functionality

Feeling BADD ass

My friend Philip blogged today about Blogging Against Disablism Day – BADD (well worth reading) and I started to wonder a bit about the proliferation of events that try and raise consciousness through a catchy acronym and a single day focus. I worry sometimes that our year is too short to include all of the special days, maybe it’s time to move to Saturn (29:1 earth year – over 10 000 days should be about right). The feel good vibe runs hot and people love to get in on the action, hit ‘like’, have their thoughts challenged but if it is just through reading then I’m unsure about the actual engagement with the ‘real’ world (for want of a better word). Do people actually DO anything different? I’m skeptical.

Blogs also tend to reach those already interested or thinking about the same things, so sometimes it’s a case of ‘preaching to the converted’ or seeing your own thoughts rehashed through another lens but kind of the same ideas. Maybe that is the point of it, like Philip mentions ‘law of attraction’ perhaps that is how momentum is started, by sharing something, with a wider network of people.

Getting stories and voices ‘out there’ is not enough for change, and while consciousness might be raised for a moment the next click of the screen could be something that convinces you that there are more important things to worry about. That has been one of my frustrations recently – seeing the ‘transgender-bathroom’ debate be hijacked and minimised in the name of promoting bigger issues.

So my contribution to BADD day is this – you have a body – it has and always will be in a state of becoming differently functional ‘fluxtional’ is my new word. ‘Disability’ does not exist – complexity of functioning does. Therefore every day I am against the normative idea of ableism (again see Philips blog) because it denies the very real richness of diversity that infiltrates every level of connection we have to each other. Please let us see MORE body-function diversity in media, all forms. For a start can we please get someone signing the news? Because quite frankly I have one sign to give NZ television networks with their representation of diversity and it only needs one digit.

 

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Sigh-Fi

Well I just binge watched Ascension on Netflix. Now I have been looking for a sci-fi series to follow for a while, something has to fill the gap until season two of Sense 8 starts, and this was shaping up to be it. There was even a hint at some queer characters, ok, one character was openly gay but she didn’t get to lock lips with anyone and drinking at a gay bar while reading conspiracy theories on her ipad was about as risqué as it got. But what I enjoyed was the plausible story line, unlike The 100 which drove me crazy – I made myself finish season two then wanted a refund on the time I’d wasted. At the end of the first series I had that look on my face after you watch The Matrix for the first time – like WTF just happened. I immediately went searching for the next series….nothing. I searched the internet…despair…anger….frustration mounting as I realised it probably didn’t match the mass consumption formula – apocalypse-youth-sex-dystopia-more sex.

It reminded me of The Truman Show but with a darker edge, maybe with a hint of Lost but without the drawn out back stories and left hanging in the same way you are at the end of The Quiet Earth (now there’s a Kiwi Sci-Fi classic). This had the ingredients for mixing a whole range of ethical dilemmas with a social, political and scientific realism that is sorely missing from the sci-fi genre at the moment. Maybe I’m expecting too much from the mainstream media however it should be a place where ideas are expanded and explored in more complex ways, particularly in relations to diversity and our concepts of relationships.

Yet the record seems stuck on the same track – white, heterosexual, common morphology (body shapes), military industrial complex saves the day. There is some dabbling in gender relationships but while women sometimes occupy powerful positions generally they seem to still need a male by their side to accomplish whatever ‘save the day’ mission is at the core of the story line. And while functionality is richly explored often through technology or enhanced neural capacity it is not generally open to diverse morphologies, the ‘perfect’ body is replicated more often even with technical enhancements. One of my favourite examples is The Borg queen from Star Trek First Contact, she is just a head and a spine that gets dropped into a custom made body – they clearly had done their homework.

I dunno, a whole universe of possibilities and the same old boring representations of human diversity. Sigh-fi indeed, maybe it is time to write my own script and send it to the Wachowski sisters.

