Hoarding during a pandemic

Normal shopping isn’t hoarding.
Hoarding is an obsessive compulsive behaviour and a response to anxiety. The best way to decide whether what you’re doing is hoarding or just routine, is to sit and imagine not buying those 10 loaves of bread you have in your trolley. If it causes you real distress (ie panic attack, crying, etc) it’s hoarding.

Thing is, in these times we’re all dealing with real anxiety, and most people don’t know how to manage it. The idea of buying and having lots of things is soothing for people trained to find pleasure in shopping. So it’s only to be expected. I imagine a lot people buying ‘extra’ plan to share it with family or legit keep it for an unpredictable emergency. They feel safer with a stockpile.

A lot of white m/c australians have never had to deal with real shortages, so they’re stocking up on the wrong things. Here in Ashfield where we’re from Nepal, China, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Poland, etc, a lot of people know how to deal with scarcity, so they’re always stocked up, and with the right things. Rice, preserved food, spices to give flavour to plain food. And they don’t waste food.

Hoarding is not good, but i see it as a bellweather for community feeling.
Here our supermarkets (preserve of m/c people) are a mess, but our Asian grocers are not.

So, because you can’t do anything about other people, check yourself. Be mindful of your purchasing. One extra loaf is bread is fine (esp if you freeze any extra). But be aware: if you get to three or four, check your general anxiety and wellbeing. Buying excessive amounts will tell you how your anxiety levels are.
But don’t judge yourself harshly for being a sensible housekeeper.

Time to stop dancing, Sydney

Time to cancel your partner dance classes, Sydney. Gotta flatten that curve.

I know. I’m usually all in favour of curves. The more the better. But not this time.

Our government is only enforcing a ban on gatherings of 500 or more people at the moment. But they’re normal people, not lindy hoppers or (god forbid) balboa and blues dancers. Who don’t seem to recognise personal space boundaries.

As partner dancers we touch a lot more than non-dancing crowds.

We are generally pretty good at sharing germs, but in this moment, we’re going to be too good. Let’s aim to be rubbish at sharing germs. Aim low, Sydney, aim low.

COVID-19 is spread through ‘respiratory droplets’ (drops of wet stuff from our mouths and noses), and through physical contact. When we dance, we often have our mouths open as we laugh and smile, we sweat a lot, we are constantly touching our faces, wiping off sweat, etc etc. Then we wipe those droplets into our orifices, and all over our environment. We blow them onto chairs and tables and sinks and phones and bags and dance shoes. And then it can live there for a few days.

Soz, but solo jazz will not stop us germing all over each other. Solo jazzers are epic respiratory droplet distributors.

Dancing one metre or even two metres apart isn’t going to cut it. Yes, that snot goob flew out of your nose and onto a chair or door handle or table. And someone else will touch it. Or that time you laughed, and threw your head back? You sprayed mouth goobs all over the room. And that sweaty towel you rubbed over your eyes and mouth and nose and face? You’ve just left it on the table. Or your bag. And now you’re touching someone’s hand. EEEEk. Even in a time of un-pandemic, that’s gross.

The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid transmission through direct contact. No touchy.
And no blowing respiratory droplets onto other people.

Don’t panic!
Here are the important rules:

  • Wash your hands a lot. With soap and water, for 20 seconds.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • If you’ve just come home from overseas, you have to quarantine yourself at home for 14 days.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and then wash your hand immediately. With soap and water
  • Stay in contact with your dance buddies using the Internet.

What is social distancing?
Social distancing is an effective measure, but it is recognised that it cannot be practised in all situations and the aim is to generally reduce potential for transmission.
While practising social distancing, people can travel to work (including public transport). For non-essential activities outside the workplace or attendance at schools, universities and childcare – social distancing includes:
– avoiding crowds and mass gatherings where it is difficult to keep the appropriate distance away from others

THIS ONE: THIS IS US, DANCERS:
– avoiding small gatherings in enclosed spaces, for example family celebrations
> WE ARE GERMY. LIKE FAMILY IN AN ENCLOSED SPACE.

