Can we talk about this?

Current thinking is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) causes cervical cancer and that all girls and boys in early high school need to be given HPV vaccines. In my book Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed I trace the early history of cervical cancer from a disease of obscurity to one of mainstream prominence. I have found and documented the numerous theories about the cause(s) of cervical cancer which have come and gone over the decades. I have read and written about how in the early years of the nineteenth century physicians claimed that sex was involved for it was observed that the disease was found in larger numbers among poorer, city women than amongst women in long term and stable relationships and in women who were living in rural areas. It was also thought that the disease was very rare in nuns until further research showed that religious sisters were subject to the disease too, and that, contrary to prevailing opinion, women in long-term relationships also developed cervical cancer. It was suggested that in the case of cancer of the uterus that the trauma of childbirth itself could be a risk factor. Such speculation might explain why there was more cervical cancer among women of low socioeconomic status than among women of means. Poorer women tended to have more children, lived harsher lives and possibly received less medical care, as well as missing out on much-needed rest and recovery time after the birth of their children.

I believe these early researchers were on the right track when they suspected that social circumstances such as poverty and inequality were in some way implicated in the disease process. British psychologist, author and researcher Susan Quilliam documented these lifestyle factors that might increase the chance of becoming ill with cervical cancer in her 1989 book Positive Smear. Written just before the idea that the human papillomavirus might be involved, she stressed the importance of a balanced diet and claimed that deficiencies in vitamin C, beta carotene and folic acid were common in women with cervical precancerous cells. Quilliam strongly emphasised the importance of a healthy environment, good hygiene and excellent nutrition as prerequisites for good health and resistance to disease. When discussing the causes of cervical cancer, she doesn’t shy away from a conversation about the contraceptive pill and how it has a negative effect on natural immunity as well as a propensity to lessen the body’s ability to use folic acid.

Today such environmental and socioeconomic factors relevant to the causation of cervical cancer are rarely considered. Instead the human papilloma virus is said to cause cervical cancer, no questions asked or answered.  Why, when and how this has happened is crucial to the story of Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed.

 

Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed

 

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Forthcoming June Release

In Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed  Helen Lobato argues that we do not know whether HPV vaccines will decrease the incidence of cervical cancer. What is emerging, however, is evidence of their harmful effects. In 2006, the experimental HPV vaccination program began and there have been at least 315 associated deaths and more than 50,000 adverse events following HPV vaccination.

Gardasil was fast-tracked through the FDA, a process usually reserved for life threatening diseases to fill an unmet and urgent medical need. Improved living conditions had already reduced the incidence of cervical cancer significantly in Western countries. So why is the HPV vaccine so heavily promoted in Australia, a country with one of the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world?

Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed documents the early history of cervical cancer and tracks its progression from a disease of obscurity to one of mainstream prominence. It includes the stories of vaccinated girls and boys who remain ill after receiving a vaccine purported to prevent a disease they were most unlikely to get. It records the voices of dissenters and resisters who call for an inquiry into HPV vaccines approved for use after a relentless propaganda campaign promoting a vaccine against a virus that many had never heard of.

This in-depth investigation exposes cracks in the pharmaceutical industry and highlights the problems that arise when government regulators and corporate interests are prioritized ahead of patient safety, independent science and common sense.

To order: women@spinifexpress.com.au

Breast is best

Like most things in life these days feeding a baby has become very complicated and no doubt really expensive. I took a look at some of these infant formula websites and found that babies are not just being fed infant formula for the first few months of life but they can also have a follow on formula when they are  6-12 months old. Even toddlers who are 1-3 years are being catered for with a new product called toddler milk drink. (more…)

Daddy, what did you do in the war?

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Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?

Taken from Chiaroscuro, Melbourne award-winning poet Sandy Jeff’s new book in which she explores the tension of a world that is a place full of dark and light and where humour and sadness intermingle in a show that must go on.

 

 

 

jeffsc-cover-thumbThe Sergeant

Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War

Well, darling, I saw the young men come into bootcamp

and being their sergeant

it was my duty to turn boys into men

into fighting men, you know

so me and some mates initiated them by

shoving a broom handle up their arse

forced slops down their throat

made them drink their own semen chucked them into a shower

and scrubbed them with a wire brush

rubbed their dick and balls and arse with boot polish

sodomised a young bloke

this is the way it is, you know, it’s a boys club

gotta let them know who’s in charge

hell it happened to me and I’m ok

yeah, I’m serving my country and doing me best to turn out real fighting men

you should be proud of me.

