Art of Woman

Life with Endometriosis

Endometriosis? What is THAT!!

Watch a YouTube video invitation to joint me and become part of “Life with Endometriosis”:
'Life with Endometriosis' invitation by Margaret Kalms (YouTube)

Life with Endometriosis - invitation YouTube by Margaret Kalms

Endometriosis is a debilitating and painful women’s reproductive disease. It is surprisingly common. It affects 10 - 15% of menstruating women. This rate is similar to women with breast cancer. While many people have heard about breast cancer, few have heard about endometriosis, even fewer understand the impact of endometriosis on women's lives.

There is still prejudice in talking about pelvic pain. Many people believe that menstrual pain is somehow normal! This results in delays in diagnosis that can extend pain and suffering unnecessarily. I decided to use my art, my photographic skills to challenge these ideas and prejudices, and to raise awareness of this insidious disease.

I’m dedicating an exhibition and an accompanying art book to this cause. "Life with Endometriosis", I call it. I imagine a gallery filled with art - several photos about each story from a dozen or so women and possibly including art created by some of the women. The accompanying book will be a lasting record of “Life with Endometriosis”.

Since August 2014, I have been meeting with women who live with endometriosis and have made recordings of their experiences. Progress with photography has been slower than I hoped because of delays and postponements due to ill health - which is all part of the endometriosis story. I am committed to this project. This will be a journey over many months, maybe years, as we visually explore the impacts of endometriosis on women’s lives.

I’m excited about the visual and photographic challenges this project will bring. It is a privilege to learn about other women’s lives and tell their stories.

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World AIDS Day 2012

A chance to relax and enjoy life after the working day has finished saw me walking in the city of Sydney watching the evening light change. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a grand old lady all beautifully flood lit at night. Then I noticed this large banner for World AIDS Day proudly filling the space on the sandstone pylon. What a wonderful statement defiantly embellishing this world recognised icon! Finally AIDS has come out of the dark and is seen as a mainstream issue.

South Australian Minister for Health and Ageing, Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, The Hon John Hill, MP affirms the need for us all to be vigilant and practice safe sex, safe injecting practices and take precautions to protect ourselves.

Although AIDS is spoken about much more freely than in the past, unfortunately, there are still people who think that AIDS is a behaviour problem. AIDS is a disease not a punishment. While certain behaviours can minimise exposure to any disease, including the common cold, we are all vulnerable because disease exists throughout our population. People who are sick need care and compassion regardless of how they became sick.

World AIDS Day banner on the pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
World AIDS Day banner on the pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Reclaim The Night 2012

Reclaim the Night is an annual event where women gather to demonstrate against sexual violence by men of women. Once a year women and their men supporters walk around the city streets declaring freedom of movement for women. Our streets should be safe enough for women (and men) to walk freely without being molested or raped. Rape is a crime regardless of what time of day it occurs or location or what clothing the woman is wearing.

Violent men have often tried to deflect responsibility for their actions by blaming their victims. There is still a lot of victim blame in society, where the focus is on the victim’s behaviour or clothing or even the time of day or location, rather than addressing the perpetrator’s criminal behaviour. A civil society does not blame victims for crime.

Rape and sexual violence are not a result of clothing. Around the world, there are many cultures that do not wear clothes, yet these cultures have very strict marriage laws, incest laws and rape laws. Some people holiday in the nude, but they do not expect to be sexually assaulted. It is like going shopping. The advertising banners and signs are bright, obvious and enticing. It is hard to navigate past the armfuls of merchandise that vie for our attention in tightly packed shopping malls and stores, some are so close they brush past us when we walk through. We may be hungry or in great need for something, yet if we take any piece of merchandise without paying, we will be charged with shoplifting. Enticing and seductive advertising is no defence for stealing! Likewise, rape and sexual violence is not about the type or amount of clothing a woman wears.

There were many types of clothing featured in the march. Some women wore long sleeves and long skirts, some had head covering, some wore very short shorts showing all their legs and some had low cut tops. These items of clothing show a fashion preference and have nothing to do with consent for sex. Some women wear provocative clothes in our society, but we do not condone sexual attacks on them. Think of Lady Gaga, Madonna or Kylie Minogue. These powerful, talented performers are not inviting assault. Neither is the teenager next door who wants to look fashionable.

I wonder if a study has been done of the cloths that were worn by victims of sexual assault. My prediction is that most victims wear ordinary cloths because most sexual assault is committed opportunistically. In many cases, the victim is not even dressed up, the victim is simply going about her usual activities. I searched the internet for such a study and found many studies that assessed people’s attitudes, such as the paper by Maurer & Robinson, 2008.

