Saturday, March 25, 2006

Who Wants to Battle?

February 18, 2006

Tiffany - 37
Claremont, CA
2 daughters - (6) and (7)

Before I knew it my seven year old daughter was on stage. We were in Los Angeles at Magic Johnson’s Theater at the Black History Month celebration for children. My daughter, who is growing up in Claremont, who is the only black girls in her class, who is not allowed to watch MTV, BET or any other channel that shows a bunch of half dressed black girls doing things that look more like pornography than dancing, is on stage because she had volunteered to battle.

I sat there thinking nothing about this situation could be good. Either she is going to get up there and do a lot of things I find inappropriate or she is not going to do it because she is scared and I don’t know if I can get up there in time to comfort her or save her any embarrassment. As I sit and think I know it is wiser to let her work it out. After all, she did volunteer and I will learn more about her if I sit and observe how she handles the situation. But, at the same time I want to make my way to the front to be near, to position myself so I can snatch her away – if necessary – from the moment. I want to protect her from being scared, and to take away the sense of humiliation she might feel because she cannot dance like them.

I waited, hoping I had made the right decision.

The first girl goes up, gyrating and thrusting and getting all in her opponents face. I see some hesitation in my daughter’s eyes. The second girl goes up; all of four years old. The same thing happens, pelvic thrusts, gyrating, dropping it like it’s hot. You name it, this girl co
uld do it. A lot of the parents laughed and cheered. A lot of us sat and observed silently with our mouths hanging open. I watched the hesitation in my child’s eyes turn into fear. I decided to be wise and let her work it out herself (Even if every muscle in body was ready to bolt to the stage). Before they got to number three she walked up and whispered into the host’s ear that she did not want to do it and took her seat.

WHEW…

She had handled it all by herself and I could stop worrying. When the show was over she ran up to me with a smile on her face and I told her I was proud of her. I told her she was very brave for getting on stage, while at the same time I was relieved to not have seen her compete with these girls who were dropping it like it was hot.

19 Comments:

Blogger Miss Ahmad said...

watch the movie Rize!!! it addresses this dancing style which has become ever so popular amongst kids

10:20 PM  
Blogger Hip Hop Mama said...

Yes, Please, please, please, watch Rize! Excellent documentary about krumping.

Our daughters (and sons) will be exosed to popular culture at a cousin's, playdate's, or at the playground. It is impossible to censor them entirely without driving yourself insane in the process.

Also, dancing itself is not perverted. It's the people watching that make these moves sexual. You should not be thinking sex when watching a six year old (dipping or not). Why de we automatically see these sometimes very complicated dance steps as sexual because a pelvic thrust is involved? I realize there are perverts out there who will see our children that way dancing or not. I see nothing wrong with cheering my daughter on at a supervised competition as if we were at the family reunion backyard barbeque telling her to "Gone girl!"
My daughter enjoys dancing and I plan to enroll her in dance classes so she can be technically trained in 'droppin' it like it's hot'.

10:24 AM  
Blogger :her soledad: said...

I have to admit, it makes me nervous too. As the mother of a 4 year old girl and cousin to a slew of teenangels, I know that there is both a value and great freedom in dancing. But there is also a line (very thin, but not invisible) that if crossed - in any company, under any guise - begins to send our young daughters in a very dangerous direction.

Because of where they get these dancing images from (videos mostly) I think it directly affects they way they see themselves and the way they believe that others are seeing them. If a little girl is thinking what she is doing is provocative, sexy or in any way making people perceive her as anything other than a little girl dancing, there is an inherent problem.

I could go on about this for days, but I will say there is room for all kinds of dancing; technical, freestyle, classic, modern and tribal. But as mothers we need to always keep a kind of conscious mind so that we can help or daughters shape her intentions in whatever she does. That way no one - especially not her – is ever confused.

11:52 AM  
Blogger upwords said...

It's hard. My two daughters have taken ballet/praise dance for several years. This year, my oldest audtioned for the dance team--and made it! It's been trying at times ("Throw your hip to the wall! Shake your butt harder. You're black you know") To my surprise though, my daughter has handled it all very well. Me? I'm still recovering.

12:16 PM  
Blogger CRT Law Mama said...

Im already worried about this with my 10 month old daughter, so I feel ya, and thanks for the post- makes me realize there is a fine line between protecting your child and allowing them to assert their own independence and judgment. I worry all the time that her daddy is letter her watch videos and I dont want my daughter to think "droppin it like it's hot" is ever appopriate for a little girl. There are far too many dance steps out there to allow for this (particularly from the motherland). I respect the opinion that it is others who impose sexuality on these types of dance steps, either way however, it is a reality that we have to navigate as parents and I'd rather not risk it.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Trula said...

That kind of dancing is inappropriate for a young teenager let alone a preschooler. To say the sexuality is not inherent in the dance but imposed by others is disingenuous at best, ca-razy at worst. That's like saying a 4 year old in a thong string bikini is just wearing a swimsuit, it's others viewing it wrong that's the problem. yeah right.

