I aim to be incredibly fucking difficult

Because race is being discussed explicitly in lindy hop at the moment (and gender, impicitly), this conversation between bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry is nice and relevant.

My favourite part is where they talk about how black women are represented as ‘difficult’, as ‘angry’.

M H-P: “I am difficult… but so are white guys!”

This discussion resonates with me, because I often feel as though I’m being ‘difficult’ or a pain in the arse when I ask event organisers where the pay is, or why I haven’t been given the DJ program yet and it’s two days before the event. Or when I bring up gender again, or when I want to talk about high heeled shoes again (seriously, fuck – high heeled shoes are something ONLY WOMEN LINDY HOPPERS WEAR and it fucks up their balance, it literally DISEMPOWERS them while they are dancing! FARK! You can try to justify it every single which way, but if high heeled shoes are so fabulous for your fucking dancing WHY AREN’T MEN WEARING THEM?!). Or when I suggest that lindy hopping men might actually be raping and assaulting lindy hopping women. Am I still going on about that shit? Didn’t I have that moment to shout about that? It’s as though it’s ok for me to raise the issue once, but god forbid I keep banging on about it. And heaven HELP me if I want to actually do something about it.

Yes, I am difficult. Because questions about justice or gender or class or race are a bloody pain in the arse when you’re trying to continue running the world you always have. Yes, my friend, I am a goddamn difficult pain in the arse. Because your racist, sexist, classist shit is a pain in MY LIFE. I am the pebble in your shoe, mate. I am difficult. I am the follow who won’t do exactly as you lead, who insists on bringing her own improvisation. I am the rhythm beyond your step-step-triple-step. I am your interruption.

I’m going to end this post by saying: all that attention and vitriol directed at Ksenia and not at the Siltons was straight up sexism. STRAIGHT UP SEXISM.

One thought on “I aim to be incredibly fucking difficult”

  1. Keep on being the bad ass woman you are, and thanks for the link to the bell hooks/MHP convo! I don’t know that I’ve ever commented on your posts before, but I follow them religiously. Your blogging is what gives me hope for the lindy hop community, and I often use it to kick start discussions in my own scene. In the 3.5 years I’ve been regularly dancing, I’ve seen the rise of a completely new dance culture in Torornto.

    Nearly everyone learns to lead and follow (including many of the men), and often do so from the very start of their dancing lives now. Terms like “galboa” (balboa with two women dancing together) get coined by/for our fantastic lady leaders. You never have to sit a dance out because there aren’t enough leaders at the dance, because you or some other woman is going to decide to lead the song. There are way more queer folks involved, and not just in their own dance group (Swingin’ OUT) but with the scene as a whole. Followers are taught to have their own voice and not be afraid to improvise or alter the given lead — it’s way more about reciprocal inspiration once you get past the beginner lessons. Feminism makes its way into discussions about dancing here and doesn’t get immediately shot down by the straight white dudes. It’s fucking awesome and makes me happy beyond belief to see women leading in performances, men following in jam circles, and genderqueer/genderfucking individuals accepted and celebrated as an important part of the community no matter how they’re choosing to present or what dance role they’re taking in a given evening. Seriously, if you ever decide to move from Australia, Toronto would welcome you with open arms.

    I think the only thing I ever disagree with you on is the issue of dance heels, though I suspect that wearing them is more of a personal preference than anything. They aren’t something only women wear — there’s a phenomenal male dancer from NYC, I believe, who rocks dancing in 3-4 inch heels regardless of whether he’s leading or following. One of the oldest, most talented and highly trained male teachers in the Toronto scene who worked with Lennart when he was younger suggests that every dancer, regardless of gender, learn to dance in heels. He does so himself, training in 3 inchers to improve balance and bodily awareness. There’s a reason that a good pair of heels puts your balance squarely on the balls of your feet. There must be other men elsewhere who have adopted heels for practice/training or social dancing. I think the main reason male lindy hoppers don’t wear heels is the feminine connotations of such footwear — misogyny strikes hard when it comes to men who don’t present as hypermasculine or who dare to adopt something seen as “womanly”. Fuck that shit. I have gotten my male dance partners and other leader friends to put on a pair of my heels for practice session and they like them and say they’ve learned a lot by the end of a few songs.

    I know it’s only anecdotal, but as someone who started off with little balance or awareness of where my body parts were in space (comes from being a 6′ tall woman whose klutziness runs in the family), when I started wearing heels to dance in, that’s when I noticed the greatest improvement in my technique. My balance, ankle strength, grace, and bad ass attitude only really started to shine when I learned how to dance properly in heels, and the skills were then transferred to times when I was wearing flats. I generally only wear flats now for jazz classes, aerials, training with my troupe, or nursing injuries. I even wear heels when leading, even if the rest of my outfit is femmey drag with vintage menswear. And damn if my floorcraft and control isn’t better than half the male leaders on the floor in their flats. Of course wearing heels requires some critical analysis and unpacking, but I don’t think they should be written off completely as some means of torture imposed on women dancers. A sturdy, sensible pair of 1.5-3 inch cuban heels are great for dancing in. The 12-inch high platform monstrosities that break runway models’ ankles, however, are another story and I think they’re bullshit meant strictly to cater to the male gaze. Whew, that was an awful lot of writing…

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