This semester, I’m taking some awesome dance workout classes – to maintain my sanity. Most of the classes have been amazing and insanely therapeutic so far, but the one I was actually most looking forward to–belly dancing–has been a disappointment. And after much thought and frustration, I’ve decided to quit it. There are two main reasons.
1. The teacher just isn’t good. Every now and then, she’ll just start her own dance while we’re just staring at her like what the heck, show us how to do that, too, and then she’s like, “Oh, sorry, got a little carried away. *Chuckles*” Like, dude, whaaaa!!?! I’m giving her terrible reviews (I’ve no mercy when it comes to bad instruction – but I’m also extremely generous when it comes to good instruction). I’m also quitting the class with absolutely no new belly dancing moves than what I started it with. I’m highly obsessed with belly dancing, so I was really excited for the class and am so disappointed now.
2. She’s obsessed with teaching us how to use our seductive and sexual powers to get the attention of the man/men we want! It’s too disempowering for my taste. Don’t get me wrong – I understand that we can do some crazy stuff to get the attention of our crushes and stuff, and I think people should do whatever they’re comfortable doing to get what/who they want, but for God’s sake, don’t make belly dancing about men! Make it about me, the student who’s trying to learn it! Maybe I love it and want to learn it because of how feminine it makes me feel, or maybe because I love the idea of belly dancing to my husband one day, or maybe I love it because it’s fun, or maybe because it makes me feel wonderful about my body and self, or maybe I love it for other reasons. Or maybe I love it for no reasons at all, and that’s okay, too. Whatever my reasons might be, the teacher doesn’t know and doesn’t need to know, so she should not be assuming we’re there because we want to learn to seduce men. (And, for the record, some of us don’t need to learn belly dancing to be able to do this.) But, noooo, this instructor is so focused on how “every woman needs to know how to do this walk” and how “men might think they’re better than you and think they have power over you, but the moment you show them this move, they back off.” Dude, why does everything have to be centered on men’s desires?
This message that “men back off once you show them your seductive moves” is unacceptable and dangerous to young girls. (Our instructor is 61 years old – she said so.) We are much, much more than any seductive skills we might possess; we are much, much more than our feminine powers. We have the power to think, to achieve what we want using skills that have nothing to do with our gender and sex and sexuality, skills that have nothing to do with pleasing or responding to men’s perceived fantasies and desires. Being taught to exploit our sexuality in order to get something (or someone) that we want is also unhealthy and wrong in that it sends this message that that’s all we need to be capable of doing in order to get ahead in life. And that’s not true. A woman’s ability or inability to seduce a man–who obviously isn’t worth loving and desiring if he’s going to accept her only if she can seduce him–should not be and is not worth by her sexual powers. Not to mention, sexual power is no power to begin with. No, wait, let me correct myself. I do recognize that there are many people out there who do use their sexuality and sexual-ness to their benefit, and they find doing so empowering, and that’s all fair. But what I mean to say is that the default assumption about a group of girls taking your belly dancing classes should not be that they’re there because they want to learn to be seductive for their husbands, boyfriends, crushes, men in general, or whatever. The assumption, and it’s a right one, should simply be that they’re there to learn from you, and your job is to teach them just that–belly dancing. When they ask you for tips on how to seduce a man, fine, go ahead and give them some tips, but until and unless they do so, you do your job.
So now, I have to bother a former student of mine who’s a professional belly dancer teach me … #toutesLesSighs. hamdallah I have a back-up, though.