Flowing with the go

I’m in this fluid space, where fluidity is contained and made safe. A place of becoming aquatic mammals, bodies directed into rooms to transform, emerging and submerging revealing skin and hiding eyes behind artificial lenses, protected and vulnerable. Directed and patrolled spaces of chaos. A warning light and siren but no one is afraid a groaning, yawning mouth transforms the liquid medium into a new force, a slow moving wave, bodies scatter and flow into new territories. New flows, surface tensions break there is laughter and screaming, delight and concern a new uncertainty. Tossed, jumbled, scattered at the mercy of surges and flows both visible and invisible densities changing. Silence, the mechanical maw closes and order returns.

Through the door lines and lanes define spaces a clock is marking time. Lessons to learn bodies talking the unfamiliar with new movement, new patterns. Order and purposeful disciplined and regimented repetition with variation encoding technique. Separated and segregated together under the watchful gaze of instructors.

A strange disjuncture on the other side of the glass, an empty space, no water. Concrete and tiles dry, framed in fencing. A disabled space, functionally impaired now without a purpose, closed to the public and hidden from view awaiting to be rehabilitated, to be use-full again. Without the refraction of water I notice the slope of the floor beckons a flicker of recognition – 1970’s California drought and the birth of pool skating, a moment in time that ruptured and broke free enabling new movement to occur, deterritorialised and re-territorialized, this concrete cousin born after that time will never feel rolling urethane. I glance at the diving platform and the chasm below suggestive of an abseil tower. What it could become but will not. Out of order.

Yes I was at the pool today and I didn’t swim but I was fully immersed in my thoughts with Deleuze and Barad keeping me company in a strange exhilarating intra-action, or maybe it is just the chlorine fumes.

 

A wack hack

I’m perplexed. We’ve had a dildo chucked at a politician and now high tech dildos that could be hacked.There is a new industry called cyberdildonics and is set to be the next ‘big thing’ that could make that long distance relationship all the more intimate. Wow…sex toys in the media with no talk about sex or sexuality.

But much like the virtual absence of condoms being seen when depicting particular sexual acts (I think I can count the number of times I have seen a condom add on one hand) dildos as well seem to be almost desexualised by media, good for a face slap and maybe a door stop. Could be an interesting cyber safety topic in schools or a creative cross curriculum topic? The mind boggles as it googles with new goggles into a future of cyber enhanced sexualities.

Seriously, how has ordinary sex become so invisible – by ordinary I don’t simply mean heterosexual, I’m talking about the messy, complex, awkward, funny, negotiated, interrupted moments with bodily fluids and equipment like dildos and vibrators in the context of sex. It seems contradictory when considering the hyper sexualisation in a lot of media. Almost like the over-saturation closes down these spaces so that real experiences in the lives of people become shocking and beyond the normative spectrum coloured by the graphic representation of sex portrayed.

I also accept that technology has made sex and sexuality more accessible and fluid for many. Perhaps the digital age has simply taken hardware to a new level. Personally I can’t imagine wanting to hack anything that is being used by someone else in an intimate act, voyeurism could get interactive. I’d like to see greater representation of sexuality but not just the usual token gay or lesbian character, people of mixed ages, cultures, body shapes and functions flirting, getting it on and keeping each other safe, caring about the health comfort and pleasure of their partner.

Maybe there is a bit of re-branding to be done in silicon valley.

Glory or gory days

A little red flag popped up on my facebook page last night terribly exciting for this digital introvert. I was in the middle of writing my previous post and I had momentary smirk as the strange synergy of the universe seemed to be toying with my sense of irony. Someone was inviting me to play a game of football tomorrow. Back to kicking balls, something I spent many hours doing in my youth and was pretty good at it. Of course this is all in the past, in fact my last real club game was last century. As I was pondering my response – which could only be a yes or a no, I wanted to understand the simultaneous excitement, dread, and curiosity. It’s a division 3 game and apparently won’t be that serious…yeah right. Problem is my default setting has always been extremely competitive at least when it comes to football/soccer. The other is my aging body that while reasonably fit has done nothing of the explosive kind in so long I am worried about my fragile scar tissued hamstrings blowing. I’m also not sure how I will feel playing for fun but I figure it will be a good litmus test of identity. The beautiful game brought out a bit of an ugly side of me long ago so perhaps I will allow myself to be reborn tomorrow. It’s a 10am kick off which in the old days would be like 6am, but will feel more like 3pm now, so at least I will be awake. I’ve dug out my boots, I did upgrade about 10 years ago for coaching so at least they are from this century!

