Yo, tomorrow (31st March) is Trans Day of Visibility.
Considering the far-right’s desperate attempts to kill anyone who isn’t beige, it’s probably important to use your channels and classes to remind people that jazz music and dance, Harlem, and the Harlem Renaissance were (and are) queer as fuck.
Performers and musicians like Gladys Bentley made no secret of being queer and trans.
The Hamilton Lodge Ball was HUGE (we’re talking 7000 people of all stripes attending in 1932 alone) and showcased the early days of ballrooming/drag balls.
Trans activists (especially trans women of colour!) have been at the heart of queer activism since FOREVER (Stonewall was kicked off by a queer trans woman of colour!).
And if you can’t name half a dozen jazz musicians who were gay, you’re not paying attention.
Another post about this:
5 Ways to Be a Totally Ok-By-The-Gays Dance Teacher
1929 Studios’ post about this: https://www.instagram.com/p/CqbkPGuvdn4/
I know we all cringe when we hear the word ‘marketing’, particularly ’email marketing’ in lindy hop talk. But if we think of things like ‘audience segmentation’ and ‘tags’ for organising our huge list of contacts, then it’s less horrible. A lot of us work with about 2-3000 email contacts after a couple of years, if we run a smallish school. Less if we’re doing something more boutique, like an event (there we might work with 200-300 for a small local event). More if we’re lucky (diligent).
But not all those contacts want to hear about the 10% discount for returning students signing up for level 1 classes. And not all of them need to know that workshop registrants for Special Exchange should enter by the side door at the venue. This is why we use special email management tools like Mailchimp. They allow us to divide our email contacts into specific segments (or markets, or audiences).
It’s funny that there’s still this reluctance to think or talk about bringing people into lindy hop classes as ‘marketing’. We may have 100% good vibes, offering free classes to the local community youth. But we still need to get those yoofs into the class room somehow. And we need to keep in contact with them somehow. So good marketing is part of that, even for nonprofits and charities. And it’s even more important when you develop a list of contacts or benefactors for your charity, start doing tag-on services like health checks for adults who drop of kids.
I do want to note that we all know that the best way to keep a network of people or customers, is to use face to face, in person contact. An email is powerful in some situations. But it’s never as good as stopping to see if Mrs X has the time and date for the next potluck, and asking her, then and there, to commit to bringing her special meatballs.
As a dance organisation or business, we need to combine all these ways of communicating. A website. An email list. Speaking to people in person. A paper flyer. The tools we choose will shape our community: if we’re all digital, we’ll lose Uncle Z who doesn’t own a computer. If use all face to face, Mz G from out of town won’t know that the next party is on Saturday. So we need to make sensible choices about how we’ll speak to our audiences.
I also think that it’s ok to charge money and make a profit from your dance business. Most of the unpaid work (and paid!) in lindy hop is done by women. And I’m always a bit suspicious when I hear people argue (even implicitly) that those workers shouldn’t be paid/businesses shouldn’t make a profit/earn money. Because you’re essentially arguing that women shouldn’t be paid for their work in lindy hop. Only DJs or judges or teachers should be paid. All roles dominated by white men…
We can’t do equitable stuff if we don’t have cash flow. That’s the sad fact of patriarchal capitalism.
What of issues of race, ethnicity, and cultural appropriation? Is it ok for people who aren’t Black to make money from Black art?
That’s a tricky one. My first response would be ‘Be sure of your values. If you don’t feel it’s ok to make money this way, don’t start a business that makes money from it.’
I wouldn’t say ‘do the work for free’, because doing the work for free could undercut Black businesses and workers who _do_ charge for their labour. As an example, you may not charge for your DJing, white bro, because you don’t want to benefit from Black art. But if that means you’re then hired before a Black woman who _does_ charge, because you’re free, then you’re fucking over Black artists and workers. A better option might be to accept pay, but then to donate that pay to a Black arts or community organisation (this is an option I like, as a white DJ and worker – I often donate any pay to a good cause, or ask the person I’m working for to donate to a cause like a women’s refuge or Child Literacy fund).
Be mindful of how you enter into economic and cultural relationships. Understand where your power and privilege lies. As a middle class white woman, I don’t need that $20 DJ pay. But a Black teenager might. So instead of encouraging unpaid labour, I might opt out of the labour system (ie not DJ), or I might take that money and then send it on to someone who _does_ need it. That might be via charities, but it could also be via spending the money on CDs for a swing club’s library, or donating the money to a contest prize.
