Category Archives: lindy hop and other dances

Let’s get material about sexual harassment

As part of my 3-part response to sexual harassment in the lindy scene, I’ve started getting keen on the idea of visual assets. ie paper postcards, a useful website, etc.

My 3-part response:
1. Develop a code of conduct.
This is basically a set of ‘rules’, but also a clear statement of intent.
– the in-progress code of conduct and sexual harassment policy I’m developing

2. Working towards cultural change through:

Teaching in a way which explicitly helps women feel confident and strong, and provides tools for men looking to redefine how they do masculinity.
– using tools like the ones I outline in Remind yourself that you are a jazz dancer and Uses of history: Frankie as teaching tool

Teaching in a way which implicitly discourages sexual harassment, by encouraging good communication between leads and follows.
– I am keen on the rhythm centred approach as a practical strategy. Less hippy talk, more dancing funs.
– I like simple things like talking to both men and women about being ok with people saying no to you.

3. Developing strategies for actually confronting men about their behaviour.

– I talked about how I do this in class in Dealing with problem guys in dance classes
– I’m working up to addressing the more nebulous issue of sexual harassment by practicing on more concrete stuff like telling men to stop pulling aerials on the social floor
– Talking to and about men confronting other men. Because it’s men who are doing the dodgy stuff in most of these cases, and we need to ask men to take responsibility for their own actions. Whether those actions are harassment, or condoning/enabling harassment by not using their power to speak up.

Working on this, I’ve discovered that a bunch of words is next to useless. We need simple graphics, pictures and posters. Using a range of resources (the AFL’s response to sexual assault is particularly powerful and useful), I’m thinking that we need to add a few things to the prevention/response strategies. I’m considering making up a simple, powerful website and postcard outlining what’s ok, and what’s not. They have to have a light-hearted, fun vibe (because lindy hop), but they also have to be very useful and not too twee. The tone of these texts should suit the vibe of my business, but also give an idea of national and international lindy hop culture (as if there was such an homogenous thing!)
These two assets could work in concert with a poster or sign, and with a practical training program for teachers, door staff, and ‘safety officers’ (ie the people you go to when you need help).

Luckily, lindy hoppers have already gotten on to this. We actually have a discourse of ‘etiquette’, which is the way we manage and control social interactions in our scene. We also talk a lot about ‘floor craft’, which is another way of managing how we take care of ourselves and others on the dance floor. The basic message of both is ‘Look out for others or you won’t get any dances.” Lindy hop has a powerful shaming tool at its disposal, and we should make greater use of it.

I think we can just tweak these two sets of ‘rules’ a little to make them a bit more powerful and directly address sexual harassment and assault. A lot of dancers don’t want to address rape and sexual harassment explicitly because it’s a downer (and lindy hop is supposed to be all happy clappy all the time), and it’s a bit of a social taboo to talk about sex and sexual violence in an explicit way. And it’s really difficult to talk about sexual assault and violence without actually talking about breasts, vulvas, vaginas, penises, bottoms, and how we touch and use them.
Added to this are the broader social myths about women’s bodies, women’s sexuality, and men’s sexuality. The bottom line in responding to sexual harassment and assault is that you have to accept that it’s about power and violence more than it’s about sex and sexuality, and you have to accept that patriarchy exists. A tall order for people who ‘just want to dance’.

But I don’t want to reinvent the wheel when there’s fab stuff like this around:

Lindy-Hoppers-etiquette-1024x723

This is an etiquette guide produced by Holy Lindy Land, the Israeli lindy hop community. Which of course you should know about, because they sent an open letter of peace and friendship to the lindy hoppers of Palestine, which makes me cry like a little baby with the love. (You can read more about the two scenes’ work in this lovely piece).

I like this poster because it does simple things like replace my awkward description

Avoid ‘boob swipes’, touching a partner’s bottom, groin, upper legs – you know the deal. If you accidentally do so, apologise immediately. If you do this repeatedly, you will be warned, if not ejected from the event.

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I think that lindy hop could also do with some of the sharper edged humour that would help us get real about sexual harassment.

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There was a most excellent swing memes thread on yehoodi years ago, where most of the images are sadly missing now :( I’m especially fond of Good Guy Greg.
And of course tumblr brings the gif with people like lindy hop problems.

But these are, of course, not ‘official’ responses to sexual harassment. They are very important, because they give us a way to comment on issues, and also to ‘talk back to power’ if we don’t think organisations are stepping up.

