Exploit yourself to pay the bills?Jul 06 05:15
If the carnivals of yore were the peddlers of freak shows, then TLC and the Discovery “Fit & Health” channel are the modern-day version of such peddlers, or so they have been accused. If a channel produces a show on a pregnant paraplegic with twins, and people pay cable to tune in to watch (gawk), how is that any different from paying $2 to view a pregnant snake lady behind a glass wall?
Of course the pregnant lady has bills to pay, so you can’t really blame her for taking up the offer of putting her life on display like a tray of fresh donuts. I could write a whole book on how expensive it is to be disabled. Ever since reality shows began “promoting“ people with disabilities, I think we‘ve all struggled with the ethical question of Would I allow my private life to be filmed for money? Strippers do it, why can’t we? If its ok to cash in on an attractive, physically fit body, why can’t we do the same with our twisted, flawed corporeal forms?
The paralyzed mom in question is Claudia Salley, a 32 year old woman who was paralyzed in a car accident in 2006. A paraplegic and a Southern girl from Belmont, Louisiana, Salley lost her baby boy (miscarried) in the car accident. She got pregnant again (with twins) after her injury, and being that she’s literally one of the only paralyzed women in the world to ever carry twins, her story was chosen as the latest “Paralyzed & Pregnant” series to be aired on Discovery Fit & Health. Watch a clip here
For anyone with an injury worrying about motherhood, this show does a great public service. It shows that motherhood is still possible. And if you’re an OBGYN doctor in-training, this show is an invaluable training resource. Its not everyday you can view a paraplegic in such a pregnant state. But for everyone else out there tuning-in, the non-disabled viewers of the world, the “just curious” crowd (and the reason this show got aired in the first place), the accusation of Are you only tuning in to watch other people’s suffering? will get said, and it should be asked (even if the show is bringing in killer ratings). But even if they are, as long as the stars of the show are ok with it, who's at fault?
The human tendency to relish in other’s people’s suffering is a long-known human trait, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Live traveling freak shows were banned in 1980. How long until these shows are considered distasteful?
What’s your take? Is it unethical to expose so much personal laundry for cash, or is milking the situation for as much dough as possible the smart answer?
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1. Tara | Jul 06 07:15
Every once in a while I think it would be wonderful to have a mini me. I think of being pregnant and what that would be like and I've thought about it more in the last 6 months then ever before. I use a wheelchair but also live in chronic pain. Because I want to be a hands on mom I kinda just decided that perhaps having one wasn't in my future and my boyfriend and I have had this talk but every once in awhile we wonder.. what if... If I wasn't 40 .. if I wasn't in chronic pain then I would jump at the chance to have a baby. So for me watching the show is very personal to me and I am dying to see how she does it and what that looks like. Why not profit from something like this? I say more power to them because it's educational – informative and inspirational for many disabled women and possibly inform others that aren't disabled that we survive we thrive we can and do have lives and it doesn't stop just because we can't walk...
2. Tiffiny Carlson | Jul 07 03:02
That's sad about the baby situation, Tara. Chronic pain can be all-consuming. Have you ever considered adopting a child? As for the show, I agree it will definitely change sterotypes, or has the capacity to. I just hope tat is the case, versus a majority only tuning in to gawk for pity reasons.
3. Ratatoskr | Jul 11 12:06
Do you think a program following an able-bodied woman having twins is exploitative if she's agreed to it? Humans are fascinated by humans in all our forms and I think the more people are exposed to those who are different from them, the more they'll accept those differences and see our commonality. Sure, some will watch it as a "freak" show of a paralysed woman doing "normal" woman things, but many will watch it and realise that she's just like everyone else, just with different physical capabilities. It could help some realise that people are all basically the same, even if they look different or can't walk. As long as everyone's agreed to the deal, I can't see a problem. If programs about phyical differences are explointative, then so are all programs about humans.
4. Tiffiny | Jul 15 06:26
Rato. You make a strong point. My main concern is that PWD who agree to be on reality shows know the hard truth - that many people will only tune in to gawk. That can be forgotten when you get focused on all the good you hope the show will too.
5. Candace | Jan 25 10:18
If she miscarried it was in addition to the loss of a four month old little boy, Levi.
6. Claudia | Oct 25 03:55
This is Claudia Salley- First: I did NOT do it for the money. I was going to do it without being paid. But, we received $1000 toward the cord-blood banking for the twins. That was barely half the cost. Trust me- no amount of money is worth having someone invade your life. I did it to show that miracles still happen. I died three times in that crash, but I am still here. My 4-month-old son Levi did not make it out of the car. God allowed me to live- I don't know the reason, but now I try everyday to do something good with my life. My boys are a miracle and a true blessing. I am happy I got to share that with the world.
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.