Heartwarming stories don’t warm my heart

There’s another inspiration porn story doing the rounds at the moment. If you haven’t watched it already, please watch the late Stella Young’s talk on inspiration porn.

Last week, there was a story about a cake which was effectively the same thing, and Erin¬†Human has effectively addressed that one. This new one is a “heartwarming” story (link no longer working) about Santa being nice to an autistic kid.

So, what’s so wrong about that? Shouldn’t we be applauding Santa for being so nice? Well, maybe and maybe not. Isn’t being nice part of Santa’s job description? This one in particular is actually at a special Caring Santa event, so he should probably be doubly caring.

The common theme that runs through all these types of stories is “Look! A disabled person experienced something totally normal because an abled person was nice to them.”

That tells the world that without helpful helping helpers who are abled, we are less than human. It tells us that unless you make space for us in your world by holding special events and by going above and beyond to just show us some basic human decency, we don’t belong in your world.

It tells us that being decent to us is a monumental achievement that you should be applauded for because we’re so difficult to deal with that being kind to us requires so much extra effort on your part.

It hurts. It hurts us because we’re so unworthy of basic human decency that we’re expected to appreciate any scrap of kindness thrown our way. It hurts because when we say “this is not ok”, we’re told that we’re being ungrateful.

Why should we be grateful for people who objectify us, and who use our lives in stories about themselves to make themselves look like heroes?

Being kind should be the norm, and not the exception, and when we get told that we should appreciate these stories, we hear that being kind to us is the exception. Society hears that too: Society already thinks that treating us like we’re less than human is reasonable. Society needs no further encouragement to do that. When you share an inspiration porn story, you’re contributing to the norm that says it’s ok to treat us awfully, and that is a problem.