Stella Young: I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much

Earlier tonight, I attended a meeting of the Cork Centre for Independent Living Peer Forum in the Maldron Hotel on John Redmond Street.

Event organiser and Cork CIL Community Employment Supervisor Nicola Meacle was MC for the evening. She screened four short films on the theme of “A Visual Exploration of Disability and Independent Living” and gave a brief introduction to each one. Nicola prefaced I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much (a talk given by Stella Young at TEDxSydney in April, 2014) by breaking the sad news that Stella had recently passed away.

I must confess that I’d never heard of Stella before, something I regretted after watching the film. In nine minutes, Stella eloquently and wittily articulated something I’d often felt, but could never quite put my finger on.

She said that just because someone has a disability, it doesn’t make him or her exceptional. And that it’s wrong to use a disabled person’s struggle to do things most people take for granted as a source of inspiration because it leads to objectification, or “inspiration porn” as Stella memorably put it.

What disabled people want, she summed up, was to be treated just like everyone else. She hoped to live in a world where disability was not the exception, but the norm.

Stella Young was born in Australia in 1982. She was born with osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) and used a wheelchair for most of her life. She enjoyed a successful career as a comedian, journalist, and disability rights activist. She died unexpectedly on December 6th, 2014, at the age of 32. RIP.

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