Empowering vs Disempowering Women

Published on 16 December 2020 at 12:04

A while ago there was an incident in the zouk scene. A teacher had placed a woman's hand on his penis during a dance.
I witnessed all sorts of outrage from our Dutch zouk scene. Most of the people speaking up were men. The general consensus was that this man needed to be banished and handled. And that women needed to be protected by eliminating any chance of such a thing ever happening again!

Though I can feel touched by the intention to keep women safe and create a community where this is upheld, I also felt frustrated that the REAL problem was not being addressed!
No matter how many times we eliminate the situation. These incidences are a mere symptoms of a fault in our society and will continue happening. Sooner or later each woman will need skills to help her speak up for herself.In fact I had danced with this man, and he had slowly started guiding my hand down, from his shoulder all the way towards his crotch. And I stopped my hand before it reached his penis. He understood my “no” and continued dancing with me respectfully.

The real problem is women not being empowered in our society. Many women feel fear to say “no” or have never learned that their boundaries can be not only respected, but even welcomed!
In zouk classes we are mostly taught figures, and so often the man leads a figure and the woman does the movement she thinks she is “supposed” to do.  Rarely will a follower critique a leader on the dancefloor at a party. I have heard women talk about sustained injury, pain and discomfort during social dances, without ever saying a word to the leader.
The most healing thing you can do for a woman is to make her aware of when she is actually accepting discomfort. My most empowering and transformational dance was because my tantra teacher walked up to me during the dance and whispered to me “Are you enjoying this?” That snapped me right out of dissociation. When I really felt into my body I felt anger that I was being so harshly handled. And for the first time in my life I expressed that anger instead of keeping quiet!
And this goes so deep! What we accept on the dancefloor is a mirror of how we as women accept to be treated in the bedroom, at work, with our families.

What I have found to be the most effective way to support female empowerment:
1. Talk to the woman in the moment.x
Ask her what she is feeling. If she says she enjoys whatever is happening respect that as well.
2. Give her a voice.
If something happened that is not okay you want her to have an experience of feeling in her power. Offer to support her while expressing herself to the person that did something she did not enjoy.
3. The small thing matter!
Create a norm of giving feedback during classes. Asking followers to express levels of comfort and discomfort, and prioritizing this above any combination.
4. Speak up.
Speak up when friends say or do something that you think is offensive.

All these things contribute to breaking the conditioning of female disempowerment. Know that it can take time to break patterns, respect where you are at and take small steps of starting to speak up!

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