Bearing weight and baring my teeth.
I consider myself lucky. I was raised in a household where weight wasn’t an issue. My parents never commented on my size, and they always put great emphasis on self-esteem, positive body image, and self-respect. I am also lucky because I am naturally petite. I am, by far, not a skinny skinny girl, but I am mostly happy with my size, and many others refer to me as being “tiny”.
Herein lies the issue.
What does it mean that I, at 5’2″ and 130 pounds, am getting comments on my performance videos that I “look like [I’ve] had a baby”, or that someone on a popular bellydance forum suggested that I am a “larger” dancer? I am secure enough in my own self-image that I’m only mildly offended by these comments, but the implications of the comments really bother me.
Why is it that if someone is 5’2″ and 130 pounds that she is considered “larger”? Seriously. What is wrong with our own self-image as women when a we see little belly jiggle in a fellow dancer and consider her, for lack of a better term, “fat”? As I sit here in my Size Small shirt and my Size 6 Short jeans, I wonder, how damaged are we as a gender? And when will we stop projecting our warped view of the women’s bodies on our peers, teachers, and mentors? No WONDER there is an epidemic of skewed and negative self-image among women in this country (I’m in the United States, so international readers might have a different perspective).
On one hand, I am appalled. I am appalled that I am considered “large”. I am not large. I know I am not conventionally skinny, but I am not large. And if you think that I am large, then I seriously suggest that you re-evaluate your perception of the female form.
On the other hand… if I am considered to be a “larger” and still internationally-known performer and instructor, maybe that can inspire my fellow dancers, give them hope that you don’t have to be 100 pounds or less to be a success. For some reason, some dancers see me as some anomaly, the “normal”-sized dancer who made it big. Frankly, I never even considered this concept to be unusual at all. I dance, and I want to dance well. I teach, and I want to teach well. Isn’t that what matters?
I am hardly a scholar of women’s studies, so I understand that this topic runs deep… but if you ever looked at me, or any other dancer and thought, “she’s larger…”, please catch yourself, reflect on your reaction, and ask yourself, “why do I think this, and [more importantly], why do I care, and how is this perception affecting my like or dislike of this dancer?”
And with that I leave you a video of Miasia, a dancer who will rock your socks off…. and who does happen to be larger. And I don’t care, because my jaw is on the floor every time I see her dance. Watch and let your body-image issues melt away….