Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What's Wrong with the TODAY Show's I Am Unbroken Campaign

I happened to see this headline (Champion Gymnast with Down Syndrome Overcomes Obstacles, Inspires Others) today, through Facebook.  In its original, uncorrected version, it claimed that the "Champion Gymnast Overcame Down Syndrome..."  And that's just one thing that rubbed me entirely wrong about this "campaign."

This article details what TODAY's producers were looking for:

It says "all walks of life" but so far the series seems dedicated to inspiration porn about disabled people.  Chelsea Werner is a gymnast who has Down Syndrome.  Bonnie Kate Zoghbi survived a shooting and was wounded (She's 'Unbroken': TODAY Honors Woman Wounded in Aurora Theater Shooting).  In Chelsea's segment, we almost never hear from her.  We only hear from her parents and her coach.  In Bonnie Kate's segment, most of the talking is done by her husband.  I mean no disrespect to these women.  I just think it's so problematic that in a segment about them, we rarely hear from them.

Disabled people living their lives is not cause for celebration.  Being disabled does not make us "broken."  Disabled people being disabled and happy does not make us "unbroken."  Because we are not overcoming our disabilities.  We are simply living.  We have good days and bad days just like everyone else.

If living while disabled, and smiling while disabled, is cause for celebration and segments on morning shows then we have set a pretty low bar.  Celebrate Chelsea when she competes and does well.  Celebrate Bonnie Kate on her wedding day.  Don't celebrate them for existing.

Hoping that the I Am Unbroken campaign is better in its remaining days, but to be honest, I am not holding my breath.

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