Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Our first Ballroom class

I decided to blog about starting ballroom dancing. Maybe I can encourage others to join us. We decided to take ballroom classes for a variety of reasons, I can’t speak for J, but for myself the idea of being able to dance with my boyfriend and know a set of rules that would mean we had legitimacy on a dance floor was pretty appealing.  I used to dance, a lot, shamelessly, and with joy. I did jazz, and ballroom, and ceroc, and musical theatre. I wasn’t wonderful at any of them, but I was ok, and entirely brazen. And then I had an injury and got fat and my world changed. Doing hilarious dance moves badly seemed to have a different response from the world around me. It wasn’t socially acceptable anymore, it was sad clowning. People described my ceroc as “brave” and I got sick of it and left.
movies dance dancing happy charlies angels
My partner is also big, and the two of us have our own issues about our visibility in the world. We don’t talk about the negative stuff, just the positive, keep our attitudes good, and support each other to be ourselves. But the insecurities show in the cracks.  My theory was that if we follow the rules and do the moves well, we DESERVE the dance floor. We will be allowed to take up space. It’s the stupidest thing I have ever typed, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the negative thoughts that occur even from someone actively promoting HAES and body positivity. And it makes me sad. So when I do get out there I am going to do it with flair, I’m going to stay and do some stupid moves. I’m gonna own that space once I get it back.
Because I never should have given it up in the first place.

Our first class was SCARY. I knew the moves, but my body doesn’t move like it used to, and due to med side effects spinning makes me terribly dizzy. J looked a little like I had just put him on a plane to skydive without his permission. Taking the leap to try something new is scary enough, but to try it when you aren’t even sure you will be able to do it is a whole other level of bravery. I am in awe of him. And if you want to check that you are in a loving supportive trusting relationship; go to a dance class together. You both feel so vulnerable it’s a great time to let each other down, or lash out. And when you don’t? Well that’s pretty damn cool.
As for the class, the teachers were FAB. Jeremy would quietly eye up the dancers when he wasn’t showing us the moves, and in the next segment he would highlight a new tip to fix an issue he had noted, and one more person would get it. And he just kept going. No frustration, no focus on any particular person, just patient examples and exercises to help us correct our own mistakes.  “Stomp this footwork this time; that way you will absolutely feel those correct weight changes of your feet… LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT STOMP STOMP STOMP.” It was ridiculous and fun, and the room full of flustered adults laughed at themselves and godzilla’d their way through the fox trot routine.

Not surprisingly we were awkward and wrong footed, and I kept getting distracted with whether J was ok, and missing my own instructions. And then with a bit of practice and someone literally yelling LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT at us, there was a click and we were DANCING. TOGETHER. I knew it would be tricky, but I hadn’t realised the excitement that would flood across me, appreciating that we were actually doing it, within 30 minutes of our first class. I just kept grinning at him “We are DANCING”.
It all seemed worth it, once that click happened.

For those of you who have come to this page because you have googled “WTF do I do at my first dance class”… here are some first week lessons I have learnt.
Tips from a person who has been to ONE class.

It doesn’t seem to matter what you wear at first, so wear what you feel comfy in. I wore jeans that I could move easily in, and a shirt long enough that my tummy doesn’t show if I raise my hands up. My shoes were a pair of comfy boots with a low heel and smoothish sole. At a beginner level your shoes will make bugger all difference, but wear something supportive and comfy, and perhaps with a bit of protection for your feet?

Deodorize, I mean, REALLY. Imagine you are going to work out at the gym and then have to hug all the people there. Take deodorant with you. Take a towel. Take a spare shirt if you like. I got super sweaty.  

Take a water bottle. I got so hot and anxious that my throat felt dry and I was really glad to have water right there. Also, the combo of anxiety sweat and actual heat will mean you will need to rehydrate.

Do what you can to not be smelly – brush your teeth, take mints. …and fart beforehand. The last piece of advice is from J who charmingly informed me he had taken that into account. Cheers buddy, way to make it romantic.

If you have long hair, pull it back. Your hands are both in use dancing. If you are constantly letting go to push hair out of your eyes it will be a pain for you, and terribly distracting for the poor schmuck dancing with you. Remember in a beginner class BOTH people are beginners, and you don’t want to put your partner off.

