Friday, 28 June 2013

Dry July: Support Cancer Sufferers and Raise Alcohol Awareness

This year my husband has decided to participate in Dry July.

Dry July aims to improve the lives of adults living with cancer and raise awareness of individual drinking habits, encourage positive change and an awareness of a healthy attitude to alcohol consumption. The funds raised go to various cancer initiatives.

My grandfather died of bone cancer last year. He had cancer in just about every bone in his body, excepting his arms and legs. In September they gave him twelve months to live, and he passed just before Christmas. It was a fast, ugly deterioration, and developed to the point where my family needed to put him into high-dependency care. He lived on his own, and though his children tried, it was impossible to keep him there. In a week, my mother might work 4 days and visit her father 5 days - which means doubling up some days. That kind of thing is only sustainable so long, and my grandfather deteriorated too fast for other arrangements to be made.

Cancer is something nearly all of us have some experience with.

In Australia, sad to say the same is almost true of alcohol. Alcohol has always been a part of the Australian culture, and has grown to the point where there is a binge-drinking problem, with multiple instances of violence over the weekend in the cities requiring police and paramedic attendance. Ugly scenes of girls vomiting on their sparkly shoes in the gutter, while some guys brawl in the background, aren't just something the news finds for sensationalism, but a sad reality.

Alcohol-related harm causes around 3,000 deaths and 65,000 hospitalisations every year in Australia, and binge-drinking is a particular problem amongst teenagers aged 15-17 and young adults aged 18-25, where many are drinking at risky levels. Campaigns to raise awareness of alcohol-related road deaths, violence, and unsafe sex resulting in STIs and unwanted pregnancy have been targeted at these groups.

If you'd like to support my husband in undertaking Dry July, and help raise funds for cancer sufferers and assist in raising awareness of alcohol-related problems, click here.Or if you'd like to participate yourself, sign-up here.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

My Love Hate Relationship With Dora the Explorer – Role Models For Girls

Polgara the Sorceress

I hate Dora.

There’s the mind-numbing, repetitive songs – ‘I’m a map, I’m a map’ and ‘We did it, we did it’, for those who are blessed enough to not know. These things will drill their way into your mind like a bad advertising jingle and lodge there at 2am in the morning while you are desperately praying for sleep.

There’s the annoying fact that Dora keeps getting lost, even going to places she – should know, like her cousin’s house. I’m down with dragons and unicorns, but there’s, you know, a talking monkey, a blue bull, and the weird insectoid orchestra.

My husband and I are convinced she’s smuggling drugs across the border and sampling the wares, which would account for the way she roams around the countryside, her poor memory and the hallucinations.  

On the other hand, it was recently pointed out to me that once little girls outgrow Dora, they are stuck with role models like Miley Cyrus and Bratz. I have two little girls, and the thought mortifies me.
Dora, whatever else you say about her, is a good role model (provided, of course, that her drug-taking habits aren’t evident to the average child…). She’s bold, brave, curious, generous, independent, a leader, and a thinker. Everything many of us would like our little girls to be. On the other hand, the only values Miley Cyrus and Bratz appear to be advocating is a disturbing lack of clothes and an obsession with physical appearance.

Kahlan Amnell, the Mother Confessor
Don’t get me wrong, I take pride in my appearance. But I value many other characteristics much more than my appearance, such as my brain and my independence, and those things have gotten me a lot further in life than the way I look.

This revelation got me thinking about who the female role models in my life were. I spent the vast majority of my childhood with my nose in a book, so my role models (apart from my mother)were almost certainly there as well. 

Here are the ones I think were probably most influential:

  • At age ten, Polgara the Sorceress from The Belgariad by David Eddings – almost the very definition of a poised, powerful and above all indomitable woman;
  • At age twelve, Lessa of Pern (from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight), who was nothing if not strong, determined, and single-minded. What Lessa wanted, she generally got, and through her own efforts, not because someone handed it to her on a platter;
  • At age fourteen:
    • Kahlan Amnell, from Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth, a woman who would lead men into battle at risk of her own life for justice, who fought for the freedom of people who reviled her for what she was, who stood for the weak, and the voiceless, and who above all stood for truth and justice.
    • Nynaeve al’meara, Egwene al’Vere, Elayne Trakand, and Aviendha from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, all women who faced their fears and fought against terrible odds and dreadful evil at great personal expense to do what they thought was right.
Far more inspiring than the average fare available to young girls and teenagers these days. Some of these books I was considering giving away or donating. Now I think I should go and pack them away and hope that I can get my daughters to read them when they are a little older, because if there is one thing I hope for my girls right now, it’s strong female role models. 

What do you think of today’s role models, for girls and boys? Who were your role models? 

Aviendha, Elayne Trakand, and Min

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