Monday, November 12, 2007

Home Birth in Australia

I felt very privileged to attend the 25th Home Birth Australia conference in Sydney last weekend where I provided a couple of 'interesting interludes' between the wonderful presentations.

It was a powerful and inspiring weekend but I was seriously disturbed to discover how persistently women's birth choices are being eroded by legislators and the medical profession.

The opening presentation was from British author and social anthropologist, Sheila Kitzinger. Described by the UK newspaper The Independent as ‘High priestess of the childbirth movement’, Sheila is a vigorous campaigner for rights of women in matters of birth and sex.

Sheila’s message about birth is clear:

Birth can be ecstatic. It can be thrilling, dramatic, and overwhelming. It need not be traumatic and despite what the medical profession would have us believe birth is not a medical event.

Sheila maintains that women should have access to the information that will enable them to make their own decisions, to prepare themselves for an experience in which they participate fully and in which they, not the doctors, are in control. And most women will agree that this is much easier to do on their own ground, in a place to which the doctors and midwives who are their caregivers come as guests, either in their own home, or in a birth centre in which the rhythms of a labouring woman's body are honoured and waited on, where birth is non-interventionist and centered on people rather than mechanical processes.

Sheila’s talk was just the beginning of a wonderful and varied program of presentations. We heard from a number of midwifes and mothers about their home birth experiences with images and video footage of several glorious arrivals. I’m not sure what it is about birth that evokes such a primal rush of emotion. But I was certainly not alone in finding myself in awed, but joyful tears at several points during the day.

We heard about the beautiful home births of a number of supposedly 'high risk' women: a 45 year old woman, a breach birth and a woman whose pregnancy had lasted only 35 weeks. We heard about 10lb 9oz babies and we even met a home birthed baby who weighed in on arrival at a magnificent 12lb 9oz. He suckled happily at mum’s breast as she gave her presentation.

We also heard from one awesome mother who birthed her first baby still born. In a wonderfully down to earth way she shared how important it was for her and her partner that they were able to do this at home as this enabled them to process and grieve their loss in a natural, uninterrupted and instinctual way.

Throughout the day the message was clear. Women feel better birthing at home with the continuous care of a midwife that they have chosen and whom they trust. Not only do they feel better, the research shows quite clearly that their births are less inclined to problems, the babies are healthier and happier and the subsequent relationship between the baby and its family is considerable enhanced.

Why then we have to ask are midwives being witch-hunted, suspended and deregistered and birthing centres being closed through lack of funding and medical backup?

Hmmm - let me think now. Could it be for the same reason that women have been forced to give birth lying down with legs raised on hospital tables in a position that makes no sense in her body and allows her no support from gravity? Could it be for the same reason that babies are induced before their due date, but just before a long weekend and caesareans are suggested when labour progresses beyond a few hours? Could it be that all these things are happening at the expense of the mothers and babies well-being but for the doctors convenience and to allow the medical profession to maintain control over this natural, miraculous and essentially feminine process of birth?

If you have the opportunity please see Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake's documentary "The Business of Being Born" which was premiered at the conference. Or make the opportunity by holding your own show. See the website for more details. Also check out the Homebirth Australia website for more information and resources on homebirth.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The voice of the people.

I love it.

Online aussie activism group Get Up have created a TV ad to challenge the Howard government's massive advertising campaign attempt to con the Australian public into believing they will act on climate change. In less than a week donations of over $225,000 have poured in to get the ad played when millions of Australians will be watching - during the AFL grand final.

In case you are not a footie fan, or you live elsewhere on this precious planet - here it is!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The truth shall set you free

Exploring the underbelly of womens’ relationships with one another.

In the past six months two women in my women’s group have decided that it is time for them to leave the group and move on in their lives. For both women there was some sadness and regret and a sense that the group was not serving them in the way that they would have liked.

For me the decision in each case felt appropriate and reflected the way I see the differing desires and directions of the group as a whole and the individual women who chose to leave. But those of us who remain decided that we would take up the opportunity to inspect a little deeper any ways in which we may have failed to support the women who left and/or contributed to their sense of alienation.

We decided to explore the ‘underbelly’ of our group dynamics and those parts of our individual behaviour that, even after seven years of exploration together, we prefer to keep hidden.

