|Posted by Abbie on March 28, 2020 at 2:05 PM|
Once again I find myself reflecting on discussions posted online in the Bellydance community which cause much disagreement and some hostility. The internet enables freedom of expression, which also means people are free to comment on how others express themselves, so any Bellydancer who puts herself out there is subject to everyone else's opinion. As not all of this commentary is positive, this has led to a backlash which exhorts women to accept other women without question or comment (the argument being that women get enough grief from society as it is).
While I wholeheartedly agree that this argument is true, and acknowledge that everyone has different boundaries when it comes to taste, I fear that at the same time as rightly avoiding being discriminatory and judgemental, we've also lost the subtler values of having discrimination and judgement, or are made to feel that these no longer serve a purpose.
Of course matters of taste change over time, and many of the Golden Age dancers we admire so much for their grace and femininity were considered scandalous and in breach of good taste in their time. Bellydance has always had an uneasy relationship with other types of performance (e.g. burlesque, stripping), and some aspects of Bellydance such as particular moves and costuming have blurred those boundaries further which causes concern for those dancers and teachers who make strenuous efforts to have Bellydance recognised as a legitimate art. There will always be some crossover, but equally there will be Bellydancers who have no relationship with these other disciplines - are their opinions not equally valid?
I believe it is fine to have one's own taste, otherwise no art form would be recognised at all, and that may change itself over time; equally, what one might be happy for others to do, one wouldn't do the same oneself (getting older can play a big part in that!). As a teacher I also think it's important to give students some guidance to form their own opinions; some historical context so that their judgement can be informed.
For me it comes down to this. I may not like what you do (/wear, etc.), and we might disagree on whether it's Bellydance, but I will defend your right to do (/wear) it to my dying breath. I accept that we all have our own definitions of good taste and artistry, and that so-called 'slut shaming' must be challenged and removed, but I'm unhappy about shutting down discussion altogether, as where it is conducted with respect and an honest interest in the opinions of others, this is how we move art forward through a combination of consensus and difference.