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  1. #1
    Junior Member Zanbaka's Avatar
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    Default Bellydance, Cultural Appropriation, and Younger Millennials

    Hi Everyone,


    This blog post about dreadlocks and cultural appropriation came across by facebook newsfeed today: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/making-the-cut
    It reminded me of that Randa Jarrar clickbait article that surfaced a couple years ago.



    It seems like it's mostly younger millennials who have become obsessed with being offended by whatever the cultural appropriation flavor of the week is... Mehndi, bindis, twerking, or even this...
    "College Yoga Class Canceled Over Link to ‘Cultural Genocide’" http://time.com/4124036/yoga-cultura...wa-oppression/


    Any bets on when it's going to be our dance genre's turn again on the social media outrage rollercoaster?
    Last edited by Zanbaka; 06-22-2016 at 06:21 AM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    Please be aware that many forum users (including myself) use the light forum skin and refrain from playing around with the font colours too much in the direction of light or dark, as it can make it hard to read for forum users who don't use the same forum skin as you do.
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  3. #3
    Junior Member Zanbaka's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tip. Would it be helpful to edit and repost in a black font?

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    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    No, but you should be able to edit it to remove the colour tags. The site defaults to different font colours for each skin.
    Bellydance in Kyabram!
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  5. #5
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zanbaka View Post
    Hi Everyone,


    This blog post about dreadlocks and cultural appropriation came across by facebook newsfeed today: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/making-the-cut
    It reminded me of that Randa Jarrar clickbait article that surfaced a couple years ago.



    It seems like it's mostly younger millennials who have become obsessed with being offended by whatever the cultural appropriation flavor of the week is... Mehndi, bindis, twerking, or even this...
    "College Yoga Class Canceled Over Link to ‘Cultural Genocide’" http://time.com/4124036/yoga-cultura...wa-oppression/


    Any bets on when it's going to be our dance genre's turn again on the social media outrage rollercoaster?
    Cultural appropriation is a real issue, and one which affects the bellydance world, and your post comes across as very sneering and dismissive of the problem.

    People, younger people especially, are more aware now of the implications of their actions, and this is a good thing. In the bellydance community, we can either choose to examine our actions and find ways to do things better when it comes to how we represent other cultures and how we treat dancers from the original cultures, or we can stick our fingers in our ears, deny that there's any problem with the status quo, and eventually be left behind by history as an embarrasing footnote.

  6. #6
    Junior Member Zanbaka's Avatar
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    #1 - I didn't state that cultural appropriation was not a real issue
    #2 - In my experience, the global bellydance community has, for the most part, been very thoughtful and introspective as far as how this dance, music, and culture is represented, going way back to the days of print magazines, the med-dance group, online forums, tribe.net, to the various online outlets.
    #3 - I didn't state that we should stick our fingers in our ears and deny that there's a problem with the status quo... those are your words, not mine. As a global dance community, I've always found a great deal of non-conformists and progressive thinkers among practitioners of this dance.

    Honestly, I think if you asked the 'authors' of these articles/blogs and university protesters 'taking down' yoga classes what their opinion of non-native dancers performing, teaching, or even practicing the art of bellydance, what percentage of people on this forum would be considered an embarrassing footnote in history? Maybe we should all just cancel classes, festivals, close down businesses, and leave it all behind?

  7. #7
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    For every person who cries "cultural appropriation" there is another who is pleased that others are interested in their cultural accouterments. While failure to grok multiple cultures an issue, there are those who spend far too much time casting critical eyes about in an attempt to find fault and take offense and therefore make themselves taller by the ditches they dig under other people. Being offended has become a preemptive strike against being found offensive and is not an answer to the misunderstandings that arise among the many billions of people inhabiting the earth.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  8. #8
    V.I.P. shiradotnet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zanbaka View Post
    It seems like it's mostly younger millennials who have become obsessed with being offended by whatever the cultural appropriation flavor of the week is... Mehndi, bindis, twerking, or even this...
    "College Yoga Class Canceled Over Link to ‘Cultural Genocide’"

    Any bets on when it's going to be our dance genre's turn again on the social media outrage rollercoaster?
    I see the dialogue around cultural appropriation as being an issue of respect. Respect for the cultures that yoga, bindis, twerking, dreadlocks, AND BELLY DANCE originated in. And by "respect", I mean doing the work to understand the culture, understand how the thing you want to borrow fits into the culture, and thinking about how people who come from that culture would feel about you using whatever it is you want to use.

