Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is Gender Still an Issue in Belly Dance?

It's a dance class, not a bathroom.

I wonder how many guys read this? Lots, I hope! I think men should always be welcome in the world of belly dance - it's too good to keep to ourselves; don't you think so too? Have you run into the "keep men out" trend in your belly dance community? If so, don't feed into this beastly mentality.

In The Beginning

The early modern era of American belly dance (the 1960's and '70's) coincided with the social upheaval of the counter-culture movement, as well as civil rights protests, and "women's liberation". Women's groups or circles were quite popular; they were part of consciousness-raising efforts of the feminist movement; as women tried to find their authenticity. Perhaps because of this separatist trend, sometimes men were not allowed into belly dance class. That is, they weren't allowed to TAKE class.
My imagination runs away thinking of the implications: did they actually check people at the door, or could men sneak into class in drag? Was gender certification on the honor system, or did it require a doctor's note? Yes, these scenarios are improbable, but they show the silliness of excluding somone based on gender.

Discrimination is SO Not Cool

It's true there are more male dancers now, I love seeing them on social media and YouTube.* But I also see a resurgence of the "women only" trend. I'd hate to see that mentality prevail in dance class again - even to cater to someone's religious beliefs, let alone because someone says having only women in class feels "safer" or more comfortable. We're not talking about bathrooms, we're talking about dance class! Now that we're discovering how fluid gender identification can be, doesn't discriminating against someone based on body parts or hormones seem - at the least - morally questionable?
And at this point, how many professional bellydance teachers haven't taken a class from a man? So let's stop the hypocrisy!
I believe women can feel feminine, strong, empowered, and whole even in the company of men. Do you agree, or do you feel that you have to separate yourself and shut the door to men in order to feel this way?
I hope no one is ever again turned away or made to feel unwelcome in class because of gender. It's ironic that I planned to write about this years ago; I thought this issue would've played itself out by now and that we would've moved past this. My heart goes out to anyone who can't attend a belly dance class or event because they have the "the wrong equipment". Discrimination is not only ridiculous, it's unfair - let's move into wholeness TOGETHER.
(adapted from my column in Zaghareet! Magazine, May/June 2015)
*On a happy note, my Pinterest board of "Male Bellydancers" is very popular!
screenshot of pinterest board
We love our male dancers!

Yours in dance,
Anthea "Kawakib"
- end of post - 


  1. Yes. It still happens. The justification that I get is "these women are damaged by men, and don't want a man around because they feel threatened. They won't open up if a man is around."

    When I go to a class, I am there to dance. I don't know what it is I am supposedly doing that they think I am paying attention to anyone other than the teacher. Other than a polite "hello" when I come into the class, I'm not there for them.

    1. I'm sorry for that. I'm sad to see the "woman space" thing is kind of trendy now, a la Red Tent. Now if it were a REAL red tent that's different, but if it's just a hip new kind of "girl's night", then No.