today, i feel strong.
i left the house for the first time in a few days, because it’s that time of year. i only went running errands and dropped by a market, but while i was doing it, despite the debilitating heat, i managed to make a few decisions; ones that sometimes i can’t make.
i’ve actually enjoyed this ‘season’. i had a few quiet days thanks to losing my voice and having my father not ring, then a successful bah humbug dinner, then my housemate went away and i didn’t miss people at all: i’ve had the place to myself, it’s been clean enough to cook and i’ve done it once, it’s been clean enough to draft patterns on the loungeroom floor, and i’ve done that too. i’ve done a bit of work soldering and chasing up articles, listened to lectures, tried two ways to draft a pattern to reproduce my hat, labeled them well and made two toiles. i’ve fixed my saws, done some cleaning up in my garage, done washing, gardened.
my to do list for tomorrow involves lots of practical things, including some i’ve been putting off. also a few things with words – hopefully i can start making headway on them too. it’s telling that i feel good when i’m in the middle of lots of practical things, but i don’t know how i can make the most of this considering my life generally demands lots of reading, writing and contacting people – all the hard stuff – and for good reason: my life goals are about changing the world, and that doesn’t happen by fixing overlockers.
be that as it may, what have i learnt, or reminded myself of? having the house functionally tidy is important to me. being able to engage in practical stuff is good for me. having my father ring me daily is disturbing in this mood, though i know it’s a lifeline when things are really bad. i could probably live alone except that i can’t afford it, and i know i’d probably get rather more insular which isn’t great. i need an income so that i can do things like buy garage shelving when i feel like it, and pay my bills without juggling, thus worry less. i can indeed keep my mind engaged without uni, and we’re working on the world-saving and good social interaction problems, though there’s a huge way to go.
wow, looking at the comments on http://www.beautifulcervix.com , there is an awful lot of people out there who are completely unnecessarily terrified of their own bodies.
i can’t say i wasn’t one of them. when i first found my cervix, i was worried it was something that wasn’t supposed to be there, and i had nobody useful to ask. that was pretty scary.
what’s inside looks and feels nothing like those cross-section diagrams you get shown once in highschool, then are apparently supposed to remember throughout your life. the ones that show the vagina as something narrow and the cervix as a the end of the womb – nothing but another label, certainly nothing with a distinctive shape or behaviour.
from a quick look at this website, it seems that my embarrassing misunderstanding is very, very common.
at least i never suffered from the other thing that so many are panicking about – cervical fluid. i know i was told about periods, so i didn’t think i was dying when blood first came out. some people aren’t that lucky. maybe my mother mentioned the white stuff too, or maybe i just associated it with the right things myself.
think of the difference it makes to your life whether you had sex ed and that very basic knowledge that blood happens and is natural, or whether you didn’t get that and for years and decades you didn’t know what was happening to you and were afraid to ask.
now think of the difference it would make to your life if you had a useful education where you knew what your insides actually look and feel like – what’s healthy and what’s not, what comes out and when, and you never had to feel ashamed or terrified or ignorant of your own body, relying on (probably male) experts to tell you about it.
i remember talking with a friend about how we should make a zine of vaginas, because very few people who have their own ever see anyone else’s, to understand, to compare, to even know there are differences. it never happened, but something similar recently has.
honi soit, sydney uni’s student publication published a cover with pictures of vaginas on it. there was a big fuss and it was censored, but the cover went out, though there is a black rectangle covering the middle of each picture. the censored version can be found at http://www.honisoit.com/2013/08/honi-soit-week-4-semester-2-2013/ and is discussed by a participant at http://birdeemag.com/thats-my-vaginas-on-honi-soit/ . the uncensored version can be found at https://twitter.com/lucytheriveter/status/370006101078466562/photo/1 . yay for internet archives!
since then, there’s been more: vulvas on display at galleries and in a book: http://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/101-vaginas-display and http://www.101vagina.com/
unashamed depictions of menstrual blood in http://www.theardorous.com/portfolio/there-will-be-blood/
and even more amazingly, in the mainstream: http://www.dailylife.com.au/dl-people/american-apparel-is-selling-a-menstruating-vagina-shirt-20131008-2v51f.html
and the site that prompted this post: http://www.beautifulcervix.com/
edit: and there’s more! performance art on the theme: http://www.iamnotthebabysitter.com/vaginal-knitting/ , coffee table book: http://www.101vagina.com/ , sculpture: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/08/the-great-wall-of-vagina_n_4556309.html
“…manages to be cohesive yet not excessively matched.” http://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniegda/22-photos-of-the-crafting-lifestyle-to-distract-yo-90gk
why is the west afraid of matching, coherence and pattern?
