Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Consumer Skepticism"

At this point, I continue to watch AmputeeOT's weekly videos because she's really good at making them, not so much for the content itself. That said, I can relate to Christina's skepticism about a "new and improved" prosthetic that everyone raves about.

I use a ventilator at night. For 27 years I used essentially the same make and model ventilator … generally known as an LP6. When my respiratory therapy company told me they were phasing out the LP6 in favor of a new make entirely, I was worried. I don't know what it's like to walk on a prosthetic leg, but I'll bet people get used to the feel of them much as I got used to the feel of how the LP6 delivered it's breaths. On paper, of course, ventilators have to deliver the same thing, since my needs haven't changed. It would do no good for a new company to advertise that their ventilators breathe "faster" or "pack a stronger punch" … you don't want crazy breathing tricks from a ventilator, you want consistency. But I swear it feels different, almost like every fingerprint is different. At first, it felt very strange being on it. After a few days, though, I got used to it. Now, I'd be nervous trying a different one. Plus, the new ventilator is smaller and lighter, and it's alarm system has more options than the LP6.

So, I was skeptical, for very, very personal reasons, and now I'm sold.

Reconsidering "Inspiration Porn"

When I like it, it's a cool photo. When I don't like it, it's inspiration porn.

I've been reconsidering the concept of "inspiration porn" lately, since I started reblogging disability-themed photos I find on other blogs and websites. What is the difference between fun, or empowering images of people with disabilities and annoying, damaging "inspiration porn"?

I don't have it all figured out, but here are some factors to think about:

- It almost never helps to include a caption, especially if the caption is in the form of a simplistic slogan or bland platitude. A photo of a woman in a wheelchair doing a beautiful interpretive dance speaks volumes. Adding a caption like, "Let your inner beauty shine!" or somesuch ruins it.

- Variety helps. When the same photographer or website shows nothing but disabled people being athletic, I get the idea that I'm supposed to think that sports are the ultimate demonstration of personal achievement. The same goes for repeated images of disabled people in sharp business suits and dress. These images can serve a purpose when combined with other kind of images, but by themselves they suggest that disabled peoples' proper goal is to always appear and act as "normal" as possible.

- I can't stand sentimentality, especially when it feels cheap and unearned. There are a few instances of pop culture that will make me cry and not feel manipulated into crying … but very few. Obviously, sentimentality is a very widely employed aspect of disability images. I think this is the single biggest factor for me in judging images I am drawn to and those that offend me.

Maybe there's a project here in this topic … collect disability-themed photos found on blogs and social media, post them in groups, and "deconstruct" them to figure out what makes some genuinely positive and others "inspiration porn".