I keep coming across white organisations telling a ‘history’ of lindy hop that gives ‘the revival’ pride of place. ie white people claiming the modern lindy hop world as their own altruistic work.
So the term ‘revival’ is problematic because it implies that lindy hop was dead (replaced by rock and roll and/or bebop) before white people came along and brought it back to life. In this narrative, white people are heroes for saving ‘this wonderful dance’ and bringing it back to life.
Black people are totally absent from this story, except as venerable elders who teach eager white people. The white people are also credited with bringing these elders ‘out of retirement’ and back to the dance floor.
It’s all very problematic.
1. Lindy hop wasn’t dead. There’s a whole family of Black social partner dances that are thriving (Tena Morales’ event the International Swing Dance Championships showcases them every year, but white people don’t go to that and aren’t involved, so it must not exist).
2. Because it wasn’t dead, it didn’t need reviving. Declaring lindy hop ‘terra nullius’ (ie no people living in this territory) was white people giving themselves permission to take lindy hop. So the white people who ‘went looking’ for Black elders were pretty much just out on a bit of a colonial expedition. Just like Captain Cook expanding the British Empire, ‘discovering’ a huge big southern continent (‘Australia’).
3. Those Black elders, like Frankie Manning and Norma Miller and so on were still dancing, but in their families and homes and community spaces. Black spaces, to which white people did not have access. The story told most often about Frankie Manning, that his working in the post office was somehow less important or lower status than his dance career is classist and racist. The US Postal Service has a long history as an important employer and union locus for Black communities. It was good, solid work. Norma, of course, was running a dance business (managing troupes), Mama Lou Parkes was still dancing professionally… and so on.
4. The Black dancers who were involved in lindy hop in the 1980s tend to disappear in these revivalist narratives. Angela Andrew and other Black women have lots to say about the number of Black dancers out there lindy hopping in the 1980s, but they somehow disappear when white people tell the stories.
5. The white ‘ownership’ (appropriation) of Black lindy hop in that 1980s period is not only about selling places in classes and workshops (and thereby ‘creating community’ via economic relationships), but also about the exploitation of Black dancers working for white troupe managers (we won’t go into some of the more troubling accounts from that period).
RE the USPS:
I came across references to the importance of the postal service in Hidden Figures and the way it provided a pathway to the space program for Black women (SUCH a good book).
There’s also Philip F. Rubio’s book ‘There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice, and Equality’ (which I haven’t read, but have read _about_.
This all makes the US govt’s cuts to the USPS a matter of institutional racism and white supremacy, rather than a push for smaller government generally (though I’d argue the two are the same thing).
The more I learn about the USPS as a site for unionising, civil rights activism and Black community empowerment, the more troubled I am by white histories of lindy hop that devalue the USPS in Manning’s life. If the civil rights elements of this workplace are ignored, then white ‘historians’ can continue with their bullshit about ‘Frankie never talked about racism in lindy hop, so it didn’t happen’. I’d say that Frankie, as with any other Black worker in America then and now, was very much aware of racism in the entertainment industry and in America generally, and was very careful about what he said to white people about it, and when.
As with the workers who continue to go back to places like Herrang, despite unsafe or inequitable working environments, when you don’t have the financial and personal safety of white privilege, you have fewer choices about the work you can do. And teaching middle class white kids to lindy hop might have suited Manning.
Today I was talking to someone completely unconnected to the dance world, and they asked what I’d been doing lately. I mentioned that I’d been been working on a covid policy, and it was really interesting because it was a way to talk about flatter power structures (and fighting The Man). I wanted to do more than just present a bunch of rules and then enforce them authoritarian style.
I mentioned that masking is a good option, but it’s rubbish for dancing in.
Then I mentioned that vaccination is really important, but that only 69% of NSW people have had more than two covid vaccinations.
My friend had been active listening along, but when we go to this point, they were clearly quite flushed and emotional. So I stopped yapping. They told me that they were really tired of the covid stuff, and had two vaccinations, but that “Other people can get more.” They went on to talk about how the lockdowns and government policies had really exhausted them, and the lack of gov support had taken a toll on their business. Their major concern was with the way the vaccines are produced by corporations of dubious ethics and morality.
