The term certainly catches your attention, right?
Author Andrew Pulrang wrote an article in Forbes about “inspiration porn”- a term used to identify articles, memes and other forms of media that we see regarding people with disabilities that “…share one or more of the following qualities- 1. Sentimentality and/or pity, 2. An uplifting moral message, primarily aimed at non-disabled viewers. 3. Disabled people anonymously objectified, even when they are named.” The article explains that while those in the disabled community understand that the author may mean well, the content can be embarrassing or possibly demoralizing to the subject of the article/meme/whatever.
The article made me think about jiu jitsu, and the memes or social media posts that you occasionally see, with someone who may be blind, or may be missing a limb, and then of course the tag line of something along the lines of how much heart that athlete has. I get it- it’s supposed to emphasize that jiu jitsu is for everyone regardless of size or physical ability, it’s about the heart of that person…. I understand all of that. We also have those in the jiu jitsu community who have certain disabilities that we all look up to- take Jean Jacque Machado, who has a congenital hand defect and is considered one of the greats in the art.
But sometimes those posts of those who are seen as disabled or differently abled end with a tag line that can be summed up as, “what’s your excuse?”. The audience of those kinds of posts is geared toward the able bodied community, and as the Pulrang points out:
“Disabled people are used as stock figures in larger cultural narratives about hard work, gratitude, and other “traditional” values. A disabled person lifting weights or working every day for less than minimum wage is a convenient, (and seemingly apolitical), object lesson for the rest of us to work harder, complain less, and be thankful for what we have.”
So, does jiu jitsu have an inspiration porn problem? It’s a complicated answer that I don’t believe can be answered with a simple yes or no. In short, I think we as a community try to be inclusive- as I always say jiu jitsu is for ever body, but not for everybody- but we could certainly do better in giving a more prominent voice to those who continue on their jiu jitsu journey in a less conventional way. If we are truly serious about how jiu jitsu is for everyone, then we need to do a better job of having those unconventional stories told, and told by those who have experienced them firsthand.
Just some food for thought… Have a great day everyone!