Inspiration Porn

Tonight is the yearly Children in Need appeal here in the UK. BBC One is taken over by a telethon for about seven hours. The idea is to raise money to help disadvantaged children. So you see video clips of children from other countries walking miles for water, young carers helping their mum or dad and disabled children doing things too. And it’s a given that those children will either look sad or have their story told using emotive language such as “suffers from…” Or “whilst other children are playing little Johnny must…”

Interspersed with those clips are famous people doing silly stuff, frequent updates on how much has been raised and brief mentions of members of the public doing sponsored silences. Locally a lot of schools have had PJ days to raise money. Those can sometimes be funny and a child I was a big fan of Children in Need.

Now? I hate it.

This is what’s known in disability circles as “inspiration porn”

Inspiration porn is something which is designed to highlight the differences disability brings and invoke pity. In some cases this pity is to raise money for charity, in others it’s to encourage people and sometimes it’s designed to make them think. It’s a bit like the ultimate embodiment of the phrase “there’s always someone worse off than you”. I am disabled and therefore, automatically, my life is terrible, I am an object of pity and you have it much better than I do.

The phrase that will be heard a lot on telethons is “can you donate to make a difference to a child like little Johnny” invariably after they’ve just told you how terrible his life is. The inference being that if you can’t you obviously don’t care about him.

It’s the picture doing the rounds on Facebook with the “the only disability in life is a bad attitude.” Attitude is huge. But I can’t put on my Bolshie face, wheel up to the local shop that doesn’t have wheelchair access and stare the step down until it magically turns into a ramp and lets me in. And as much as I do my damnedest not to let my CP stop me that doesn’t make me amazing and I’m sure as hell not inspirational. The idea behind that I believe is that it makes nondisabled people think “if she can do that with all she goes through why am I moaning?” And such like.

Or it’s the advert at the train station which shows a little boy in a wheelchair with the phrase “he wishes he could leave this behind too.” And the details of how to donate to one of the disability charities. Because clearly he’s trapped by his chair. The idea as with all of these is to make you pity him. Only when I saw that poster I was sat in my wheelchair. On the train as it pulled out of the station. Fail.

Disability does make me different to other people. Wearing glasses makes to me different to other disabled people. The fact I like to dye my hair, live alone and am a big NCIS fan makes me different again from other glasses wearing disabled people. It’s a fact of life and a characteristic of me as any other for anyone else in the world.

I knew, growing up, that at least one of the organisations I was involved with had received money from Children in Need (although I don’t think it was ever featured). But I never realised that I was one of those kids. One of the ones who were shown “leaving the confines of their wheelchair behind for an hour once a week whilst they ride a horse.”

I’m glad I didn’t realise. It took me a long time to become the vaguely confident outgoing person I am now. It would have taken longer if I’d grown up with the knowledge that my life meant I was an object of pity who needed charity lives a terrible life and who is held up to others as a reason why they’re lucky. Because obviously the fact I survived being deprived of oxygen at birth at a time when the medical world wasn’t as developed as it is now means I’m terribly unlucky.

More than your charity I want your support. And for me that comes from being treated with respect. From people recognising who I am and my individuality, not making assumptions and letting me be me. That’s going to make more of a difference to more of those “children in need” then all the money donated in it’s entire 30+ year history.

If you want to help people donate direct to organisations and bypass those events that thrive on making people feel bad.

See the girl, see the truth, see the life. Accept me and those like me. I’m here living me life. Like you I’ve only got one shot at it and I don’t have a choice but to do what I do. I’m here to enjoy myself, not to inspire you or be pitied. Open your eyes and say no to inspiration porn.

With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan

I picked up an advance copy of With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan when I went to the Simon and Schuster blogger event. The book is coming out in February 2013.

I read quite a few Patricia Scanlan books when I was younger but haven’t read any for several years. I’m glad I got the chance to rediscover her writing with this book! It’s about three generations of women, the secrets they keep and what happens when one is discovered. And it does it really well. I expected there to be lots of angst and difficulties in the book and whilst they are both there they aren’t the main thing. Instead through a series of flashbacks we live through the events that led up to the lies and the secrets. I went from being convinced that it was all wrong at the beginning to thinking that I might have done the same had I been in Valerie’s position. But I did also wanted to shake them at times and tell them to simply stop making assumptions and talk to each other.

This book made me feel for the characters, made me hate others and then change my mind at times. It had a nice feeling and I did have to stop and laugh out loud occasionally. Very enjoyable, not as fluffy as some women’s fiction I wouldn’t call it chicklit although it definitely had some very romantic moments that made me go “awww”. It had a similar feel to Maeve Binchy books so I’d definitely recommend it to fans of her books. I’m not really sure why I stopped reading Patricia Scanlan books all those years ago but I won’t be stopping now.

You Know You’ve Got CP When…

…your wheelchair breaks and you don’t call the NHS out of hours repair service because its the weekend and it doesn’t seem bad enough to bother them. When the technician finally comes several days later he tells you to always call with that issue even out of hours because it needs sorting quick. In fact they consider the chair unusable with that problem.

Then a year later you have the exact same problem on a Friday afternoon and they tell you to wait until Monday. Even when you push them and they say they’ll double check and call back the answer still ends up being you need to wait until Monday.

Yes, guess who spasmed so hard on Friday afternoon (extension spasm) something, probably the bolt, snapped and the footplate came off her manual chair? Me, that’s who.