It is a challenging but fascinating and liberating journey as we confess to one another facets of ourselves that we had hoped went unseen. It has really been like peeling the layers of the proverbial onion.

In the first week that we approached the topic I felt confident that I had addressed all the areas that I was still hiding. But as the weeks progress I realize that I had merely opened the door. I had been in denial about my denial! I suppose it is not surprising – blind spots are called just that because we find them so difficult to see. But choosing to shine a light on these murky areas within the safe container of a group of women who love you is very powerful indeed.

And the process feels more and more potent as it dawns on me that we are exploring things that are of major importance to the wellbeing of the feminine and to the re-establishment of women’s culture. In a world were the qualities and gifts of 'the feminine' have been devalued and denied in so many ways for such a long time it is not just ‘the masculine’ that does the oppressing. Women have also learned to oppress other women in order to survive. I believe we all have an ‘inner misogynist’ that seeks to align us with the power of the dominant paradigm by putting ourselves and other women down. How could we not? Doing so is so ingrained in the society that we live in.

And it is not just the undesirable qualities that we are finding we choose to hide! We have also revealed gifts and attributes that we are proud of but that we choose to minimise and keep hidden. But whether I see a hidden aspect of myself as desirable or otherwise, the process of allowing it to surface and to be seen for what it is has been equally powerful. Reaching for the truth is immensely cleansing and liberating. I highly recommend it!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Vulva Puppets' Australian debut

I must confess I was pretty nervous when I arrived at the venue for the 2007 Women & Depression conference. The starched white table in the hotel foyer did not strike me as a terribly welcoming place for my display of Vulva Puppets and other vagina related and empowering goodies. The conference participants seemed serious and rather conservative and my concern about their response to my presentation tripled instantly. I started to imagine being booed off the stage in a hostile hail of conference mints!

I guess those sort of feelings are par for the course when you plan to present on a taboo subject like the vagina. Indeed our difficulty with naming, discussing, respecting and honouring our glorious feminine genitalia and the effects that that difficulty may have on our sense of ourselves as women was the very essence of my presentation. I banished the desire to run and introduced myself to the conference organiser, the fabulous Anique Duc.

Once inside the conference room I felt more comfortable. The room was decorated with beautiful banners depicting a huge array of goddesses from many cultures. The wonderful work of artist Lydia Ruyle, these banners have been sent all over the world to 'weave the sacred energies of the divine feminine'. They certainly worked their magic on me and reminded me what I was doing there.

The presentations were varied and interesting and covered a variety of women and depression related topic areas. I learned about rural strategies for caring for women with post-natal depression, work with women in the prison system and rituals for rites of passage for women at menarche, birthing and menopause. I cried at the courage of Iranian women trying to stand up for themselves under severe repression and took part in the collaborative creation of a set of women's power cards.

By lunch time I had relaxed enough to set up my display table, the contents of which created a range of responses from horror to glee. It paved the way well for my presentation and I realised how important it was going to be to speak clearly about why I had brought these tools and how valuable & effective they can be in supporting women's health, education and therapy.

My moment came and my paper was enthusiastically received. Although my own experience of feeling challenged by speaking on the topic of vaginas is clearly backed up by research, I was interested to find that when I asked the question 'Who would feel some discomfort in speaking the word vagina?' the majority of the women in the room slowly raised their hand. Especially interesting considering it was a room full of women who work in women's health.

So despite my concerns my message was valued and understood and indeed generated some fascinating discussions that went on well into the evening. It also felt as though the wondrous vulva puppets had made their Australian debut to a highly appropriate audience and I was delighted to see several of them leave in the care of counsellors, educators and women's health workers who have promised to report back on how they are using them in their particular work arena.

Thank you and congratulations to Anique and her wonderful team for a beautiful and powerful conference and for the opportunity to meet and learn from such an interesting and diverse group of women.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Women and Depression Conference 2007

I am flying up to Sydney next week to give a presentation at the Women and Depression Conference (23-25 May at the Carlton Crest Hotel). I was expecting to offer a two hour workshop 'Returning to Reverence of the Sacred Source' in which women are invited to use art, voice dialogue, the wondrous vulva puppets and other processes to become aware of and to begin to heal any dis-empowering attitudes to our most glorious and sacred feminine parts.