I’m thinking something by an artist like Tomeito would be pretty useful:

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At any rate, I’m working on it. Slowly but surely…. :D

Resources:

  • Mobtown ballroom code of conduct (casual, human tone to the talk)
  • the SES (State Emergency Services) position sexual harassment as an occupational health and safety issue rather than a ‘women’s issue’ or ‘sexual issue’, and have some EXCELLENT training material available
  • AFL (Australian Football League) have Respect and Responsibility, a hardcore response to s.h. and assault which targets men (because it is a male-dominated sport), and uses the Australian discourses of ‘mateship’, ‘team’ and community responsibility (or club-loyalty) through the language of the sport (‘taking the tackle’ etc) in a powerful way. Their posters are great. I admit it, my Uses of History: Frankie as Teaching Tool in-class strategies are an attempt to do the same thing. To use the language and model of our most important and powerful cultural imagery as a strategy for dealing with sexual harassment.
  • Australian Human Rights Commission (for identifying and defining s.h., and researching the legal status of s.h.). My federal government’s current push to destabilise and ultimately destroy the AHRC is making me very angry.
    AHRC’s ‘know the line’ campaign, which feels a bit naff to me, but uses a strong poster campaign and website/poster tie-in.

Body stuff: making choices about your own flesh

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A friend has been patiently managing an ongoing thread about ‘obesity advertising’ on her facebook page, and I’ve chimed in today.

One of her friends wrote this excellently sarcastic reply to a piece about dieting:

I am NOT going to read the article, but in response to the tagline: Yes, clearly it is better to increase the pain and suffering of fat women through stigma and discrimination. After all, shame is strongly correlated with positive health outcomes.

For me, this point, that shame stops you being healthy and powerful, is the most important. I see it as directly related to the perpetuation of sexual harassment. If we are continually questioning our own worth, if we are taught to see men’s sexual desire for our bodies as the only reliable proof that we are ‘attractive’ and of worth, then we will tolerate sexual harassment. Even if it frightens and upsets us, we won’t speak up about it, because we are supposed to want this. A particularly unpleasant man commented in a public space recently that we need to “loosen up” and dance in closer position. As though our reluctance to be manhandled by unpleasant, aggressive men was a symptom of frigidity, and that we aren’t actually capable of knowing our own minds and making logical decisions.

It is this sort of bullshit that makes me very, very ANGRY and also very, very determined to encourage women dancers. Your body is important for far more than what it looks like. It is a wonderful machinery, and a woman dancing is mighty. Your mistakes should be confident because they teach you. Your dancing should be brave because it is YOU dancing, telling us something about music and the way you feel and think. You can lead, you can follow, you can solo dance, you can do balboa or charleston or whatever the fuck you like, in whatever way you like, so long as you respect your partner and yourself. And being fat or skinny will not in any way affect the value of your movement.

I replied to that comment on facebook with this:

The thing that bothers me most about all this, is that we’re continually reminded of our bodies, and how we should be thinking about what we look like, all the time. It fills up our brains. It makes us ask, over and over “Do I look ok?” The answer, of course, will never be a definitive ‘yes’, because what is ‘ok’ changes every day as well. Yesterday your eyebrows had to be skinny, today they have to be thicker. Yesterday you wore skinny jeans, today you wear leggings.

Various industries benefit directly from encouraging and perpetuating this anxiety about your personal, bodily value. Governments like ours make it clear that women’s bodies are not as important as men’s (the amount of money spent on commemorating the loss of Anzac bodies vs the lack of money spent on discussing domestic violence makes that very clear).
Even our parents and families and friends are recruited into policing our bodies: the aunts who ask if you’re really eating that second serving, the mothers who put girl children on diets, the fathers who won’t let daughters walk alone at night, the parents who ask when we’re going to provide grandchildren.
The idea that I might use my body simply for my own pleasure and satisfaction is utterly sinfully wrong: being fat is a ‘lack of control’. Eating for pleasure is ‘naughty’. Enjoying sex is ‘problematic’. Dancing until your heart stutters and your calves tighten is ‘dangerous’. As an adult, I should be allowed to choose how I enjoy my body. But enjoying your body, being happy with the way you look is not allowed. That’s how patriarchy works.

My most serious problem with this, is that it takes brain time away from what we can do with our bodies or our brains. And of course, if we are busy doubting ourselves and bodies, we don’t have time or confidence to stop and say “Hey, what the fuck, patriarchy? I’m a fucking amazing writer/engineer/doctor/parent, and all this time and money I spend on what my body looks like is detracting from the time and money I can spend on being a writer/engineer/doctor/parent.”
In an example, women on average spend so much more time on grooming than men do. Yes, some men are groomers, but women spend a lot more time on hair removal, makeup, clothing choices, etc etc. And I decided a long time ago that I’d rather spend that hour every day writing more. Reading more. That’s an extra hour a day I can spend on tap practice. On laughing at jokes. An extra hour every day that I get to spend doing things that make me feel good, rather an hour every day that I spend assessing and inspecting my appearance.

