Gilded Serpent presents...
April 25th, 2004, there will be a Pro-Choice march on Washington,
DC, organized by a coalition of groups including the National
Organization for Women, NARAL, The Black Women’s Health
Imperative and Planned Parenthood. DervishSpin
as well as the rest of her troupe Bad Raqsan’e Sahra,
will be forming a delegation called the BellyBus, and
attending the rally. They sent a press release to GS as well as
others asking for dancers to join them in dancing, as their way
of marching, in this protest. We invited Dervishspin to tell us
why we as dancers should join her. More information on the march
is available on Dervishspin's bio page linked to her name above.
aware that this is one viewpoint in a huge issue and it is not
necessarily shared by all on the Gilded Serpent Staff. What's
at stake and why are they marching? Roe vs. Wade and your children's
rights to control their bodies. We also invite you, the reader,
to respond about how personal freedoms and our political climate
affect your life as a dancer.
So I have
been asked, what does a belly dancer know about the Pro-Choice
movement? What can a belly dancer add to the argument that has
not already been hashed over a thousand times?
the fact that I have a womb, and so am automatically more qualified
to have an opinion about this topic than any of the men who signed
the late-term abortion ban into law, there are two things that
I, as an American belly dancer, know well.
things are at the root of the conflict between the Pro-Life
and Pro-Choice movements. These two things are shame and control.
are not generally ashamed of their dance form. Most are proud,
strong dancers. It’s the rest of the world that tries to
hang a sense of shame, like an albatross, around a belly dancer's
neck. We are often asked, isn’t belly dance like stripping?
Did you learn belly dance to seduce men? Aren’t you embarrassed
by dancing half naked?
There is nothing
shameful about dancing.
best intentions, sometimes other people’s sense of shame
makes us get a little defensive. We explain that our art is a
dance of sisterhood, of motherhood, incorporating the movements
for assisting women in difficult pregnancies. We come up with
different names for our art form: Raqs Sharki, American Tribal,
Goddess Dancing, Traditional Middle Eastern… anything to
get away from calling it the perceptibly more tawdry term “belly
needs to stop. Frankly I don’t care what we call our
dance - I’ll still dance it whatever it’s called
- but when we give in to others' sense of shame we give them
a portion of our power. When we change our actions or our
names because of what they think, they win. They control the
Just as it
is wrong of us to validate someone else’s sense of shame
by reacting to it, so it is wrong of women to allow the radical
right to foist their sense of shame off on us when we choose to
make the difficult decision to have an abortion. There is no shame
in controlling our own reproduction. There is no shame in having
sex. There is no shame in dealing with the repercussions of sex.
Having mature, consensual sex is not wrong, and consciously choosing
how and when to reproduce is not wrong. And I will not and you
should not and the Pro-Choice movement should not accept shame
for making the choices some other segment of the population would
not actively make for themselves. Just because our choices are
different from theirs does not mean we are harlots. It does not
mean we are murderers. It does not mean that our morals are in
tatters. This is not a moral question for each woman who considerers
whether or not to have an abortion - it is an intensely practical
one. To allow the Pro-Life movement to frame this as an action
that is inherently shameful is to allow them to control the discussion.
belly dancer must have control over her own body. She must have
control over what goes into her body, what food and water fuels
her movements. She must have control of her dance moves - her
shimmies must be regular and rhythmic, her hip drops must be crisp,
her undulations smooth and liquid. A dancer must know her body
intimately, must listen to it and work with its limitations; she
must practice weekly or daily in the pursuit of perfection.
are few people who know what control is the way a dancer does.
is why a dancer can so easily level a finger at the Pro-Life movement
and claim, “control freak!” The Pro-Life willingness
to ban certain medical procedures, to count the unborn as more
valuable than the woman who carries it, to tell us what we can
and can not do to and with our own bodies - all this comes from
a need to control.
a dancer to be what she is, to dance, she must be free. For
a woman to be a full and equal member of our society she must
be free to make her own choices about what is best for her.
to control a dancer’s body are attempts to control the dance.
Attempts to control what a woman can and cannot do to her own
body are attempts to control a woman’s life.
believe me? Legislation has recently been passed to ban a medical
procedure called a D&E, what those with no medical training
call a “partial-birth abortion”. After its passage
the Attorney General attempted to force hospitals and clinics
to turn over thousands of abortion records to help him enforce
the new law.
confidentiality and control over our records goes out the
window. It starts here.
Some of the
people who supported this ban are Joseph Scheidler of the Pro-life
Action League and Randall Terry of Operation Rescue. Scheidler
once said “I would like to outlaw contraception…contraception
is disgusting…” Terry has been quoted as saying “I
don’t think Christians should use birth control. You consummate
your marriage as often as you like – and if you have babies,
you have babies.” You can see where this is going. If it
starts with one form of control for women, it will extend to others.
Women who are busy being pregnant and occupied with child rearing
are no longer free to meddle in the affairs of the men-folk. Are
no longer free to dance as they will.
if you are on the other side of the fence on the abortion issue,
even if you would never have an abortion yourself, to deny the
ability to choose to your sisters, to passively watch our options
become more limited is to hold our decisions and our ability to
take care of our bodies as less valuable than your own.
This is why
belly dancers, women, people who value the freedom that a woman
has in our society, must take this time to stand up and claim
their rights. They must join us in the dance.
a dancer whose body is controlled is not a dancer, she is
a puppet. And although there are people in our society who
will be more than pleased for women to go back to being the
puppets, I, for one, will be a dancer.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
by Majida Anwar
My aunt was coming! I knew there was going to be dancing, and
I could feel the butterflies just flying into in my stomach!
Rakkasah West Festival Photo Teaser
March 2004, Richmond, California
by GS Volunteers including: Biram, Clare, Cynthia, Krista, Lynette,
Sandra, Valentino, Yasmine and probably more! Let us know if you
Part 2 of Photos
by Ram, the Featured Stars, Aida
Nour & Magdy El-Leisy, and Wafaa
Dallas, Texas, January
9-11, 2004, sponsored
by Little Egypt
Zaharr's Memoir, Part
8 Early Street Performing by Zaharr A. Hayatti
actually threw money in our hat!