THIS IS ALSO US!
– attempting to keep a distance of 1.5 metres between themselves and other people where possible, for example when they are out and about in public place.
>GOOD LUCK KEEPING 1.5M BETWEEN YOU AND A BALBOA DANCER, FREND.

AND US AGAIN!!
– avoiding shaking hands, hugging, or kissing other people
> JUST TRY NOT TO SHAKE HANDS IWHT A LINDY HOPPER. I DARE YOU.

– avoiding visiting vulnerable people, such as those in aged care facilities or hospitals, infants, or people with compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment.

Teachers:
Don’t freak about losing your students or your venue or any of that stuff.
You will lose money. That’s going to happen.

BUT

You can keep in contact with your students using fb groups, and by starting a ‘community’ (discussion on your fb page).
Keep posting on your fb page, and engage people in conversation online.
Post little videos of yourself talking about dance (keep it short!) and your tips for practicing at home.

AND

Prepare for your triumphant return by rebooting some aspects of your business (ever wanted to rejig your teaching strategies? Now’s the time). Rethink your business plan. Start developing a lovely new promotional strategy.

MOST OF ALL

Keep in contact with other teachers and organisers, and get some virtual hand holding and support. Sydney is a ridiculously friendly scene, considering how many different schools and businesses our dance community has. Heck, we’re pretty much the only city in the world that could develop a shared response to sexual assault and harassment. Remember that time in 2016 we ran a replacement exchange when SSF had a stumble? We put together an ENTIRE weekend of parties with a week’s notice. And it was GREAT.

Pattern drafting school report: final class.

My doods, i used like ten metres of paper today. But first i drew this perfect half circle with a piece of string, a pencil (H), and an awl.
Then I drew another, off-centre half circle inside it, for which i calculated the radius using MATHS.

It took me nearly thirty years, but i totally USED that high school education.

Pattern drafting school report

So apparently lindy hoppers don’t want to hear a blow-by-blow account of how to pivot a bust dart into the shoulder seam then convert it into a styleline. Not even when you open with the fact that you get two square metres of blank paper, a sharp pencil, an eraser, two types of rulers, scissors, and masking tape and then go fully sick with some geometry.

WhatEVER, dancers.

how do you get women leads?

Sydney now has a very strong culture of ‘anyone can lead or follow if they like, and it’s ok if you just want to do one and it happens to align with your gender ID’.

There are a number of reasons for this – a queer swing dance school who also run a big event; women leads on the floor; women teachers who teach as leads; people being publicly intolerant of anti-social behaviour; a growing ‘be good to each other’ discourse in event promotion, etc.
And where I write ‘women’, please include transwomen. I’ve noticed it’s easier for normcore folk to include transmen in their ideas of ‘men’, than it is to include transwomen in their category ‘women’.
It’s also been super important to see how welcoming and supportive our scene has been of people who’ve transitioned while being in the scene. ie they first presented as one gender, then transitioned to another. On the whole, teachers and dancers have been openly supportive, and more importantly, no-big-deal about changing pronouns, etc. It may have been harder for them one-on-one (all new things are tricky), but on the whole, it’s been ok. Not perfect, but ok. More work to do there.

Note: if a scene is ok with women leads and men follows, it is more welcoming to transpeople and queerpeople. Because a scene that has flexible ideas about gender and dance is a more welcoming, safer place.
If my leading has ever helped pave the way for a shy dyke lead or transwoman follow, then I feel very proud. It was worth it.

etc etc

One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed, is that this general trend has been working in concert with peer-motivated anti-sexual-harassment actions. ie women are more likely to say no when a creeper asks them to dance, and they will also step in and check in on other women if they see creepers maccing on them.
There’s also been a scene-wide ‘fuck that; we do not tolerate harassment or assault’ public discussion from teachers (even if the organisational policies haven’t been in place).