For me, specifically, this constant nibbling at my self esteem stops me questioning patriarchy. If I’m always worried that I’m too fat, too big, too small, too never-going-to-be-right , then I won’t have the confidence to question bullshit.

So, as practical examples, if I’m feeling anxious and low confidence, I won’t confront that man who’s been touching his female dance partners’ boobs all night. I won’t get on the microphone and say my own name to advertise my own DJing/teaching/event. I won’t put my hand up for a staff DJ position at Herrang. I won’t start my own business.
The bullshit about ‘obesity epidemics’ has a direct effect on my confidence: I won’t get up on my feet and speak up.

So I say NO NO NO and fuck YOU to talk about diets and obesity epidemics and all that shit. I eat what I like, I exercise too much, and I assess the value of my body through my ability to breathe freely, to dance too much, to bend and move easily, to bring me pleasure and ridiculous joy.

And I take a great deal of satisfaction in telling men to fuck off when they try to mansplain the value of my own flesh.

Mobile-friendly websites are important for lindy hop (durh)

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Rolling out the mobile-friendly update is an interesting thing: I’m particularly interested in the way it affects dance event sites (of course).

Dancers use dance sites with mobile devices (particularly during a big dance event weekend), and most people first come to lindy hop through a google search. So mobile-friendly websites with good googles are super important – essential – to a dance business. Yet most dance websites are built by inexperienced/non-pro designers/code monkeys, and aren’t terribly mobile friendly.

This is partly to do with budgets (we work on very tight margins), but more to do with inexperience. Spending money on your website is a very good investment, but many dancers can’t bring themselves to shell out that sort of money, and if they do, they don’t know how to find or judge a good web designer.

We have really really shitty interwebs in Australia, so a lean, mean, mobile website is super important for a dance business.

(image just stolen from that google blog article)

Running a live music gig for dancers in Sydney

Just fyi, if you’re curious about how much it costs to put on a band gig in Sydney:

– band: $1500 (you can pay less, esp for a smaller band, but this is the going rate for a function gig, which is what dancers are, essentially)
– band rider: $100 – $150
– incidentals (printing, lamps, etc etc – random door kit stuff and floor things): $50-$100
– good sound + lights (engineer + gear hire + gear delivery, pick up, set up): $1000
– venue: $500 min (this is crazy cheap. $800 is more likely. You can go cheaper or more exy, but you’ll need a bigger, more exier space to cover your expenses; NB you need to pay for 2 hours before and 1 hour after the event – so you pay for 7 hours for a 4 hour gig)
– paper PR postcards: $50 (just for a small, local print run)
– band break DJ: $50 minimum

Stuff that costs, but that is often ‘invisible’ and hard to quantify:
– volunteer comps (4 hour gig: 11 comps; ie 11 people who don’t put money in the door)
– general PR (online facebook pimping, website, writing copy, photos, etc): 1 million hours (at least 2 days to put it all together, then a couple of hours a week for FB posts, answering emails, etc)
– design work for flyers/websites/fb icons, banners, images
– liaising with printers, picking up print jobs, etc
– buying stuff and transporting stuff (bottles of water, gear, documents, snacks, band riders, crates of beer, etc etc): this will cost you at least $60 in petrol/car hire/however you do it
– storage for your cache of ‘gig gear’ – lights, cash boxes, microphones, signage – all the bits of shit that take up space in your house.
– liaising with bands, DJs, MCs, etc, to be sure they all know what’s going on, and what they have to do/play/say
– public liability insurance
– APRA fees
– general business fees (accountant, etc)
– tax on income/GST if you need to collect it
– paypal or trybooking fees (take about $1 or $2 off each ticket for that)
– having the right forms for all workers (eg declaration of non-disclosure of ABN for DJs, proper invoices/receipts, etc) -> you need to research these, prepare them, print them in advance.

Upfront expenses:
You can’t just hope you’ll make enough on the night. You need to pay for things before the night.
– a $150 or $200 float (a bunch of $5 notes): you need to have that upfront
– venue hire (and bond, usually – anywhere between $100 and $500)
– band rider, incidentals, printing, etc

~$3400

You can totally do it cheaper. But there’s an economy of scale: you need more people to pay $$ so you can cover your band and sound expenses, and that usually means you need a bigger venue which costs more.

