Monday, December 1, 2008

I am currently taking a women’s self-defense class with other members of FIA-STARSA. So far we’ve only had one lesson, and it was interesting. This one was focused on the mind, so we did less physical stuff and more mental. We made three lists, one of behaviors that are annoying, one of behaviors that are dangerous, and one of life-threatening. Included in the “annoying” category were whistles and catcalls, unwanted conversation, being called “baby” or “honey,” and stares. The “dangerous” list was comprised of things like being locked in a car, being alone with a strange man, being drunk and vulnerable, and unwanted physical contact. The “life-threatening” list includes violence, coercion via weapons or drugs, and being chased. We talked about how quickly something can go from annoying to dangerous or life-threatening, and how all of these actions are tied together. Some of the “annoying” behaviors are so embedded in our society that they would be difficult to challenge.
This made me think about something that I spend a lot of time thinking about: the line between careful and paranoid. People close to me have been raped, so I know the very real danger, which makes me more cautious. But, I also know that sometimes I can be more paranoid. It’s bullshit that women even have to be careful. I was talking to one of my male friends, and he said something to the effect of “sometimes I’m scared when I’m alone by myself at night, but then I realize I’m not a girl, and nothing will probably happen to me.” I might over-think certain situations, but whenever I am out in the world at all I am almost always aware of my surroundings and the people around me. I am wary of a parked car with its lights on, and get nervous if a guy is walking behind me. How can I, as a feminist, be strong and confident and independent when I prefer to walk with a guy at night? How can we change this societal norm that makes women the constant paranoid victim and men in control on busses and streets?

Macalester Dance performance

Last weekend the Macalester Theatre and Dance department put on their winter performance. Included in the program was a dance where about 30 people were all naked. I had heard about this dance before, and was thinking about taking part in it, but the time commitment ended up being too great. But, I still didn’t really know what exactly to expect. I was wildly impressed, and I thought the whole thing was incredibly well-done. They managed to not make it a sexual thing at all, which is almost never seen in today’s society, unless it is the grotesque. Especially considering that the majority of the dancers were girls, and all of them attractive, it was wonderfully refreshing. It was refreshing because nudity has an interesting place in our society. Historically it has been inappropriate and shameful, and although now that is changing, almost the only time we see nudity is when it is tied to sex. We are surrounded by partial nudity that is almost always sexualized, in advertisements, movies, and television especially. This nudity was not sexualized at all, it simply was.
I think part of why the dance was so powerful was because it was so blatant. If it had been people wearing skimpy outfits it would have sent a totally different message. They were bold in a very frank, open way. They danced onstage, punctuating the dance with statements like “would you be able to do this?” and other statements emphasizing the fact that the body is only a part of a whole person. They also came down into the audience and walked around shaking hands and introducing them to people, demonstrating how they are more than their body, they are also a person. So often in our society bodies, especially female bodies, are objectified so much that they have become their bodies in many situations, and are often portrayed only as sexual beings. This dance showed that nudity does not have to be sexualized, and our bodies are only a part of ourselves, and should be accepted, but not dwelt upon.