And _this_ trend has seen us get a more ethnically diverse cohort of dancers. In part because one of the main creepers was targeting asian women. Boy, did he get his arse handed to him. And because women of colour just get fucked off by carrying the double burden of racism and sexism.

I noticed that once he and his gross mates were absent from events, we saw an increase in men following. It seems that this racist creeper was also intimidating other men _implicitly_. And that the men who liked to follow also liked women who lead (or the women who’d had a gutful of that creeper).

So when we addressed all these issues – sexuality, ethnicity, gender, etc – at the same time, we saw a general improvement in the vibe of parties and classes. People felt more comfortable being themselves.

And then it snowballed, and we saw exponential improvements.

So if your goal is ‘more women leads’, you need to address a range of issues. You’ll get a bunch of lovely good results as a consequence.

But speaking as a woman lead, things that were important for me:
– Teachers who openly said ‘women are leads as well as men’. The importance of this cannot be overstated. I remember the handful of times I’ve heard teachers say it in the last 20 years. But don’t be afraid to be pro-active on this. Not just saying ‘anyone can lead’, but “Women can lead.”

– Teachers saying to me “Don’t ever stop leading.” A woman teacher said this to me quietly one night after class, and it was the most important thing anyone has ever said to me about dancing.

– Seeing women teachers lead socially.

– Seeing other women ask women teachers to lead them socially.

– Having women teachers ask me to dance (and lead)

Things I wish people had done:

– Stepping on students in class who say ‘you’re being the man/boy?!’ with surprise.
I’ve never heard a teacher say this, but it would be solid gold if they said “hey, follows, don’t say this to your partners. It makes them sad.”
I’ve only ever been at two weekend events where no one has said this to me. In 22 years of lindy hop classes and workshops. Each time someone expresses surprise and expects me to justify leading, it wears me down just a little bit. So a) fuck you women follows, and b) teachers, get your students’ backs.

– Never used gendered pronouns in class, or used gendered language and concepts to describe leading.

Things that shat me to tears:
– Male teachers who try to make me try a move as a follow in class, when I’m leading. Sure, it might help my learning, but would you ask a male lead to do this, even if you knew they followed? And also, whatever your norm is, do this thing: treat women leads like they are leaders, not follows who sometimes lead.

– Teachers who kept ‘forgetting’ to use gender neutral language.

– Teachers who use sexy jokes in class, because most of those jokes were heterocentric and/or relied on the idea of a lead being a straight man.

Buy more drinks, or fund jazz in new ways?

The Unity Hall Jazz Band had the longest running jazz residency in the world.

Their host, the Workers’ Bar and Restaurant in the Unity Hall Hotel, has just announced changes to their monthly program. Now the Unity Hall Jazz Band only play two weeks out of every four in the month. The third is given to the usual monthly Dan Barnet Big Band gig, and the fourth week has just been given to rockabilly bands.
This is not good news.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to one of the younger band members, who was worried about the gig, and more concerned about the band leader, Gary Walford, who’s been leading the Unity Hall band for all the forty seven years of this residency. The venue owners had told the venue manager to increase the earnings at the bar, or the band would be cancelled.
My friend asked me what we could do, and I suggested the usual call-round to dancers to encourage them to spend more at the venue. I had no hope for this ploy. It never works. And I have no shortage of reservations about promoting drinking in the local community. Particularly when alcoholism is a real problem in the jazz musician community.

But I’ve been thinking about this issue.

All over the world, free weekly live jazz gigs get cancelled because there’s a lack of income over the bar. Before they get cancelled, there’s a push to have dancers spend more at the bar.
And then the gig gets cancelled.

