I’ve said a few times on this blog that I hate being called an inspiration. It puts me on a pedestal that I don’t belong, and gives me credit for achievements I haven’t earned. the truth is that I am as powerful, weak, successful, hopeless, generous, stingy, determined, and whiny as everyone else, and by treating me as an inspiration because I happen to catch public transport and go to work is actually a backhanded compliment. It assumes that such things should not be ordinary everyday experiences for disabled people.

Stella Young has said it best in her TED video:

I want to live in a world where we don’t have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our names in the morning. I want to live in a world where we value genuine achievements for disabled people. Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does.

I recommend you take the time to be inspired by the whole speech:

11 Responses to “Stella Young and inspiration porn”

  1. Tanya Riches

    That was great. So we can stop idolizing you now? 😉

    I’ve always thought the phrase “the only disability in life is a bad attitude” was clearly bullshit. But it helps that she called it. It’s terrible when pastors use it.

    • Shane Clifton

      yes, it both understates and understates disability at one and the same time. And I guess you could wait one or two months and then stop idolising me!

      • Tanya Riches

        Well I decided that you do make a contribution beyond watching twilight and going to school – it is normal for theologians to receive some accolades for their work. So I do think you are due your fair amount of comments that you are ‘inspirational’. If you start putting memes out though with yourself in them, that’s the line, I think.

  2. Paul Borig

    Good food for thought. But let’s face it, you ARE pretty exceptional!

    • Shane Clifton

      ha dad – of course I’d expect you to say that!

  3. Paul Borig


  4. Jen Danger

    Like it or not Shane, you’ll still inspire people, so you might need to make your peace with that (while still challenging people what it is that inspires them, because yes I agree, inspiration porn is sickening). You inspired me before your accident and you’ve continued to inspire me after. That ain’t gonna change. And if you’re uncomfortable with that, why? Would you prefer I’m uninspired, disinterested in theology, ethics, disability, etc? 🙂 My inspiration isn’t because you’ve gotten out of bed or that you’ve done ordinary tasks; it is in your transparency, your challenging of ideas and campaigning for more insight into issues such as this one, your reshaping of accepted models of thought, etc etc. But doing it all whilst accidentally getting crap on your face does make for interesting reading and gives insight into experiences that I’ve not had. 🙂

  5. jaymcneill

    OK, I totally get what this conversation is about and agree wholeheartedly but… I think it is appropriate to attach a measure of inspiration acknowledging the challenge of the starting point. In other words, if 95% of people in your situation Shane decide to not get on the train and teach at college but you do, then you are in the top 5% of motivated people and it should be acknowledged. My problem with videos like this is it makes the average person even more nervous about saying the wrong thing to someone with a disability and even less likely to engage.
    It is the same thing with our first Australians. There is so much political correctness floating around, people are now frightened to have a normal conversation with the fear of offending.
    Not sure what the answer is other than being in each others life so we can appreciate each others starting point and normalise everyones quirkiness.

    • Shane Clifton

      you’re absolutely right, Jay. I wrote this post on the weekend after watching Stella’s video – which I absolutely loved (and found inspiring). I set it to publish a few days later, and then forgot about it. During that time, I thought about the issue a more, and then planned to make a few amendments before the post went to air, and then properly forgot about it again. When I saw that it had gone up, I almost edited it at that point, but decided to leave it as it stood. I actually don’t mind the idea of blogging being an expression of what a person thinks at the time of writing, rather than a definitive opinion. But I might take this one on again to see if I can clarify my mind on the matter.

      Truthfully, I had another reason for writing. I wanted to put a few relatively quick blog posts up so that the discussion on my sex life didn’t remain at the top of my blog feed for too long!

  6. Tania Harris

    Enjoyed this, love her thoughts, though I still think people like her can be an inspiration??!!

  7. Rethinking inspiration | Shane Clifton

    […] ← Stella Young and inspiration porn […]

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