Thoughts on the portrayal of disability in the media
Chief Sender of Hugs Faye shares her thoughts on the portrayal of disability in the media
Today I’m in a paper. And I have mixed feelings about it.
While it’s great exposure for BearHugs and I’m always incredibly grateful to anyone who chooses to spread the word about what we do, I also really struggle with the language that is often used to talk about anyone who has experienced / experiences illness or disability. I am nearly always misquoted when it comes to health.
Falling ill is a huge part of why I came to start BearHugs and it probably wouldn’t exist now if I hadn’t gotten poorly. So I do know it's hard to talk about one without the other. But it's sometimes a little frustrating to see the language that is used in telling stories like mine.
Phrases like ‘world fell apart’ and ‘fighting back’, always seem to come up even when only factual information about what has happened has been provided. It's not language I’d use to talk about myself and it’s not the tone I'd hope for BearHugs to put out there.
I worry that language like this feeds into damaging ableist ideas that anyone with a disability should automatically be described as inspiring. When people are patronisingly congratulated on simply existing with a disability, it undermines all that they are outside of their health. That being said, I do know that sometimes, making it to the end of day when your body has been battling against you is a thing to be celebrated.
I think there's a lot to be learned about resilience from people who have experienced illness. I have incredible friends who have reassured me in one way or another that it is possible to adapt, make positive changes and be extraordinary in spite of (not because of) the fact that you've been thrown a big curveball. But so often, that's not the tone of these articles and that really worries me.