Friday, June 22, 2012

Sydney Region Dance Festival

The Sydney Region Dance festival has been on this week. Matilda performed in an item.

The creativity on display is markedly, and refreshingly, different from the kind of dance you see at local dance schools and on music videos. No skimpy costumes. No bump and grind. No exploitation. Just lots of ideas well expressed.

There were pieces about Willy Wonka, mirrors, about having a cold (performed in pyjamas), about the daily life of Buddhist monks (based on yoga poses), the song Naughty from the new musical Matilda (written by Tim Minchin), a dance about Schindler’ List, and one about the Olympics. From a program for an earlier night’s show there was a piece called Where’ Wally and a dance to Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet.

The local performing dance school was a stand-out. The primary schools had a mix of girls and boys performing, expected to dance equally well. Some of the high schools just had girls dancing, and the standard was excellent. The biggest disappointment was from a primary school that put up a group of boys performing a piece about football. There was no dancing involved. Movement and poses. Low expectations. And they received the loudest cheers from the audience. I don’t understand. Boys are celebrated for just turning up at a dance event. But shouldn’t we expect them to, you know, dance?

I’ll definitely be attending these in future years, with or without my children being involved, and encourage dance teachers to go too.

The festival is organised by The Arts Unit. The Arts Unit organise opportunities for students from NSW public schools to be involved in programs for dance, drama, music, visual arts and public speaking. They also run professional development programs for teachers. To sign a petition protesting against the proposed funding cuts, sign here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

After prac, the rest of life.

I’ve made it to the next chapter.

I’ve just finished my first prac at a high school. It was at the local boys school, a public school. It was good. I liked it. I found that I like being at a boys school. I haven’t thought much about boys the last twelve years. Well, I haven’t had to think very deeply about boy children for a long time before that. The boys were well behaved. I quite miss them now that the prac is over. I’m interested to see what they do next - how they go in their school work. I was interested to see boys exploring notions of masculinity in their self devised performances in drama. They’re working out how to be men, and acknowledging the different ways men are presented to them in our culture. They’re critiquing these representations. Good work.

In my studies in education we’re constantly told to incorporate technology in our teaching. From what I saw, the students are so connected, all the time, we would do well to unplug them while they are at school. The students are on their laptops - playing games - not doing research, on their phones, plugged into their ipods (in fact they dress with their earplug cords under their shirts so they can listen to music at any time) and playing DSs. It was common to see a group of boys crowded around a screen at recess. They know how to use technology. What they don’t know how to do is sit and read a book, without being plugged into something else.

Being with mothers of Year 6 children I’ve heard mothers of boys saying that their son is sensitive or quiet, so needs to go to a co-ed high school. It makes me wonder what they think of boys generally (their son being the exception) and who they think is at the boys school. I haven’t heard anyone say that her son is a bully so needs to go to an aIl boys school. All sorts of boys are at the local boys public school. Everyone is catered for. I think I’ve already commented on the process of choosing a high school as revealing people’s classist attitudes, and their racism, so I’m adding sexism to that decision making process too.

Racism, classism, sexim, ageism and homophobia. Regular topics for discussion on Q&A. But inconsistent. I know there are different panelists on different days, but if these are the great leaders in our culture (are they supposed to be?) the inconsistency is glaring. Rampant sexism on the episode with Barry Humphries. This week the panelists agreed that we should enforce laws to stamp out racism. That racism is never funny. But ageism is funny. Jokes about Jewish mothers are funny. Pru Goward said in one breath that there is no point asking how the universe began, then in the next breath said that humankind has always sought answers to life’s big questions, to the extent that people need religion. What wasn’t said is that sexism is still often accepted unchallenged. Human rights for all - respect for all - but not extended to homosexuals to allow them to marry.  I’m writing a question for next week’s show. Asking Kate Lundy, the Minister for Sport, about the Lingerie Football League. I consider it a commercial venture akin to jelly wrestling or topless waitressing. If you haven’t already, I suggest you read this, the experience of an athlete who tried out for the team.

Mortaza then read out the numbers of the girls who were chosen for the final round. Despite my ability to perform the drills, it was clear Mortaza wanted a certain ‘look’. So I was not particularly surprised that a number of us who had displayed greater football skills remained on the sidelines.
While a couple of the girls who made the cut were obviously talented athletes, in the end it was clear to everyone that our ability to play gridiron was a far lower priority than how our body would fill out the uniform.