I nodded and did active listening. They were upset and needed to talk about these things. And these are reasonable concerns: lack of support from a government that enforced unjust limits and penalties does not inspire compliance. And as Aboriginal communities can explain, an unjust government cannot be trusted with your medical data, let alone your body in a medical setting. Nor can we excuse the way big corporations in the medical industry have conducted itself in the past, or in the production and dissemination of vaccines (particularly in developing countries).
I didn’t once say that my friend should get a vaccination. That’s not cool; we don’t make medical decisions for other people like that.
As we continued talking, I shifted things away from vaccination to the frustrations with the government policies. They had interesting things to say about that. At one point I mentioned that the whole point of this particular covid policy was to do good social activism. And part of that was discussing equity. So if we have a ‘must test’ policy, we also need to make RATs freely available, because they’re expensive, and they’re a barrier to participation for people who can’t afford them (and who are also often in those high-risk workplaces). Then I pointed out that if I was going to do a policy that was just, I had to source free masks and RATs. And I explained how I’d done that.
It was interesting to see friend’s reaction to this information. Getting free stuff from The Man is always a pleasure, and it seemed to delight my friend.
I wonder if masks would get the same response? Perhaps not, as wearing them is a lot less fun than getting a covid test :D :D
But this conversation made some things very clear to me. If we simply make rules and then penalise people for not following them, we destroy their trust in us, and we make them pretty bloody shitty. A better alternative is to ‘call in’ (rather than ‘calling out’), and make it easy for people to make their own educated decisions about their health.
If we want people to do something (or things), then we can do better than just telling them what to do. We can provide information, and then let them decide what to do with their own bodies.
In the case of something like a pandemic, we can frame this discussion as one of mutual care, where you get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, or whatever not necessarily for your own benefit, but for the safety of others. And they do the same for you.
This is very effective for people who have a communitarian impulse. But what if they don’t?
As I discovered with my friend, there are other inducements we can offer. Or rather, we can find the side of the issue that appeals to them. We can frame the discussion as one of civil disobedience, or evading punitive rules. Accessing tests can become a mission of getting free shit and evading the capitalist structures of ‘big pharma’. Similarly, making or accessing masks that work as a billboard for a person’s politics (much like a Tshirt) can be a way of encouraging people to wear a mask.
And we were both on board with the idea that not washing your hands after you use the bathroom is fucking rotten. :D :D
So when it comes to communicating your policy, it helps to:
- Use language, imagery, and framing that appeals to their values (be they communitarian, radical feminist socialist, or anarchist), and
- Use a variety of approaches to reach a variety of people.
The dance world, of course, is made up of a whole mass of interconnected hyper-local communities that are part of an international, intercultural global community. Even a single local scene in one city might be comprised of a few smaller micro-communities, each centered on a dance school, a particular social night, or a performance troupe. Each of these has its own specific culture and social norms. And we know what each of these are like, because we are part of them. After all, it’s hard to be a lindy hopper if you don’t actually lindy hop.
If we are actually observant humans, we understand that our own experience of a group or community is not the same as someone else’s. For example, you might have loved learning to swing out using lots of technical jargon, but your friend might have loved learning-by-doing. And you might love the late night parties that start at midnight because you’re single with no kids, but your friend might prefer afternoon dances that are child-friendly, because they’re a parent.
We might be aiming for diversity in many places, but we often just don’t get there. Students tend to be people ‘like’ their teachers (same demographics, same sense of humour, same values, etc). Performance troupes tend to be a similar age, physical fitness, and schedule. Paying for classes excludes people on low-incomes, so people in classes have disposable incomes. And so on. It’s actually good that a single scene is made up of lots of different types of mini-groups. So long as they can all come together with kindness and a generosity of spirit for things like bigger parties, events, and discussions.
This is why I think it’s very, very important for each of these micro-groups to develop their own covid policies, ones that speak the right language, carry the right values, and ultimately change people’s behaviour. Or in the case of my own commitment to ‘radical care’, a policy that actively contributes to social justice and fighting the fucking man.
Some facts about masks
The one good thing about respirator masks (P2 or N95) is that they can be used more than once, provided you handle them carefully (no touchy!) and let them dry out properly before re-using.
If you’re curious, a well-fitted surgical mask will do in a pinch, but they cannot be re-used, and you need to fit it properly. Which applies to all masks, really.
And unlike some places in the US, in NSW you can deny entry to people who aren’t wearing masks.
