Fanoos Magazine reached out to body image coaches and mental health counselors to inquire: why is there an increase in negativity towards dancers on social media recently? 1.Why do you believe there has been an increase in public body shaming towards women on social media? The pandemic sent a lot of people to social media. Being locked up, boredom, and the need to feel connected had people scrolling more than ever. It gave the “shamers” more time and space to express themselves than ever before. It has never been easier to hide behind a screen, and shame, sadly. 2. What is the relationship between dance and thinness? The relationship between dance and thinness has become a misnomer. There are 2 other relationships playing out. The relationship between dance and competition is more at the foundation of the issue. Dance did not start as competitive. Once we started comparing a dancer to a standard (and of course the standards are influenced by the past, meaning, once a dancer entered the space and was aesthetically pleasing in all forms-physical, technique and artistry- the power that sets the standards-which is usually the majority- takes the influence of what “could” be done from the past, and locks this mindset in) that became the driving force of thinness. Why? As the standards rose in technique and artistry, requiring more physically demanding performances of the dancer, the other relationship was born, the relationship between dance and fitness. To execute a performance to reach these idealized standards, to “win” a competition, it requires vigorous physical training. Vigorous physical training, often but of course not always, shapes and changes a body, more often than not, into “thinness.” There are serious competitive dancers that will not just dance their body into shape, often they cross train to support the capability of their body to perform a physically demanding choreography that appears effortless. The issue is this-many dancers believe they are competing. Many are only competing in their mind, but that is a difficult place to compete in. As said, it became a mindset. I like how we are now starting to compete with mainstream mindsets and standards, to change them. I've seen bodies of all sizes dance with precision, artistry and technique. Weight doesn't just come in the physical, it comes as emotional. The dancers who have become emotionally free are able to perform no matter what size they are. 3. What is the dichotomy of body shaming as it concerns cis hetero men towards cis hetero women vs any other dynamic? Privilege. The patriarchal system. From the dawn of time the stories we were told through the lens of culture, religion, and tradition-the men had the power. The God is in Heaven and often viewed as masculine. The first followers, prophets: masculine. The biology of furthering the human race (or a religion, culture, mindset, belief system) with biological reproduction requires the two parts. Masculine and feminine. And now we are talking about evolution, so talking grand scale, not just the physical biology, but metaphoric reproduction on all levels. So when I say the masculine and feminine, I mean that as an energy, not a biological physical part. The downfall? The abuse of that power. The abuse of that power was aimed at the feminine. And because it’s simply an energy now, it’s that privilege-the part holding the cis hertro man’s belief that he holds the key to reproduce-either from the direct interaction with God, or the sperm he holds in his body, aims that power over the entire feminine energy-that includes but yet is not limited to cis hereto women. Any other dynamic has removed this key holding and the mindset and belief system around it. This disorients the abusive power of the privilege of the cis-hetero man, which further alienates the other dynamic from the cis-hetero. Do not misunderstand, there is still privilege the cis hetero can hold over the other dynamics, but since he is disoriented, the abuse can be expressed very differently. 4. What should a Dancer do when commentary happens? There is no one answer for that. It depends on the dancer. It depends on the needs and desires of the dancer. It depends on their history and future of the dancer. Should is not a word that is being used correctly here, because should implies there is an energy outside of the dancer that knows better. Only the dancer knows what is right for their journey. Sometimes going head to head with abusive power is the way, sometimes shutting it out is the way, sometimes educating it is the way, sometimes interacting and dialoguing with it is the way. It depends on the dancer. It also depends on the abuser, which is an important consideration. The real question here is what could a dancer do? I’ve offered only some of my solutions, but I’d have to be working with the dancer directly, and the context of the assault and commentary to have a more detailed idea about what action will serve the dancer best. It’s very understandable there would be a consensus to talk back to the commentary. This could be the best option, but not always. It can derail the dancer. The dancer must be conscious of what they’re desiring, is it a conversation and space they really want to enter? There is NO SHAME in a dancer not wanting to dialogue with the commentary, especially if his or her energy is directly engaged in another focus that is important or meaningful for them in that time, for where they are at the moment. 5. How does a Dancer handle the fear and nervousness about posting online? I feel the tenderness of this question. In a perfect world, there is a mindset “our vibe attracts our tribe,” I have seen this happen. More often than not, our content attracts the people who like our content, but there can be a troll or hater that shows up, even if not aimed directly at the dancer-simply witnessing an assault itself can be traumatizing. I say go at your own pace, build the support behind you offline if need be first, learn about confrontation-not only thinking about the feelings of directly engaging with a bully, but also confronting your own fear or sorrow or disappointment when an outside voice expresses hate. Practice feeling it until it can no longer disempower you. Practice feeling it, call your support system with that feeling, and let your support system talk back to the disempowerment. Let the support help reenergize yourself to keep going and showing up online. 