Monthly Archives: May 2014

It Is Not About “Function”

Is it about the degrees of motion in your shoulder? That you can flex your wrist against gravity? Do you pronate or supinate to grasp and manipulate objects?

….huh?

It’s Not About the Shoelaces: An Occupation as Site of Conflict

A young man with Cerebral Palsy, shortly to be transitioning into adulthood. He and his parents have one Occupational Therapy goal: for him to tie his shoelaces independently.

Functionally, he has all of the components: fine motor dexterity and requisite upper limb skills, cognitive skills, visual skills – with effort and concentration, he could do it. He could tie his tie, a half-windsor, with no problem. Bottom-up, there was no reason he could not tie his laces. Analysing his attempts, his sequencing was off, and he could not replicate my instructions. He had the component skills and the idea of making loops and tying knots. But, something else was going on…I needed to step back.

I am an OT in the community, I want to help people. I make things happen. I am important to these people’s lives, right?

Wrong. I am one of many faces and names who interact with these individuals monthly, weekly, daily. People like me are perceived as gatekeepers to knowledge, opportunities, and equipment, who are seemingly niggardly in how we dole out our apparently vast resources.

Wrong. Most of us are stumbling in the dark. We learn something and hope to be able to apply some of it to another situation.

One thing I have re-affirmed to me over and over is that I need to resist the desire to solve the problem – especially when I do not fully understand what the nature of the problem is. Instead, I must ask more questions.

By exploring the meaning of occupations, we come to understand how beliefs about strengths, weakness, values – and conflicts – influence our occupations and engagements.

I sat down with the family to explore the idea of shoelace tying – why was it important? Was it the act of tying the shoelaces independently, or was it what tied shoelaces would enable – getting out of the house to go to work or access the community (and in that case, was there a solution that would remove the need for shoelace entirely)?

This young man’s mother has a history of CP and is experiencing arthritis. Therefore, it falls to the father to tie shoelaces for several of the family members. While the father has tried to teach his son shoelace tying, the father’s technique was difficult for his son to learn, and both parties had gotten frustrated. There seemed to be an underlying dimension to their relationship – the son as both reliant on his father for basic care activities, whilst trying to assert a natural independence from his parents.

I whipped off my own shoe and began showing the family a very simple shoelace tying technique. After seeing this, the father acknowledged that his technique might be more complex, that we all needed to settle on one method to teach this young man. Importantly, the father acknowledged that trying to teach his son minutes before they were to leave for school in the morning might not be ideal.

Together, we drew up a plan, (gasp! a goal, a SMART one at that!) that involved specific actions with a timeframe, and outlined responsibilities for myself, the young man, and the father.

 

It’s Not About the Bottom Wiping: An Occupation as Meaningful Rehabilitation

A striking woman in a slinky dress, I first met her carrying cables and microphone leads with impressive competence, peeped at her from backstage as she gracefully played her slinky black violin to open the show, and hopped out of her way as she rushed to help her DJ girlfriend with a intimidating efficiency. Then we spoke.

A skiing accident, she said. Needing reconstruction to her skull, her left leg, and both arms.

Sometimes all you need is determination and a right leg.

She points to her girlfriend. “As far as anyone’s concerned, I don’t fart. I don’t piss. I don’t shit. I was not going to toilet in my bed”. While in hospital, she asked the nursing staff to assist her to the toilet, but no further. She spent an hour learning to wipe herself with her right foot.

Perhaps that was where her rehabilitation began – where the will leads, the body can follow.

A commanding woman in a slinky dress who taught me that bottom wiping might be the beginning of recovery. If I look carefully, I can see surgical scars

 

Occupations are about meaning. Occupations are about dignity. Occupations are about volition. Occupations are about values.

Occupations are symbolic.

Occupations can be a site of conflict – and therefore can be the site of therapy and transformation. 

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The “F” Word

We have won the fight for equality in the West … right?

This whole “feminism thing” is outdated and irrelevant…right?

A guy I have never met in person but who thought we should chat on FB since we are both friends with Jane, kept telling me disturbing intimate details about himself and making comments about my appearance that made me uncomfortable. Last night he was at it again, talking about my breast symmetry. When I did not respond to him, he told me “I hope you take that as a compliment and don’t think I’m being seedy” to which I responded, ” I am choosing not to respond to it”. So he de-friended me. Compare that experience to one a few weeks earlier where a male colleague said something offensive “as a compliment”. When I let him know that he was too intelligent to not understand the problems with his choice of message, he immediately apologised for making me uncomfortable. And we moved on.

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Normalised Abuse

(Denial)

We are socialised into this vein. All daily interaction is permitted to become sexualised (isn’t that the reason women leave their homes, to have sex?) and many women laugh it off or downplay it.

My friend Lucia Lorenzi has done a fabulous job documenting the accepted misogyny in academic culture, whether it is the rape chants of universities,  David Gilmour’s assertion that no female author is  worth his time, that he only teaches his students works by “serious heterosexual guys”.