The rules in Victoria are slightly different (check the info site here). They make exception for professional sports people (no, lindy hopper, you are not a professional sports person if you are a student in a class). They do, however, make it clear that if you can’t do social distancing, you’re indoors, and you’re with more than 2 or 3 people, you should mask.
Types of masks is an interesting one. While the science suggests that P2 or N95 masks (fitted and worn correctly) are the only options, we know that most people don’t fit or wear any masks correctly, so no mask is really going to stop the transmission of covid. But we also know that wearing masks can remind people to distance, and can signal to other people that the wearer is concerned about covid.
My personal policy is: mask! Always! indoors and in crowds outdoors, and I always use a P2 or N9, fit them properly and never touch them.
My feeling for a public covid policy, is that we strongly recommend masks (the right types – P2 or N9 and surgical), make them freely available, have influential people (teachers, DJs, performers) model wearing them, but we definitely begin or stop there. We place equal emphasis on vaccination mandates, hygiene, testing regularly, symptom checking, and staying home if you have symptoms, test positive, or are a close contact.
Some facts about RATs and PCR tests
(Please note: this information can change very quickly. It did in the couple of days I was researching this topic! So always double check. And some centers run out of RATs, so double check)
Free RATs were provided by the federal government up until this week. But now the state governments (in Vic and NSW at least) have stepped in to provide them. Free RATs are available to some concession card holders:
Eligible Commonwealth concession card holders can access free rapid antigen tests through the concessional access program. Up to 20 rapid antigen tests are available for free for eligible people living with a disability at state-run testing sites and through Disability Liaison Officers. Eligible people include NDIS participants, disability support pensioners and people with a disability who receive a TAC benefit. Evidence of eligibility, such as an NDIS or TAC statement, is required (source).
Anyone can collect 5 rapid antigen tests (per person) from a COVID-19 testing site in Victoria (source).
In NSW, RATs are free to some concession card holders, and available at neighbourhood centers and NDIS providers. I can’t find information about free RATs for anyone else, though word of mouth suggests you can get them if you ask.
And of course, PCR tests are still free, and available at testing clinics. Though these tests are more reliable than RATs (because they’re conducted by pros, not you with a jumbo q-tip in your bathroom), the results can take up to 48 hours (though they’re usually with you within 24 hours).
Some facts about vaccines
Vaccines are the best way to contain covid at this time, in developed countries like Australia. They prevent you getting really sick, and they stop you spreading the virus to more vulnerable people (because you’re not as sick you don’t blow droplets everywhere as much, and because you’re not sick for as long, you spend less time blowing droplets everywhere).
But they only last for about six months. Which is why we need to get boosters every six months.
If you do catch covid, your immunity only lasts for about three months after your symptoms end (source). Which is why you can get it over and over again in one season.
You can get vaccinated when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and it’s recommended. And a note about the magic of breastfeeding: your milk contains antibodies that are given to your babby, giving them immunity! Hoorah for boobs.
Vaccination is free in Australia, and you can get a quick vax from your local chemist, a GP, or a covid center (do check your state’s local vaccination centers, but you can search nationally here.) I got mine at my local chemist. I just walked in and said “Can I get a covid vaccine, please?” and they did it then, and there, then a bit later it was in my digital vaccination certificate on the Services NSW app on my phone. No mess, no fuss.
I’m currently working on a covid management plan for a dance school. I’m quite enjoying the process.
Here’s the process:
Restating the org’s values
- Which helped me understand how and why the org would develop a covid policy, what issues to focus on, and how to implement it,
- Which ensured we were all on the same page.
Stating the covid plan philosophy
- In this context, a philosophy is theoretical or ideological model for addressing concrete issues,
- Which is basically applying the org’s abstract values to a concrete issue (covid),
- Phrasing the philosophy as a list of clear applications of values to a specific issue (covid)
- This could be a list of a hundred items, or a list of two.
Developing two goals for the plan
- These are deliberately limited in scope (ie this isn’t a govt department managing the health of a whole city or state, it’s a small dance school),
- They are very focussed and practical.
Putting all this into practical actions
- There are four ‘actions’ which cover four general areas of covid management,
- These actions can be phrased as ‘guidelines’ (ie covid rules) for the org, but they can also guide procedures.
- They deliberately limit the scope of the plan to keep it very local and very practical.
So that’s the whole Covid management plan.
