There are a lot of smart women in the world, and then there’s Stella Young, a comedian and disability advocate from Australia who sets the smart bar even higher.
She can see the world in a way most people cannot, especially when it comes to how people with disabilities are treated, and she has an immeasurable talent at describing what she sees. Stella can make the most uninterested person perk up and take a listen. It’s very rare when a person like Stella comes along.
What she tends to focus most on in her comedy is the objectification of people disabilities, which can lead to one of the biggest pet peeves of people with disabilities – being treated as overly inspirational. She gave a TEDx Talks speech in Melbourne last year on this very topic, titled “Inspiration porn,” and it’s changing millions of people’s views around the world.
Born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Stella has never known life other than being disabled so to her she is perfect the way she is and never pines for something outside of her life. She also works as an editor for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ramp Up disability news site. Yes, Stella only sees ability.
Her TEDx speech however is one of the best TED speeches I’ve ever seen. You should definitely take a listen if you’ve ever been irked at being called inspirational. In her speech she talks about how neighborhood leaders wanted to nominate her when she was a teenager with some kind of inspirational award, but she declined because she knew she wasn’t worthy (“All I do was watch Buffy as a kid,” she says).
Her memorable line, “Just because I’m sitting doesn’t make me inspirational,” is so very true, and it’s worth more than gold. I can totally relate to Stella’s experiences. After my injury I was constantly called inspirational for just getting up and leaving the house. As Stella eloquently describes in her speech, this is particularly quite offensive.
More than anything, Stella’s speech really shows that most able-bodied people must think living with a disability is incredibly difficult, which is how inspiration porn came about in the first place. The secret however is that our life is truly not bad as it seems.
Sure, there’s a lot of stuff we can’t do, but love, family and purpose, those are the things that pull us through. We’re definitely not here to be your private inspiration-makers.
How do you feel about being called inspirational?