and I had to stop myself from running out of the room. ‘You bet that is what is going to be discussed, the day after our performance.. not our dancing. You bet those are the pictures that are going to be spread around…’ went through my mind, not wanting to be associated with this. It took me a while to have the guts to put this aspect of my life on LinkedIn and other social media… and it bugs me that this might mean that I am ashamed of my own hobby. I am not doing anything wrong, I am dancing. I should not feel this way. There are numerous posts in forums on the Internet about: how can we change the perception of this dance form, how can we professionalise it? This very perception of Oriental dance/dancers all over the world is part of the problem en therefore part of the solution. I am talking about being aware (as a dancer) of how you are perceived, making an effort to change or at least not confirm false perceptions and act with self-respect on stage. Probably I am not talking to professional dancers here.. I suspect they know. But there are far more semi-professional and amateur dancers and they might not even think about this. I am not suggesting self censorship, I am not advocating prudishness or covering yourself up.. I am not the ‘belly dance police’ and you should wear whatever you want and feel comfortable in. I am simply trying to point out that what people think we do/are and what we actually do/are, in a lot of cases, are two very different things, so don’t be naïve. I wonder about comments like ‘if you are going to perform at a bachelor party, take at least one (male) friend with you, to protect you’. I would argue that, if you don’t feel save, why go there at all? And what do you really expect, performing at bachelor parties, why do you think they hire you? Because they love your understanding of the technique? I wonder about women making very suggesting moves, or pushing their breasts into men’s faces.., or their face into their brazier. I wonder about women who wear teeny tiny, ill-fitting bras and bend over backwards towards the public, dancers that do floor work with their leg spread out towards the audience. Again, not that anything like that justifies abuse, but why are you doing that? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Tipping is also often debated. Everyone should do as they please, but ask yourself why a man would want to put his tip in your costume.., especially if they are Westerners. Just don’t be naive about it.
Now let me state this, to be sure you ‘get’ this: sexual abuse is not about sex. It is about power. It is about men (most of the time, but women are doing this too), who feel powerless; perhaps because their boss yelled at them today and they go home and kick the dog, or hit their child, or rape a woman, in order to feel in control again. Obviously, people who do this are mentally unstable, always looking for a ‘weaker’ person (or animal) to be their victim, in order to feel strong themselves. And because sexual abuse is not about sex, it is a gross misconception that the presence of prostitutes (or legalisation of prostitution) will ‘shield’ us from being raped. As a matter of fact: since most prostitutes are forced into this ‘profession’ ‘visiting’ them is rape as well. A lot of them under age, even. We, women, should stand tall, united against any form of disrespect and have some self-respect as well. But we need men also, they need to have the guts to speak out and stand by our side. By confronting a (male) friend who has been part of a gang rape and persuading him to go to the police even if he ‘merely had been watching’, by talking to another about beating his wife, by giving a good and sharp reply, if asked about his girlfriends or wife’s Oriental dancing hobby or work. ISPAHAN 103
ISPAHAN Magazine, an Oriental Dance Glossy. Autumn issue.