Sadness of Reality

Jane

New member
Charlotte Desorgher, on the button: A darkness at the heart of bellydance

I wonder if the prevailing Middle Eastern attitudes about the role of women are what drives foreign dancers to Oriental fantasy dance and fusions. Middle Eastern belly dance comes with cultural baggage many dancers would rather ignore than face up to. It's probably also responsible for Occidental women making up history about "being a dance for women by women" and "ancient Goddess temple dancers." Truth is hard and sometimes not what we'd like it to be.
 

Aniseteph

New member
I just read that article - sad and awful.

I don't know how much the wimmin's ancient temple dance stuff is a direct attempt to shut this dark side out - IMO it has strong roots in reclaiming belly dance from cheesy or sleazy harem fantasies and making your husband a sultan.

How many dancers are close enough to this harsh reality to feel a need to shut it out? For me I think it'd make me a) less tolerant of fluffy wishful thinking, and b) more appreciative of the joys of dance communities where we have the luxury of a very different take on it. For a start, in practice a lot of us ARE pretty much dancing "by women for women", not for groups of strange men.
 

Mosaic

Super Moderator
Very sad indeed & scary, an eye opener as well. How awful for Lorna to be chucked out of her apartment because she is a a dancer. I sure hope she finds an even better place.
~Mosaic
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
These lines makes me want to slap the writer silly:

I don’t actually blame these men for their attitudes – if you have been told something all your life, of course you will believe it. And this belief in the sexual rapaciousness of Western women, compounded by a belief that only bad women dance in public, is all pervasive and very, very strong.
DOESN'T BLAME THEM? AND YES I AM SHOUTING.

Poor deluded gang bangers, led astray by ingrained cultural beliefs, let us weep for their understandable violent inhuman attitude toward women... right before we castrate them with a rusty tin can lid.

Rape is inexcusable and rapists should be blamed loud, clear, and without any pussyfooting around it by murmurings of cultural upbringing. Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

The reason many women like the idea of BD as a dance done by women for women is because that way it remains something apart from dances done for overwrought testosterone laden males who are not interested in anything more than gettng their rocks off. That makes it beautiful and that makes it safe.

I felt that way myself for a long damn time after being stalked by one too many males who figured I was "asking for it." I resisted the idea of men belly dancing for two decades because in so many ways men seemed to be the enemy of the dance's beauty and emotion. Ask Tarik if he remembers my change of heart- he and Zorba and the other fine male dances I met here and elsewhere led to that epiphany. Men can add dimension and immeasurable beauty to the dance- or they can use it as an excuse for violence.

She doesn't blame the rapists?

She f***ing well should.
 

Jane

New member
Rape victims are victims. I agree with Shanazel wholeheartedly. There is never an excuse for rape. Ever.

I agree that dancing for women by women is safe in practice and as an idea, but that is still wishstory rather than history. I also support any woman who wants to dance only for other women for her own comfort. Nothing wrong with that!

I, and other dancers, believe(d) that belly dance is universally culturally acceptable and empowering for all women. It isn't, which is sad because it really should be and can be.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
There is a tradition of belly dance done for women by women, but it is of recent vintage (last fifty years and maybe only in the west). Current events and modern culture become history eventually. Wishtory makes good? ;)
 

Sophia Maria

New member
Poor deluded gang bangers, led astray by ingrained cultural beliefs, let us weep for their understandable violent inhuman attitude toward women... right before we castrate them with a rusty tin can lid.

Rape is inexcusable and rapists should be blamed loud, clear, and without any pussyfooting around it by murmurings of cultural upbringing. Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
Exactly!!! Thank you! I thought the article was very poignant and well-spoken until the end.

These kinds of things are one of the reasons why I reject the "by women for women" herstory/wishtory so strongly. I can understand that the belief in this type of female community creates a sense of stability and safety. For a short time I believed it, too. But to me this kind of belief closes your mind and excuses you from having to address issues like these--where it is quite likely you will never be able to give an answer to others (or yourself) that brings closure.

Bellydance, Middle Eastern Dance, whatever we may call it: it has a rich past, and rich doesn't necessarily mean beautiful.

I've read and heard from natives of Egypt that bellydance, quite simply, is a dance for prostitutes. Happily, there are also those who do not share that belief, and who have a deep respect for the dance. However, I do believe that there are people from the Middle East who know bellydance as stripping, basically. Unfortunately one can't brush it off. One has to acknowledge this, and challenge it.

The bottom line is, look to individuals. Don't ever give excuses by culture, race, nationality. There are dancers who dance completely innappropriately (like the video I posted in the dance styles section), who have made a personal decision to dance this way. There are men and women who make decisions to disrespect their fellow human beings. But they have made their decision as an individual to act this way, and they can and should be judged for it.
 

Duvet

Member
I was shocked and saddened by the information in the article, but pleased that someone has highlighted the issues involved.