    A HUGE part of the cultural appropriation issue is that of the power dynamic. The idea that if a person from the originating culture does a thing, she faces being treated badly for expressing her own culture, but if a white person does the same thing, she receives praise.

    For example, if a white belly dancer wears a face veil as part of her costume, her white audience members are likely to praise her as mysterious, exotic, sexy, "cute", etc. The same is true if she uses a standard chiffon belly dance veil in a way that I'd describe as "peek-a-boo veil work", using it to cover her face so that only her eyes are visible, again to look exotic, mysterious, sexy, etc. Another example would be using a promotional photo that shows only her eyes, with fabric wrapped above and below them. However, if an Arab Muslim woman wears an actual niqaab in public in North America, she faces being on the receiving end of stink-eye, rude remarks, heightened unpleasant attention from Homeland Security, or even physical violence. (One of my Muslima friends here in the U.S. was attacked and beaten up by a gang of about 4-5 women because she wore hijjab in public - she wasn't even wearing a face veil, just the headscarf and a loose-fitting ankle-length dress. She had bruises all over her face, and the attackers were never caught.)

    Continuing with the face veil example, another issue with cultural appropriation is that of taking something that has sacred meaning in its culture of origin and using it carelessly as a fashion accessory or toy. To many Muslims, the face veil is an outward expression of one's deep faith, a faith that also encourages women to dress modestly. When a belly dancer wears a sheer little face veil or does peek-a-boo veil work while wearing her sexy skin-baring belly dance costume, it's a mockery of what the niqaab stands for. Using the face veil as a plaything is extremely dismissive of its spiritual significance for Muslimas who see niqaab as a way of expressing piety.

    We, as belly dancers, need to re-examine what we're doing and ask ourselves whether some of it may be problematic, such as the example I gave above. There are many other examples I could give, so don't focus your reaction on face veils in particular. Focus on taking a step back from how our belly dance community does things today, and ask yourself what other behaviors, other than the one example I gave above, are further marginalizing people from the Middle East and North Africa.

    I'm not saying we have to stop dancing, but I think it's very important for us to look at whether it's time to retire certain behaviors related to the dance that we have done in the past. For example, I no longer use the veil work moves that involve wrapping the veil around my face to expose only my eyes. I can't change the fact that I may have done it in the past, but, as the saying goes, "Once you know better, DO BETTER."

    Juana Garcia wrote a really great article explaining this power dynamic from her perspective of being a Mexican who grew up in the U.S.: http://www.shira.net/musings/appropriation-matters.htm

  9. #9
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    I must have my stupid head on tonight; I did not understand WTH that article about the banned yoga class was on about. It is not helped any by the fact that I have just been istening to a fascinating documentary on BBC radio 4 about the history of yoga, and a lot of what goes on in classes appears to have very little to with anything Indian, but quite a lot to do with Scandinavian gymnastics. Are they banning it because the British opressed India? So, no English Literature classes, or no Hindi? My brain hurts. Are they allowed a Bollywood class?

  10. #10
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    The idea that if a person from the originating culture does a thing, she faces being treated badly for expressing her own culture, but if a white person does the same thing, she receives praise... For example, if a white belly dancer wears a face veil as part of her costume, her white audience members are likely to praise her as mysterious, exotic, sexy, "cute", etc... However, if an Arab Muslim woman wears an actual niqaab in public in North America, she faces being on the receiving end of stink-eye, rude remarks, heightened unpleasant attention from Homeland Security, or even physical violence.

    I have great respect for you, Shira, but this comparison is inequitable and unnecessarily inflammatory.

    A dancer of Middle Eastern descent using a veil in a dance performance is likely to be viewed in the same way as a dancer of non-Middle Eastern descent. A woman of non-Middle Eastern descent wearing a niqaab is likely to be viewed in the same way as a naaqab wearer of Middle Eastern descent. Sally with red hair and blue eyes is not likely to praised for her niqaab while Fatima with dark hair and eyes is pulled out of line by TSA for hers. Conversely, Sally is not likely to be cheered for flirting with her veil on stage while similarly flirting Fatima is booed off stage by the same audience.

    Those are equitable comparisons. Comparing unsophisticated appreciation of a clichéd costume prop to violence perpetuated by a hate mob is not.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

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