Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 55

And how is my recovery going after the transplant?

Well, it's a slow process.

Sometimes I feel OK, but mostly I'm tried and nauseas. I'm not really doing much. My partner and I are at home in the day living like frugal retirees. I'm trying to keep warm. I can't remember the house being so cold in winter. I sleep in my hat and scarf. Sometimes I sit with him and the heater listening to podcasts of academics discussing ancient history and mythology while I'm making crafts for the school fete, but that's as busy as I get, aside from doing household chores. I'm not reading, which I think is a bit strange for me. I don't know why. 

My doctor tells me I should go out, so long as I avoid crowds and infectious people. It's a risk. I've been out twice. Once to the shops and once to the movies. Excursions are tiring but I was OK. I think it just depends on the day. I wouldn't be able to do it all the time. It makes going out hard to plan because I don't know how I'll feel.

In a month or so I'll have another bone marrow biopsy to determine if I still have leukaemia.

I'm told that by Day 100 I should be out of danger of Graft Versus Host disease. And I should be stronger by then and feel better. I'm looking forward to that. Another patient who has had the same treatment said he returned to part time work after six months. I'm told I'll be immuno-compromised for a year.

One measurable change is that my hair has started growing back.

It's a long, slow process, this recovery. But everything is on track, and my doctor says he's very pleased with me.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A big week for calling out sexism

It has been a big week for feminism in Australia.

Conversations about why only eight of the 100 songs voted in the Hottest 100 of the last twenty years were sung by women.
The Prime Minister is mocked in a sexualised way by the Opposition, and the disrespectful questioning of a radio broadcaster about her partner's sexuality.
Our Prime Minister addressed a Women for Gillard event reminding women that men should not be making policy decisions about women's bodies. We need to increase the representation of women in Parliament (and all positions of power) and women's voices generally to improve equality for women.  
The coach of the Socceroos saying that women should shut up in public.
Sex scandals in the army indicate a systemic culture of disrespecting women.
Sentencing men who rape and kill women. (Or letting them out on parole.)
And we learn that male politicians don't choose their own ties.

I've noticed something else as well. I watched QI last night and the night before. Both nights there were no female panellists. The talk of women was sexist, with jokes about women sexually pleasuring men, or being raped. The humour was crass. This is how men talk about women on television when there are no women sitting at the big table. It isn't only in Parliament and in board rooms that women are under-represented.

Get Up is running a campaign to claim the term "Gender Card' as a legitimise cause. You can upload your own issue of concern as your Gender Card. So many issues to choose from!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hell is Other People

I've spent enough time in hospital now to think that Sartre was in a four bed ward when he wrote 'No Exit'. 

My experience of hospital is very dependent on who else is in the ward. I've shared with lovely women who agree to be very civilised, who greet each other each morning, who chat during the day and form some kind of collegiality on the ward.

I've shared with people who have no regard for other patients. Last admission I was with an elderly patient who had travelled interstate to attend a funeral and had a bad turn at the airport. She was travelling with her middle-aged daughter. They arrived on the Thursday evening. The doctors declared the patient fit to be discharged on Friday, however, the daughter declared that they would travel home on Tuesday, so the patient was to stay. There was nowhere suitable to keep her, the daughter told the doctors, even though the patient's son had a house nearby. I heard the daughter say, repeatedly, she'd rather visitors visit her mother at the hospital rather than at the the brother's house because she didn't want to be making cups of tea for everyone. They went on to have a hundred visitors before Monday evening was through. Often they had ten visitors at a time. It sounded like a party. They ignored the visiting hours. One visitor walked a cigarette butt onto the ward, which I removed. It was impossible for any other patient to rest, or to have a conversation, due to the number of visitors. The daughter made fun of another patient on the ward, a woman who lives in a housing commission flat and had a broken leg from being hit by a car on her way to work in a factory. This woman was not well educated, but had a good heart and genuinely tried to do the right thing. We were all relived when the elderly patient and her daughter left.     

Last admission I was on a ward for patients with drug and alcohol problems. That was a eye-opener. Some patients are raised for a difficult life and have little chance of overcoming their huge problems. Some are there by circumstances and find themselves surprised by the turns life takes. Some never grow up and take responsibility for themselves. All had smoked ice (even the women my age). There is no privacy in a four bed ward, and I heard each patient's story numerous times, told to various health professionals and social workers. I realised that every admission there were patients in Emergency with drug and alcohol issues. While most of us are in hospital because we want to live, there are people there who want to die, or just don't know how to live a healthy life.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Is cancer a character test?