For the record, I’ve busted the footplate loads with spasms, usually just knocking it out of shape. Usually a family member would put it back then. When I snapped it all the way off last year it wasn’t a spasm that did it. I may or may not have driven my powerchair into it back then. But I’m admitting nothing 😉

I’m fine, it wasn’t that painful. I think that part of the chair is designed to break to prevent me damaging myself or doing more extensive damage to the chair. But it’s fucking annoying to put it lightly and not the most comfy thing. I’ve been spending a lot more time in my powerchair this weekend. I do a lot better in my manual in my flat however so I can’t leave it completely.

Simon and Schuster Autumn Blogger Event

I went to a blogger event hosted by Simon and Schuster yesterday. It was a lot of fun!

They had an author panel with four different authors (Ali Harris, Robert Ryan, Dean Crawford and Wendy Wallace) for an hour or so and I got a couple of questions answered.

I asked about the best and worst things about being a writer and how to keep motivated on bad days. It was interesting to hear their answers and also with the motivation one to see some similarities with how I try to find motivation – particularly the going to write somewhere out of the house one that I use at times. The stories about hearing they’d got publishing deals were also fun and the comments on dealing with bad reviews. In a way I wished it could be recorded to it was there to listen to again so I could remember all the bits I thought worth remembering or that I’d have to tell my friends but now I’m going “there was something about…” somewhat forgetfully.

After that we went into another room where there were masses of books and wine and snacks and people mingled and chatted and got books signed. You could take as many books as you wanted and I may have been a bit like a kid in a sweet shop.  Honestly when I got back to Waterloo and met my mate for a drink she was fishing in the bag so she could look at them she commented that the books “just kept kept coming.”  I wasn’t sure until we were sat in Starbucks with the entire table covered in books exactly what I’d got or how many books (14) – I just lost track with all the “oh! look! free books! I want!)

I had a chance to speak to all of the authors – some more than others and get books signed.  I also talked to some Simon and Schuster staff (mostly about books but also about wheelchair basketball with one) and other bloggers.  I tried to ask all the bloggers I spoke to what there blog was but to be honest I’m not sure how many I remembered today.  I clearly need to improve my networking skills.  Certainly I’d only heard of one of them (Novelicious) before meeting them.  I did find a few on Twitter this morning to follow though.

Here’s what I got:

The books I got at the event - listed below.


The perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – I’d actually been looking at that last weekend in Waterstones when I went to the NaNoWriMo meet up as I said to mum that’s one time where my being in an indecisive mood paid off.  My mum has declared she will be borrowing this.

Three books by Dean Crawford – Apocalypse, Immortal and Covernent.  He was one of the authors there and signed one of them for me.  Those are thrillers featuring the same character and I think from what I heard they could be intriguing.  I do like a thriller now and then.

Dead Mans Land by  Robert Ryan.  He was another of the authors there and this is signed too.  Before the event I was emailed a thing with a bit about each of the authors and their books.  I really wasn’t sure about Dead Mans Land when I read that and thought it probably wasn’t my sort of thing.  I have to say listening to him introduce it and talk about how it came about and being a writer changed my mind.  By the time he finished I was like I have to read this book.  The friend I met after took one of the books I picked up (not on this list because I can’t remember what it is – I’ll read it at some point and find out then) and would have taken this one with her too if I’d have let her!

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire – I think this might turn out to be a bit of a Jackie Collins-esque chicklit.  The cover appealed to me.  This probably shows how shallow I really am but I don’t care.

The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace – this is signed (she was the third of the authors there).  It’s not strictly speaking my sort of book but based on what was said about it there are one or two points in it the idea of which intrigued me and I wanted to get at least one book from each of the authors there.

First Last Kiss by Ali Harris (signed with a lovely message) – She was the only one of the authors there that I’d heard of before.  I reviewed her first book Miracle on Regent Street this time last year and really enjoyed it.  I’m particularly excited by this book and have been ever since I first started hearing about it on twitter a few months ago.  And now I get to read it before it’s even out. Yay.  This is on the top of reading list at the moment I think. (it’s this or Perks of Being a Wallflower simply because I know Mum wants her hands on that soon. This is winning).

The Lawgiver by Herman Wouk  This sounded intriguing.  A little hard to classify I suspect and I’m not sure what I’ll make of it.  I wasn’t sure whether to take it and ummed and ahhed a bit.  But they said I could have as many books as I wanted and it’s little and there was room in the bag…

Fever by Mary Beth Keane This is historical fiction which isn’t always something I’ve gotten on with.  Someitmes I enjoy it and others (like Phillipa Gregory) just annoy the hell out of me and I put them to one side. But lately I’ve been talking books a lot with a friend who reads a lot of historical fiction and made it sound good so I thought I’d pick this up and give the genre another go.

Black Roses by Jane Thynne.  This looks brilliant.  Based on real events in Germany of the 1930s (I’ve always been interested in that period of time ever since I studied it at school).  It looks and reads like it should be chicklit but with a touch of mystery and suspense to it.

Silenced by Kristina Ohlsson – on the cover it says “for fans of The Killing”.  I’ve not seen that but my entire family loved The Bridge so I couldn’t resist picking it up.  My Dad and my brother both like reading this sort of books too and as I read the back I thought “we’re going to be passing this around the family if it’s as good as it seems it might be.”

With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan – I read loads of her books when I was in my late teens and early twenties but haven’t read any for absolutely ages.  I’m looking forward to giving her books another try.