Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Feminist Message from Liora K and Sophia Ravenna

While I was at Liora K Photography's studio on Saturday she asked if I would like to pose for a feminist photo too, and I said yes! It was something I'd wanted to do for a while, because I really love what she's doing, but I also wasn't sure what I wanted to say. She'd already covered a lot of my hot-button issues, but she came up with a new twist for me. Hooray! Here's what she said about it on her Facebook page:

Wait, aren't all the feminist photos naked?

Not this one. Sophia Ravenna is a good friend and talented dancer. I used to dance with her in Skirt Full of Fire Dance Company and Fire & Gold Belly Dance. As a bellydancer, she and her peers frequently have to correct the misconception that during their performances, key parts of their costumes will be removed, and that this is done for the purpose of pleasing an adult male audience.

Stripping and Burlesque are amazing forms of performance. It's entirely possible that in those acts, performers may draw on bellydance moves. Fusion dance is amazing, and it's great to watch!

This should not give anyone permission though, to assume that they have the right to see a performer take their clothes off, or ask a performer at an event advertised as "Bellydance" if they will take their clothes off while they perform. It's disrespectful to their craft, and can make performers worried for their personal safety.

Admire the hard work that goes into costumes - many are made by the dancers themselves! Ask questions about the craft, learn, educate yourself. Enjoy the performance! But never assume, and never approach, that a dance is always done to titillate.

#teardownthepatriarchy

Even with that comment in the middle about stripping and burlesque being amazing, at least one person still thought we were trying to slut-shame strippers, which was absolutely not our aim, so I'd like to reiterate: I am 100% cool with stripping, burlesque, and pole. I know lots of great ladies who perform in those styles and I love what they do. But it is not what I do, anymore than I do tap, line dancing or traditional Israeli folk dance. I am a belly dancer and I do belly dance, which happens to not involve taking my clothes off. I don't leave my clothes on because I think it's wrong for other women to take theirs off, I leave them on because they are part of my dance. I am not ashamed of my body, but I am proud of my handmade velvet bra adorned with Afghani coins and Turkoman buttons.

The important thing is, a woman should never be asked or told to take her clothes off just because she is dancing. It is our choice whether or not we strip, not yours. Even in arts like burlesque and pole, there's no guarantee of a "reveal." Many pole performers choose to stay fully clothed. Many burlesque acts only do a partial reveal, or no reveal, instead focusing on a cheeky sense of humor. Even some performers who do strip may not do so at all events, if it's not appropriate for the audience or they just don't feel like it.

So in conclusion, the only people who I want to shame are the people who think they deserve more control over my body than I have. I won't take it off, and you just have to live with that.

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