6. What steps could a Dancer take to feel more body confident? First and foremost, learn about the body itself. Human anatomy, physiology and biology. If a dancer really learns about how the body functions (which is inclusive of mind, body, emotions and spirit) it’s impossible to judge it or feel like it is betraying you. Learning about the body tells the owner of the body that it is their most valuable, highly tuned, functioning instrument that holds incredible wisdom. If none of that is the belief of the dancer, the dancer needs education. Bodies don’t betray us. I started belly dancing at 260 pounds and did not feel confident in my body. I just had my second child. Moving itself was hard for me, I did not have endurance or coordination. I lost 110 pounds naturally through diet and exercise. I’m going to admit I felt more confident as the weight dropped. Body positivity and disease can’t fight each other. Body positivity actually means someone will confront misaligned behaviors that diminish the health of the body. Weight loss is not to be shamed. I don’t mean that means everyone needs to lose weight. Yet weight loss COULD be what addresses disease in the body. It is NOT the only action that addresses disease in the body, many others do; however, I want to make it clear that body positivity is not to be used as a bypass coping mechanism for ill health. Remember, this is coming from someone who not only lost 110 pounds, but had 12 different diagnoses of chronic disease in my life. I hold the unapologetic opinion that we can heal. I’ve done it 12 times over. I’m NOT saying it isn’t difficult, and challenges our core beliefs in the most profound painful way. To feel more body confident, allow what has become you to be in relationship to what you desire. Are they aligned? If not, a change needs to be made. Only truth builds confidence. A dancer standing in their honest truth can’t be made to feel unconfident. Doing the best one can to care for their body will increase confidence. The honest truth otherwise hurts when one is not doing their best. Doing one’s best no matter what size it lands as, has been the secret elixir and radiance glow I’ve witnessed in dancers. It’s not about a size, it’s about doing your best. 7. What are the possible effects that can occur from regular body shaming caused by the need to post online to advertise yourself and your business? Re-traumatizing at every single post. It’s awful. See, shame is a view expressed by the outside. That outer expression can become a voice that lives inside of us. It can speak softly, as the need to check and check and check your content and hesitate before posting every single time, or it can speak violently, that stops a person from posting at all. It might be better in a way of it speaking violently, in that it becomes obvious there is a voice stopping a dancer, and usually the obvious can be addressed. The more difficult part is when it speaks softly, and does not stop the dancer from posting, even though they feel shame. While this is often celebrated, feel the fear and do it anyway, what is not addressed then is the constant state of fear and the effects it has on our body. Fear is a physical manifestation in our body. Fear has neurotransmitters, actually chemistry. So we can live our lives and do what we need to do, yet from this altered state of being. Regular body shaming has enough power in micro doses, day after day, to ruin our health and business. 8. What effects do you believe filters have? I don’t know where I stand on this. That’s like asking what effects do I believe stage makeup has. Because if you REALLY think about the motivations of a dancer using a filter or makeup, it is the same. And I personally don’t want to shame ANYONE who finds a solution to feeling better about themselves. I do understand that any action has the potential to influence the collective. So yes, as filters have dancers showing up younger and younger, or firmer and firmer, I understand this sets a standard, and the beliefs and mindsets will follow along. This is how something becomes mainstream, or widely acceptable. It has become widely acceptable to use stage makeup so the expression of the dancer’s face can be more easily seen from far away and under lighting but there is an alternative stream that asks, why are we accepting an unnatural way of being? And I don’t mean make up, I mean why are we trying to presence someone who is far away from the action? Why are we trying to draw an audience in? Why is it best to have everyone in the audience of a performance feel like they are being spoken to? When in reality the dancer is only one person, in one space, that has only so much power to influence the entire audience, so she uses other solutions to bring her influence into greater power. Is it wrong? No. It’s a choice. It’s a strategy. It’s a strategy to equalize the strength of 1 performer to the strength of everyone 1 audience member that makes up the collective. A filter can do the same for someone, and I’m not about to shame it. We are constantly in a relationship with the natural and unnatural world, and we don’t have to pick a side. We can stand where we want when we want and keep changing back and forth when something calls us to one side. We have permission to be what we want to be and when we want to be it. We falsely believe we don’t have the permission, honestly. Do what makes you feel best. That’s most important. Might it be hurting someone? I don’t know-there are many considerations and evaluations of that. I for example have a much firmer stance of drunk driving than I do on filters…. 9. What should others do when they see body shaming online? Call it out. Talk back to it. While the target of the attack has the choice on how they want to respond (even if that means a non response) the collective can’t stand for shaming. We need to support each other. Unless there has been a direct request from the target to not engage, the right thing to do is talk back to it. Talk back to it intelligently. I understand anger begets anger at times, I surely get fired up when I witness shaming; however, going toe to toe like that doesn’t always yield positive results. Talk back to it and engage it. Ask it questions. Why does the “shamer” feel they have the right to make commentary such as they are? I would personally build a rock solid case to silence the “shamer.” Tactfully, slowly if need be. I have and will continue to engage with shaming voices online. I’ve had some wins but not all “shamers” are open to education and interrogation. There is nothing that impassions me more than abuse of power or bullying. I am always ready to look hate in the eyes and work to dismantle its power. 10. Do you have any other resources you feel might be helpful? “You Can’t Judge a Body By It’s Cover,” by my professor and founder of the Sante Fe Institute for Shame Based Studies, David Bedrick. This book changed my life, as has all of his work and the trauma informed Process Oriented Coaching Program I am enrolled in with him. This man is brilliant. He is a lawyer, turned psychotherapist, Jungian Analyst and dream worker. I have yet to hear a voice on the topic of shame that breaks it down to its deepest level and then explains the many ways it can manifest. The book I speak of is the stories of women’s hungers, and the stories will surprise you. Any woman struggling with her body, and any man who loves a woman-be it a sister, daughter, wife or Mother should read it. Mind you, I don’t use the word should often, but in this case it would be a total shame to NOT read this book. David is on social media and shares quite a bit about shame.
Marisa has 20+ years of operations development in the health and wellness industry combined with coaching behavior change and somatic interventions. She holds multiple fitness certifications, is a private health coach and patient advocate as well as a hired consultant for small business development. She is a Master Teacher and Director of Professional Development for SharQui, The Bellydance Workout, created by Oreet Jehassi Schwartz. She holds a B.S. in Music Performance, a Mom of 2, and is a loving witness to the pure magic and potential people hold inside of them. Everytime shame shifts away to make space for authentic expression, she celebrates! You can learn more at www.sharqui.com/marisa and she is on FB and IG as dancewithmarisa.