Push Girls: The Pros and the Cons, and the Controversy

Push Girls is a show depicting 4 women and one teenaged girl (she is later introduced) in her late teens who have spinal cord injuries (SIC for short). 4 of the women are paraplegics while the 5th is a quadriplegic.  4 of the women’s SICs were caused by car accidents, except one of the women Mia who is a paraplegic who was paralyzed from a blood vessel rupturing upon her spine when she was 15. The other women: Tiphany, Chelsie, and Auti are all paraplegics. Angela, is a quadriplegic who lost all ability to move below her neck after a car accident. She later received stem cell surgery and was then able to move her arms.

This show has been scorned or either praised in the disability community. After seeing it go back and forth on both sides, I decided to chime in.

The main controversy is that are no women with genetic conditions depicted on the show. As someone who is afflicted by a genetic and neurological condition, I completely understand why this is upsetting and frustrating. It frustrated me not only because of my own condition but for my loved ones and friends with disabilities. I would love to watch a show with women that have CP, MD, CMT, RA, MS, etc. My aunt who has CP also shared the same opinion. I hope that one day I will be able to. I am thankful however that Push Girls has helped paved that road for us. If it can introduce women with SICs to a mass audience than surely one day a show will be made to show women who have genetic and neurological conditions.

A wonderful thing about Push Girls is that there are two women of color! That is amazing and something that makes me swell with happiness. Angela is a half Asian woman, while Auti is a Latina woman. Young women of color with disabilities need to be exposed to women like them. They deserve to be people who look like them as well as face similar struggles and oppressions. We need more successful and strong women of color characters on TV. To see successful, happy and fulfilled women of color who are both disabled is simply wonderful.

Another wonderful aspect of “Push Girls” is Tiphany. She is very open and happy with her sexuality. She also has a healthy and interracial relationship with an African American woman of color.  This may not be groundbreaking in general, but for the disabled community it is. For young women who are struggling with their sexualities, this show gives them a way to connect. As disabled women, our sexualities are constantly being silenced and shooed away. Like strong women of color TV figurines, we also lack strong and beautiful LGBQT* characters. In the disabled community, it is nearly non-existent.

To see this on our screens is amazing. Not only for us older viewers, such as myself, but for younger viewers watching this. For once, young disabled women of color or those who are embracing their sexualities, have women to lean on. It is truly beautiful.

However “Push Girls” is not without flaws.

The most potent thing I see that infuriated the disabled community are some comments made during the first episode. The first being a comment that “not all women in wheelchairs are dirty, wear sweatpants and play video games“. The first time I heard that, I was a little turned off. I have limited upper body mobility beyond my arms. Trust me, getting my sweatpants on is difficult and hard enough. I can’t wear jeans because they’re painful, hard as heck (for a lack of a more eloquent term) to get on, and lead to intense spasms. This is not an issue that just affects me, but a majority of people I know who have PDs (physically disabilities).

Another thing that made my eyebrow raise was the video game comment. I can’t get out much. I’m bedridden more often than not. If it weren’t for videogames, my laptop, books, and television than I would more than likely depressed. I am speaking bluntly and truthfully with this statement. I rely on these things to give me happiness because of my health status that greatly affects my life. These things help me cope with my illness, and give me something to lean upon. To make a comment like that hurts so many women with PDs because it’s a sensitive issue. Would I love to just be able to wheel out of my house and do what I please? Yes, without a doubt. Especially without a caretaker. But I can’t. So many other women and men too cannot either.  To attack the things that make our lives more bearable is hurtful and stings terribly.

Onto another comment that made the disability community throw their arms up in rage was the “dirty comment”.

I personally was offended but at the same time, I wasn’t. Please let me explain and elaborate. I was offended in the sense of that I know many people with PDs who CANNOT bathe themselves. I recently read an article where a disabled man’s nurse did not show up for 3 days. He was forced to sit in his own soil for those 3 days. He was not able to transfer out of his bed by himself, so he couldn’t call for help. He also was starved for those 3 days. When you make comments like that, you need to realize how many people cannot do those things. If a PD person is dirty, it is more than likely because they cannot do it themselves. Some people’s insurance only lets a nurse to come a certain amount of days per week.

You cannot make comments like this in any matter ever.

As for why I wasn’t offended, I cannot stand the stereotype that disabled people are dirty. It is just annoying. End of story. It also surprises people when disabled people are wearing make up or wearing “fabulous” clothes because we’re “not” supposed to be able to do those things. So to some degree, I do understand what Tiph was saying about the frustration that people think everyone in a wheelchair is supposed to be “dirty”.

In conclusion to that issue, I think that Tiphany is not the most thoughtful speaker. She speaks in a general manner instead of questioning of what she is saying and how she gets it across. Do I think her comment was hurtful? Yes. However I also realize that her speaking mannerism can be easily be misconstrued. I would hope that she would never say such a thing again, and have since then let it go.

To move onto to addressing more of the negative backlash is a comment made by one of the women, Mia. She made a comment that she only dates able-bodied men and not disabled men. Though, I completely disagree with this, I do understand this. To be completely truthful, I sometimes fear dating a physically disabled man.

I am going to explain.

Someone could push me out of my chair and there’s nothing I could do to defend myself. I want that comment to sweep into you and imagine how helpless I am. This fear is what many women, regardless if they’re in a chair or not, with physical disabilities think of everyday. What could my boyfriend do if he were in a wheelchair too? What if we were both flipped out of chairs? What could WE do?

This is a scenario that plays through my mind. It’s scary. I’m someone who will always need a caretaker whether I can walk again or not. Though, I am tough as nails, I am also vulnerable in so many ways. I cannot speak for every woman with PDs, but many prefer able bodied men for this reason. It’s a discussion I’ve heard and been part of many times with my PD friends. When they’re looking for wives or husbands, they are looking for protectors, caretakers, and safety too.

Despite my fear, I will never swear off non-abled bodied men. I simply wanted to elaborate on why I feel so many women who are disabled tend to stay from men with disabilities. It is a very personal and sensitive subject for so many of us. I’m not mad at Mia for not elaborating on it. I understand and empathize with how this issue can be underlined with fear and a mixture of emotions.

However, I do not like the implications or tone she used when saying it. It made seem like non able-bodied men are worthless vs. the fact that women with PDs suffer from immense fear and dating a disabled man feeds to the fear. Suffice to say, I would’ve prefer hearing her reason for it instead of giving off the air that disabled men are “gross”, “worthless” and “a waste of time” which was what her tone seemed to give off to me. This was a comment that made me squirm, wiggle my nose and and get an icky in my feeling.

Despite these obvious issues, Push Girls has quickly became one of my most favorite shows to grace television. Besides my admiration for all of these women is one particular part of it which I am going to elaborate on next.

The thing that enjoy most about Push Girls is that Angela needs a caretaker and how she manages life as a quadriplegic. We witness her frustrations (oh, how I understand!), her struggles, and get to know her caretaker which was her husband before their separation and is now her aunt. We see her struggles of managing a dating life while needing a full time caretaker too. We see her strength as she tried to land a modeling gig, despite being continually rejected because she is disabled. We witness how she handles her intense spasms.

Push Girls is not perfect, however, it is really great. It is personally one of my favorite shows. I enjoy each of the characters. I have admired Auti Angel for such a long time  and am grateful for being introduced to Angela, Tiphany, Mia and Chelsie because I think they’re all very wonderful and strong women. They express struggles, fears, and thoughts that I think myself everyday. I am grateful for not only being introduced to all of these amazing women, but seeing real women in chairs on my television.

 How does everyone else view Push Girls?