However I recently discovered that all presenters are now allocated a 30 minute slot only! It's going to be fun condensing all that into a 30 minute presentation. Any suggestions?

Returning to Reverence of the Sacred Source - Workshop abstract

The prevalence of terms for women's genitalia that can be classified as derogatory or dismissive, or terms which are nonspecific and vague reflects and perpetuates a cultural context in which women's genitalia are either conceptually absent or perceived negatively (Braun & Wilkinson, 2001). Participants in Lee and Sasser-Coen's (1996) qualitative study spoke of menarche as an experience that "contaminated" their bodies, and their genitals in particular. Is it no wonder that the self-esteem of young women plummets in their early teens?

While we as women experience any difficulty thinking about, talking about, ‘owning’ or experiencing the miracle of our genitals and reproductive cycles, what effects must that have on our health and happiness and our overall attitudes to being a woman?

'Returning to Reverence of the Sacred Source' is a powerful experiential workshop in which women have the opportunity to explore and renew their relationship with their vulva and vagina. We use art, voice dialogue, vulva puppets and group process to become aware of and to begin to heal any dis-empowering attitudes to our most glorious and sacred feminine parts. (NB No nudity is involved in this process).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dangerous GE food on our plates

'Hey Mr Monsanto, don't want you interfering with our food!'

The opening line of a song I wrote over 10 years ago is just as relevant today - if not more so. For a while Australia (my home) has benefited by being a little behind the times as well as by being separated by sea from other land masses. Alas we are not protected from the dubious motives of our politicians with the result that genetically engineered (GE) crops and GE foods are gaining approval and threatening our ecosystem, our health and that of our children.

When rats were fed the GE corn variety, MON863, they showed signs of kidney and liver toxicity. But the same corn was given a big tick by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), declaring it safe for human consumption. Does this make any sense? A new study of the toxic effects of MON863 on rats concludes that the corn cannot be considered a "safe product". Yet FSANZ had access to the same test results back in 2004 and still gave it the thumbs up.

The good news is that there is no need to spend millions of dollars of taxpayers money trying to create genetically engineered drought resistant crops as Australian scientists have already produced them using conventional breeding techniques. A non-GE drought resistant canola variety developed in Victoria will be available to farmers this year. Despite the industry spin GE technology is being rapidly replaced by other technologies that don’t pose the same environmental and human health risks.

For more info and to take express your concern to our politicians visit the Greenpeace website and take cyberaction.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Court finds Pan Pharmaceuticals innocent

Australians and those who follow the fate of natural medicine in the hands of drug company bank-rolled givernment departments, may remember the massive recall imposed upon Pan Pharmaceuticals in 2003 that sent Australia's largest natural health manufacturing base bankrupt and threw another nail in the coffin of the reputation of alternative health care in this country.

Below is the recent press release from the Australian Democrats regarding the Pan Pharmaceuticals case in the NSW Supreme Court. The Supreme Court verdict speaks for itself ... in case you still had any doubts, the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration - Australia's regulatory agency for medical drugs and devices) works for the health of the drug company’s bank accounts and not the personal health of Australian citizens.

18 APRIL 2007


The Howard Government must now apologise following the acquittal of Pan Pharmaceuticals boss Jim Selim in the New South Wales Supreme Court. The pharmaceuticals giant was forced into administration in May 2003 following the largest pharmaceutical recall in Australia’s history.

“It was a pointless exercise targeting complementary medicines and it sent hundreds of small businesses broke”, Democrats leader and Health spokesperson Senator Allison said today. “The Howard Government turned its back on the mess and just walked away.”

1500 products were recalled, not because they caused adverse reactions, but because of speculation about ‘inconsistent quality’. Senator Allison raised concerns in the Senate at that time about what was playing out as a destructive over-reaction.

Mr.Selim was accused of a litany of charges, including breaching his manufacturing licence. In the end only two counts made it to court which were thrown out today.

“The unprecedented recall had a devastating effect on small businesses and shook public confidence in complementary health”, Senator Allison said. ”The very least those who have suffered deserve is an apology.”