all through africa and the middle east, amazing dresses and outfits happen with matching headscarves. colours and patterns are bold, and decoration follows through from neck to sleeve to hem to scarf edge, if not more.
in russia, turkey and throughout eastern europe layering of patterns is acceptable and dressing from head to toe in one colour is just fine.
while there’s plenty i appreciate about sydney, i’m always disappointed to come back to the land of jeans and tshirts, where the only colour we can repeat is black, and even that’s a bit much if it matches properly, in a suit. everyone’s so busy fitting in that creative dressing is an anomaly.
for the life of me, i can’t remember what prompted me to google ‘no poo’ half an hour ago. turns out, it describes me! it means no shampoo, usually using bicarb and apple cider vinegar, egg yolks, conditioner only or mint tea on your hair, and sometimes, as i have done for nearly fourteen years, water only. amusingly, it seems that water only is the ideal to aspire to!
you can find reams and reams of writing on different people’s assessments of their hair, with blow by blow accounts of what they’ve put into it, how much and how often, how they combine it with massaging or brushing or combing or cutting. what it felt like when it was wet and dry, whether there was this or that effect, whether they’ve been ‘brave’ enough to try successively minimalist versions. i wouldn’t be surprised to find people charting their experiences in haircare!
yet i haven’t found a scrap of information about why you’d put vinegar in your hair.
i’ve been thoroughly enjoying the recent upswell of new words. mansplaining is one of the wonderful ones, an evocative package for a behaviour that has been allowed precisely because we didn’t have such a nice, concise, powerful word to call it out with.
it’s a valuable addition to the feminist arsenal, without the essentialism which makes so much of feminism difficult. it defines a behaviour attached to a performance of masculinity as a cultural category, rather than defining the actor themself.
however the first time i heard it, what i thought i heard was manspleening. and maybe i should’ve. for i’m much less likely to be subjected to a man telling me why i’m wrong about feminism than i am to hear one going on and on about how they have body image problems too and women rape too and why should unis have women’s officers and women’s rooms and affirmative action in general.
these rants bear no resemblance to explanations at all, and are a concrete step up from mansplaining in terms of aggression, selfish incoherent venting and, frankly, bullying.
and with all the usefulness of a spleen.
i’ve been working on that essay for so long, and trying to restrain non-essential writing like this. i’ll have to write something else in short order, but i have a reprieve as i wait for an answer from my lecturer. meanwhile, the latest thing i feel the need to tell the world…
a week or two ago – time does not run regularly in essayland – i held down the fort for a badly attended stitch and bitch, and the two of us got treated to some wonderful, tasty and nostalgic spontaneous turkish hospitality. good food and conversation till way too late at night. between educating turkish boys about sexism and gender, i had a good hitchhiking conversation, with someone who has clocked up about 20,000km of hitchhiking, all in turkey.
when i got home that night, i naturally furthered my procrastination by counting up my kms on google maps. when you ask for directions from one place to another, it will tell you how far it is by road, thus giving about as accurate a reading as you could possibly get. of course, i’ll have to look up my notes one day to see exactly which routes i took in certain places, and just where we broke down and took a train on earlier trips with kat…
copenhagen to madrid via budapest, around southern finland, helsinki to istanbul, short trips round kapadokya, cold ash to edinburgh, around spain and its neighbours, melbourne to sydney, short trips round sydney and sofia to london via skopje, zagreb, bar and copenhagen… all come to about 20,000 km. i’m pleased to note also that about two thirds of that has been travelling alone.
twenty thousand kilometres. stretched out, that would get me half way round the world; from sydney to the waters outside morocco. quite something! but why leave it there? now i have a goal: to hitchhike 40,008km: the circumference of the earth. if i make it all the way back, will i finally be able to settle? i’ll wait and see.
the mulberries are growing and the student associations are blooming. life is good.
