Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Rant: 'Real Women Have Curves'

There is one statement that has been carelessly banded around on social media sites a great deal lately, which has caused a lot of controversy. We seem to have begun deciding who 'real women' are, using the "Real Women Have Curves" campaign. Apparently "real women aren't size zero", and my favourite, "real men like curves. Dogs like bones".

There is a huge sense of ignorance and a fundamental problem with this assertion. First of all, in order to say a woman is 'not real', we have to decifer what makes her 'unreal'. Do skinny women not have female sexual organs? Can skinny women not bear children? Are skinny women more masculine? Or do they lack gender altogether? What makes a skinny woman not 'womanly'?

It feels to me as though the "real women have curves" trend is a cheap way of lowering someone else's self-esteem in order to boost the self esteem of another. Which is arguably uncannily similar to the cowardly behaviour of playground bullies, which we were warned about at school.

Of course the media has a big role to play in this conflict. The air brushed models we see in Vogue and the painfully gaunt models on high fashion runways do nothing to help our body image or self-worth. It seems clear to me that 'the real women have curves' is the voice of hundreds of women backlashing against the pressure to be perfect. Of course I have no problem with reminding each other that we shouldn't replicate the women put in front of us by multimillion-dollar profiteering cosmetics and fashion companies to be deemed beautiful or perfect. But to attack each other instead is simply detrimental and frankly beyond the point.

As quite a skinny woman myself, I have experienced a lot of unpleasant snide remarks, insults and nasty messages (most of which were from girls my own age in school). I found that insecurity and jealousy in particular seemed to be key drivers in those cases. They probably continue to drive the nasty remarks on social networking sites too.

The question is, when did we stop seeing the real beauty within ourselves and start judging our self-worth according to the number we see on the scales or by the comparison we see with the airbrushed model on the front of Elle? Why do we continue to hate ourselves and the curvier, taller, bustier, skinner woman next to us? Whether we have an athletic, pear shaped, hourglass, muscular or skinny figure, we should learn to accept ourselves and each other. Only acceptance can bring us happiness.



 Photo sources: 
source http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-bz9b03DhJUQ/Uw2O5i8DLfI/AAAAAAAAAHo/hqJEENnECRs/s1600/Real+Women+Have+Curves.gif

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-EvyuEUnLYWk/Uw2O6y7FHvI/AAAAAAAAAHw/42qs8fiL8EE/s1600/Only+Dogs+Like+Bones.jpg




Friday, 21 February 2014

Journeys

As a young child I had many dreams, as children do, of being an actress, a pop star, a prima ballerina, a wedding planner, and during one phase, a dream psychologist. However none of these dreams were particularly realistic or suited to me (other than the wedding planner, which strangely still appeals to me). We are so often asked, even as six-year-olds, what we want to do in five, ten, twenty years time. Of course a six-year-old will tell you all sorts of things.

So, at what point do we know what we want to do? Will I simply continue to feel like I'm drifting through life, not knowing where I will be in the next five, ten, twenty years time?

Ten years ago I had no idea that I would be studying dance at a university in London or in America. I initially opted for dance at GCSE because I enjoyed it, and it was a welcome break from classrooms and textbooks. But it wasn't until after I'd watched a performance by the Richard Alston Dance Company in Cambridge that I realised that it was more than just enjoyment that compelled me to dance. I wanted to sweat and work and drive my body through the space as much as Richard Alston's dancers did on that stage. Alston's dancers proved to me that there was a finesse and sense of total personal devotion and commitment to the art-form. I wanted to be able to fully commit myself to one thing, I needed something to channel all of my energy into.

I have no idea where I'm going or what I will be doing in the next five, ten or twenty years. Despite how much this terrifies me, it is also strangely exciting. As long as we continue to stay true to what we believe in and strive to fulfill the dreams that make us happiest- whether they're occupational or recreational- hopefully we will end up doing the right thing, in the right place.

Having a whale of a time



Sunday, 16 February 2014

Baltimore Museum of Art

I haven't yet ventured out of Goucher, or any further than Towson, so Eszter and I arranged to take a day trip to Baltimore today with a group of girls from Goucher. We took the free shuttle bus, which serves the local colleges, into Baltimore. The shuttle runs every hour  (supposedly) and provides a service to Goucher College, Towson University, Loyola University Maryland, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Johns Hopkins University, and Morgan State University.

We spent between two and three hours in the Baltimore Museum of Art. which has an internationally renowned collection of 19th-century, modern, and post-modern art. BMA has many Degas originals, including his 'Little Dancer Aged Fourteen' sculpture, which has caused controversial debate since the 19th century. Considered to be "replusive", many critics have suggested that the sculpture is reminiscent of the seedy undercurrent of 19th century Parisian Opera and the life of depravity that many working class Parisian dancers would have faced as prostitutes. As to whether Degas' fascination was really in the dance and the dancers or whether it was rooted in something more sexual is unclear. However despite the negative connotations that Degas' Little Girl may have, I found her beautiful.

"Little Girl Aged Fourteen" Edgar Degas (1881)
Artist Alison Saar's scultpure "Strange Fruit" was also particularly interesting and thought provoking. Saar's scultpure depicts a black woman, bound and suspended upside down from the ceiling by her foot. The scultpure is evocative of Billie Holiday's moving lyrics:

"Southern trees bear a strange fruit, blood on the leaves and blood at the root. / Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees."

It is clear that Saar is commenting on the racial violence and lynching during America's past. The vulnerability and suffering of the sculpture provokes a strong feeling of discomfort; as if you want to reach out and release the woman's ankles. However it would also appear that Saar is commenting on female sexuality. The suggestive placement of the woman's hands on her navel and breast creates an image of strong female sexual identity, which contrasts greatly to the vulnerability of her suspended body.

"Strange Fruit" Alison Saar (1995)
The BMA was very interesting, the difference in the 19th century and modern art collections was refreshing. We didn't get to see much of Baltimore unfortunatley, but that gives me a good excuse to plan another trip to downtown Baltimore next weekend. And it's a nice change from the ballet studio.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Courage

There is an assumption that as an art form, dance is associated with and categorised as a hobby or as leisure. Few people outside the dance world would consider dancing to be a 'legitimate way of life'. So when asked by relatives, friends of my parents, students from other universities, or even acquaintances, I dread the judgement and lack of understanding that often comes with asking what I am studying at uni.

Many people fail to realise is that there is a great amount of personal and academic dedication, physical exertion and emotional investment in the vigorous training that is required in dance. It is not just 'prancing around a room', as many people have eloquently put it to me.

Of course I had considered pursuing other career paths, which would have required, and lead to, a much more academic background. However after consideration, I decided I would do what would make me happiest. No part of me wants to spend three years studying something that I am not interested in, only to lead me into a job that I have no passion for. I would much rather spend three years developing my dance technique and knowledge of dance to give myself the opportunity to fulfill my dream. I am aware that the chances of me becoming a successful professional dancer are slim. But why should this stop me? I would only regret the mistakes I didn't make.

I choose to dance because it makes me insanely and deliriously happy. Have the courage to pursue what makes you happy.