 

The Recruit

Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?

Well, darling, first I went to bootcamp

I was taught how to kill

then I was bastardised by me superiors

they shoved a broom handle up my arse

forced slops down me throat

and made me drink semen

they chucked me into the shower and scrubbed me with a wire brush

then rubbed me dick and balls and arse with boot polish

and the sergeant sodomised me

so to get me mind off it

I gave the sheila recruits a hard time

I even secretly filmed meself banging one of them

yep, I was there to serve me country

so I went to war

and killed a lot of men

some women and children too

and ya gotta let the shitheads know who’s boss

so I raped a few of their women

it’s what happens in war

but when me mates got killed

jeeze, that was the hardest

I’m telling ya, I was shit-scared all the time

and being away from me family was hard

jeeze I was lonely

but I’m home now and I feel lousy

I think about topping meself all the time

lots of me mates have done it

jeeze I miss them

I feel so rotten

I’m telling ya tomorrow’s tragedy

from yesterday’s war

yeah, war’s a bloody bugger…a real bugger.

 

 

Men in the great war did many things that we don’t want to talk about, we’d rather see the diggers as heroes, as brave Anzacs. But there’s another untold story and that’s the story of venereal disease in the Australian Army.

Screen shot 2015-06-10 at 7.41.08 PM  The Secrets of the Anzacs: The Untold Story of Venereal Disease in the Australian Army, 1914-1919 written by Raden Dunbar reveals secrets and astonishing statistics such as the fact that during World War 1, about 60,000 soldiers in the Australian army were treated by army doctors in Egypt, Europe and Australia for venereal diseases – almost the same number of diggers who were killed during the war. Janet McCalman, author of Sex and Suffering described Dunbar’s story as  ‘a timely and necessary contribution to the centenary of Anzac.’ 

Most of these men had been infected with venereal disease in the brothels of Egypt. In the 1880s 40,000 British soldiers landed in Egypt and stayed and were the customers of the numerous bars, brothels and sex shows. In 1914, AIF forces from Australia that were headed for England via the Suez Canal were ordered to disembark and to set up their camps close to Cairo with the result that thousands of cashed-up Australians were living very close to the infamous brothels of Cairo and very far from their families at home.

Dunbar writes that the boys had money and freedom and regularly frequented the ‘Wozza’, an irresistible and fabulous place that was really a collection of squalid run-down apartment buildings known for venereal diseases: gonorrhoea, syphilis and chancroid. Condoms were not in common use in 1915 and the healing power of antibiotics was yet to be discovered. Abstinence from sex was the only sure way of avoiding the disease with prophylactic treatments such as antiseptic ointments to be applied to the genitals proving unpopular and rubber condoms extremely uncomfortable. In 1915 gonorrhoea, syphilis and chancroid were treated with drugs made from mercury, arsenic and silver and other toxic materials.

Claire Wright, author of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka writes:

 The Secrets of the Anzacs is a full-frontal assault on our senses and our historical sensibilities. Deeply researched and always fascinating, Dunbar helps restore the Anzac legend to something more tangible, more complex, and, oddly, more heroic.’

In this interesting book, Raden Dunbar, retired schoolteacher, principal and university lecturer and author rarely mentions the prostituted women and only briefly acknowledges the wives, girl friends and mothers of the men. His concern and interest is for the infected soldiers of whom one in ten were married. But what of the prostituted women? Why were they forced to prostitute themselves? What do we know about the sex industry in WW1? Were the women in the brothels treated for their venereal disease? What about the wives and girlfriends? Were they infected also?

I would have hoped that researcher and author Claire Wright winner of the 2014 Stella Prize would have commented on the obvious omission in Raden Dunbar’s untold story of venereal disease in the Australian Army, 1914-1919- the women’s story.  In The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, Wright researches the history of Victoria’s gold rushes and the Eureka Stockade – addressing the recording of this episode which has largely ignored the presence and influence of women on the gold fields.

Little is known about what happened to the women who worked in the wartime brothels, especially after the war ended. If it is known that 60,000 Australian soldiers got either gonorrhea or syphilis while serving, then a great many of these women also suffered these diseases.