Rape and abuse is wrong, regardless of context. No one should have to keep quiet and just accept it, although having the strength to talk about it is a very brave thing to do. Sadly, in many cultures, even being able to speak out is to call abuse back on yourself.

My limited experience in Egypt was that any Western woman was viewed as easy prey for sex (even if her male partner was present). Men have propositioned, inappropriately touched and even masturbated in front of women I've been with, even if she was 'decently' dressed, had her hair covered and observed by other Egyptians. It is a disturbing attitude to have, and one that is too often laughed off or ignored as 'cultural differences'. Even if you can understand the attitude and where it comes from, and why it is self perpetuating or even enhanced by what tourists do and the way that their behaviour is interpreted, that's not a reason to accept or condone it (and I don't think Charlotte Desorghes was saying she did).

Only a few men we met acted like that, and I don't believe all men think like that, (although whose to know how many just didn't act upon their underlying belief?). There are a mix of attitudes in every population and we met men and women who had been brought up, or experience had taught them, to think differently; although sometimes even here our 'immoral' ways were excused as 'madness', because in that way we were not responsible for our actions, and they could show their virtue by tolerating us.

I think most Western bellydance students are unaware or don't fully appreciate this attitude. Claiming bellydance as a liberating dance of feminine sexuality (whether through the mythstory of the harem, the temple or the soul) is fun and useful as therapy. Women only classes are a luxury, not a cultural necessity. Manipulating and portraying the dance in a solely or overtly sexual manner is a freedom of choice we have in the West, backed up by the right not to be treated as sex objects. In other cultures those freedoms are lacking, and I think its important to remember that.
 
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Aniseteph

New member
These kinds of things are one of the reasons why I reject the "by women for women" herstory/wishtory so strongly. I can understand that the belief in this type of female community creates a sense of stability and safety. For a short time I believed it, too. But to me this kind of belief closes your mind and excuses you from having to address issues like these--where it is quite likely you will never be able to give an answer to others (or yourself) that brings closure.
But as Shanazel said, the BW4W (that should be by us for us) aspect does have a history; it's a very real part of many of our classes and haflas and dance communities. Just because it doesn't apply for professional dancers in Egypt doesn't negate that.

IMO the problem and danger is in believing any one theory to the exclusion of all else and thinking it applies to those outside your own little bubble.
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
The thing is, I'm not sure that attitude is anything new in the middle east. Lets not forget who traditionally dancers were. Basically slaves or other second class citizens. What was the cultural attitude toward them before? Of course it's wrong but is it really surprising?

The more I learn of the history of this dance the more I think maybe it's performance has always been about the creation of a fantasy. We just have different fantasies today and in our different cultures.
 

Sophia Maria

New member
But as Shanazel said, the BW4W (that should be by us for us) aspect does have a history; it's a very real part of many of our classes and haflas and dance communities. Just because it doesn't apply for professional dancers in Egypt doesn't negate that.
I'd actually agree with that--it's a good point. "BW4W", as you put it, has been used so much that it is becoming a part of bellydance history. It is indeed an interesting phenomenon that I think brings up good questions on Western culture and what happens when cultures interact. My problem with by women for women is more fundamental and I guess more irrelevant to the article at hand--I think it is discriminatory against men and I am uncomfortable with the way some dancers rewrite history to fit their Bw4w view (Rosina Fawzia Al-Rawi, Wendy Buonaventura).

I guess what I'm trying to say here is...my issues with by women for women theorists is the same issue I have with cultural relativists or with people who create orientalist fantasies--you just can't generalize. History is messy, complicated, and nobody wins.
 

Aniseteph

New member
I don't think BW4W sticks so much because we get told it by some teachers or books - I think it survives because it chimes so strongly with an aspect of our personal belly dance experiences, which in many cases happen to not include too many men. The problems for me are a) projecting that onto women's experience "over there", and b) getting dogmatic about it and portraying it as so fundamental and intrinsic to belly dance that you exclude men.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
I, and other dancers, believe(d) that belly dance is universally culturally acceptable and empowering for all women. It isn't, which is sad because it really should be and can be.
WORD. It's possible that many men from all over are afraid of this very thing and so come up with a bunch of crap like we are asking for it and bullsh*t like that.

When I tell people I bellydance, never mind my costumes are tasteful, the looks and reactions I STILL get are shocking. Yet if I said I was a hip hop, jazz or salsa dancer, who have song lyrics and costumes that are more scanty, it's respectable. Why is this still the norm?
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
Yet if I said I was a hip hop, jazz or salsa dancer, who have song lyrics and costumes that are more scanty, it's respectable.
It's not though. Ballet yes but hip hop, jazz, and salsa are not respectable. Accepted yes, respected no. I don't know anyone who brags "my kid is going to grow up to be a dancer in a rap music video". To be a "respectable" dancer you have to dance in what is considered a "classic style", ie. over a century old. BD doesn't have the lineage to be able to claim that. Maybe that is why so many people try and tie it to ancient worship etc. It's an attempt to make it into a classic dance and more respectable/legitimate.
 