Other recent articles about sexism in the media, which confirm my suspicion that the media is run by young men who are really pretty juvenile. This one is about the attitude of the advertising industry (you say ‘sexy’. I hear ‘lazy’), but it could just as easily apply to the music industry and some quarters of Sydney theatre.

To do anything less is considered within that group to be not “creative”. This why you see films, music videos, songs etc. being released with ever more pro-active lyrics, ideas and imagery.While it is true that the role of artists in a culture is to ‘push the boundaries’, nowhere is it written that means you have to do so by degrading the culture. That you could of course push the limits of the culture by inspiring it with enlightening, uplifting, noble campaigns seems to escape many in the industry.

This is a piece written by the ex-editor of UK Loaded magazine. His goal as editor was include as many nipples as possible. Now he is a father he regrets turning a generation of boys onto porn. Even so, the article shows the soft porn covers of the mag. I’m glad he’s spoken out, but really it’s too late, and he uses the old chestnut about  a woman being someone’s daughter. No. She’s someone in her own right. He couldn’t acknowledge that before having children.

Then my life changed for ever. In May 2009, I became a father to Sonny. A month later, I turned 40. Almost overnight, my world view changed.
I started seeing the women in my magazine not as sexual objects, but as somebody’s daughter. Some of Loaded’s models had children themselves, and I’d think ‘what’s your kid going to think of you when they’re old enough to understand Mummy used to get her boobs out for a living?’
To think that the girls who posed for our magazine had once had their nappies changed, had once been taught to take their first steps and had once been full of childlike hope . . . it was almost heartbreaking.
I was confronted by the painful thought that maybe Loaded was part of the problem. Was it an ‘enabler’ to young teenage boys who’d consume harder porn later, in the same way dabbling with cannabis might lead to stronger addictions to cocaine or heroin?
Then, in July 2010, it was announced that terminally-wounded Loaded was to be sold to a small publisher with a murky reputation. It was the excuse I needed to leave. I woke up and thought ‘I can’t do this any more’ and quit.
The prospect of having to tell Sonny — and his friends’ parents — that I worked for a company linked to pornography was pivotal. As the father of a young child, working in such a place would be indefensible.
I suddenly wanted to vanish and do something decent with my life. I became a house dad, which fulfilled me more than Loaded ever had.
Now, nearly two years on, I am ashamed at the way I used to defend my magazine.

And this article by the ex-editor of Girlfriend magazine.

Anyone else hear Sarah de Bono’s self-penned song on The Voice and see the disconnect between her singing about being beautiful on the inside and her outward appearance - fake hair, loads of make-up, huge shoes, bright colourful mini dresses - and she says appearance doesn’t really matter?

Yesterday I saw an ad on a bus for women’s underwear. The point was that the underwear, shown on an otherwise naked women, is smooth. Surely that’s not the point. The underwear shouldn’t show under the clothes. The clothes should be smooth over the underwear. That’s the point. Were there no women involved in this campaign?

We need more women in companies that shape our culture and make decisions about how women are presented: in advertising, the music industry, film industry, in theatre. Everywhere. More women making decisions.

Ok, I’ve got that off my chest.

During my preparation for the Wordsmiths event at Mamapalooza I found lots of poems about motherhood. I plan to post them on my blog, when I get a chance.

Some local feminist friends and I decided at Mamapalooza that we need to keep meeting. We looked at attending the Country Women’s Association, but they meet during the day, and we’re not all available then. I’ll try to catch a meeting at Haberfield on a Tuesday morning, after I teach ethics. Also, I noticed the f collective have formed a feminist book group. They are the group that organised a feminist conference in Sydney a few years ago. Eva Cox is one of the leaders. At the end of the conference they declared Melinda Tankard Reist to not be a feminist, and I argued with them about this - it really was out of control - there was no constitution, process, agenda, minuted meeting in which to present and pass motions or deliver evidence or present two sides to the case - they just moved against her - no-one spoke n her defence - it was frightening (if they come for her, they could come for me.) Anyway, they’ve started a feminist bookgroup. It seems they’ve met once. Their blog seems to be focused on happenings at Sydney Uni. Have a look if you’re interested. Anyway, we’ve decided to start our own group. When we’ve worked out our regularly meeting time and place I’ll post detail on my blog.

Now, back to catching up on everything else that I’ve postponed for the last few weeks. Believe me, it’s a very long list...