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So who is coloured to this woman ? Full colour, half-colour, people of caucasian appearance who self-identify as black ?

Really good question.  I don't know.  But I am pretty sure is she is not stupid enough to think that reality can be neatly categorized in legalistic fashion by mere words or formulas.  And if a white woman comes into her studio and tells her, "I'm black," I think she may be surprised, but open-minded and sophisticated enough to give that woman a sincere listen to see if her experience and outlook would fit the community's.  I am sure she considers each person on a case by case basis, and takes into consideration a range of factors.

Especially when it's a dance form with a tradition (however buried and denied) of male as well as female practitioners.

I'll have to ask her if the form of dance she has adapted did traditionally include male dancers.  If so, I would like to know what she would think of white choreographers/dance groups adapting those dance forms in such a manner as she did to exclude men.  If she did answer as I fear she might, then I would have to agree with your implication that her line of thinking is on the slippery slope to essentialism.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 at 10:35:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The difficulty of assessing if a dance form is gendered is very difficult. Many, many bellydancers, including almost all egyptians, will state categorically that men have never bellydanced.

The fact that it isn't true and the evidence is plainly and easily available shows how often a preferred mythology can trump reality.

Plus, when do you freeze truth and say that is how it should be. Ballet has its origins in a spanish folk dance of the 15th century that was exclusively male. I'm not sure that has any relevance now.

Equally in a world where artistic, cultural and gender boundaries are being challenged it seems perverse in the extreme to declare that some things just are and that we can't tinker at the boundaries.

All in all, I generally find exclusionary principles to be flawed and less rooted in unchallengable reality than those who state them would like to admit. But they do it anyway because it's not a reason, it's an excuse. An excuse for darker inadmissable reasons.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 at 11:33:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The difficulty of assessing if a dance form is gendered is very difficult. <...>

Plus, when do you freeze truth and say that is how it should be.

Again, good points.  Kabuki is currently and for most of its history has been an all-male form of theatre.  However, its founder was a woman and originally women played both male and female parts.  So which is the "real" kabuki?

Equally in a world where artistic, cultural and gender boundaries are being challenged it seems perverse in the extreme to declare that some things just are and that we can't tinker at the boundaries.

As I wrote in my previous comment, I don't think (though I don't know for sure) that she believes racial and cultural boundaries "just are" and goes by some kind of yes-no black-white check-list.  I am sure she considers each case on its own grounds within its own context, and looking at the unique pluses and minuses that each case may bring to the community, aware that no pre-formulated definition or check-list can exhaust the unanticipated possibilities that reality may bring up.  At least, I hope and expect she does.

An excuse for darker inadmissable reasons.

I am unclear as to what you imagine these reasons may be in this particular case.  What is real -- based on what I have seen personally -- is that her dance group provides a very meaningful and fruitful experience, artistically and "personally", for its participants and audience, and the bathwater must be really really dirty in order to justify throwing out the baby (the "women of color" membership requirement) along with it.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 at 05:02:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would call the sex and gender discrimination the dirty "bathwater" and the fruitful experience for participants and audience the "baby". But that's just me.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 at 05:17:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, the situation does not lend itself to the metaphor so neatly.

I think Ananya's position is precisely that you could not have the particular artistic/personal experience she envisions without this community reserved for women of color.  So, if one suspects "darker inadmissable reasons" for such gender and racial discrimination beyond or behind Ananya's professed goals of artistic exploration and commmunal healing, someone please spell out what those suspected reasons are.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 at 05:56:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Simple: she hates men, and she hates whites.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 at 05:44:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sadly I agree, although I might not have written it so bluntly.

If her dance form is a cultural product of India, then she either restricts it to pure ethnic Indo-Asians or she opens it up completely. To claim she has anything in common with africans, hispanics, southern & nothern far-easterners is effectively saying that their similarity is predicated in being in contrast to white people. And that is a essentialist, racist statement.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 at 06:19:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
she either restricts it to pure ethnic Indo-Asians

i think that move would be "essentialist" (if i understand the term correctly) and racist.

as for your second point:  i think her own narrative is that colonialization, imperialism and globalization, primarily and overwhelmingly carried out by white people in recent history, are responsible for theft and abuse against non-white cultures across the world, and that is what she -- as an indian -- has in common with africans, asians, etc.  while historically it may be inaccurate, i am skeptical that it is essentialist or racist.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 at 08:11:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
while historically it may be inaccurate, i am skeptical that it is essentialist or racist.

It's more than inaccurate, it's delusional. The presence of indian, and far-eastern people in the USA has no background in imperialist or colonialist behaviour whilst the presence of African-Americans has an awful lot to do with it.