I have this letter in smh today.  I'd add that going through the treatment might test your character, but whether you live or die is due to the cancer, not to moral strength.

 Cancer not character test

I join in hoping that Anna Bligh survives her cancer, just as I hope I survive my leukaemia (''Anna Bligh diagnosed with cancer'', June 8-9). I am, however, troubled by the assumption of many well-wishers that ''beating'' cancer is a matter of character.
Whether a person survives cancer is based on how advanced the cancer is, complicating factors and the effectiveness of the treatment. Many good and ''strong'' people die of cancer through no fault of their own. Cancer is a disease, not a test of character.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Is your Dance School Grooming Children?

When I ask this question, I don’t necessarily mean grooming for sex with the dance teacher, but grooming for sex generally.

I am the mother of three dancing daughters. Some years ago we joined our local community dance school. At the concert my children were dancing to the song Hot, Hot, Hot thinking it was about the weather. They were introduced with "And now here is [this class] as they prove to you why they are feeling hot, hot, hot." Suddenly they were presented in a sexualised way. Another dance, of girls aged about ten, was to the song Barbie Girl, where they were presented as various Barbies. For the male vocals a boy  came on stage; the only time a male appeared in the concert. To the lyrics "Kiss me here, kiss me there", he kissed his fingers, then put his fingers to his groin and thrusted. The message was unambiguous. The audience cheered and clapped. The teenage girls taught the preschool children. Their charges watched their teenage teachers dancing to Prince’s Cream, over chairs, like at a strip club.

These were not messages about sex, self or dance that I wanted my children to learn.

I complained that the presentation of children was not respectful, and that to present children in ways they were too young to understand is exploitation,. I was told I was out of step with the dance community and to leave the dance school. I contacted Australian Teachers of Dancing, to which the school belonged, which assured me none of its schools used inappropriate songs. I gave details of the concert but received no reply.

After some research I did find new dance schools for my children. It was a long process of many discussions until I found two were are comfortable with, in terms of care for children, respecting their modesty, choice of songs, moves and costumes. At one dance school we couldn’t have a conversation because the music was too loud.

I have since been involved in writing music guidelines for our local primary school performing arts program and music used at school events including the disco. Many students seem to expect that dance is only what they see in mainstream media, that is, ballet or the dancing on music videos. This is at a time when pornography has become more extreme to distinguish itself from music videos and advertisements, and prostitutes don’t know what to wear because young women have taken their look. It is up to teachers, with a broader knowledge of dance and music, to show there is a broader world of what dance can be. To have students move from dancing to Disney theme songs to Lady Gaga is lazy and irresponsible. Primary school children should not be thinking about their desirability. Healthy children should not be concerned with what people of the opposite gender think of them, and trying to please them. Of course children will dance sassy at home to songs they hear on the radio, but to put them on stage doing so is quite another matter.

These are some of the guidelines you might want to discuss with your dance school.

- Songs should be suitable for a family audience.
- Avoid songs that carry a warning sticker.
- Students should be aware of what the song is about (based on the principle that to have children perform a dance about something,  thinking it is about something else, but the audience knows what the song is really about, then that is a situation in which children are not being respected).  
- Changing the lyrics to a song may mean it is suitable for children, but will the audience be familiar with, and thinking of, the original lyrics?
- Be aware that children will look at the video for the song on youtube. Is it suitable for children?
- Be aware of messages about gender, race, sexuality, ability. What is the power relationship in the song?  Who is active and who is being acted upon, who has power, who is stereotyped?
- If you have any doubt about song choice, run it by the head of the program or the Principal.
- If the song was a film or book using the same language or about the same situation or theme, would you be comfortable for primary school children to study it? Keep in mind that parents sign permission for students to watch PG rated films.
- Remember that music and dance can be about anything - any idea or concept or situation - and is much broader than what is presented in mainstream media. Be creative.
- Look to The Arts Unit, Performing Arts High Schools and HSC dance curriculum to see the ideas and execution of ideas expressed in their performances.

I welcome the meeting this week of dance schools to discuss establishing a national regulatory body. It has been a long time coming, and I hope they cover all aspects of the dance industry. In the meantime, parents can ask questions and demand standards to protect their children. With about half a million children enrolled in community dance schools, that's a lot of parent power.