A call to arms for reproductive and health care rights

A few months ago, I appeared in the debut performance of the TMI Project‘s show What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting; I wrote about that amazing experience here.  Those of you concerned with such matters will no doubt have observed that the issues the show addresses (attempts by the right to obliterate reproductive and health care access) have not magically gone away since then.  Texas, for example, is shutting down Planned Parenthoods under some complete bullshit pseudo-public health loophole they invented, and it’s going to take more than a one woman filibuster by shoe-in-for-badass-of-the-millenium-Wendy-Davis to undo this horrendous fuckwadery.  So what are we going to do about it?

Here’s what we’re going to do about it.  We (the TMI Project) are planning to take this show on the road, and perform What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting in Texas and elsewhere.  But guess what!  As it turns out, travel to Texas isn’t free, and this is where you can help.  I am asking you to contribute to this cause, and if you’re wondering if I mean YOU specifically, yes, I do.  Help us bring this show to Texas, the state that more than any other needs to be smacked upside the head with some raw undeniable truth in the form of devastatingly honest first person narratives on these issues.

Here is the link to donate to this cause.  I am hoping you will do so, and sooner would be better than later.  This is an opportunity to improve radically the dialogue around these issues, allow voices that have traditionally been silenced to be heard, and make sure that the jackasses who are trying to take away our rights and health care access (YOUR rights and health care access) do not succeed.

We will also be performing this show again locally, in Rosendale on October 25th and 26th (same show both nights), so if you missed it in Woodstock in June, you have another chance to see it.

And whether you’re in a position to contribute or not, I hope you will please spread the word to other like-minded individuals who may want to help us.  We shouldn’t have to fight this fight, but given that we do, I want to make damn sure that we win.

Don’t you?

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dreams

Last night, I dreamt of the RCMP.  Yep, Mounties.  I was observing some sort of ceremony or fête.  It was indoors with stark, almost industrial lighting.  There were two young women with me, both of whom seemed interested in me.  I gave one my affection, the other, a knife, and my hand lingered in hers when I handed it to her.  Both women realized my duplicity, and they left.  I saw them later in the dream, but they no longer had any interest in me.  This dream fell on the heels of a day on which I woke up cranky, tried running but only made it 2km, went to yoga with a friend for the first time in many months, saw two of my favourite teachers (both of whom noted the physical changes in my body), and had a therapy appointment in which my therapist called me out on the quixotism of my desire to fix the past.  I can’t fix things that I didn’t break.  I ended the day with an AlAnon meeting in which I offered to take the chairperson position for the next three months.  I don’t know which of these events may have influenced my dream.  Maybe the therapy appointment.  Certainly there’s some overlap between my desire to pick at unresolvable issues and my waking attempts to run in two mutually exclusive directions at the same time, or to invest myself in quagmires which not only are not mine, but which I only seem to make worse with my well-meaning but fumbling attempts.  I also dreamt last night of vampires and zombies, a theme which has become repetitious to the point of being almost nightly for me, and which never fails to wake me up in dread fear for my safety.  Before I started dreaming regularly of zombies and vampires, for several months I dreamt occasionally of someone breaking into my house, which also woke me in dread fear.

I really don’t get what the Mounties had to do with anything.  They were a nice touch, though.

I’ve not been writing much lately; not here, not in my journal, not anywhere.  Although there are a half dozen topics I know I’d like to develop, it’s been hard to find motivation.  I’m not sure how to seek out the regular feedback I seem to need.

HPV vaccines

A few of my friends on Facebook have recently posted links to an article entitled ‘The Lead Vaccine Developer Comes Clean So She Can “Sleep At Night”: Gardasil And Cervarix Don’t Work, Are Dangerous, And Weren’t Tested.’ by Sarah Cain.  I’m writing a brief commentary because this article is misleading and I want to explain why.

Let’s start with the title.  The article never quotes Dr. Harper as saying that she can’t sleep at night, or that she wants to come clean for some misdeed.  It scarcely quotes her at all, actually, and it doesn’t give a link to the text of her speech in 2009.  I could not find the text of this speech through a google search, so it’s very difficult to know what, exactly, she said.  The article does quote a Joan Robinson who comments on her own perceptions of Dr. Harper’s talk, but does not give Ms. Robinson’s credentials.  I was able to find other interviews with Dr. Harper, and in none of them does she suggest that the HPV vaccines don’t work, are inherently dangerous, or weren’t tested.  What she does say is that these vaccines only protect against certain oncogenic strains of HPV and not others (which the article conflates to a suggestion that the vaccines “don’t work”), that women who are vaccinated do not always understand this and therefore are at risk of skipping Pap screenings (which the article conflates to a suggestion that the vaccines “are dangerous”), and that long term (eg, 15 year) efficacy of these vaccines is not yet established (which the article conflates to a suggestion that the vaccines “weren’t tested”).

Moving on to the body of the article itself – it is true that most HPV infections resolve themselves without treatment.  It is also true that there have been tens of thousands of adverse reactions to the vaccinations reported – but it is important to keep in mind that the vast majority of these have been minor and common to all vaccinations (pain and swelling, fainting, soreness at the injection site).  Regarding the possibility of more serious reactions, Google searching did not reveal much reliable reporting about these.  A Slate article says there were none, and I am inclined to believe this is true or very close to true.  At any rate, there were certainly not tens of thousands of deaths or serious adverse reactions, as the article implies.  If there were any serious reactions at all, there were few.  To be quite frank, if there had been adverse reactions in large numbers, this issue would have been reported much sooner and by a much larger news source than “Southweb Real News.”

