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Dallas Observer’s Recent Belly Dance Ruckus

Finger Symbol

by Jasmine June
posted August 18, 2011

Did you know that Belly dancing leads to masturbation? Neither did I. Yet, according to journalist Nikki Lott of the Dallas Observer, that’s a result of Belly dancing. In an article posted earlier in the Dallas Observer, Lott referred to the upcoming Belly dance convention in Grapevine, Texas, Yaa Halla Y’all, as a “Flicking Your Bean” seminar! (For those of you don’t know, that vile phrase is slang, meaning female masturbation.) Lott also encouraged women to decorate their vaginas (since women are going to all that trouble to bare their midriffs anyway) and started the article with the command: “Vajazzle your Jazzler”. You can read the full article here.

After a major unexpected backlash from the Belly dance community, the Dallas Observer pulled the article and replaced it with a cleaner, more condescending version. However, in explaining the update, the paper issued a weak apology at best and then caused further harm by accusing the Belly dance community of causing a “ruckus”. Sorry, Dallas Observer, but it’s the other way around; the poorly written and offensive article caused the ruckus. What the Belly dance community created was a powerful backlash.

The silver lining in all this is witnessing the wrath of Belly dancers scorned.

Certainly, Belly dancers world-wide ought to feel proud of the wit and intellect present in the dancers’ responses. For example, in Ozma’s Costumes Facebook note, the writer offers an apt description of how Lott’s article would read if applied to a more masculine art form, reading like this:

“Drop your cocks and grab your socks, fencing is coming to the Media Convention center and, let’s face it, we’re bored this summer. Now, I don’t know if the saber or lance or whatever is a symbol of phallic inadequacy for all fencers, and there is no reason to stop masturbating on my account, but it seems like there is something fairly Freudian about the whole thing…”

screenshot of offending articleThe note continues on in a witty fashion while simultaneously defending the integrity of the dance.

The Dallas Observer Facebook page is filled with hundreds of comments from Belly dancers, producers, and Belly dance fans. These comments come from all over the world, from as far away as the Philippines. While anger can be felt throughout the posts, most of the commentators made succinct and insightful points.

In fact, the hundreds of comments now make the Dallas Observer Facebook page a convenient source for all that is Belly dance. Culture, origins, history, costumes, health benefits, and other useful subjects are all mentioned and thoroughly described.

Dancers posted pictures of non-midriff baring costumes and videos of elegant performances. Other dancers explained the years of training involved in becoming a professional Belly dancer and the importance of treating the dance with respect. The wide array of Belly dance styles was clearly showcased, and yet, the force of the backlash showed that we are a united community, speaking with many voices and one voice at the same time.

In her blog, writer and dancer, Dilara Sultan, writes, “If anything, we can rest assured that when it matters, Belly dancers will take the stand to defend their art, proving to anyone that the last person you want to mess with is a Belly dancer.” Nevertheless, I think that Princess Farhana sums it up best with her version of a “finger symbol”.

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  1. Maura Enright

    Aug 18, 2011 - 03:08:38

    I don’t agree with Cabanaw’s first few sentences, although I can see how the original article’s opening paragraphs could be ambiguous. I interpret the writer as saying that anything taking place at the convention center is worth attending, even IF it is something rather-vile-but-not bellydance. Cabanaw interprets it as ‘leading to masturbation.’ 

    “Vajazzle your jazzler, belly dancing is coming to the Grapevine Convention Center, and let’s face it, anything that takes place at a convention center is worth attending. (Even if it’s a Flicking Your Bean seminar.) Now I know you don’t actually show your vagina during belly dancing and there’s no real reason to get it all dolled up, but it seems like you’d want to do something special if you’re going to go to the trouble of baring your midriff and sharpening your zill skills. ” 

    Anyway, it was a new low in my life and I’m still rattled, hard for me to be gleeful just yet. Cheers!

  2. Grae Lynn

    Aug 18, 2011 - 03:08:41

    I’m a belly-dancer myself, and I am semi-offended, but I also think it’s more than a little hilarious. The conclusions people jump to will never cease to amaze me.
    That said, even if belly-dancing did lead to masturbation, my impulse response is still, “So?” And you have to wonder, what made them conclude that belly-dance = masturbation? Sounds a little self-condemning to me.

  3. Ozma

    Aug 18, 2011 - 07:08:48

    Before anyone else posts on the Dallas Observer facebook page I would urge the reading of these two comment threads to know the latest status and some input from one of the editors, who has been trying to reach out to us in many ways and with whom I have enjoyed a compassionate private-message exchange.
    Writer apologizes to local dancer:
    Editor addresses how the oversaw the re-write and making amends:

  4. Ozma

    Aug 18, 2011 - 07:08:18

    The above comment has some format issues, sorry.

  5. Ozma

    Aug 18, 2011 - 07:08:31

    The second link should be (preceeded with triple w dot facebook dot com)

  6. Barbara Grant

    Aug 18, 2011 - 09:08:15

    Reading the original article by Nikki Lott, it seems to me that she was trying to promote the Y’Halla event, however clueless she appears about our dance form. (For goodness sakes, she couldn’t even spell “cymbals” properly!)
    This writer even referred to  “hip shakers”–which is likely to be an offensive term to artists who’ve worked for years to perfect their performances.  We work so gosh-darned hard for every bit of ground we gain!
    Yet, part of what I take away from this is the importance of our community to educate, before we condemn.  Why not get this writer together with the sponsors of the event, and provide her a ringside seat? Let her see that this dance is not about the vulgarims she’s written about in her article.
    I remember a story Rhea told me many years ago…she’d read an unflattering article about belly dancing in a local Bay Area magazine, and then visited the author, in costume, to provide a performance. According to what she told me, the writer then changed his story, and published it. The same can be hoped for here.

  7. Ozma

    Aug 18, 2011 - 11:08:41

    The Dallas Observer, due to this debacle, sent a reporter to the event. He spent the day attending/observing seminars, including those by Karim Nagi, Mia Sha’uri, and Neena & Veena, and attended the competition and the professional showcase in the evening

    To my knowledge here is no space to review events in the (weekly?) print paper but coverage will go on-line.

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