“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” – Marie Shear
I am a feminist.
Now, I’ve heard it said that you should keep quiet about your politics when you are wearing your ‘professional hat’. But I don’t see this as politics. It’s who I am. I’m a woman, working in a female-dominated industry (where a lack of professional respect and low pay is rife), teaching mostly female students, and working with many women as clients. Treating myself and all those amazing women who I meet in my life as a dancer with equality and respect is seriously important to me. We’re all unique individuals not defined by our gender, and through the bellydance word, I’ve been able to see that more clearly than ever, as this dance has enabled me to meet lots of wonderful, inspirational women who I would never otherwise have met. This is not a dispassionate political opinion that I can switch off at will, it’s a non-negotiable part of my identity.
There is often a nagging fear that if you wear your heart on your sleeve about issues you believe in, as a professional, you will lose work. Well, as I said, I work with, and for, a lot of women. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing if those women can feel secure in the knowledge that I am always going to value their input and deal with them based on their own personal strengths and weaknesses rather than what society says women are or ought to be.
And if anybody chooses not to book me because of my principles, well, that’s probably not a gig I wanted anyway. As a professional entertainer, I sometimes find myself in situations that can feel unsafe in the course of my work, like travelling alone to unfamiliar locations. If I’m honest, I would not feel entirely safe or comfortable going to a gig where my client was someone who wouldn’t have employed me if they had known I supported women’s rights. What would that say about them as a client? It would not give me confidence that they’d take care for my personal safety, deal swiftly with inappropriate audience members, or pay me fairly, on time and in full. And I’m not that desperate – there are plenty of other gigs in the sea.
So here it is. I’m a feminist, and a bellydancer. I am more than just an interchangeable specimen of my gender. I will stand up for what I believe in, even when I’m wearing my ‘professional hat’, because to do otherwise would be to betray myself.