Vaccines (including the HPV vaccines) are very thoroughly tested before being released to the public.  They are not simply invented by a biochemist at a pharmaceutical company and then dumped on us.  The CDC has a very helpful website which explains how vaccine safety is verified and monitored.

This point gets its own paragraph.  The article states that “At the time of writing, 44 girls are officially known to have died from these vaccines.” I could find no confirmation of this whatsoever.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence – the author, Sarah Hain, provides no evidence whatsoever here, though.  No reference, no link.  As far as I can tell, she invented this out of whole cloth.

It is true that Pap screenings alone have significantly decreased the incidence of cervical cancer.  The HPV vaccines are not intended to replace screenings; as I understand them, they are intended as a tool to decrease even further the incidence of cervical cancer and pre-cancer.

What’s most upsetting to me about Sarah Hain’s article is that it mixes fact and fiction, and gives no references for her claims.  It plays on existing fears about vaccines, and will appeal to a portion of the population which is already inclined to believe that the medical establishment’s sole motive is profit at any human cost.  It plays on confirmation bias – if I already believe what someone is telling me, then I will not question it as deeply as I otherwise would.  We all do this; it’s not a personal failing of one person or another, it’s something everyone does, regardless of their perspective.  Critical thinking and science are meant to root out confirmation bias, and force us to question even those things that we believe to be true, because (and here’s the important point, kids) believing something to be true has absolutely no bearing on whether it is.  Which, really, is quite amazing.

Anyway, back to HPV vaccines.  The following interview with Dr. Harper from 2011 gives a far more nuanced (and to me, interesting) perspective on HPV vaccination and its limitations.  I’m particularly fascinated by what she says at the end about differential duration of efficacy between males and females.  I’m incredibly curious about why this would be.  But she never says anything as sensationalistic as Sarah Cain’s article implies.

What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting – an insider’s review

This past Saturday night, I performed in the debut production of What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting, a themed show by the TMI Project to benefit Planned Parenthood and TMI’s community outreach initiative (which brings writing and monologuing workshops to disadvantaged populations). The show was nothing short of magical, and it was an honour beyond words to be a part of it. E and S, the co-directors of TMI, put together a collection of pieces, mostly monologues (one penned by me), around the theme of reproduction and reproductive rights. The script was phenomenal. The pacing and sequencing were perfect. The final piece was absolutely devastating. I’ve heard that piece, “The Lucky Ones,” four times now, and after each time, I’ve realized that I’ve been holding my breath the whole way through it.

I was freaking out during the tech rehearsal, thinking that there was no way we’d be able to pull this off – but it went off flawlessly. Every single piece hit home. We pulled no punches. We went to the dark, difficult, impossible places at every single opportunity. We told true stories that very few people have heard about the complications of reproduction – what can go wrong, and the complex ways that it can go right. The audience laughed. They cried. They gasped in shock and horror at times. After the show, it took me forever to get to my car because audience members kept stopping me to thank me for sharing my piece. The whole experience was transcendent and transformational.

E and S are planning to release this script to the public so that it can be performed by other groups to support Planned Parenthood, in much the same way that Eve Ensler released the Vagina Monologues. It makes me cry with pride for both of them that they are doing this. I know they’ve poured their hearts and souls into this show for the past 9 months, and it shows. I see this script as a warning shot across the bow of those who seek to limit reproductive rights and access to care for women and men: We will NOT let you do this to us. We will NOT let you dumb down these issues or avoid looking at difficult situations just to make your own moral lives easier. We are starting small, but this will snowball.

A phrase apocryphally attributed to Ghandi comes to mind: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. I am proud of E and S for taking a part in this fight, and I am proud of myself (and everyone else in the cast) for joining this fight.

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The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje – a review

My review in short:  it stunk.  Lots of purple prose that had me rolling my eyes and thinking “Oh brother,” and a story that took forever to go anywhere.  This was the only Michael Ondaatje I’ve read, and I don’t understand why he’s regarded as a great writer.  Was The English Patient better?  Anil’s Ghost?  Maybe his editor just gave up on this one?  Figured he’d sell a bazillion copies regardless, so why bother trying to make the book readable?  The biggest question for me, of course, is whether I should bother delving further into Ondaatje’s canon.  Suggestions from the readers of this blog with respect to this question would be much appreciated.

The writing reminded me a lot of John Irving – overwrought, overly precious.  Come on, man.  Just let the story speak for itself.  If you need to dress it up this much, the material you’re working with probably stinks.  And this story could have been much better, but he blew it with his self-important writing style.

There was one section I really did enjoy, but I was fairly drunk when I read it, so my judgement is suspect.

I bought my copy at Indigo on Princess Street in Kingston, Ontario a few weeks ago.  I was looking for something fun to read during my brief vacation, so I limited my browsing to whatever was on the tables at the front of the store.  The Cat’s Table was emblazoned with a sticker declaring it “Heather’s Pick.”  Heather, I don’t know who you are, but my reading interests and yours don’t seem to share much ground.

Favourite sports movies

So, I haven’t posted in a while… sorry, sorry, blah blah blah.

A propos of nothing, here’s a list of my favourite sports films (a genre that I usually don’t enjoy much):

  • Blue Crush (surfing)
  • Men With Brooms (curling)
  • Bend It Like Beckham (soccer)
  • Saint Ralph (running)
  • Stick It (gymnastics – “It’s not called gym-nice-stics!”)
  • Whip It (roller derby)

hiatus

So… I haven’t been posting much here recently. The reason is that I’ve been working on other (top secret!) writing projects, so I haven’t had much time to blog. I may continue to post sporadically, but realistically, I probably won’t be posting much for the next month or two.