I have had friends suggest that because of the environments in which I perform, and because I model in the nude, I am opening myself to be targeted with this attention. The underlying assertion is that I am “asking for it”, I put my body out there, therefore I attract comments about my breasts, my figure, my buttocks, my legs, my sex appeal, and how I might incite a male to wish to take advantage of me (but because they are offered as compliments, I cannot feel hurt/scared/angry/upset or any other emotion those words raise in me) . DSC_9015 (800x485)

What I choose to do with my body is actually moot. The way women are treated and portrayed in our many industries has nothing to do with my performing, my modelling, or my appearance.

Anger

My sister wrote,

“Some guy once lectured me on the fact that Vancouver women are so stuck up- that we don’t smile or act in a friendly manner when casually meeting men, that we avoid engaging in conversation because, he said, we assume that the men are always hitting on us. But I think that if he’d been called a c*nt or bitch because he’d been friendly to someone who got the wrong impression and took polite rejection the wrong way, or had a complete stranger discuss his body in a sexual manner, OR EVEN had some POS start a pleasant conversation which, within the first minute, weirdly segued into an offer of $200 for sex (true story), then he might have understood why we shift uncomfortably and look for the first opportunity to get away anytime we are approached by someone we don’t know with whom we are not interested in having sex. We are blamed for sending the wrong signals and then called out for being cold. I’d love to live in a world where engaging in conversation didn’t carry the (apparent) promise of me taking my clothes off at some point.”

I responded,

“It is painful that my immediate reaction to a man approaching me is to look for escape options and ways to disengage, but this is due to my experience, similar to yours, and similar to what I hear from other women. Women cannot even drive home without some jerk yelling at them from another car, let alone take transit or walk in public. And if a woman goes to a club, it’s as if there’s a lit runway to her crotch/tits/ass as if that’s the cost of admission to the venue. There’s an amazing perception of the female body – always sexualised, always available to be assessed and remarked upon. And if a woman says anything different, she is a legit target for verbal assault (or worse).”

4f77bf3cd5205It is also painful when battling those “grey areas”. I had a partner who did not let me refuse him, whether I was willing or not, awake or not. Of course, this meant that my pleasure was rarely a concern, and my consent never was.

Once, I was fooling around with a different partner for the first time, and I figured sex was off the table for the moment as we had not yet discussed it and my underwear was still on – then he suddenly pulled my underwear aside and shoved his penis inside of me. Yes, I felt violated. No, it was not the only time.

 

Bargaining

(“Only Flamingoes Have a Thigh-Gap”)

This “real women have curves” or “let’s shame Lady Gaga for her photoshopped image in a magazine” or “the Kardashian chick is fat/skinny/pregnant” is all the same bullshit as was the pressures of every era, designed to make us spend money. If we self-obsess and self-hate, we buy junk that doesn’t actually fulfil us, and burn ourselves out without accomplishing anything of value.  We internalise the marketing bullshit and spew it all over each other. Then Modernist movement was where people thought every one was the Same. Post-Modernism acknowledges that we are different, and that True female liberation is where we get out of own own fucking way (and out of each other’s ways), and live with vitality and authenticity, whilst defending the right of every woman to do the same.

Instead, we prefer to sacrifice other women on whom we can project our insecurities, those who challenge our assumptions. Because women will tell other women that they can be same-sex attracted OR hetersexual but not Bisexual. Because women tell other women that working in the sex trade is buying into male exploitation – and that female sex workers are not intelligent enough to know it.

Targets for this kind of antifeminist behaviour may be queer, trans*, or racialized, they may possess unusual physical or intellectual attributes. They may simply be too much like us.

When we would rather run from that which incites our discomfort, or sacrifice others as scapegoats, rather than take on the fundamental issues which underlie this combative nature, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to make profound changes.

 

Depression 156_7900771791_8650_n

I will Let Lucia take this one:

“The stories of violence, of dehumanization, of humiliation, of frustration, of belittlement are seemingly endless.” (Running the Gauntlet).

It’s this incongruity, the strange melding of affection and violence (or affection and cruelty, affection and coldness, affection and indifference, etc) that can be so difficult to reconcile. It’s unsettling. It feels unsafe. At times, it has made me question whether or not I will ever be seen for any more than my body. It makes me start to question myself, and wonder if because I dress a certain way, or look a certain way, that that’s all I’m seen for, in spite of the creativity and intellect that I nourish and cultivate. It makes me wonder if people see ME at all. While I may embody sexiness at times or a particular heteronormative aesthetic of femininity at times—especially considering my love of fashion, modeling, and photography—those things are not who I am, and nobody has the right to make those things my identity, or to reduce my value to my presumed sexual availability. I,  Lucia, may feel or be or look sexy, but “sexy” is not an outright replacement for my legal name. (What’s in a Name?)

Acceptance

Make no mistake, when I “ask for it”, it will be obvious. Until then, hands off and my body does not need to be subject for discussion. I am lucky to be with a partner who understands how to engage with my intellect and emotions first. Only when those requirements are met could anything physical be possible. 10269580_622822977831338_4707134691327733183_n

Consent is consent. It’s pretty safe to assume that I do not consent, and if I would be in the mind frame to consent, I will let that person know. So, until then, safest to assume that sex is off the table.

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