29 May 2015

Just put the shovel down, Ted. #StellasChallenge

Sometimes, you really have to stop digging. TEDxSydney need to learn this lesson.

Last year Stella Young gave a talk at TEDxSydney about Inspiration Porn. She died seven months later. So, TEDxSydney decided to launch a memorial challenge at this years event which they called #StellasChallenge.

So far, so good: Remembering great people we've lost is really important to keep their thinking and ideas alive.

Except the "challenge" was so bad it's clear they didn't pay any attention to the speech given at their event and then posted on their website.

The challenge was to go out and interview random disabled people (or "people with disabilities" as they called us) about our social problems. I can't link you to the page which they used to launch the challenge because they've deleted all that content from the page and replaced it with some other rubbish. Like I said they've got the shovels out to dig themselves a hole and I guess they hoped that if they deleted the content, we'd empty our poor little disabled heads of their fuck up.

However, they encouraged their fans to ask us disableds their probing questions via an app and posted a page of instructions on how to do it. Now because they deleted that page entirely (rather than just deleting the content but leaving the page on their website) it's available via Google Cache. And it tells you all you need to know.

In Stella's talk, she talked a lot about the objectification of disabled people. And so they created a memorial challenge which objectifies disabled people and treats us as self-narrating zoo exhibits.

Just look at the fucking questions TEDxSydney wanted nosey bastards to ask us:

Would you mind if we talked about your disability first, so that I can understand how best to refer to it, and would you mind if we explored how it has impacted your life?

"I'm a social modelist. My disability is the social, architectural and attitudinal barriers that prevent me from living as a full and equal citizen. I guess you were hoping I'd spew up information from my medical history? Well, tough luck. My diagnoses are my personal history to share as I see fit, not public domain information you have a right to demand from me."

Have you encountered attitudes that you would like to change?

Yes. The attitudes of people like you.

What one thing can we do today to make a change towards social inclusion for disabled people?

Stop harassing us and demanding our personal information while we're just out trying to buy tampons.

But it gets worse. Apparently no-one at TEDxSydney has ever heard the disability rights mantra "nothing about us without us" because they want to ask probing questions of carers too like:

Can you tell me who you are, what role you play for someone with a disability. How long have you done this and for whom?

What impact does this have on family life?

How do you think Australians view people with a disability? Can you give examples of why you think this?

How does that make you feel?

If someone wiped my arse and they blabbed about it to some wankstain with a recording app on their phone, they'd be fired fucking fast. If someone assists me with my personal daily activities then what they do for me is confidential. Clearly no-one at TEDxSydney thought "Hmmm. If someone washed me genitals for me, would I consent to that person telling the world about it?"

It's also noteworthy that the carers get asked about their feelings and the impact on family life. I guess because we're just objects we don't have feelings. Or families.

It's just so obvious that they paid no attention to anything Stella said either during their talk for them, or at any other point during her career.

Stella, like me, used social model language. She had written about her feelings about language in the past, and in her TEDx talk clearly says "I use the term disabled people quite deliberately because I subscribe to what's called the social model of disability," yet TEDxSydney insist and persist with saying "people with disabilities" in a "challenge" that supposedly memorialises someone who objected to that mindset.

Stella had also written her objections to strangers demanding our diagnoses from us. Yet this is the first thing those TEDx tossers wanted strangers on a train or people taking our chai order to know about us.

Unsurprisingly it turned into a social media shitstorm. After 2 days TEDxSydney finally said "we were wrong, we're sorry."

Not that bloody sorry though because their apology is another thing they've deleted from their website. The hole they've dug is now basically their own grave, isn't it? The only remnants left of their brief sorrowful phase is a tweet:

(But there's no point in clicking the link in the tweet, because, as I said, the apology has been deleted. I'm surprised the tweet is still up.)

Just when you think it couldn't get any worse: The medical model language, the objectification, the demanding of medical histories, breaking the "nothing about us without us" rule, apologising and then deleting the apology from their website: They grasped those shovels even harder and dug ever deeper.

Apparently us poor little disableds weren't upset because the challenge was an insult to our humanity. Apparently we're can't know what we are or are not upset about. Hundreds of people told TEDxSydney what bothered us about the project, but we don't know our own minds so they have decided that our problem is...

The community is still grieving Stella’s tragic death, and we recognise that it is too soon to be using her name. We will rename this project in consultation with people with disabilities.

From this page as it currently stands, but don't be surprised if they delete all the content again by the time you visit the site.

Yep, they're going to go ahead with the insulting, dehumanising self-narrating zoo exhibit project. Just taking Stella's name off. This is as wrong as they could possibly be.

The project is wrong. Everything about it is wrong.

A well thought-out project by which to remember Stella is a great idea. Like I said, we need to remember the ideas of the great thinkers we've lost.

So they want to ditch the notion of remembering Stella but keep the idea of exploitative probing. There's that thunk, thunk, thunk of shovels again.

TEDxSydney could organise a remarkable memorial event. They could gather together some of the great disabled thinkers of our time and hold a 'TEDxSydney remembers Stella Young' event. They wouldn't even need to limit themselves to Australian thinkers, as modern technology means that we can deliver a talk at the Sydney Opera House while our body is in another country.

But instead they want to ditch the idea of remembrance and go with the idea of exploitation and harassment.

I can hear something scratching under the floor. I think TEDxSydney might have dug themselves a hole so deep that they've gone right through the centre of the earth and hit London.


  1. I love this! I didn't know they had removed the original page. Now I'll have to fix my own blog post about this challenge. Thanks for the info.

  2. A couple of years ago I watched a TEDx presentation that turned out to be a couple telling the story of how they came to love their child after a few years of trying to fix the disability he was born with. They had the audience crying. I wrote a friend after watching it and said "Ted is Dead to Me." It was Stella that got me to watch again, but everything's been shit since her.