i dropped in at macquarie uni the other day. there are people running around in red, screen printed tshirts for their first student-council-equivalent. and not just a few, there were tshirts everywhere! over the years since i was around, the student council and other organisations got eroded, corrupted and eventually abolished. good people have been working hard for the last several years to create a new, better organisation within the generic association they were bequeathed to replace the whole lot. i’m sure there’s plenty more to do, but on a nice sunny day with people out and talking to eachother, it looks like they’ve gotten somewhere. there’s an energy i haven’t seen there for a long time, perhaps ever. it helps that the wonderful old space that the women’s room never should’ve given up has now become the queerspace, and that people are meeting about a food co-op. people were dancing outside the atrium and i didn’t even feel bad that the old rabbit warren that used to house the student council and the art space has been gutted for the new generic association offices – they’re shiny and glassy and full of people, with a functional reception with a reasonable list of clubs evident at the pigeonholes. the two organisations that the space was taken from were long dead, but indications are that, when their replacements get big enough to be able to use office space, they will have competent enough people to win that fight.
yesterday i was at ultimo tafe and stopped by their student association to catch up. i came away with a similar feeling of hope; there’s been shakeup in the staffing situation, with someone getting a promotion and others shuffling up, and it all seems to be to the better. not only have memberships have gone up to about a third of the population (take a look at that, unis!) but the new board is active, both helping out with the general activities of the association and having ideas. gosh, ideas! all four of them are being put through the frontline management course, which both displays a certain level of commitment and means that there will be four serious student-run projects happening this year. collaboration with departments is going well, including a shiny makeover for the student newspaper that i started, which indicates that it will continue. sports have started up again after a few years of not being able to fill teams, with a soccer competition against eora – one of many collaborations with them which are fruit of the seeds i kept planting back when. all this is in the environment of the tafe pushing a serious commitment to greenskilling, actually surveying people about the footwear courses and trying to work something out, and security keeping up the good work we’ve seen the entire time i’ve been involved. seven of their 21 staff are permanent, and it seems enough to keep up good continuity and make them the best and most understanding service in the area.
i’m no longer enrolled in either of these organisations, but i can delight in seeing results of my previous hard work amongst the bubbling up of good things, even if i’m not there to enjoy them directly. now i’m at yet another educational institution. i’ve gone and nominated for uts’ academic board already, and their student elections are coming up too. i’ll have to investigate…
sitting here with the door open, listening to the sound of the washing machine.
i used to get very irritated by that sound. it’s quite loud and intrusive, it’s in my space and i don’t always have control over when it runs.
yet now the sound has associations of not only chores and hassle, but comfort, order, efficiency, white.
in two months of travel such a machine was the rarest of commodities. i got access to one exactly twice. i thoroughly enjoyed running round the continent, sleeping in tents or trucks, washing in hand basins or not at all, eating what i could find and being free. it’s an amazing, vital experience, but it’s not easy. i came to appreciate the comforts i was occasionally offered, and the epitome of comfort was borrowing a fluffy dressing gown while every scrap of fabric i owned was in the wash.
a washing machine is of limited value if you have no soap, no way of drying the finished product, no privacy in which to change, no security to ensure your clothes are safe as they dry or no way of cleaning yourself satisfactorily before you put the newly clean clothes on again. yet my new friend in austria and my old friend in denmark had homes, calm white airy apartments where they kept their entire lives, neatly organised and appropriate. sufficient, functioning. comfortable, available. as a guest in their homes i enjoyed beds in rooms with doors, consecutive dinners and breakfasts, conversation and assistance, internet and phone access and real showers.
over two months i got several other showers, varying degrees of local knowledge, food, beds and doors some good some questionable, but for everything to come together was unbelievable; i can no longer take it for granted.
i’m sure i won’t retain this attitude to machine noise through all the inconsiderate times that it gets run for other people’s clothes, but something has changed. i still maintain that home is where the sewing machine is, but maybe there’s something to be said for a washing machine too.
at the bottom of a bag of miscellaneous junk i’ve been sorting, i found a bunch of pens. as one would expect.
i dutifully went through and scribbled each one on the back of an A4 envelope from the ‘chuck’ pile; addressed to me with a 45c and a 49c stamp. the top left corner is enblazoned:
Ph: 02 0850 7629
Fax: 02 9850 7633
UNION IS STRENGTH
aaah. over the flap is a circular stamp in blue:
THE WOMEN’S DEPT
the date is 06/06/01.
but i digress. even deeper into trivial nostalgia, of all the pens i tried, there were several i recognised from a home show in the late eighties or early nineties. they say
TNT Air Couriers
the system? i don’t suppose i’ll ever find out why they thought that was a good byline. i assume the company has disappeared, certainly i know the twin TNT buildings with the overpass have displayed a more forgettable acronym for many years now.
but the pens still work. each and every one.
the big green felt tip called
G. of A. Permagraf
is also going strong.