From here, I use the plan to develop:
- Guidelines (or rules)
- Procedures (eg if a rule is ‘you must provide proof of vaccination’, who does this checking, where do they check, what do they do if someone doesn’t have proof, what constitutes proof, etc etc)
- Social media strategy to communicate all this, and also to provide information about covid that will encourage people to participate
- Website materials (eg a public statement of the guidelines)
- A handbook that contains all the procedures, contact info, covid facts, etc.
–Developing the plan–
At this point I have a first draft, and it’s been to the org’s boss for comment and approval to go ahead and develop it.
After some tweaking, I’ll send it off to the rest of the org (teachers and staff) to get their feedback, impressions, comments, suggestions, etc.
I’ll also do a model for public comment.
This Plan development process, and the plan itself, are guided by:
- Research I’ve been doing into how covid is transmitted, etc,
- Research into different models that have similar values, and have been effective (incl. Camp Jitterbug, but also a model from AMSANT (The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory), Abrome (a school in Texas), etc etc),
- Social Justice/activist models of care like Tian Zhang’s Manifesto for Radical Care, or How to Be a Human in the Arts.
A key part of this process is an ethos of community strength, and collectivism. My experiences working on sexual harassment in dance has made it clear that top-down solutions are a) not effective, b) burn out the people doing the work, c) maintain existing power structures that _enable_ injustices like sexual harassment. As I learnt working on Melbourne Lindy Exchange (MLX) for years, you need to develop work practices that allow any one person to drop out or take a break at any time. Which is, of course, what flexible, healthy workplaces are all about.
–A final form?–
A key part of this plan is to be agile. It must be able to change and respond to social changes. Covid will change. The community changes.
An Important thing I learnt from working on sexual harassment stuff, is that we can’t just develop a code and leave it at that. That doesn’t work. We need to update it, to change and develop our approach, as we learn more, and as our communities change.
So putting this plan together, I’m assuming that it will need to be changed and updated regularly; I can’t just post it on the website and forget about it. There’ll be feedback from staff about the processes, there’ll be changes in covid, we’ll see things like the development of new vaccines and healthcare strategies.
This means that the Plan itself, and where it lives needs to mutable.
This is a very exciting idea. It’s a lot like lindy hop itself: you have basic structural elements, but it is, fundamentally, about innovation, improvisation, and responding to the needs of its users.
–Why am I doing all this work?–
I have a long history of writing and researching and lecturing, but I am rubbish at presenting my plans and projects in ways that make it easy for the audience to take my work and do their own projects with it.
So I’m deliberately learning how to:
- Develop a plan
- Present a plan to stakeholders who have different types of engagement
- do good community/group consultation and engagement.
I’m also really interested in how social media management can be employed in social justice work, so I’m quite keen on using things like instagram, facebook, etc etc in new and interesting ways. Which, bizarrely (unsurprisingly?) circles back to my doctoral research and academic research, which was all about how small communities use media in unique ways.
–What have I learnt so far?–
One of the most exciting things I’ve learnt so far, is that if a project like this is equitable in design, it actually fights racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc. I think one of the most exciting things about the Camp Jitterbug covid plan, is that it came from the experiences of people of colour, people of a range of genders, people with lived experience doing activist community labour. It’s proof that anti-racist work is good for all of us.
I’ve just realised I missed the latest BlackLindy HoppersFund intensive (BOOO) so i thought I’d share this here, so we can all have a look. There are two more left: Dee Daniels Locke on the 30th April, and then Helena Kanini Kiirur on the 25th June.
We all love Dee, right (yes), and if you haven’t seen Helena dance, you need to follow her on instagram right now. RIGHT now.
Anyway, BLHF is one of the very few organisations in the lindy hopping world which hires only Black artists (and pays them real money, not ‘exposure’), and makes it easier for Black dancers to attend the workshops. They are fucking legit on this. And intensives (ie workshops) are really top shelf. I’ve only managed to be involved in three, but they are just the best.
As a student, I had fun, but as a teacher, I learnt that Black teachers work in a different way. And I learnt a lot about these approaches to teaching. If you’ve been following that recent conversation we had in this group about whether a teaching method can be anti-racist, you’ll find these BLHF sessions really interesting. Because they _are_ the definition of anti-racism work.
This is Helena’s ig account. This video blew my mind. It’s such a clear example of how the history of Black dance lives in Black bodies and Black dance _today_. You can’t talk about lindy hop without talking about contemporary Black culture.