We know that lindy hoppers are a bad market for bars, because they don’t drink, and they don’t eat. Because they’re up and dancing, and lindy hop is too tricky if you drink more than a drink or two. At least the way people like to dance it here in Sydney. And the scene generally tends to be people who don’t drink much. Good news for our livers and our domestic lives. Bad news for pub economies.

We also know that bars will book bands specifically to help people have fun and spend money at the bar. If the people don’t have fun and don’t spend money at the bar, the band gets cancelled.

We also know that keno, pokies, and other automatic gambling systems (specifically not social things like bingo) bring heaps of money into a venue (if you have a licence).
And we also know that bands distract people from gambling.

So big corporate venues (who are also members of clubs Australia and have gambling licences) are more likely to encourage gambling, because they make money.
-> there are studies all about these things, and evidence to support this.

So I’m thinking:
– Encouraging dancers to spend money at the bar won’t work, as they don’t spend enough to compete with the pokies and keno. And there are no good consequences to pushing for cultural changes that see dancers increasing the amount they drink;
– Encouraging mixed dancer/drinker audiences won’t work either, as neither bring in as much as a gambling clientele;
– We need another income stream for venues.

I’ve been wondering if venues like the Workers, even though they’re all about money and gambling rather than music and socialising, could be encouraged to apply for grants.
Ironically, there is funding available from the Office of Responsible Gambling in NSW to subsidise arts/live music projects in community venues.

So the venue could apply for grants money, or the group as a whole could do it.

I’m not the first to have this thought about live music venues in Sydney. Our live music culture is at risk, mostly because the venues in which it is played and enjoyed are struggling. And even though they’re not applied in Balmain (home to the Unity Hall Hotel) and the inner west (home to most of Sydney’s lindy hop), the lock out laws haven’t helped with Sydney’s night life.
Fewer gigs, so bands move south to Melbourne or north to Brisbane. The decline in arts funding nationally and in NSW has seen younger jazz musicians going overseas for work. Last year’s ethically dubious redirection of funding from successful applicants to Opera NSW by the state minister, and the Liberal party government signalled not only a general decline in funding, but a deliberate redirection of funding away from community arts projects, and towards high arts projects.

Of course, this government funded approach to paying for live jazz runs contrary to the free market, small-government-advocating capitalist ethos. The Liberal party is doing its best to deconstruct arts funding. And to promote gambling (and gambling revenue). The welfare state, the state that fosters the arts, and public funding for creative thinking in the arts and sciences, has been steadily undone by previous and current governments. And with a newly elected Liberal government in NSW, things won’t be getting any better.

While jazz is no longer vernacular music, a free, afternoon live band gig in a pub is certainly community arts practice, engaging ordinary, local people of all ages. And there is a connection to be made between the NSW state government’s dependence on gambling income (taxes) and the decline of ordinary, community arts practice. Gambling, it seems, is not only destructive to families and small business, it is also dangerous to community arts practice and community social spaces.

And that’s as far as my thinking has gone.

on bodily autonomy and abortion

I’ve seen this image being circulated a bit on facebook this week.

[Text reads:]
“My body, my choice” only makes sense when someone else’s life isn’t at stake.”
reply:
Fun fact: If my younger sister was in a car accident and desperately needed a blood transfusion to live, and I was the only person on Earth who could donate blood to save her, and even though donating blood is a relatively easy, safe, and quick procedure, no one can force me to give blood. Yes, even to save the life of a fully grown person, it would be ILLEGAL to FORCE me to donate blood if I didn’t want to.
See, we have this concept called ‘bodily autonomy’. It’s this…cultural notion that a person’s control over their own body is above all important and must not be infringed upon.
Like, we can’t even take LIFE SAVING organs from CORPSES unless the person whose corpse it is gave consent before their death. Even corpses get bodily autonomy.
To tell people that they MUST sacrifice their bodily autonomy for months against their will in an incredibly expensive, invasive, difficult process to save what YOU view as another human life (a debatable claim in the early stages of pregnancy when the VAST majority of abortions are performed) is desperately unethical. You can’t even ask people to sacrifice bodily autonomy to give up organs they aren’t using anymore after they have died.
You’re asking people who can become pregnant to accept less autonomy than we grant to dead bodies.

