Instagram/Megan Jayne Crabbe)

Body-positive blogger Imogen May doesn’t want people to call her “an inspiration.”

May, “The Feeding of the Fox” blogger and Instagram influencer from the U.K., wrote a post about why she dislikes people calling her an inspiration. Though she wrote the post in July, body-positive author Megan Jayne Crabbe re-shared it this week, May’s message remaining constant: “I am not an inspiration because I am a disabled person.”

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May has a genetic impairment and often writes of its relation to body image. Many have applauded her for speaking out about her personal struggle with her impairment as well as with body image, but have done so with language that May believes is not only insulting but also damaging to those in the disabled community.

“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. … 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.”

May tells Yahoo Lifestyle that although she feels it isn’t her responsibility to educate others, she chooses to speak out to give a voice to the voiceless and flip the pitied and misunderstood narrative so often placed on disabled groups.

“When people use language that was developed to oppress us, segregate us, belittle us, or categorize us, you are perpetuating the oppression we face,” she explains. “Whilst the language of other minority groups may be a little easier to remove from your dictionary, ablest words are thrown around without thought, and often those who use them are oblivious to their historical, political, ties.”

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Other disabled men and women have written about this concept before. Like May, they say the term is belittling and presumptuous.

“We are not perfect, angelic human beings by virtue of having a disability. Life just doesn’t work that way, and you can’t pigeonhole us as brave or permanently optimistic or whatever innocuous stereotype helps you process our disabilities better,” writer Erin Tatum wrote in a piece for the website Everyday Feminism.

She explained that calling a disabled person an inspiration also fails to account for and acknowledge a person’s unique experiences with disability. In other words, it lumps a group of people together without understanding the complexities of their lives.

“Having a disability puts us in the same community, but it doesn’t make us all the same,” she wrote. “Suggesting that all disabled people are inspirational just because we’re disabled robs us of the cultural and socioeconomic contexts that have created and continue to foster our diversity.”

May agrees.

“My body is more than my impairment, it’s more than any perceived limitations,” she wrote. “Suggesting I’m inspiring due to a blip in my genetic code means that everything I have worked for as a person is worthless and that my impaired body is the only part of me anyone sees.”

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She wants people to appreciate her for her, not just one part of what makes up who she is.

“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,” her post continued. “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.”

She knows her post is provocative, but she wants people, perhaps many of the 14,000 Instagram users who liked her post on Crabbe’s page, to engage in a more “radical conversation around the politics of disabled people.”

“I hope my Instagram posts encourage that,” she says. “I hope they have a thirst for justice and a passion for the human rights of my community. We’ve been waiting a long time for you to join us.”

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