For this, you’d need to get at least 100 people paying $35 to cover your costs. But you’re not really safe, and you’re definitely not making a profit. You’d really need 100 people at $40 a ticket.
Basically, you shell out 3.5k, but you can’t guarantee you’ll cover your expenses. If it’s your first time, you have to double the amount of time it takes to do everything, and you’re less likely to find a good sound guy or band that knows its shit.

You can do a smaller live band gig for about $800, if you pay no venue hire, don’t have a band break DJ, have mad connections, hire a tiny/very new band who do their own sound. But this will not be a ‘top shelf’ gig, and you won’t get big numbers. You won’t be able to charge more than $20, so you’ll need at least 50 people.

The biggest problem is that dancers don’t drink. So you don’t have bar sales to subsidise your event, the way all other live music venues do. And you can’t afford to have a band every week, so you can’t offer them a residency, for which they’ll charge you less. If you don’t have a stable venue with good facilities, you have to keep hiring and moving gear and infrastructure (which also eats time and energy).
So the most important expense is networking: getting to know bands, sound engineers, venue managers, finding good printers and designers and so on. And that just devours time and energy. It’s also especially hard if you’re a woman in this male-dominated industry – it can be hard ‘networking’ (ie buddying up) with a bunch of very hetero, quite sexist men. It’s not always hard, and some men are totally wonderful (I’ve found a really wonderful group of musicians, sound guys, venue managers and printers here in Sydney), but they are 99% men, and it’s a very macho/masculine scene. You need to divest yourself of the traditionally ‘feminine’ characteristics that’ll stop them treating you like a professional.

Each time you run a gig, you run the risk of something going wrong – a dodgy band, shitty sound, terrible numbers. This isn’t just a problem on the night, it creates bad publicity and affects your reputation, which later makes it harder to sell tickets. So when you first start doing these gigs, it’s quite important to start with manageable, achievable goals, so you get experience in a lower risk environment, and start building your reputation. You can also take time to learn how to manage the stress of running a live gig, and how to delegate properly so you can manage them properly. Yes, you can save money by doing everything yourself. But all the worst events are the ones where the manager cannot delegate, and so no one is actually managing the thing.

Once you have some experience, skills, and profile, you can scale up. But even when things are going well, things can still go wrong and give you a scare. So you need to have recovery plans in the back of your mind. Both financial and promotional. Of course, at the end of the day, you can’t play it 100% safe – you need to take risks. And for most of us, it’s these risks that bring the stress, and which leave many of us vowing never to do this again.

Allies and buddies

I’m doing some research into how people can support their friends who are confronting harassers and bullies, or how men can confront other men about their behaviour.

Lindy hoppers don’t like conflict, and we’re generally totally rubbish about telling other dancers to stop being dicks. So we need to learn how.

I am working on being brave enough to step up and call people out on their behaviour, but I know that’s not for everyone. Particularly as our scenes have a very clear hierarchy – teachers at the top, everyone else lower down. Which sucks, and we can all work on dismantling that, too. But I do think that if you’re not actually doing something about sexual harassment and assault in your lindy hop scene, you are enabling it. You’re making it possible for men to get away with this stuff.

So what can you do?

1. You can start working on empowering women dancers in class, on teaching students how to give feedback (positive and negative) in class, and you can model this yourself. But not all of us are teachers.

2. You can be a buddy for someone who’s going off to confront someone. Go with them, stand next to them. Or just make it clear that you’re watching.

3. If you see someone doing dodgy stuff, and causing a fuss, don’t look away. Look at them, and make sure both he and the recipient of his unwelcome behaviour knows it too. You don’t have to step in or say anything, but you can turn your body to face the people talking, you can stop talking to your friends, make eye contact, you can make it clear that you are listening and watching.

4. If you’re DJing, use the mic in a way that lets the punters know you’re watching them. I’ve started doing this at our Harlem night, mostly in a good way – cheering people on in jams, etc. But it makes it clear to the punters that I am watching. DJs watch the floor all the time: if you’re DJing, put that power of observation to good use, and let organisers know when you see Dodgy Guy X being dodgy. Let them know straight away.

5. If you are a man, and if you see a guy you don’t know too well doing dodgy things, what can you do?
First, what are you limits? When do you get to too much? What will make you do something? Think about this ahead of time, so you’re ready.

When will you step in?
When the guy starts shouting?
When he touches a woman you don’t know?
When he touches a woman you do know?
When he hits them?
What is your limit?
What will you do when you reach that limit?
Practice your response, and talk to your buddy about when they’d like you step in.
Just fyi everyone: if I’m confronting someone and he touches me at all, I want you to step in! Immediately! I figure that’s a good place for all of us to set our limit: if we see someone touching someone else in an obviously dodgy way, step in!