Roshanna

New member
At the risk of going on a bit of a tangent, I don't believe the 'BW4W' thing is totally false or 'wishtory' - it does seem to reflect one part of the history of this dance, the social side rather than the professional performance side. Professional performers have seemingly always had their problems, but I've also heard from several sources that women in the ME do dance for each other in women-only social settings, and this is also a legitimate context for the dance, although one less visible to outsiders than the professional performers. Same dance, same society, totally different contexts... And I suppose it's in this context that the dance can survive below the surface during times when public performances and professional dancers are being persecuted by the authorities...
 

Roshanna

New member
These lines makes me want to slap the writer silly:
I also was not comfortable with this bit, but I think it may have been a case of unfortunate wording - Charlotte has clarified further down in the comments that she absolutely does hold rapists and abusers responsible for their actions and feels a great deal of anger towards them. I think she was trying to avoid demonising Arab men in general for holding the attitudes preavalent in their culture, as she metions elsewhere that she was worried about encouraging islamophobia...

Charlotte Desorgher said:
Dear Alexis, when I said I don't blame Arab men for their beliefs, I meant Arab men in general, not the ones who raped me. Believe me, I DO blame those men - I hate them with a vengeance! If I were in a room with them right now I would probably find strength to kill them for what they did.

...

What I meant, is that I don't blame Arab men in general for holding beliefs they have been fed since childhood. The only thing we can do is try to change those beliefs. But sadly it isn't going to happen soon, in fact I think attitudes in the Middle East towards women seem to be getting even worse at the moment.
 

shiradotnet

Well-known member
I've also heard from several sources that women in the ME do dance for each other in women-only social settings, and this is also a legitimate context for the dance, although one less visible to outsiders than the professional performers.
This is accurate. I have been a guest in people's homes in Egypt in which the women did indeed take turns dancing for each other.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I think she was trying to avoid demonising Arab men in general for holding the attitudes preavalent in their culture, as she metions elsewhere that she was worried about encouraging islamophobia...
So Charlotte worries about demonizing those who hold the attitudes that led to her brutalization but who did not actually act on those attitudes in her presence? While I appreciate the delicacy of her reasoning, why on earth should men who hold destructively negative attitudes toward women be excused just because they didn't join in on the latest gang rape?

I don't give a rip whether we're talking about Islam, the Southern Baptist Conference, or outlaw biker clubs: cultures that approve second class citizenship enforced by law, tradition, and/or violence are intolerable.
 
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Crazy Cat Lady

New member
It should be noted at even in western society until the 20th century most women in performing arts were considered not much better than prostitutes whether they were ballet dancers, stage dancers, actresses or singers.
 

Sophia Maria

New member
I don't think BW4W sticks so much because we get told it by some teachers or books - I think it survives because it chimes so strongly with an aspect of our personal belly dance experiences, which in many cases happen to not include too many men. The problems for me are a) projecting that onto women's experience "over there", and b) getting dogmatic about it and portraying it as so fundamental and intrinsic to belly dance that you exclude men.
Well said.

Roshanna said:
At the risk of going on a bit of a tangent, I don't believe the 'BW4W' thing is totally false or 'wishtory' - it does seem to reflect one part of the history of this dance, the social side rather than the professional performance side.
This is true, too. I've never been to the Middle East, but I've heard from many sources that it is a social dance used in women-only settings. But one shouldn't take this fact and use it to assume that the dance is only meant for women. Even if you only spend some time on youtube, it is very interesting to see home videos posted showing groups of men doing almost the exact same dance. I think it's also important to consider that the sexes are a lot more segregated in these countries.

Shanazel said:
So Charlotte worries about demonizing those who hold the attitudes that led to her brutalization but who did not actually act on those attitudes in her presence? While I appreciate the delicacy of her reasoning, why on earth should men who hold destructively negative attitudes toward women be excused just because they didn't join in on the latest gang rape?]

I agree wholeheartedly. The thing is, I think the reason why this article kinda rubbed me the wrong way is because the author was trying very hard to be diplomatic. While this is admirable, I think it wouldn't have been better to take a stronger stance on the issue one way or the other, like we're doing now. It's important to discuss issues of this nature. Why do men think women "lead them on"? Perhaps more importantly, why do women feel that they themselves are responsible for "leading men on"? Why are artists not respected?

Crazy Cat Lady said:
It should be noted at even in western society until the 20th century most women in performing arts were considered not much better than prostitutes whether they were ballet dancers, stage dancers, actresses or singers.
This is a valid point, but I would add that artists are still not fully respected even in our times, in western society. Many times artists are still associated with the stereotypes of being lazy layabouts, dangerous, druggies, or sexually promiscuous.
 
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