I found none that has actually checked police records to find out what the victims were actually wearing.

This quote from by a policeman was very revealing however:

Having been in police work for 40+ years, I can say that how a woman is dressed has little or nothing to do with sex crimes. It's about opportunity. Our local serial rapist, The "South Side" rapist, attacked some 30 women in their homes. He could not even see them before hand, he forced his way in through a window and raped the victims at knifepoint.

– M. Werner May 10 '11 at 15:01

I agree with the conclusion from a fact sheet from Rape Crisis Ireland:

Attitudes that blame victims of rape excuse perpetrators and reduce the likelihood of the prosecution of rapists. Such attitudes thus increase everyone’s vulnerability to rape.

(Download fact sheet)

Here are some interesting articles published by Utah State University:
Myths and facts about rape
Friends_family_of rape victims
For men only_male rape victims

Let’s all stop blaming the victim!

I love the banner that the demonstrators carried. It stated in hot shiny pink letters “There’s nothing sexier than consent”. I agree. Sexual love and joy should be promoted and spoken about openly in society so that all adults have their sexuality respected. There is no place for coercion or intimidation. Consent is a basic foundation of respect for our bodies.
Photo of Reclaim the night with banner reading 'There's nothing sexier than consent'

World AIDS Day - Agape Home

On Sunday I did some portrait photography. The profits are going to support volunteers at Agape Home, an orphanage for AIDS children. Currently they support approximately 100 children ranging in age from babies to teens. The home has its own water treatment system and grows some of its food. Fresh food and clean water along go a long way to maintaining a healthy life. Sometimes the children become sick and they are given treatment as needed. They are given training in practical skills and schooling. At all times the children are given a lot of love.

Download the poster.

It is wonderful to do something positive and practical for World AIDS Day.

International Women's Day

Today is a day for women around the world to take stock.

I am glad Australia has a new government that has abolished 'Work Choices'. This legislation was eroding conditions for many people. Because 'Work Choices' depended on negotiation, people who are in a weak position were at a disadvantage. Many women, especially those who have childcare or older person caring responsibilities, work in casual, part-time or informal jobs. These jobs tend to have no security, no leave entitlements, no sick provisions, no allowance for public holidays. They are jobs where people are hired and fired easily without any reason. They also have limited career options.

Many Australians believe we have equal pay for equal work. In fact, women earn 90% of their male equivalents (Advance Australia Where, Hugh Mackay P48). If you take into account the casualisation of female work and the restricted career path due to carer responsibilities, then women's real earnings are only 66% of men's earnings (The End of Equality, Anne Summers). Add this up over a lifetime and women have significantly reduced superannuation and subsequently significantly reduced financial security in their older years.
It is reasonable that superannuation is considered as part of a divorce or break-up settlement. Justice may not always be a 50/50% split because there are many factors to consider. Some women marry men older than themselves, so still have earning capacity after the man is drawing on his super. Differences in life expectancy may mean that men do not gain the same length of time benefit from their superannuation as their woman partner. Obviously a settlement means a division of assets and therefore a reduction in life style for both. These issues are complex.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Last weekend I went with my husband to Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. What a wonderful celebration of human sexuality and joy in diversity. It was a vibrant festival of light and colour. What impressed me was the range of groups participating - friends, businesses, gyms, clubs, police, defence, nurses, schools and even churches. The floats were varied and exciting. Many groups made elaborate costumes of various fantasy themes. Some of the costumes were very bold. Gay and Lesbian people often have important things to say about bodies, sexuality and gender. They know their views are not mainstream, so they challenge mainstream ideas of sexual love and expression. Many gay and lesbian people have had to think about meaning and desire. Their views can be refreshingly honest, cutting through habits and euphemisms to the heart of issues.

Unfortunately many mainstream people just follow trends without challenging the justice of their behaviour or attitudes.

The event was attended by thousands of people. The crowd was friendly and well behaved, people were joyful, having a great time celebrating life. There was no pushing or shoving. I wore a costume that I made. It was a bit adventurous for me, but was completely suitable for Mardi Gras! I felt completely safe the whole time walking around Sydney city centre and catching trains.

Topless dykes on bikes, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Photo copyright Margaret Kalms

A float from a group from San Francisco, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Photo copyright Margaret Kalms

A muscle man and a globe float, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Photo copyright Margaret Kalms

A colourful float, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Photo copyright Margaret Kalms