I find it amazingly paradoxical that the unwritten rules of American bellydancing allow women of all sizes, shapes, weight and appearance to bellydance. But then, I never knew before now that bellydancing was originally invented by women and for women in Gypsy tribes to help women prepare for and recover from pregnancy. I'm told by my bellydancing teacher that the men who played music were not allowed to sit close to the women. They actually sat with their instruments playing from quite a distance. It was a Red Tent/ Women's Mysteries kinda thing. And she says that in the Middle East there is an old saying that music was invented to go along with the natural sway of a woman's hips when she walked. It is also paradoxical that bellydancing comes from cultures associated with extreme oppression of women.
I'm larger than I have ever been and I am far from being able to bellydance very well. I get irritated by my own lack of skill, particularly in getting dolled up for class, and in basic moves I have yet to master. But I keep showing up and the whole idea about the goddess force and every woman having that within them doesn't seem so impossible as much anymore. It's as though a few microns of aural patriarchal self hatred and judgment gets eroded away each time I manage to get myself to class and just be there.
I feel that any woman who bellydances as a student or performer is standing up to the hundreds of years of control and oppression, both internal and external, of women's minds, bodies and hearts. There is still so much unhealthy baloney still floating around attached to women doing anything with their bodies, in particular moving their woman flesh, even if it's done skillfully and consciously. A woman who I used to think was smart confessed her longing to dance. When I told her I was taking a bellydancing class, she immediately said “it's too sexual”. She won't come to check it out, much less actually try it, and this is negative judgment prior to investigation.
What I've found is that women are always damned by patriarchal insecurity, which endlessly holds us responsible for and blames us for being too sexual or not enough. American culture has come a long way in it's literature, thought, books, and ideas about gender but it's practices continue to support sexual standards which are stupid and demeaning both men and women. I wish I knew how to stop supporting them personally in my life.
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