Their story remains untold.

Deformed fish, sick kids, but for some it’s a ‘risk that’s worth it’

Four hundred and thirty-seven million hectares of Australia is covered by coal seam gas licences or applications, and 20 billion litres are needed every year for the coal seam gas industry, stated Sydney right-wing radio broadcaster Alan Jones when he appeared in Frackman, an Australian feature-length documentary film which follows the exploits of former construction worker turned anti-fracking activist, Dayne Pratzky responding to the expansion of the coal seam gas industry near Tara, Queensland. (more…)

Why stop at poppies!

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It was common at the start of the 20th century to speak of ‘ Australian Ideals’. What are our values and ideals today? Perhaps those who so generously supported the 5000 Poppy campaign could use their goodwill to help Australia progress rather than feed its militaristic tendencies. And rather than answer the call to knit or crochet a poppy perhaps these resources could be spent on the many social problems of our time. Why stop at poppies! (more…)

Haifa Fragments

In Haifa Fragments 

khulud khamis unpacks the multiple layers of culture, religion, sexuality, politics, feminism and nationalism in the hope of gathering the fragmented pieces of the past and reclaiming the lost contiguity of being Palestinian. – Samah Sabawi, Palestinian playwright and commentator

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Maisoon is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, raised as a Christian and in a relationship with a Muslim. Her boyfriend Ziyad wants the tradition-defying Maisoon to commit to their relationship. ‘…For Allah’s sake, Mais, what’s your problem? I want to marry you! I want us to be a real family.’

But the young jewellery designer is determined to find her own path with both Ziyad and her father constantly frustrated with her.  Her father, Majid dreams that his only daughter will become a doctor. To Layla his wife, he sighs: “Everything is wrong. Her quitting medical school…and…and…” ” She’s going out with a Muslim!”

Majid has his reasons and these and his carefully hidden past eventually become known to his wilful daughter. In the eyes of Maisoon, her father was the responsible bank clerk who worked overtime most days and always hoped he’d be promoted but wasn’t. He was the meek obedient citizen who knew that he didn’t belong:’Because his name was Majid’. He was of the generation ‘who never dared to raise their heads’- ‘those who grew up under military rule’. Majid wanted a better life for his daughter and disapproved of her working for the Yahudiyya (Jewish) boutique owner…’she could have done better’.

As Maisoon uncovers forgotten papers she is moved by what she learns of her father’s political past. The young Majid had been in love with a Muslim woman and taken part in the armed resistance, resulting in jailtime. He was also a poet.

Forgive me.

So today they finally got you. 

Last time we smoked nargila together you laughed. You said, 

They’ll never get you.

But they did.

You said, ” Who’s interested in a fighter whose weapon is the pencil?”

But they were.

 

‘Baba, the bank clerk? A poet? Could it be?’ This man, her father who was so angry about her own political activities. The same man who implored her to give up her peace activism: ‘It’s gone, our land is gone, and we are citizens of this state. You can’t bring back the past. It’s dead’.

khulud khamis, unpacks multiple layers in this intriguing novel. The layers are many and concern themselves with those of culture, religion, sexuality, politics, feminism and nationalism. Maisoon lives in a complex world: she is a feminist and peace activist who rails and acts against the gross injustices metered out to those who live in the occupied territories. And as a feminist she wants to live her own life, not the one that her father wants her to lead. She resists a permanent relationship with Ziyad as she explores her sexuality with Shahd. And as she comes to grips with her father’s secret life – a life formed of struggle involving culture, religion and nationalism, ‘the lost contiguity of being Palestinian’ is reclaimed.

Haifa Fragments is published by Spinifex Press

Release Date: March 8, 2015

 

So much more than good cooks!

This week, The Australian published an obituary for beloved and best-selling Australian author, Colleen McCullough. Her obituary opened with:

Screen shot 2015-01-31 at 1.37.42 PMCOLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best-selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: “I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.”

Readers responded angrily to McCullough’s obituary, labelling it sexist. McCullough, who died on Thursday at the age of 77, worked as a neuroscientist in the United States before turning to writing full-time and yet her obituary began by describing her as “plain of feature” and “overweight”.  ABC journalist Joanna McCarthy tweeted the article along with the words: “Award for worst opening lines of an obituary goes to …#everydaysexism.

