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Kate Taylor does not write inspiration porn

October 27th, 2021Kate Taylor does not write inspiration porn

I DO not write inspiration porn. If you don’t know me, or this is the first time you’ve read anything by me, for over 12 months I have been writing stories for a disability support service provider. About giving voice to the people they provide support to.

I DO not write inspiration porn.
If you don’t know me, or this is the first time you’ve read anything by me, for over 12 months I have been writing stories for a disability support service provider. About giving voice to the people they provide support to.
Sometimes it’s employees with great stories, but usually the stories of the people to whom we provide supports. They are short, to increase readability as audiences tend to have shorter attention spans for online stories. They’re weekly, because we have a lot of great people living life. My one rule is that I always, always communicate with the person that the story is about. They are the one telling their story. They are the one controlling the narrative. I’m the one with 15 years’ experience as a journalist, I’m the one that’s won an award, I’m the one that presents to Deakin journalism students…and I’m the one handing over every bit of that control and power to the person I am interviewing.
They’re the one who can tell me to bugger off, they’re the one who can tell me what to leave in and what to leave out, they’re the one telling me their story the way they want it told. And it’s an honour to hear it. It’s a bloody huge privilege to help them tell it, too. Sometimes they use a communication partner. Sometimes they can only use the words ‘yes’ or ‘no’ so it happily becomes a game of 20 Questions. Or I only get one question before they yell ‘bye!’ and hang up.

Stories about disability tend to fall into one of two categories – inspiration porn, or pity prose. We’ve all seen it in the media. And that’s what I fight against. In my lectures, in my stories. I’m presenting on this very topic at the Victorian Country Press Association annual conference in November. Disability literacy. So that we no longer write stories about disability that are purely designed to make the people reading them feel better about themselves/the world. So that we call out every bit of pity prose as bulls. So I give control over the narrative to the people I’m writing stories about. I give them the power to tell their own stories, the way they want them to be told. I do it because I’ve had the inspiration-porn thing done to me. Twice. Once, a few years ago, in a Fairfax newspaper. I told my story to a cracking young journo. And in the article he said of me ‘she did not have time to wallow in her affliction’. And again…‘rather than wallowing over her new situation’. One more quote…the vomit-inducing inspiring intro to the article: “At only 19, Kate Taylor went blind within a matter of months. But with her whole life before her, the Ballarat woman was not going to let a debilitating obstacle stand in her way. “Now 14 years on, the young mother and journalist is taking each new challenge with the same spirit.” I won’t put a link to it here. I don’t have time to wallow in shy journalism. Such good intentions, to show the world what a great job a blind woman is doing. And such lazy, uninformed writing. Wallowing? Affliction? I’m not ‘overcoming’ anything. I’m just me. The second time? I was invited on ABC Radio’s Statewide Drive program to talk about a journalism award I had won. And the presenter only asked about me losing my sight. She was trying really, really hard for tears. She got so frustrated with me she asked ‘why are you so happy?’ and I said ‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ So, if I write a story about a person we support and I’m on about their daily life, I’m writing what they want me to tell? And it sounds ‘basic?’ And it’s devoid of excessive adverbs? And it’s not a tear-jerker? Then I call bulls**. And I laugh in your face, because every single person I interview for a story is really, really hard to get hold of because they are always out and about doing things. Things that they choose to do. Things that they love doing. And I appreciate it every single time they put me in their calendar to chat to, fitting me into their busy life. And I repay their trust by telling their story the way that they want it to be told. I don’t try to turn them into inspiration porn. I know how that feels. There’s no mention of ‘wallowing’ or ‘affliction’ or ‘spirit’ in my stories. I write real stories about real people, just the way they are.
‘I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a man with no feet.’ What!? Pfft. I’d prefer to talk to the man with no feet than the one whinging about having no shoes. At least the one with no feet’s got a bloody good story. It’s not up to me to pick you up, brighten your day by telling you stories about people with no feet, just to make you feel better about yourself. I’m not here for inspiration porn. Mostly, the stories I write don’t even specify what a person’s disability is. I forget to ask. I’m too busy asking about the medals they’ve won, their recent trip across Italy, their work in an art gallery. About how they live their life. Feet or no feet…
I’m putting stories out there into a world that doesn’t always see disability the way people with disability do. Sadly? A lot of readers are amazed to see that the people we provide supports to lead really busy and full lives. Happily. I get to show them how it’s done.

Kate Taylor is an award-winning journalist…and she’s also blind. In this series, she explores world issues through the lens of living in regional Victoria with a disability. Sometimes dark, sometimes funny, her stories will always make you think.

Email: kate.elizabeth.taylor.1@gmail.com



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