"You might have seen the one, the little girl with no hands drawing a picture with a pencil held in her mouth. You might have seen a child running on carbon fiber prosthetic legs. And these images, there are lots of them out there, they are what we call inspiration porn. (Laughter) And I use the term porn deliberately, because they objectify one group of people for the benefit of another group of people. So in this case, we're objectifying disabled people for the benefit of nondisabled people. The purpose of these images is to inspire you, to motivate you, so that we can look at them and think, "Well, however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person."
I'm releasing an unofficial biography. All the cool crips are doing it. The art proof came in on the weekend. I'm loving the Vogue Magazine quote - clearly they're scouring my instagram.
I will sign each book with a greasy thumb print. Every copy comes with a limited edition skin flake. You can use it as a bookmark.
I'm looking like I am praying, wearing angel wings. Also wearing a cherry print blue dress, and pearls.
The text says:
Carly Findlay - #FashionAngel
Descaling the beauty ideal, one natural facial peel at a time.
Read how she's overcome an unfortunate facial affliction to succeed as #FashionAngel, brushing skin flakes off black silk.
"Carly's ability to choose fabrics that don't make her look like a greasy fish and chip wrapper is astounding." ~ Vogue Magazine.
That's a parody. Not a real book. I had so much fun helping to create it though. And I hoped that while it makes people laugh, it also makes them think.
Life's great when you can laugh at yourself and parody the way disability is represented in the media.
Imagine being the victim or hero of the story. Being told you're an inspiration for just existing. Or worse, being described a burden. (Being described a burden in your parent's book about raising you. The horror.) Imagine the constant expectation to overcome your disability. Your vulnerable image used as a sales tool. What about being so locked into a stereotype that people pity you, have low expectations of your abilities and commend you for getting out of bed. What if your closest relative was writing a book in your voice, to make an income? This is the reality for many people with disabilities.
Some friends and I created parodies of our biographies - dripping in inspiration porn, shocking with innuendo and comical blurbs. One featured two dildos. I hope it's jarringly obvious just how bad inspiration porn looks. I wrote my blurb with glee. Late at night, as the fake covers came through, I was giggling so much Adam sleep-slapped me to be quiet.
The reactions to us posting them on Facebook were interesting. Many of my friends realised it was a joke. Some congratulated me. But my disabled friends experienced the funniest and alarming reactions.
Their friends and family believed them. Requested copies of the book. Some didn't believe they could write and so were surprised at this fake announcement. Many were Inspired.
One friend told me how bemused they were, seeing their friends' reaction to the 'book':
"I'm abso-freaking-lutely hornswaggled.
How come Carly"s friends know IT'S A JOKE AND ALL OF MINE ARE CONGRATULATING ME?
I'm a little shocked that my friends think that I would happily promote the schlock I'm spoofing! Or they didn't read it... but even my pic is deliberately a shocker - how could anyone think that was a serious bio? And yet they did by the droves. Perhaps we are perceived as so desperate for attention that we would write anything, publish anything? Bizarre.
I can't wait for a book launch. All cover and no content."
That sums up the way some perceive our activism really. All cover, no content. Are they really even listening?
It's funny, my friends pointed out that so many readers of The Age article commented on my dress, overlooking what I had to say on inspiration porn. And they playfully named me fashion angel. Now I love fashion, and it's nice to be complimented, but perhaps I need to dress down to get the message across.
No matter how much we talk about disability, and what activism we do, some people will not know we do it, or understand it. They might not even want to. Addressing the reality of disability - especially calling out ableism - makes people uncomfortable. They've told me. They've told me to tone it down. To stop taking myself so seriously. Stop looking to be outraged. They're worried their casual ableism might offend me.
In my time writing about The Mighty, I learnt I could try to educate as many people as I could about the definition and problems of inspiration porn, and about disability pride, but the majority were blinded to it because of their perceptions of disability. One woman even told me disabled people exist to inspire others. They see what they want to see - their own perception of disability. And perhaps that's the case because of the churn of media that makes non disabled people feel good about themselves - seeing disabled people suffer, overcome amd inspire.
You could substitute a book with a film or newspaper article or tabloid magazine spread. People with disabilities are mainly portrayed in the same way, as I've highlighted above. Our voices are often diluted by others'. And that's why it's important to take back how we are portrayed. Own it. Laugh at it. Make our own media, on our own terms. Be firm with publishers and journalists about how we are portrayed - question their intent when approached. And we can be proud of and declare our real achievements - when we actually do amazing things .
I do want to wrote a book one day, but I want to do so on my own terms. I want it to be in the style of my blog. In my voice. My cover won't have a sob-story tagline. I will not perpetuate the demeaning, stereotypical way people with disabilities are portrayed.
I'm making an Inspiration Porn Resolution - the only way I'll perpetuate it is to parody it. I hope this demonstrates that we can speak up about the things that matter, while still having fun.