A new “reality” program about the lives of a group of young female wheelchair users will be debuting in April on the Sundance Channel (Huffpost has details here.) “Push Girls” (yes, really) aims to give viewers:
“an unscripted look into the lives of four gorgeous ladies who became disabled after enduring tragic car accidents or debilitating diseases”
“an uncensored glimpse at what it means to be sexy, ambitious and living with paralysis”
For starters, I should say that it’s a good thing if there’s more mainstream awareness of the full, rich, non-tear-jerking lives led by so many disabled people. And insofar as programs like this work toward that goal, it’s likewise a good thing. So I’ll tune in with interest. But there’s so much not to like about the way this program is being pitched. My biggest pet peeves:
(1) Why do the women have to be young and conventionally hot? Surely the best way to overcome the stereotypes of disabled people as sexless or unattractive is to challenge our starting assumption of what sexy, attractive bodies can look like – not get together a bunch of women who look like models who happen to be sitting down. While it’s important to recognize that disabled people can be “hot” by conventional standards, there’s only so far that’s going to toward helping us appreciate non-standard bodies. Disabled bodies are never going to be “normal”. That’s part of their charm.
(2) Just for once, it would be nice to see a mainstream discussion of disability that isn’t laced with “tragic overcomer” rhetoric. Not strong, fearless people bravely facing the tragedy of disability. Not inspiring, motivational people showing us how to persevere against all odds. Just happy, flourishing people who as it happens are disabled.