[/]

I have a few problems with this chunk of text.
The first is that it’s based on a false premise: that ‘we’ all have the same bodily rights, and that these rights are applied to us equally. I’m going to assume that the author was writing in, and about the US. And I want to state, very clearly, that even beyond the world of childbirth and reproductive medicine, we do not all have the same bodily autonomy. Women of colour, people of colour, first nations people, women, children, gay men living with AIDS… basically everyone other than straight, white, wealthy men have their right to bodily autonomy curtailed by the law, by the state, by medical institutions.
The history of the US is based upon slavery, the clear legal fact that some people can be owned by other people. First nations people were not (are not?) considered people at all by invading colonisers. People of colour are more likely to be incarcerated. Women’s accounts of their own physical pain or illness are less likely to be taken seriously by doctors than men’s accounts. Children are legally not capable of bodily autonomy.
..and so on.

We cannot talk about abortion without also talking about social context. Women and girls are not considered capable human adults or citizens in the way that white men are. We are not considered capable of making sensible, logical decisions. About anything. Let alone our bodies.

I feel that a debate about abortion is a misdirect.
Access to free, safe contraception and good sex education are the demonstrably better way to reduce abortion rates. And incidentally increase women and girls’ autonomy and social power.
By focussing on abortion, rather than sexual health, the discussion is framed as one of individualism, rather than collective responsibility. If we focus on women’s choices, we can avoid a discussion about the state’s role in health care. If we suggest that women’s bodies and their choices are the problem, the we don’t have to talk about the importance of the welfare state in caring for children. Because there, of course, we are reminded that women were once girls, and girls’ education and bodily autonomy is the real issue here.

The abortion debate is about legislating women’s bodies, but more importantly, it’s also about restricting women and girls’ knowledge of their own bodies. I want to expand from this to tie contraceptive rights to access to education generally in a more direct way.
We know that access to education – going to school – generally reduces birth rates (ie girls are less likely to have babies, and fewer babies). For a range of reasons including (but expanding far beyond) knowledge and tools for preventing pregnancy.

The thing I’m often struck by in this sort of debate is the implication that the only reason women and girls have lots of babies is that they don’t know how to stop themselves getting pregnant. Or that they don’t know penetrative vaginal sex with a man leads to pregnancy.

But we know that choosing when and how to have a baby is about more than knowing how to stop sperms get into eggs. It’s also about having a range of choices and options for employment, education, community participation, etc etc etc.
Good education isn’t just about ‘not getting pregnant’ it’s about being able to choose when and how we do have children.

An educated girl is a mighty person. She knows how to access all sorts of resources. She’s not confined to a domestic space and domestic isolation. She’s a _citizen_. This is far more frightening for fundamentalist christians and other patriarchal institutions.
As an addendum, I’ll also note that good sex ed isn’t just about how not to get pregnant or STDs. As that story about the young Swedish men who intervened in a rape in America shows, good sex ed also teaches men and boys about how to communicate with and empathise with their partners’ needs and desires. I think that this is the other thing that terrifies the patriarchy: that men and boys might begin to think of us as humans.

Safety and dance: the limits of the law

The laws that the state and nation have in place to dictate how we touch each other may not be good laws.
eg in NSW, Australia, the legal system does not adequately protect us from sexual assault and harassment. The laws are inadequate, the legal system (from police to courts) do not prevent or protect us, and the consequences of laws do not punish or educate offenders.

So I don’t think the laws are enough. I believe that our laws disadvantage marginalised peeps: women, children, girls, trans folk, queers, poc… anyone who’s not a straight white middle aged man with money.
Just saying ‘follow the laws’ is obviously not enough.