If she is claiming that, as a coloured person, she can share in the cultural degradation that african-americans have suffered then there is no point in further debate. Somebody so lost in self-serving patronising bullshit cannot be addressed by appeals to evidence or reason.

But to create such a fantasy, well I think that is rooted in issues she has with white people, however socially constructed, both male and female.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 at 08:27:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is far too extreme and binary.  Wanting a space for women of color does not entail hating all white people and all men.

I think it's fair to say that she has serious issues with men and white people.  But that is not the same thing as saying that she hates men and white people.  And it is certainly not the same thing as saying she is racist.  By that logic, every person who spews vitriol against "Anglo-American" this or that is a racist, and that doesn't seem correct.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 at 08:03:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's fair to say that she has serious issues with men and white people.  But that is not the same thing as saying that she hates men and white people.  And it is certainly not the same thing as saying she is racist.  By that logic, every person who spews vitriol against "Anglo-American" this or that is a racist, and that doesn't seem correct.

A combination of hair-splitting and Aunt Sally defence.

My experience with male-preventing dance teachers is that once you've addressed every supposedly real excuse for not allowing men into classes you're left with the great unsayable. As Sherlock Holmes said, "If you exclude all other possibilities, then whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth"

And I am as vitriolic about "Anglo-american" economic and political behaviour as anyone, yet to suggest I am prejudiced against Americans, or British for that matter, is just silly.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 at 08:40:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's one thing to spew vitriol about Anglo-American this or that, and another to say our blogging experience requires excluding Anglo-Americans from participating in the dialogue.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 at 08:41:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And just in case you suspect that such situations don't arise with gender I can assure you that they do.

Michigan women's camp refuses to accept even post-op trans women. A lot of the more essentialist wimmin's organisation have similar reservations.

I actually once hd a bizarre conversation with the organisation of a dance festival as to exactly where the bounds of acceptability for trans men might lie. Transvestite..no
Accepted for transgender treatment but pre-hormonal..no
Pre-op but passing...yes
pre-op but likely to cause comments...no

We were deep in Heydrich territory at that point and I had to quieten my utter outrage because these bigoted fools actually thought they were trying to be fair.

All of which were slightly undermined by my question at the end of asking them how could they know if a woman was really a convincing transvestite. Unless they're willing to have intimate examinations of all delegates they were really hoist by their silly prejudice

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 at 03:09:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the contrary, reading your diary made it clear from the outset that the very same issues come up with gender.  In fact, you put your finger in one of your earlier comments about racial exclusion on a conundrum which I (perhaps oversimplifying) I thought might have a parallel in gender exclusion:

The white woman who self-identifies as black trying to enter a "colored only" group seems to me to pose the same difficult case as the man who self-identifies as female trying to enter a "women only" group.  Here I tread in very unfamiliar territory, and as such may completely be mistaken, but my understanding is that there are people who while physiologically of one sex/gender, feel themselves "deep inside" to actually be of the other gender, to have been "born the wrong sex" so to speak.  (I have to admit, this is based on nothing more than what I have read/seen in popular media, books, movies, documentaries, etc. and as such may be sorely mistaken.)

If there are such men who feel themselves to be women and women who feel themselves to be men, then who are others to exclude saying that they are not who they say they are?  Similarly, if a white person says they are black, or a black person says they are white, who are others to exclude them saying that they are not who they say they are?

This problem is too difficult for me, and though it may be a cop-out in the face of this complexity, I tend to think that these categories -- "male", "female", "black", "white", "latino", "european", "french", "anglo", etc. -- are merely words that have some contextually determined pragmatic value, but do not have any objective or absolute meaning or denotation.  And so, while they are no doubt often very useful, in fact, almost necessary, their meanings must be kept in perspective and context, and understood and "negotiated" on a case by case basis.  I believe Ananya shares this notion of racial and ethnic groups, but I am not sure: unfortunately, we did not discuss this very difficult and important point.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 at 05:31:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but rather than have to sift intentions from misleading and self-serving explanations, wouldn't it be a lot easier if she just did the right thing, and not exclude people on basis of perceived race or gender ?

I think that, given her stated position, the burden of proof that she is NOT racist or sexist must lie with her. Not for us to prove otherwise.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 at 08:44:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So in this case, presume her guilty and put the burden of proof on her to prove she is innocent?

The very fact that we have different views on whether she is racist/sexist (I would not say she is, nor is the conception of her all "women of color" dance group) shows that the burden of proof is on those who would charge her with being racist/sexist.  Not on her to prove that she is not.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jul 25th, 2007 at 09:22:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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