I was sorry to see I’d missed Trisha Sewell’s class on lovers’ rock. I got interested in lovers rock (which is a subgenre of reggae) after watching Steve McQueen’s brilliant film ‘Lovers’ Rock’ in his Small Axe series.
This series about Black Music in Europe talks about lovers rock in the UK.
risha is a Black British dancer. She and other female Black British dancers (including people like Angela ‘Cookie’ Andrews) are often left out of stories about lindy hop in the UK. Angela is a truly great dancer. Watching her in this, I just can’t look away. She. Is. So. Good.
Oh, and because there’s MORE, here is a video we all know and love. Featuring Angela and Dee. Cookie told me that she was _judging_ the contest, but just couldn’t help getting in there.
Grey Armstrong has been writing about Blackness and lindy hop and blues dance for years, and is really really good at it.
Thoughtful, topical, and such engaging writing. He’s been writing at Obsidian Tea for ages and ages, and I’ve personally found this the most meaningful and useful source for information and inspiration. I keep returning to past posts because they keep popping up in my own thinking and writing about this topic.
This is part 1 of a 7 part series (!!). I recommend reading it. It’s important because it actually includes the experiences of contemporary Black dancers, something missing from most lindy hop accounts. Grey invites the reader in: “Is this news to you? When (if) you have attended or read previous discussions, what was your reaction? What were the reactions of your friends and your community?” Grey is a master of speaking to white readers, asking us to reflect on other people’s lives, and of speaking to Black readers, offering a hand of fellowship. It’s true craftsmanship, as a writer, but also the mark of an empathetic, caring person. This engagement makes me want to read more, and wish I could write like this. Very good stuff.
And if you can do (especially if you’re white), please drop a few bucks on Grey, because he works so hard, and the $$ would mean a lot.
ok, I have a bit more time to write.
==First off. This work will fuck you up.==
I and every other woman I know who’s worked extensively on this topic since 2015 (and before) is massively burnt out, and dealt/dealing with vicarious trauma from this work. Many of us (all of us?) have been subjected to threats of violence, legal action, smear campaigns, and worse. For me, the individual offenders were kind of small potatoes. The most distressing part of this has been the way men in the lindy hop scene actively worked to protect and enable offenders. ENABLE offenders. I have generally found that any man who actively objects to safe space policies is a sexual offender, and any woman who actively objects to safe space policies is a survivor. I wish I was generalising.
==Second. If you want to get into this stuff, plan ahead for trauma.==
You need to find a good therapist to talk to, particularly if you are not a man. Because at some point you’ll really realise, at a visceral level, that all these people who object to kicking out sexual offenders are ok with you (and every other woman and girl) being the victim of violence. And that fucks you up. But the work itself (reading endless accounts of assaults, dealing with the obstructionist arseholes, threats of violence, legal actions, and personal defamation) is just so. hard. You can’t do this alone, friend. Get help.
==Third. We have to be bottom-up, not top-down in our actions.==
I eventually realised that we cannot stop men offending. We can’t change the bigger social forces that train men to believe that it’s ok to sexually assault someone, that their pleasure comes before anyone else’s well being.
So the real solution for stamping out sexual assault in a relatively self contained scene like a dance community, is to power up the sisters and potential victims.
We do need codes of conduct and all the institutional changes (and mad props to Sarah, Michael, Charlie etc in Baltimore for their leadership on this). But these processes don’t change the power structures that enable sexual violence by men against women. It’s still powerful people at the top of a hierarchy managing the bodies of people at the bottom. We need to change this shit.
In Sydney we saw incredible results when a group of Asian women started looking out for each other and getting up in the face of an unrelenting white man who targeted Asian women. They would step in when he approached new women dancers. They’d tell young women and girls not to tolerate his shit. They’d actively him skip in class rotation (even when he tried to physically grab them). They pushed and pushed and pushed to get him banned from things. And so on. A clear result of this was a marked increase in the number of poc at our events, not only women, but _all_ poc, because those offenders aren’t just committing acts of sexual violence. They’re also bullies, racist, etc etc.
Not only do we need to get intersectional on this, but we need to reconstruct the bullshit that convinces women dancers to tolerate sexual harassment and violence. And that is often as simple as having them practice saying ‘no thank you’ to dance invites in class.
