So as a belly dancer and user of tumblr I often find the words “cultural appropriation” pop up. And you know what? That is downright the single-most overused phrase on here. Besides #ican’teven. That shits everywhere. But really, I see this EVERYWHERE. Dread pictures, mohawks, cosplaying as a black character, belly dancing??? Do even half of you know what it means? Like really know?
I’ll give you some examples of what people could consider CA
- A native american head dress for a fashion statement
- Tattoos, including but not limited to Celtic, Chinese, Arab, or Polynesian varieties. If you’re ass is black and you have your name in Chinese, some could view that as cultural appropriation.
- A bindi or henna when not used ritually
- Crosses used in fashion
So before I go off on my rant, I just want you to know, gentle reader that I know good and well about what a lot of people consider CA.
And here is why belly dance isn’t cultural appropriation when I do it.
”You obviously have NO IDEA where belly dance comes from then.
So let me sit you down, and enlighten the Hell out of you.
Way way waaay back when (we’re talking thousands here) women of tribes and villages in the Mediterranean, would get together at the time of a local girl getting her menzies. No boys were allowed, but basically these girls would all get together to throw this large fiesta to celebrate the coming of a girls metamorphosis into a women. They would dance and sing and drum n’ shit and it was all good.
But as time went on men would gradually be included, even those to be considered women (gay guys). They couldn’t celebrate the years of flowing blood to come, but rather their sensuality and prowess as a new woman.
Then even after that, as the world of mercantilism grew larger people would come to watch these parties that included these special dances. Outsiders were allowed to watch these dances and became enchanted by these cool new moves they hadn’t seen back home. Women would later go on to perform in red light district “bars”, harems, and places of prostitution. Men viewed the dances as very sensual, exotic, and like nothing they’d ever seen before.
There have even been records of Grecian lords arriving home with the new courtesan. Except it was a man who had learned the art.
As the years go by and humans evolve, it becomes more of a dance and less of a ritual, adding fans, zyls, scarves, swords, animals, torches, ect. Egyptian harems brim with dancers, bazaars have performers and before you know it all these women have one thing in common, from Egypt to Palestine, from India to Rome. They have learned a dance that came from the very existence of being a woman. That you are celebrating merely because you are fertile, you are sexy, and you gon’ bear them chillun.
I’ve studied belly dancing for many years now. It’s a passion of mine. And when someone says that it’s not self-empowering, re-igniting my passion, or helping me to discover myself, I can’t help but look at them and feel sorry. Because I am empowered being able to stand on one leg, sword on my head, snake wrapped around my arm, undulating my stomach. I’ve got skills, coordination, balance, and lack of fear that that snake isn’t going to have enough of posing and strike at me any minute. I am re-igniting my passion because through dancing and learning new isolations, undulations, rhythms, and honing my balance, I can not only go for days in the bedroom, but I can anywhere else as well. And my man LOVES to see my toned body naked anytime. As for discovering myself, man, that’s the thing that belly dance has taught me the most. I’ve discovered a love so deep for a dance, with history and culture so rich, I could almost choke. I’m going to school for entrepreneurship so I can learn how to open my own belly dance studio.
Think of all the ballet dancers who get to dance for a living. No, they probably don’t think that ballet helped them discover themselves at alllll /sarcasm. I love to dance. I love to belly dance. It’s fun; it can be upbeat, it can be slow. It can be sensual, it can be angry, happy, mysterious, colorful, one person can do it on stage, fifty people can! It’s not racist, you can be fat, old, skinny, young, tall, short, you can even be a man.
Please don’t think that just because you can assume about something, doesn’t mean that you are right. There is more to it than meets the eye. Next time, don’t assume that just because you see a white girl, Starbucks in hand, in yoga pants and zumba shirt, teaching a class, don’t assume that she doesn’t know. Because maybe she just spent the last few years of her life studying and investing to open that studio, and spread the love of belly dance to interested people in her area. <3”
So that is the rant. If you’re still interested in flaming my inbox with hate mail or reblogging this with “omg she’s such a privileged white girl she doesn’t even know!!!111one” just take breath, step back a minute, and think hey. Maybe my life exists because at one point I was just a clump of amoebas trying to become one large organism in the primordial goop. And if me suggesting you even dare think about the idea of evolution just deepens your hate for me, go read thiiiiiis…
If that still doesn’t cool your jets then sit there and look at this gif until you blow up out of rage
Then go take a prozac and have a nice day.