6. If you’re a man, and your buddy or a guy you know is doing dodgy stuff, what will you do? What are your limits?
The AFL have a poster that can help you figure this out.

OPTIONS FOR THE BYSTANDER?
» Ensure your own safety

» In an emergency, call the police

» Talk to another friend about your concerns and decide on a response

» Distract the person whose behaviour is a worry and talk to them later about it

» Move away from the activity and later apologise to the woman for your friend’s disrespectful behaviour

» Leave the scene and later let the person know you had a problem with the way they treated the person

» Enlist the help of friends of the person you think is at risk of harm and check that she is OK

» Confront your friend directly and say that their behaviour is not on

» Don’t do anything at the time but later talk to a woman you know about how you could deal with the behaviour in the future

No, I’m sorry, but I am not going to be bullied.

31 women killed in Australia so far this year (https://www.facebook.com/DestroyTheJoint)

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Kon Karapanagiotidis:
What war on women?
Number of Australian soldiers killed in war since 1976?
63
Number of Australians killed by terrorism anywhere since 1976?
113
Number of Australian women killed by male violence since 2003?
1.052

I got a bit tired of being afraid (because I’m a woman, and my friends are women), so I’ve started speaking up when I see or hear about men sexually harassing or bullying women in the lindy hop world.

See a guy pulling out unwanted air steps on the dance floor? Tell him to stop.

I’m also pro-actively talking about consent, boundaries, and respecting each other’s personal space and body in dance classes – to all students.

A woman needs someone to stand next to them while they tell a guy to back off? I’m that person.

Doing this can be scary, but it makes me feel brave. And that’s the best antidote to these sorts of statistics.
Does it mean I attract stroppy responses from men? Yes. But it’s better than that helpless feeling you get when you finish a dance where a guy has touched your boob 100 times, or holds your hand so tightly he leaves fingermark bruises, or yanks you into a swing out so roughly your shoulder aches.

I want to repeat: when I ask a man not to do lifts on the dance floor, or to stop touching women, he often responds with aggression. A guy got nasty with me on Friday when I asked him to stop pulling air steps. And then he came back to me when I was DJing. And back when I was packing up afterwards, and loitered in my peripheral vision until I’d finished talking to a number of other people. Then he had another go at me, and wouldn’t go away when I said, clearly, “I don’t want to speak about this. Please go away.” I had to actively walk away.

All I did was ask him not to do lifts on the dance floor. I was very polite and non-threatening. And he got angry, and then he came back, and wouldn’t go away.

I wasn’t afraid (because I could take him), but he was bullying and threatening. If I hadn’t done this before, if I didn’t know that I was brave enough and strong enough to deal with this, I’d have been afraid.

This sort of response is normal in the lindy hop world. I have had this sort of response from a number of men.

But don’t let this stop you telling them to stop. Whether you are a man or a woman. Don’t walk to your car alone after this, but don’t let this stop you. Bullies are easily frightened off, if you stand strong and pretend you’re fierce.

And men – you need to call other men on this. Because these types of men are used to bullying women, but they’re not so brave when another guy confronts them.

And by the way, this is why I think it’s more important to talk about men sexually harassing women, than women sexually harassing men. Because this is the sort of response men make, not women.

This is not a gender neutral issue.

So, the conversations about sexual harassment in lindy hop continue.
I’ve been telling off rough men lately, and working my way up to dealing with the less overt stuff.

Every time I talk about men and how to deal with men doing this stuff to women, I’ve had a guy or two chime in to change the pronouns and make them gender neutral, or to talk about women sexual harassing and male victims.
Yes, I know women sexually harass. But I want to talk about men as aggressors. This is a GENDERED issue. Gender is IMPORTANT. It is absolutely central to this issue. Far, far more women are harassed by men in the lindy hop scene than vice versa, and I think we need to talk about MEN and the things they do to WOMEN.

So stop messing with my pronouns. And stop trying to insert this sexually harassed man and harassing woman into all my stories. Sure, they’re out there, but I WANT to gender this story!

where femmo stroppos at?

I keep leaving facebook discussion groups that _say_ they’re all about being feminists in lindy hop, but are _actually_ all about white straight blues dancing polygamous Mens Rights Activists.

Where all the _actual_ femmo stroppos at?

Honestly, I have no time for men who want to mansplain reverse sexism at me. It’s not real. There, we’re done. Now let’s talk about something else.