==Fourth. Know your local laws, use your local resources==
Laws RE sexual assault and harassment differ between countries. Look up your local laws. There are general human rights type laws, but there are also work place safety laws that apply. Be wary of issues like defamation law. Know your shit before you bring the shit. And that means finding a lawyer who specialises in the relevant laws (not just some rando who ‘is a lawyer’). Be ready to fundraise to cover these expenses.
There are services that can help, so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Legal Aid can offer free legal advice here in Australia, and there is the equivalent in many other countries. Find the websites and help lines. Look up the excellent posters and campaigns that have already been going on in your country.
Get intersectional. This is a big one. The model a lot of us in the lindy hop world (in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ, parts of Europe) use white, middle class, heterosexual gender roles and relationship models for ‘fixing’ this issue. Look further afield.
– How do Black women manage unwelcome sexual attention? What role do older Black women play in moderating men’s behaviour?
– How does the queer scene address sexual violence against trans kids (here’s an answer: https://www.transhub.org.au/unhealthy-relationships)?
-> You can learn from these examples. Do not, ever, generalise from your own experiences, especially if you are straight, white, living in a city, middle class, and English speaking.
==Fifth. Get local, get specific.==
There have been phenomenal projects undertaken all over the lindy hopping world to deal with this issue.
Dance Safe – 댄스세이프 in Seoul is incredible – they’ve done surveys, worked across a massive local scene to join often-unfriendly groups and individuals on board. They distributed literally boxes and boxes and boxes of info pamphlets. They used posters, they got away from gender binaries. It is just incredible. And locally appropriate, from language to age and culture.
Check out the codes of conduct that Tena Morales’ International Swing Dance Championships have. The language is very specific to the Black community of the US, where people speak English, carry guns, and are dealing with racism.
…and so on. Steal ideas from everyone, but make your work locally relevant, and locally appropriate.
==Sixth. Iterative design is the go==
Iterative design basically means that you’re never ‘finished’ with your code of conduct, your reporting process, your activism. Update your code of conduct annually. Learn from other organisations. You will get better and better at this.
==Seventh what are your limits? What is your code?==
Before you do anything else, write down (or record to camera or voice memo) your limits. What will you tolerate? What will you not tolerate?
My personal limits:
– I will not walk past someone who’s being harassed. I will intervene.
– I will risk physical violence for someone else’s safety.
– I will ask annoying questions in public about an event or person who aren’t fulfilling their duty of care.
– I won’t let men touch me if I don’t want it.
– I will not smile and make nice.
– I will walk away from an unpleasant dance.
– I will say ‘no thank you’ to an unwanted dance invite.
– I work to stay aware of my own privilege and power, and I will leverage them to help out people who need it.
Know what your limits are. Be sure of what you will tolerate.
==Eighth and final: this is about gender.==
We know, beyond doubt, and with mountains of substantiating data, that sexual violence in lindy hop is a problem with men. Men are the vast, vast majority of offenders. Women and girls are the victims/targets. We don’t have data for it (yet), but if we extrapolate from the wider community, men are also the targets of men’s sexual violence.
So men need to fix their shit. They need to step in and take ownership of this issue. Because women like me are far too fucking busy fending off groping hands and lewd comments at the mic, in the DJ booth, or on the dance floor to help your sorry arses. Step the fuck up.
A friend posted this the other day, and it pinged my radar.
The ban on nunchucks within the New York city limits was instituted in 1974, the year this song was released:
In this USAToday article discussing the changing of legislation, they write
“The ruling went over the history of the ban, and said it “arose out of a concern that, as a result of the rising popularity ‘of ‘Kung Fu’ movies and shows,′ ‘various circles of the state’s youth’ — including ‘muggers and street gangs’ — were ‘widely’ using nunchaku to cause ‘many serious injuries.’”
And in this New York Times article they write that
“New York lawmakers worried that some young people might be using the device nefariously. “
In 1974 ‘muggers and street gangs’ in New York was code for ‘Black kids’. ‘Kung fu’ films, tv, etc was hugely popular with Black kids (you can read more about that here).
The ‘nunchuck’ ban is interesting because it was clearly targeting this segment of the community in a period of economic freefall and city corruption.
I’m fascinated by this period in American history. There’s a really good documentary called Blank City, which looks at the rise of indy cinema in NY at that moment as well (including Lizzie Borden’s radical feminist film Born In Flames).