White women pouring themselves and losing themselves in brown bodies


Arab women are not vessels for white women to pour themselves and lose themselves in; we are not bangles or eyeliner or tiny bells on hips. We are human beings. (Randa Jarrar, "Why I can't stand white belly dancers, Salon.com)

I've heard at least one person describe her interest in belly dancing as having to do with good exercise, mostly, and a chance to spend some time with the girls -- a tea party, I guess, but one that shapes you up; numerous others have said they do it out of respect for the art form, wanting to participate in it, its traditions, its beauty. I haven't heard anyone admit that they do what this author argues most white people belly dance for -- to enter into the brown body
Postcolonialists will point out that Europeans ascribed the East as home to dangerous luxury: it had deadly powers of allurement. Pictured as one scene, it would be the brothel, the orgy -- or a market place that would undue you with fabrics, colours, and spices: gone is any resemblance to the stalwart knight in you. Just as they imagined nations as bodies, and ascribed their own preferred region as the head or the "lion" heart, the East was under the skirt, with powers easily as considerable ... and to casually undue all the wilful head and stout heart were committed to.
Who would want to empower themselves with a sexed body so powerful the strongest willed become somnambulists to your allure? The answer to this is in how many European kings and emperors kept themselves cold-castled and monastic spartan when the spoils from the east poured their way in, declining golden crowns and purpled fabrics and all tales of Arabia. The answer is in how many women would long to know how to, say, belly dance, so to possess in some part this irresistible power to make men beholden. Atheist intellectuals will show in their choice of this art, in fact, deflating evidence that they still believe in something greater -- magic; maybe a bit, the devil.
Browns are still being poured into, and Orientalism is being reinforced as white woman choose belly dancing as the dance they want to partake in. Because at a subliminal level, they "know" that the history and depth they're being entwined with isn't standard "cultural," some innocuous, harmless, denatured possession of a nation's people; but something vast and wild and mysterious beyond measure. Something deadly. The belly's sway is of the serpent, calling us some place we fear but also want, need, to go.  

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