I’m all about swearing.
And so is Clem Ford, whom I have the hero worship for atm.
I’m currently pushing up my program of asking difficult questions in public about how dancers are responding to and preventing sexual harassment. I’ve been told, repeatedly, that I need to stop shouting in public and start sending private emails. Yeah right. Because I really want to go behind closed doors with someone who has a history of enabling sexual assault.
[nb as I type this, I’m getting a bit trembly. Because every time I get public on this stuff, I get a host of nasty comments on this blog, scary messages on facebook, and thinly veiled threats. But fuck it. I think about the fact that my hesitating on banning a particular man at my dances this year eventually made it possible for him to grope and scare one of my students. I’m stepping UP because I can. It scares the shit out of me, but really, yolo, right?]
I’m just about to spend some time assessing all the Australian swing dance events’ websites, looking for codes of conduct. If they don’t have one, I’m going to ask them publicly where it is.
I recently had a discussion with the MLX committee about their code of conduct (and its absence a few weeks before the event). I was just DELIGHTED by their fierce response. They were all over this shit. And they produced a great document. As with all these things, it needs some pruning and tidying. But they got it going, they had it available in hard copy at the door, people were reading it, and I saw the process in action over the weekend. I was just so excited to see how public discussion about this stuff at a non-profit event prompted dancers to be pro-active about looking out for each other. It was just great. Just GREAT.
But not every event is doing so well. I’m going to spend a couple of minutes here with Swing Camp Oz.
Where is the code of conduct for this event? This is an important place to start, because Mitchell was heavily involved with this event, and was actually at this event in Australia when his history as a rapist and perpetrator of violent attacks was made public.
And yet there’s no code of conduct for this event. More worryingly, this event does not pay its local teachers and DJs properly*. This worries me, because I’m currently realising that sexual assault in lindy hop does not operate in a vacuum. We actually produce a culture which makes it possible by exploiting dancers in a range of ways.
I talk about this in the post How to exploit people, and I say:
More importantly, when you exploit people, you are facilitating conditions which make it possible for your workers to be abused in other ways. Including sexual harassment and bullying. So when you say, “Oh, you should DJ/teach/manage the door for free because I want you to, and I’m just doing this ‘for the scene’,” you’re telling people that they should do unfair, unsafe, unpleasant, exploitative things ‘for the scene’ just because someone powerful or ‘important’ asks them to.
To make it clear: when you fuck over volunteers, DJs, etc, you are creating conditions which train dancers to accept sexual assault and harassment by high profile teachers and dancers. You are creating and contributing to rape culture.
But let’s continue with today’s news.
Today there was a bullshit piece in New Matilda about Clem Ford‘s public outing of men who send her hate mail and attack her. This is a response: Why Courageous Jack Kilbride Is Not The Answer.
This bit is my fave:
Kilbride posits that “The problem with writers like Clementine Ford is although their sentiment is justified, their vitriolic writing style means that people will always get offended.” Which by virtue, is suggesting that politeness and civility are the only ways to get things done. We know by looking throughout history that every revolution was started by someone using their manners and asking very politely, right?
Because I like to swear a bit on my blog, and on fb, particularly when I’m talking about this stuff. I’m just full of the rage, and I have to let it out, so there’s room inside me for photos of overweight ponies and capybaras.
I’ve heard the expression ‘ladies don’t swear’ a few too many times, particularly in reference to lindy hop. I’ve also had a few men say that they don’t want to read my pieces on preventing sexual harassment (eg this one) because they have too many swears.
A lot of modern day lindy hoppers try to recreate an imaginary swing era where ‘women were women and men were men’, and those women were all fluffy and girly, and those men were spat-wearing gentlemen. This gives me the living shits, because these modern dancers are using this imaginary world to stop me leading, to make me wear ‘girly’ outfits, to stop men following, and to make me sit down and shut up.
But then I listen to Ryan Swift’s Track podcast where Dawn Hampton drops a few fucks and a few shits, and I realise: BAD ARSE WOMEN DANCERS USE ALL THE TOOLS AVAILABLE TO THEM. We are not here to make you feel comfortable, my friends. We are here to bring the shit.
*[EDIT: How do I know this? I was asked to coordinate the DJs for this event in 2009, and when I asked about the pay/working conditions, I was very unimpressed and decided not to take the role. Since then I’ve actually put my conditions in writing. I developed this document over the past 15 years of running events, through my experience working with various event organisers and DJs.
But that was six years ago. Have things changed since then? Marginally. But certainly not to the point where this event is inline with the rest of Australia. And absolutely not to the point of being inline with the larger, higher profile American and European events. How do I know? I talk to other DJs, teachers, and organisers who’ve been involved with the event.
[EDIT: I’ve changed the title of this post because it is misleading. In case you missed the point, asking questions about these things is difficult and destabilising. It is uncomfortable. Which is exactly the point. Our culture discourages women from asking questions, from being loud, from being rude, from being ‘difficult’. It wants us to sit down, be quiet, and put up with men assaulting or harassing us. It absolutely wants to stop us speaking up for other people.
A large part of patriarchy is training women to see each other as rivals and competitors. Lindy hop is talking a bit about ‘active follows’ at the moment, but what that really means is ‘be active up to the point where you imperil the status quo, and the status of your male partner. Then stop.’
When we don’t just take it quietly, we disturb the status quo. We make it harder for men to take advantage of us. This makes them angry. This makes us worry about our safety. The implied threat of violence is often what keeps us from speaking up. And sexual assault is an act of violence. To trot out that Margaret Atwood quote, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” This is not an exaggeration. I had an experience at SLX while I was DJing that had me worried about my safety. Because I didn’t do exactly what a man wanted.]