Don’t wear a sleeveless/backless top/dress. No one wants to touch your sweaty shoulder or back. At least not until class is over. Bare skin is cool for when you are dancing for fun, or with someone who knows you, not when you are rotating through a room full of hot anxious strangers who all have to touch you. I have weird things about touching strangers, and it might just be me, but keep it in mind anyway.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The chubby canary in a feminist mine

Most people have heard the ‘canary in the mine” thing, but I’m just going to quickly explain.  Back in the days before electronic testing, miners would carry a caged canary in the mine with them. If carbon monoxide built up then the canary would die before the man, and give him a heads up to get out of there a.s.a.p. So yeah, the canary was handy, but it got the rough end of the deal.
With all of this discussion of safe and unsafe male allies of feminism (or self-proclaimed feminists), I was interested to notice that several key figures were already not followed by myself and some friends. The news that someone had said something silly was met with “of course” eye rolls. Most of us had un-followed well before any safety issues, or arguments, simply because we hadn’t liked something they tweeted.
None of us could remember why we had un-followed, it was no major issue or insult, and none of us had interacted, we had simply quietly lost them off our feed.
Interestingly we are all body positive, larger sized women, older women, or trans.
I suspect that if you want to know who the effective allies are, look around you at the feminists on your feed that don’t fit the young, slim and cis bill, check who THEY are still following. I get the sinking feeling we may be the chubby canaries of feminism.
We might have a limit for what we won’t cope with that doesn’t bother other people  in the slightest.
But fat shaming isn’t actually that far from victim blaming. Feminism that doesn’t include trans women is a good marker of feminists or allies that don’t try to learn about issues that don’t directly affect them. Ignoring the voices of older feminists or those you find less attractive, is a pretty good indicator that you have unrecognized biases that need to be examined.
In short, it’s an easy fight saying that hitting women is bad, and women should be treated like human beings. As long as you stick to that line, only real jerks would openly debate, and they are fun to kick. It’s not exactly a high bar. I know this because I do it myself, and it’s the easiest part of being a feminist.
And when it comes to pointing this out, most canaries frankly, can’t be bothered. Let the young, pretty, healthy, cisgender, energetic feminists negotiate with the media savvy likable allies who think we are gagging for their help. I can’t be bothered. I have enough battles with people who are overtly unsafe to bother taking on someone who half the feminist community will back up.
It’s not worth the effort, the exclusion and the stress.
Because when you are a “good guy” you can go a long way towards behaving like a crap one, before anyone gets any support to call you out.
Most people are LOVELY people. Most people are loved. Most people in feminism do active work in an important area to help. This isn’t SPECIAL. This isn’t unique. And it isn’t an excuse for degrading women who don’t fit your rules or specifications to be valued or using slurs against women.
So if someone you love is awesome and working hard, and doing good work, and they screw up. Have a quiet word, remind them that we are only as good as our last action, and for gods sakes, resist the urge to shit on the person brave enough to call them out.
Ignoring the canary doesn’t end well for anyone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Unsuccessful IRL…

Keyboard warriors… people with nothing better to do… SJWs, unsuccessful IRL… not helping in the REAL world…
I quit one of my volunteer roles last week and cried hard about it. I will miss the people I work with, the fun we have, and the identity I held as a volunteer for that organisation. But one of the strangest reasons my volunteer work is important to me, is that as a feminist online the above phrases are used to undermine my comments. I am particularly sensitive to the idea of “simply bickering online” rather than getting out there and “really making a difference”. Frankly, it gets to me.
This is bizarre, because during the day I literally save lives, and since I was 16, I have always had a volunteer job as well as my paid role. I have no reason to feel vulnerable to any accusation of lack of action, and yet it gets to me.  Congrats Jerks.
In the future I may not always be well enough to do a paid job, let alone additional work on top of that. My wellness may deteriorate and I may be stuck at home, “just” online.
And to that I say THAT IS GOOD ENOUGH.
In fact, it’s not only good enough, the communication of equality, equity, fairness, and justice to your community is PIVOTAL. Without good marketing, the best brands fail, and we need a good comms team for the decency of humanity. The other side may not have particularly good communication, but they make up for it in the sheer amount of filth they spew onto the net each day.
When we look at the Violence pyramid above, far fewer people are actually assaulting and physical hurting people than there are making horrible jokes, degrading other people and using problematic language to perpetuate issues. So for every person out there literally saving lives, we need 100 at home explaining to Uncle Jack that his emails are gross and offensive and no one wants them. 50 people need to be online showing their friends that they CAN speak up to racist FB posts. 20 people should be on twitter, expecting more of allies, and speaking up for people being harassed and abused. 5 need to be brave enough at work to ask a colleague to explain how that offensive joke was funny.
The people working at the public face of activism are pivotal, they are important, and even if that IS all they do, it is of value.
To expect more of anyone is rude. It is ableist and objectionable. Most people have lives, families, jobs and health to take care of. The fact any of us have time for this, which we can do from bed, is an unpaid miracle and yes, we have things we would rather be doing!
So next time someone uses “they have nothing else in their lives” or “not really helping” as a critique –think twice about supporting them.