I had the pleasure of attending a diversity show at a local high school where my daughter was part of a dance act. The first performance of the night was a big band with belly dancers. When the women came on stage I couldn’t help noticing that their bellies were not flat. Indeed, they laid bare their jiggly bits and stretch marks. Needless to say, I was in awe.
The thing is, if you have an “imperfect” body, it’s not easy to step out in any outfit that brings attention to the “problem” areas. Society has deemed a certain body type as the only one deserving to be exposed and ogled. So, for these women to expose their midsection, in front of over a 100 folk, was brave.
Unfortunately, most of us shudder at the possibility of such an act; preferring to hope and wait for when our bodies are just right for us to wear that dress, that bikini, those pants. In a sense, life and it’s valuable experiences pass us by as we wait on a moment that may never arrive. There is much to admire about women who may possibly not like the way their bodies look most of the time but still chose to do the thing they devoted their time and energy to, I wasn’t just watching women belly dancing and doing it well too; these women were in the arena, daring greatly (thank you Brené Brown). There is so much to our human experience that can be lost if our attention is limited to the exterior part of our being.
“It is not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.”
– Warsan Shire
With us having just celebrated International Women’s Day, it was great to witness a moment like this. What makes women beautiful is so commercialized that most of us cannot look in the mirror and confidently say we like what we see. Just weeks earlier, a photo of Aamito Lagum on MAC’s Instagram garnered some very racist and negative remarks. It’s like we’ve become one dimensional, choosing only to see things that fit this predetermined notion of beauty. Most of us do not fit these dimensions and struggle to contort and reshape ourselves to meet them.
Faced with this potential judgement of who we are based on how we look, it is not surprising that our authentic selves remain hidden from the world. Who wants to put themselves out there when there’s trolls and “well meaning” friends and family with opinions to share? Having had a moment to reflect on this, it wasn’t lost on me that I am probably that friend or family member that offers unwarranted advice and opinions. It takes a concerted effort on our part to be aware of how we speak to others and what we project out in nuances.
It is a difficult thing to ignore an instance that doesn’t live up to social norms. There is a need in us to address it and impose our egos; that includes an opinion which sometimes fails to acknowledge the strength and bravity it takes to own who we are. We’re all on a journey and that woman and her jiggly bits might be feeling great after dropping a dress size and what we say can either serve to inspire or demotivate her. We all know what energy we would prefer to receive.
And to those women who with likely fear, still danced with beauty and grace, thank you for showing me that which I am relearning.
“There’s more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.”
– Audrey Hepburn