But sadly it’s not unusual for women to spoken about in terms of beauty and sex appeal, rather than with respect for intelligence and a lifetime of achievement. Effie Mann writing in The Age recalls The New York Times’ obituary for rocket scientist Yvonne Brill, whose professional achievements were listed below her cooking prowess  and success as a dedicated wife and mother. The first paragraph of her obit described her as a woman who “made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. 

I recall being at my mother’s funeral where I overheard a remark made by one of her former acquaintances who’d been surprised by the stories she’d heard of the richness of our mother’s life before she became ill. ‘I didn’t know Marion did all that,’ she said quietly to her companion. What this person didn’t know was that mum was very talented in dressmaking, gardening and crafts. She had left school early to care for her large family after her mother had died at the age of 47 years, so although she hadn’t had the career chances that her daughters have had, she made the very best of her situation.

Many of those attending her funeral service only knew Marion as our father’s wife and our mother. Father was the successful Managing Director and the local church elder. He sang in the church choir and helped elderly ladies with their finances. It was mostly all about Morrie.

So when friends and relations listened to the many splendid speeches devoted to Marion they heard about a woman in her own right: Talented in crafts, always quick to knit or sew or bake what was required for the village fete. She was a keen and skilful gardener, devoted to her beautiful garden, loved playing lawn bowls, and she enjoyed the company of her many women friends. This personal testimony to our mother preceded any mention of her role as a dutiful wife and mother.

Whereas my mother’s singular life was respected, the same cannot be said of the funerals of my aunts. Sadly, I can only recall the lives of these women being remembered in terms of how well they cooked. Speech after speech spoken by loving daughters, sons and grandchildren remembered my aunts, Jean, Marge and Betty as great cooks, willing babysitters and little else. I’m so glad that Marion was remembered as a woman who was very talented in the crafts, was great at sport and a keen and fruitful gardener. Mum and her sisters weren’t career women – their lives were largely spent caring for us and supporting their men. But mum sought an outlet in her very many interests even so.

I understand why our mother was remembered as a woman first and mother and wife second. My sisters and I had grown up in the 1950s with a very controlling father. We had married early but divorced and were at the time living as single mothers. My sister’s speech and respect for our mother emanated from the changes in society wrought by feminists.

But as Colleen McCullough’s sexist obituary revealed this week we still have a long way to go yet before due respect is shown for the complexity of the lives women lead.

 

 

 

 

 

The mainstreaming of domestic violence

Screen shot 2015-01-28 at 2.15.15 PMOn Australia Day 2015, domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty was named Australian of the Year. Rosie’s 11 year-old son Luke was murdered by his father in February 2014 and since then the bereaved mother has made many media and public speaking appearances shining the attention on the issue of domestic violence and calling for systemic changes.

Male violence against women and children in the home is not new of course. However it appears to me that the media, the government and the police have only recently caught up with the fact that this ‘epidemic’ exists. Until recently domestic violence was largely the concern of the women and children who were being abused, the women’s movement and the women’s refuges that are now being dismantled. Take the example of Elsie, Australia’s first women’s refuge which opened in 1974. Screen shot 2015-01-28 at 2.14.53 PM

Elsie Women’s Refuge is currently under threat from State Government reforms which mean that government funding could be put out for tender which may allow religious groups to bid and potentially put female-run refuges under threat.

Handing over the running of women’s refuges to groups such as The Salvation Army puts at risk the original feminist ideology of female-run refuges, according to feminist Anne Summers . Such changes mean “that men would not only be allowed to stay at the refuge, they could also be running it,” she said.

Julia who had endured four years of violence and threats at the hands of her de facto partner before escaping to Elsie Women’s Refuge with her two young children explains what Elsie meant to her: “Elsie was a lot more than just accommodation. They really helped me understand and grasp what I had gone through.”

Sadly the refuge as a place of protection and consciousness-raising seems destined to go. We are also in danger of finally losing the feminist analysis of the women’s liberation movement now that the various state governments, police entities, and men’s groups are speaking out publicly and organising royal commissions. The feminist analysis that is sorely needed and is no longer popular views domestic violence, and all male violence against women, as about male domination and power.

