Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Why I Can't Stand White Belly Dancers

Posted by on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:09 AM
  • 291 Replies

Does she have a point?

http://www.salon.com/2014/03/04/why_i_cant_stand_white_belly_dancers/

Why I can’t stand white belly dancers

Whether they know it or not, white women who practice belly dance are engaging in appropriation

Topics: belly dancing, Race, Feminism, feminists of color, Middle East, Raqs Sharqi,

Why I can't stand white belly dancers (Credit: ValaGrenier via iStock)

Google the term “belly dance” and the first images the search engine offers are of white women in flowing, diaphanous skirts, playing at brownness. How did this become acceptable?

The term “belly dance” itself is a Western one. In Arabic, this kind of dance is called Raqs Sharqi, or Eastern dance. Belly dance, as it is known and practiced in the West, has its roots in, and a long history of, white appropriation of Eastern dance. As early as the 1890s in the U.S., white “side-show sheikhs” managed dance troupes of white women, who performed belly dance at world’s fairs (fun trivia: Mark Twain made a short film of a belly dancer at the 1893 fair). Many white women who presently practice belly dance are continuing this century-old tradition of appropriation, whether they are willing to view their practice this way or not.

Growing up in the Middle East, I saw women in my community do Raqs Sharqi at weddings and parties. Women often danced with other women, in private spaces, so that this dance was for each other. When they danced at house parties with men in attendance, the dynamic shifted. When women danced for women alone, there was a different kind of eroticism, perhaps more powerful, definitely more playful, or maybe that’s how it felt to me, as a child and teenager, wary of men’s intentions. At weddings the dancing was celebratory and flirty and beautiful, something a professional dancer would come in to do, and something that everyone else would continue engaging in. If there was a drummer present, all the better. At my wedding, I was my own dancer. I hired a band that specialized in Arabic music and danced with my family and friends, not all of whom were Arab.

One of the most awkward occurrences for me when I go out to an Arabic restaurant is the portion of the evening when the white belly dancer comes out. This usually happens on weekends, and I’ve learned to avoid those spaces then, but sometimes I forget. The last time I forgot, a white woman came out in Arab drag — because that’s what that is, when a person who’s not Arab wears genie pants and a bra and heavy eye makeup and Arabic jewelry, or jewelry that is meant to read as “Arabic” because it’s metallic and shiny and has squiggles of some kind — and began to belly-dance. She was not a terrible belly dancer. But she was incredibly thin and didn’t remind me, in any way, of Tahia Karioca or Hind Rostom or my absolute favorite Raqs Sharqi dancer, Fifi Abdo. Abdo used to dance in the expected bra and skirt but later danced mostly in robes that were somewhat shapeless and more traditional — a kind of relaxed housewear- streetwear dress that folks in Egypt rock daily. There are videos of her in these robes dancing at weddings and smoking sheesha while she dances. When I am having a particularly lousy day, I watch this video of her and dance along.


Our whole dignity consists in thought. Let us endeavor, then, to think well: this is the principle of ethics.  ~B. Pascal

by on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:09 AM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
LuvmyAiden
by on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:16 AM
8 moms liked this

Didn't we just have a thread about racism? Guess this fits. Is it ok if a girl is white but raised in an arabic nation or is the color of her skin always going to make this woman hate her for belly dancing?

jjames1990
by Member on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:20 AM
3 moms liked this

I am Jewish and Greek.  My father being the Greek.  I have been belly dancing since I was a tiny tot.  I also taught it at our local community center and I have made it part of my classes that I taught for Paganism.  Its a great way to get in touch with your body and to learn how to channel your energy.  It also helps keep you in shape.  

I didn't think of it is as being a racial specific activity.  

mikiemom
by Ruby Member on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:23 AM
3 moms liked this

RACISM ALERT

tanyainmizzou
by on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:23 AM
3 moms liked this

I thought Arabs were Caucasians?

GLWerth
by Gina on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:33 AM
4 moms liked this

Her feelings are certainly valid, since it is a version of her culture that is being presented, but not everyone who dances does it for performance in public.

I learned from a woman who hated the 'bra and belt' style of dress and taught us about traditional clothing and told us about growing up with women dancing in the kitchen together when she was small (before and after her family moved to the US).

I consider it more folk dancing, very much like the Scottish dances I learned long ago or even square dancing (which I also did, long ago).

Personally, I don't think that most people who do this type of dance (and I hate the term belly dance myself) have any more agenda than people who do other ethnic dance forms (and I've done many of them). It is simply a fun activity to a lot of people.

I'll have to think about this.

mom2the.rescue
by Bronze Member on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:38 AM
7 moms liked this

You have the right to feel and think this way.  But when an arab woman dresses and dances the way american women do, do you think it should piss anyone off?  Would it be acceptable if it offended a white woman?

sweet-a-kins
by Emerald Member on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:41 AM
3 moms liked this

 lol, very stupid

Anyone can be a belly dancer

sweet-a-kins
by Emerald Member on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:43 AM
1 mom liked this


 

Quote:

 The last time I forgot, a white woman came out in Arab drag — because that’s what that is, when a person who’s not Arab wears genie pants and a bra and heavy eye makeup and Arabic jewelry, or jewelry that is meant to read as “Arabic” because it’s metallic and shiny and has squiggles of some kind — and began to belly-dance.

Arab isn't a race....

oddgirl
by Bronze Member on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:46 AM
5 moms liked this

The author doesn't make it clear if she simply dislikes white people learning the dance or the act of performing it in public, so I'm going to assume she is talking about both.

I am a closeted dance enthusiast - meaning I mostly learn dance from instructional videos these days, but in my 20's I took classes in ballet,African-Haitian, Bollywood style and belly dancing.   To me it parallels learning another language - it's a form of expression from a different culture.  I can understand the concern of appropriation especially in regards to costuming and appearance (for instance, I hate dreadlocks on white people)  but I would hope no one would be offended if I tried to learn their native spoken language. 


FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Mar. 6, 2014 at 10:48 AM
2 moms liked this

I can understand her point, considering where her point is coming from.

However, she is encompassing any and all and I am thinking she feels those who are 'white' are some how being offensive in nature.  Sure, some places may hire that pretty white girl to bring in business and perhaps that is, in a way, offensive overall.

However, one must look outside their four walls and realize that not every one is making the attempt to be offensive and/or racist.

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

close Join now to connect to
other members!
Connect with Facebook or Sign Up Using Email

Already Joined? LOG IN