The Problem with Promposal Inspiration Porn

prom

Ah, prom.  To be a highschooler again, excited for the summer, but arguably more excited for the upcoming dance.  During this time of year, a lot of stories come out about students with various disabilities being asked to prom in spectacular, over-the-top ways.  The stories of students asking disabled students to prom spread through social media, getting thousands of views and comments. These elaborate “promposals” are celebrated, and the asker is heralded as a hero for asking someone who is different.  However, people with disabilities tend to see these stories as problematic and an example of inspiration porn.

Geniune Act vs. Inspiration Porn

Let’s start off by saying, the act itself of a nondisabled student asking a disabled student to prom is not what’s problematic.  In fact, it’s fantastic that there are kids who want to include their disabled peers. And a lot of these nondisabled students don’t do this thinking they’ll get internet points for asking a disabled student to prom.  The inspiration porn part comes in when the internet gets ahold of the story, and starts twisting it into how great the asker is. Looking at the comments from any of these stories, they’re filled with praise for the asker.  How wonderful are they, to let the poor kid in a wheelchair feel special for one night in their life. It’s dehumanizing.

Hypocritical

Not only are the comments dehumanizing the disabled student by saying how lucky they are to be asked to prom, they’re being hypocritical.  The internet is so busy praising the able-bodied student for seeing past disability that the disparity itself becomes the story. It turns the asker into a knight in shining armor for doing something that should just be normal.  Heather Boorman from The Mighty put this best in her article on the subject from 2017:

And it’s incredibly hypocritical. On the one hand, the masses are affirming and praising the fact that a neurotypical individual can see past the neurodiversities of another and “treat them just like anyone else.” On the other hand, the mere fact that they are praising this and calling such national attention to the act presupposes that it takes some type of gallant, noble personality to actually see the individual with a disability as a regular person. Doesn’t this presume that differently-wired people are not regular people?”

Conflict Of Sentiments

The focus of these “news” stories may be well-intentioned, but are ultimately more harmful than good.  Ableism and acceptance are on opposite ends of the scale. You can not be accepting of disabled people while having prejudice against disabled people.  Lots of times, ableism is internal and you don’t know you’re doing it. Actively working on identifying ableist thoughts and actions is step one to acceptance.

What About The Rest Of The Year?

Prom is one night a year.  Are nondisabled students inclusive the rest of the year?  Where are those stories? Able-bodied people should not need an excuse to be inclusive, and disabled people should be included year-round.  If anything, these stories highlight the ableist culture these students are in the rest of the year. These elaborate promposals show that the disabled students only matter during prom season.

So what’s the solution?  Do kids stop asking their disabled peers to prom?  That seems unlikely. The best solution is to educate people.  The act of going to prom shouldn’t be a news story. An able-bodied student shouldn’t be praised for asking their friend, who happens to be in a wheelchair, to prom.  These videos aren’t going to stop being posted. There really isn’t a clear cut answer. One solution is to educate others, commenting on the inherent ableism of these posts when you come across one.  Perhaps share this article with others, or find similar articles that make similar points. Prom can be the most magical night of a teenager’s life, regardless of ability. Having ableist ideas thrown at you, intentionally or unintentionally, can sour the whole experience.

The Problem with Promposal Inspiration Porn

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