Congratulations must go to Rosie Batty for her wonderful award but we must be careful that in the mainstreaming of domestic violence feminist analysis continues to be heard. Late last year when Rosie Batty took to the witness stand at the inquest being held for her son Luke’s death she said: “It was to get at you… someone wants to make you suffer the rest of your life.” And of course this someone was her former partner and father of her only child. A man who had lost control and possession of Rosie and his child and couldn’t take it. So he killed her child to make her suffer. It is this male violence and power over women and children that must be stopped.

Male violence is the leading cause of death and disability in Victorian women under 45. Every week in Australia, a woman is killed by her current or former partner. In response to this crisis the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that there will be a Royal Commission into Family Violence. But what does family violence mean? Who is being violent and who is the victim. The correct phrase should be ‘male violence against women and children’.

As for this commission-surely this is largely a waste of money for as a letter writer to The Age has written: Women’s services and survivors of family violence have been saying for years exactly what is needed to tackle the issue. They want more resources for refuges, affordable housing for women escaping violence, the proper administration of intervention orders and school programs stressing the importance of respectful relationships. The question is whether after this royal commission, which will tell us what we already knew, there will be funding to carry out the programs that women’s services have been asking for years?

– Sue Leigh, Fitzroy North

After the Royal Commission at the cost of $40 million there may be little money left for women’s services. And although the federal government is putting aside funds for a national action plan on tackling violence against women, the domestic and sexual violence peak bodies are calling for funds recently cut from service providers to be reinstated. The convenor of the national family violence prevention legal services, Antoinette Braybrook, said the government was giving with one hand and taking away with the other.“At the same time as making these supposed commitments, the commonwealth government has defunded critical services, including the NFVPLS program, which delivers vital legal services that ensure the safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children,” she said.

Today refuges such as Elsie are being defunded and the feminist analyses of the refuge movement that viewed domestic violence, and all male violence against women, as about male domination and power are not heard. The mainstreaming of domestic violence which includes the appointment of Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year can not be regarded as a progressive step for women.

 

Free speech – not on vaccination it seems!

A SOCIAL media campaign is in progress to stop an American anti-vaccination campaigner running a series of lectures in Australia in March. Following on from the success of a campaign which resulted in the cancellation of the misogynist Julien Blanc’s visa, pro-vaccination activists are calling on the immigration department to have Dr Sherri Tenpenny’s visa cancelled because she speaks about the harms associated with vaccines.

Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 11.44.26 AMDr Sherri Tenpenny has planned to deliver six seminars around Australia in March and to be joined by Norma Erickson who runs Sanevax an organisation which promotes only Safe, Affordable, Necessary & Effective vaccines and vaccination practices through education and information. A homoeopathic practitioner from Victoria, Isaac Golden, who promotes the use of natural medicines to prevent disease is also scheduled to speak at the seminars. Unfortunately the seminars are now in jeopardy as most of the venues where her presentations were to be held have cancelled.

Tenpenny, who runs an alternative medicines clinic in Ohio, has written a book called Saying No To Vaccines and regularly lectures on the dangers of immunisation. Tenpenny says that she wrote her book because parents needed a tool that did their homework for them. She says that the evidence is there to support their decision to not vaccinate; you just have to do a little work to find it. ‘Everyone seems to be so afraid of “bugs” and their potential ability to make us sick. But the reality is that we swim in “bugs” every day and we are not dropping over like flies.. The only “bugs” we seem to obsess over are associated with vaccines. Only two generations ago, measles, mumps and chickenpox were normal experiences of childhood. Why we have complete fear of these infections is media and money driven and unfounded.’

And the Australian mainstream media perpetuates this fear and supports the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the vaccines when it fails to support Dr Tenpenny’s tour.  Her ideas are so sensible:

If the focus of Public Health was on sleep, exercise, clean water and safe, non-GMO food, we would have a healthy society without vaccines but we would not have billion dollar industries employing millions of people to keep us “healthy.” The fact is, we are a very UNhealthy society with vaccines, so the Public health and argument that we must vaccinate ‘for greater good’ is a failure.

Our hospitals are full of unhealthy adults and children despite all the vaccines, antibiotics and other medical interventions. Many people are living longer yet more debilitated lives, needing expensive medical management. Sherri Tenpenny and her fellow speakers just might be able to teach us how to live healthier lives and they should be given their right to speak.

 

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