Sourced from Alliance for Health Freedom Australia

For those of you in the USA the agency involved is the FDA. This body is seeking to reclassify virtually all vitamins, supplements, herbs and even vegetable juices as FDA-regulated drugs. Even massage oils and massage rocks will be classified as "medical devices" and require FDA approval. The document is called Docket No. 2006D-0480 and can be read here and the FDA is accepting public comments on the docket until April 30th. They tried to sneak this under the radar, but word got out and now the natural health community is up in arms over this rule. If you wish to protect your access to nutritional supplements, herbs, essential oils, homeopathic medicine or any other "complementary" or "alternative" modality, it is crucial that you take action to post your comments with the FDA right now and write your representatives in Washington to put a stop to another outrageous effort to destroy natural medicine.

For more information see Mike Adams' article in Newstarget

Saturday, April 14, 2007

yOni gorgeous gift shop opens

After a few months beavering away behind the veil I am delighted to announce that the new yOni gorgeous gifts shop is now open for e-business. We have all your favourite, funny, fabulous and feminine goodies from the original shop. Delights such as the fluffy pussy purse, the wondrous vulva puppets, our cloth menstrual pads, the glass goddesses, the yoni jewellery etc. etc. as well as a host of new products for your delectation. And there are more waiting in the wings!

Come check out oodles of gorgeous gifts for her brought to you by

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Protect priceless Aboriginal rock art at Burrup

Even as you read this, oil and gas giant Woodside are using diamond cutters to slice some of the oldest and largest collection of rock carvings in the world off the rocks at Burrup in Western Australia.

The time has come for Federal and State governments to come together and halt this unnecessary destruction of our heritage by calling for a moratorium on Woodside’s current bulldozings. Then they can call for an inclusive and meaningful discussion between all the parties with some integrity.

Even if you have spoken up on this issue before please add your name to the petition that GetUp Australia will present to leaders on this issue.

The destruction of the ancient Aboriginal rock art at Burrup would be akin to blowing up the the pyramids or bulldozing stonehenge.

Please don't let it happen.

Sign the petition here

Sunday, March 25, 2007

When exactly was the 'dawn of civilisation'?

I am an avid reader of the New Internationalist and was particularly fascinated by the latest issue 'Inside Iran' which provides an independent view of what is happening for the people of this war-torn and often vilified country.

I was sad however to find that even in such an 'enlightened' publication as the NI the journalist who wrote the section 'Iran - a history' subscribes to the dominant but debatable view that 'the dawn of civilization' was in the 4th millenium BCE.

Eminent archeologist Marija Gimbutas and others have uncovered numerous sites that show evidence of much older sophisticated civilizations and clearly reveal an ancient widespread culture which flourished throughout Europe between 6500 and 3500 BCE. Gimbutas' work shows a society in which women had high status and power along with men. Egalitarian and peaceful, "Old Europe" existed for thousands of years without war.

Clearly at odds with the images of kings, warriors, and conquering gods that generally dominate our view of the past, this work cuts to the heart of basic questions about human nature. Is war inevitable? Did men always dominate women? It is not hard to see why this controversial information is hotly (but not terribly convincingly) disputed by the current patriarchal paradigm of scholarship. However the evidence of civilized societies much earlier then 4000 BCE is clear. I wrote to the NI and told them what I thought!

For more information see where you can also order copies of 'Signs out of Time' an inspiring documentary on Marija's life and work.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Buy local to reduce global warming

I recently attended a discussion called 'Dharma, Gaia and Globalisation' with Helena Norbert-Hodge, a leading analyst of the impact of the global economy on cultures around the world and Catherine Ingram an international dharma teacher, leader of 'Dharma Dialogues' - public events inquiring into the possibility of living in awakened intelligence.

The evening was fascinating & inspiring and my hunger for information on how I can, as an individual, support the reduction in global warming and contribute to raising consciousness on the planet was well satisfied.

I'd like to share some of what I heard.

