Recently on moretprs, several members voiced disapproval of the dancing of young girls on a video recommended for classroom use. When I pointed out that the dance moves were part of the dance culture of that region, I was roundly criticized as if I were some dumb, clueless bobble head trying to use multiculturalism as a cover for allowing prepubescent girls to engage in inappropriate, sexually enticing activities.
Rather than try to penetrate the fog of religious indoctrination that pervades these people’s heads, I thought I would exploit a discovery I just made. I love African dance and stumbled on the fact that there are hundreds of You Tube videos, 2 to 6 minutes long, of everything from Western-oriented weddings in Nigeria to very traditional dances in a variety of settings, including competitions, private homes, parties, traditional ceremonies, churches, and so forth.
For those not blinded by religious indoctrination and the North Atlantic cultures’ antipathy toward sex, it will be instructive to watch the dance styles. For those who would attribute all this to the Africans’ lack of Christian morals, I would direct you specifically to anything Igbo (sometimes spelled Ibo), for the Igbos are Christian for the most part. Watch the dance styles, especially the young girls, especially in settings where proper behavior is obviously expected.
Now meditate on your own cultural history, especially if your culture derives from the North Atlantic (Scandanavian, Dutch, German, Scottish, English, etc.). Think of the teaching about sex, about the body. How might that bias your perceptions of a culture in which the body and eroticism are accepted as part of normal life, even in children. We in the West encourage our boys to play fight in preparation for the wars we constantly wage and we encourage our girls to “look pretty” so they can attract a well-to-do husband. We do our own “prepping” of our children. An ability to dance in an appealing way is not unknown in Western culture but it sure is not common, whereas West African and the West African derived cultures of North and South America exalt physical power, including sexual power.
In North America, African-Americans have had to endure having their behavior sexualized by sex-obsessed White Christians. Many White and Black Christians are beginning to rethink this in light of the massive growth in sex-related problems like unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Teachers seeking to teach respect for other cultures need to begin with themselves: seek to understand, not condemn.
This episode has really discouraged me for I have seen a couple of major pillars of the language-teaching community come down on the side of doctrinaire intolerance. It’s unworthy of them.
One to start with is You Tube Igbo Dance Competition #3. Toward the end you will see moves similar to those of the young girls in the video complained about. In the African-American community, it took me a while to get accustomed to such movements, that is, not to see them as deliberately and openly provocative. Not that young women aren’t perfectly aware of the effect on men their bodies have, as are all young women in all cultures. Are good little girls at my school are constantly rolling their skirt-tops to shorten their plaid uniform skirts. It’s universal folks, and it’ll never change – thank God!
Aug. 15, 2018 Yet another one on twerking!