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.

1 comment:

Glenys Livingstone said...

Thank you Laura-Doe. That is great news. I have just linked your blog properly in my "Goddess" section along with your (before your blog was only in my forum ... a rabbit warren).

I look forward to seeing you at the Goddess Conference.