Maybe I just need to remember why I started playing in the first place and why I fell in love with the game. It’s a team sport, it requires multiple skills and ways to use your body. It’s simple and you cannot hide behind your gear or equipment, if you make a mistake, you do everything you can to fix it yourself. The ball doesn’t pick sides, both teams are using the same ball.

If there is one other memory I hope stays the same then I hope it will be that the bar will be open after and asparagus rolls at the after match function. Stay tuned for the over exaggerated post match blog full of colourful hyperbole.

Leaky Bits

Maybe don’t read this if you are eating something:

The human body has some interesting features. But it is our reactions to parts that leak fluids that create some curious social and cultural rules based on the level of perceived appropriateness and acceptability of expulsion. We’re funny about tears and sweat, both completely natural and harmless. There are other bits with some peculiar contradictions and I think it has something to do with the velocity of the fluids leaving the body. Things that drip or ooze take on a passive act but if it shoots out it is active and purposeful. For example a runny nose is a slow drip and generally frowned upon, but a vigorous nasal clear on a football pitch or bike is completely fine. Saliva is a bit the same, a slow drool is not so cool but spitting can be an art form. Some leaks depend a bit on specific plumbing of a particular set of organs. The menstrual cycle for one gives those with that set of plumbing a complicated set of leaks. Bleeding monthly is quite frankly a very poor design. Bladder leakage definitely not as acceptable as a long strong stream and obligatory ‘ahhhhhhh’ if busting. But I am sure I am missing some other form of leak or complementary explosion….ohhh…this is so hard…it’ll come to me.

inclusive exclusion

Throwing money at schools to provide more support for students with unique functioning says something about a profound discomfort in schools with any form of diversity beyond culture. When writing about the ‘cost’ of providing support for disabled students the needs of the majority of students who ‘might miss out on teachers time’ are privileged. The threat to the normative learning environment is what is represented when it comes to promoting increased funding and my concern is this moves schools further away from inclusive and more toward exclusive concepts of special needs. One of the reasons I think is a general dis-ease with any form of emotional, social, physical difference. The need to manage diversity by erasing undersirable outward expressions of uniqueness means schools have lost one of their most powerful functions, to provide young people with experiences with others who may ‘be’ un-like them to allow this unsettling to play an role in forging a genuine appreciation of the vast range of humanbeingness. Maybe this has something to do with the insanity behind assessment driven pedagogy, I’m not sure, but the dominant concerns indicate this might be part of the reason.

Another pressure point is the growing parental entitlement creeping into education. I don’t begrudge parents wanting the ‘best for their children’. However neoliberal forces seem to have condensed and concentrated this into a drive to demand that schools remove all barriers to their child achieving their best. It seems as though ‘accessibility’ has been hijacked as an idea to some degree. If litigation or media exposure is threatened, Principals can be backed into a corner to preserve their brand. These are some of the contextual influences skipped over by media in a bid to focus on economies of identity – financial bottom lines and the ever growing business management approach to education and pedagogy.

A concept I find increasingly needed but missing in schools is de-expertising. That is, you can actually ask young people themselves what they need! And be careful to allow for some space to just them to be teenagers, de-pathologising youth in general would be a good start. Getting frustrated, angry, emotional and struggling to communicate feelings is not uncommon for teachers…or young people. Let’s remember that and get back to basics – the 3 r’s – 1: Are assumptions disabling students more than their actual disabilities, 2: Are young people consulted when developing IEP’s? (especially year 11 and beyond but even before this), 3: Are the needs of the many really that different to the needs of the few?

Having said all this however I am acutely aware that parents are covering the costs of teacher aids and shouldn’t be. I’m also grateful for the work RTLB’s and TA’s do, an often invisible and underappreciated part of the fabric of teaching. To the Ministry Of Education, put your money where your mouth is but don’t let it suffocate a wider discussion of inclusion, belonging and feeling valued by everyday practices in schools.