I became aware of #CrippingTheMighty yesterday when a friend mentioned me in a tweet.
Now I have been aware of The Mighty for a long time. I have been uncomfortable with it for about the same length of time.
The Mighty is ostensibly a site about disability. Their tagline is,
Real people. Real stories.: We face disability, disease and mental illness together.
The problem with The Mighty is that the “real people” whose “real stories” are being told are predominantly not disabled. They are the stories of parents or care givers. They are stories about disability, far to often told from outside of it. As a result far to many of the stories fall into the trap of inspiration porn or even worse parental self-pity.
They are pretty unapologetic about this, consider this quote attributed to their editor.
Despite selling itself as a site which celebrates the stories of disabled people, it is also a space where we are centred very squarely as the “other”.
That is not to say that they never publish stories by actual disabled people. Most of which appear in stark contrast to the rest of the site as they deviate so sharply from the dominant messages the site puts forward.
Issues arise even in disability lead stories in a couple of ways. First writers are never paid so they are expected to either create content or share content for free.
Secondly, The Mighty has been known to insist on edits that change the tone of the piece or deny the way a writer self-identifies. To the point where some have pulled their permission.
So back to #CrippingTheMighty which is a conversation about trying to shift the focus of the site. I have to admit to a certain amount of pessimism. I do not see the site editor making the seriously needed systemic changes to keep the site from doing more harm than good.
First you have the nondisabled editor who seems quite happy with the self-pity and inspiration porn that make up the majority of the site.
Secondly, you have to contend with the people who visit the site, the people who are drawn in by the camaraderie of self-pity and feel good inspo-porn.
Just go look at the comment sections on articles that challenge preconceived ideas and bigoted actions. The readers of the Mighty are more than happy to defend prejudice.
The Mighty is a safe space for those ideas. Those who regularly read The Mighty are unlikely to take well to being cut off from their self-pity play group and inspiration porn. While I have little sympathy for them, The Mighty is unlikely to take any action that is going to infuriate or alienate the vast majority of their readership. They don’t want to build a more enlightened reader base, they would rather cultivate the ignorant base they already have.
Let’s face it disabled activists’ positive contact with The Mighty is through those rare disability lead articles. Apart from that, the relationship is and has been adversarial for a long time. The Mighty does not want to listen.
So while, I appreciate being considered a positive voice for the disabled community, I think #CrippingTheMighty serves better as a tool to publicly criticize the site (and dissent is a powerful tool of education), rather than a viable way to change it.
As it currently stands, I would be deeply uncomfortable having my writing featured on the site, surrounded by so much content that makes me cringe.
I think a better option is to continue critiquing The Mighty (to hold it accountable), but rather than banking on changing it, creating an alternative. A Website truly lead by disabled voices which could more accurately show the reality and the diversity from within the disabled community.