Helena's message was clear and strong. She spoke about the very small window of opportunity that we have to reverse the effects of our lifestyle to date and attempt to restore the planet into balance. She also made the point very clearly that we tend to (and in fact are encouraged to) feel guilty that our materialism has created global warming and the environmental mess we are in. However she referred to evidence that psuedo-scientific research funded by the big energy companies has been actively used to disseminate the idea that climate change was not occurring despite overwhelming evidence that it is. And more poignantly that the rise in consumerism has been systematically created by very effective psychologically based marketing, targeted at all ages, in particular the very young, and designed to turn us into a race of materialistic consumers, discontent with our selves and our lot and carefully conditioned to believe that to be happy we really do need to have the new, the latest, the whatever it is that big business want to sell us!

She says if you are looking for 10 things you can do about climate change, at the top of the list is to support your local farmers and buy local. In fact she suggests that this is probably the top 9 of the top 10 things you can do with setting up local renewable energy resources as action number 10!

On her website - The International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) she elaborates

'Throughout the world, agriculture is in crisis. Farmers are going bankrupt in record numbers, and the rural communities of which they are an integral part are being drained of life.

Meanwhile, international trade in food is booming. Every year, the distance between producers and consumers rises, to the point where the average American meal has now travelled more than 1,500 miles before it arrives on the dinner table.

These two trends are directly linked. The globalisation of the food economy, while enriching a small number of giant 'agribusinesses', is undermining the welfare of everyone else. What's more, it is a major contributor to increasing CO2 emissions, and therefore to climate change.'

Her organisation has been working hard to encourage the creation of local farmers markets. The results have been outstanding with such a boom in some local economies that councils and local government are starting to incorporate market areas into some town planning.

Another valuable piece of information that I gleaned from the evening was the hidden effect that using my credit card was having on local economy. I tend to use my card for all my shopping and pay it off once a month before interest is due. As the discussion pointed out this means I am donating 2-3 percent of my monthly spend to the potentially dubious, and certainly non-local, investment activities of my credit card bank. Money which could be supporting local retailers if I were to pay cash when shopping locally.

The third gem that I gleaned is more difficult to convey. The discussion moved to the urgency for action vs the importance of staying calm and centered and in a place of 'intelligent awareness'. This is a conundrum that I have often wondered about as I try to apply meditation practices in my busy daily life. I spoke to Catherine afterwards about this and she suggested that within the urgency to achieve the work that is to be done one can maintain an inner calm and an inner state of relaxation. Something in her communication touched me deeply and without knowing exactly how I would do this I could feel that this was a practical (and very peaceful) possibility. I'll keep you posted on how I go.

Helena's website again is The International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC)
Catherine Ingram can be found at Dharma Dialogues with Catherine Ingram
And the fabulous Kali Wendorf who compered and co-created the event is the publisher of the independent, cutting edge, parenting and lifestyle magazine Kindred - well worth a read. Find out more and subscribe to Kindred here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

High school girls suspended for saying Vagina!!

TODAY host Meredith Vieira talks with Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues," three Westchester County High School students, who were suspended for using the word vagina during a school performance of her play, and Peter Breslin, school board president.

View the video clip here

In case you do not have a connection that supports video these are the highlights of Eve’s comments.

"I am not shocked that the school resisted saying the word because unfortunately we are still living in a world where people are terrified of the word Vagina!" “Vagina. It’s a body part... Vagina, elbow, hand, Vagina."

"The fact that we still live in a world where saying this word creates such controversy is disturbing to me. Because often it is adult's contaminated projection onto the word rather than girl’s healthy understanding of their bodies."

"If authority gives you a directive that is unwise and inappropriate, to me it is a sign of leadership to refuse the directive."

Eve's response to young people being in the audience and being sensitive to making some people uncomfortable.

"Sensitive to what?" "Hearing Vagina... that they would know that they have one?" "What are we concerned about?" "Heaven forbid.”

"Let's look at why don't we want girls to have language for their bodies!" "Why don't we want girls to have agency over their bodies... to know their bodies, to love their bodies?" Half of the reason why girls end up getting violated, getting disassociated, getting distracted, is because they are not educated about their bodies!" "Why don't we want girls and boys to be educated about their genitals?"

On the fact that the f-word was said at the school open mike night with NO consequence?

"I predict to you that worlds like rape, and war, and plutonium were used. Why are those words less disturbing words than Vagina? Vagina is the place where life comes from; where we all pass through..."

Many thanks to Christie Achor of Badmimi, another dedicated vagina revolutionary, for passing me this information.