Weekly Reading List: "The Mighty" Edition

Illustration of two shelves filled with books of assorted colors

This week's Weekly Reading List is devoted to the biggest thing happening in disability culture at the moment, #CrippingTheMighty.

Let’s Have a Conversation
Megan Griffo, The Mighty - December 22, 2015

“The Mighty” responds to criticism with a pretty standard, “Won’t you educate us?” that may or may not be an opening for sincere dialog.

#CrippingTheMighty: Our stories and labor have value
Alice Wong, Disability Visibility Project - December 26, 2015

A terrific hashtag that got me really fired up and produced a lot of practical advice to go with the anger.

The problems with The Mighty, and my suggestions for improvement
Carly Findlay - December 24, 2015

Carly hits the main points of contention in a way that suggests solutions, not just shame.

Two Ethical Futures For “The Mighty”
David Perry, How did we get into this mess? - December 22, 2015

David’s advice covers the ethical and business practices side of the controversy.

Cost of “our reality” posts
Sophie’s Trains, Respectfully Connected - January 3, 2015

An important exploration of one of the aspects of this controversy, the negative impact on disabled kids and adults when parents of disabled kids let their hair down and express how they really feel, in public.

I won’t apologize for writing about my daughter
Phoebe Holmes, Herding Cats - December 26, 2015

A parent objects, perhaps confusing criticism with censorship.

Ableism FUBARs and Constructive Recoveries
Shannon Des Roches Rosa, with Carol Greenburg, Patricia George, and Christine Langager, Thinking Person’s Guide To Autism - December 31, 2015

A respected site on autism sounds a cautionary note about what can happen when criticism gets rolling and people forget to dig deeper before condemning.

Speaking for my teen and adult children
Carrie Ann Lucas, Disability3 - January 2, 2016

An invaluable explanation on what it means … and doesn’t mean … for parents to advocate for their disabled children.

The Inspiration Porn Resolution
Alice Wong, Liz Jackson, and R. Larkin Taylor-Parker, Medium - January 3, 2016

A proposed pledge of sorts for people, especially parents and other non-disabled writers, who want to write publicly about disability.

I haven’t commented much so far because I don’t want to repeat points other people have made if I can help it. Now that we are probably close to the tail end of this particular thing, I have a couple of thoughts to add:

The movement against “The Mighty” is, I think, more intense than it might otherwise be because the website’s critics don’t just disapprove of it, they dislike it. “The Mighty” is sentimental about disability, especially about disabled children, and a great many disabled people are instinctively repelled by sentimentality … grossed out in a fundamental, non-intellectual, subjective way that can’t be logically explained or refuted. I, for one, just plain don’t like most of what “The Mighty” publishes and the vibe it gives off. I don’t like “The Mighty” the way I don’t like brussels sprouts or paintings of big eyed children … which is to say that my feelings and reactions are in part matters of personal taste, quite apart from any ethical considerations. I dislike “The Mighty’s” dominant tone and approach the way smart, nerdy kids dislike being bullied by their peers, and held up as public models of virtue by a tactless teacher. For me, concerns like confidentiality, Inspiration Porn, and whether it’s ever okay to satirize traumatic experiences are valid, but almost beside the point. It’s yucky, and I think that’s one of the stronger forces driving the #CrippingTheMighty backlash.

I am pretty sure that another important factor here is jealousy. “The Mighty” has millions of dollars and apparently high-profile supporters to catapult it to prominence and social media saturation. Meanwhile, we disability bloggers grind away at our blogs and hope for a few modest paying gigs, while writing about disability in ways we honestly think are better for the disability community. Jealousy isn’t an admirable emotion, but sometimes it’s understandable. Someone had exactly the kind of opportunity all of us dream of … to establish a widely-read disability-based website that’s a force not just for good, but for progress … and instead they gave us slicked-up versions of the same old stories we’ve seen for decades ... teary, uplifting. and reassuring for non-disabled readers ... alienating and demoralizing for us ... updated with click-bait headlines and top notch SEO or whatever. Sorry. Like I said, it’s not a noble feeling, but nobody should be surprised. Though I think we in the disability community should own up to these feelings, along with our logical arguments and appeals to social justice.

If there truly is anyone at “The Mighty” who really wants to understand what happened, they should come to grips with the fact that the backlash against their product isn’t entirely irrational, wasn’t unpredictable, and in fact could have been predicted from the start. I don’t think it’s their responsibility to make their site the site we in the disability community crave, but it doesn’t have to rely as much as it does on tear-jerking and two-faced depictions of hero / burden disabled people. “The Mighty” might try letting more of us introduce ourselves to its readers as people instead.