We, black women, are already considered hypersexualized because of racism; unfortunately far too many of us have internalized this racist belief to the point where we are now hyping it up on very little black girls. We need to combat this by teaching our daughters that they are more than big behinds and shaking hips; and that their sexual expression and validaty has naught to do with how well they can bump, shake, or grind.

There is a time and place for everything, and the time for this kind of dancing is not when a female is a girl, and the place is definitely not on a dance stage for children. Tiffany, your little girl made us all proud. You done raised a smart brave girl, mama. I'm proud of you too.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Sunnlover said...

Thong bikinis are worn by everyone in Brazil, yes even, 4 year olds. No, this is not Brazil and No,I'm not "car-azy" either. However, I want to have a broad view of culture instead of the narrow, repressed Christian American scope that stifles.

Balance, as with anything, is essential and these hypersexed images can be countered with educating about the origin of some the moves.

Again, perhaps watching (supporting a Black film) Rize would help in this debate.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tiffany, you can thank God that you are the mama of a bold, confident, and assertive 7-year old girl. You should be proud of the way she handled herself in that "sticky" situation. It is my hope that my 10-year old twin daughters will handle themselves with that same grace and style when they find themselves "in-over-their-heads".
Way to go mama!

4:48 PM  
Blogger Trula said...

sunnlover, I think the expression 'when in rome' is apt here. if indeed toddlers wear thong string bikinis in brazil, that is acceptable there. it is not acceptable nor appropirate in the states at this time, and anyone putting their 4 year old daughter in a thong string bikini bottom in America is putting their daughter up for ridicule, scorn, leering, and sexual exploitation.

for shame.

By the way I am not christian and I have seen RIZE. I still believe it is wrong for little girls to perform a sexual dance done by grown women. and 'droppingit like it's hot' ain't about nothing but booty bouncing.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Trula said...

sunnlover, let me give you another analogy that might clarify what I mean. I am a nudist, think nothing is wrong with the naked human body, love baring my breasts to the sun (in the appropriate setting only), understand that plenty of my African ancestors did not cover themselves, alla that.

but best believe I don't have my 16-year old daughter walking around topless in US of A, 2006, bet. That is not right in this day and age and place and it would cause all sorts of problems and issues for her and definitely negatively affect her self image as a black woman. I'm not putting my daughter out on front street like that. Would you?

and if she were four right now and hip to this grinding booty dropping thrusting dancing, I wouldn't put her out on front street like that either.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Miss Ahmad said...

As someone who studied dance for all of my youth into my teens, danced professionally by the age of 12 I can say this about dance as an art form. It is sexual in that it teaches women to be aware of each part of our bodies. Having spent more Saturdays in studios doing the splits than watching cartoons I was well aware of what a body could do....Dancing was a saving grace for a body that decided to grow breasts at 11 that I wasn't ready for.

Dancing allowed me a space and place to feel free and literally dance in my own skin. It was afro haitin and modern and jazz and I could shake and twist and turn like the wind.

Don't take this away from young women, arm them with the truth that our bodies are instruments and dance is art! Or they will find somewhere less appropriate to express themselves...

I over posted sorry!

6:21 PM  
Blogger :her soledad: said...

Miss Ahmad, is there no line though? When I was growing up all of the girls were doing the Olla Rae strut and the Thriller routine because that was popular and then every step to Salt N Pepa's "Push It" routine later on.

These girls are not "learning" dance in the same empowering way that you did. They are in front of the boob tube learning how to shake a little booty and boob with video girl ambition on the brain.

If you saw my Missy Sissy shakin’ her thang and then suddenly slap the floor with her palms, booty in the air, would you not be appalled, frightened, concerned?

We, as adult women have to be the standard bearers. Somebody did it for us. And if they didn't, we have felt it. Tell the truth.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Hip Hop Mama said...

Trula, I used the Brazil example to say I intend to make sure my daughter has a wider view of things and I hope she will become a world citizen. The way women and sexuality are viewed worldwide is immensely different. Supermodels regularly appear topless on the cover of foreign magazines and on runways. However when a woman in Las Vegas performs topless, suddenly what is acceptable is different. Why? Because of the thousands the supermodel makes? What has elevated being topless to art in this situation?

No, they aren't learning dance the way Miss Ahmad was trained, however these may be the seeds that will blossom into a real interest in dance. I'm sure we can agree every child may not have lessons available sadly. Although I don't adhere to the hierarchy of trained vs. freestyle.
Would it be more acceptable performed on Broadway?

I agree there are lines but we need to understand who draws these lines and how they affect our underdstanding of our femininity.

Something about your analogy reminds me of women being blamed for being raped because they were 'inappropriately' dressed.

I don't have all the answers(surprise) but I just want a balanced view of things to perhaps not pass on the many hang ups we have about our bodies, sexuality and womanhood.

11:28 AM  
Blogger The Sonflower said...

I can’t believe that this is a conversation that is happening among women, let alone mothers. I don’t know where to start. As I read the comments I think of conversations that I have had with friends of mine.

Before our daughters can even learn what power they have in this world we are teaching them to put it on display. I am not saying that anything is wrong with dancing. I am not even saying that anything is wrong with “dropping it like it is hot”. What I am saying is you have to walk before you can run.

Follow me.

I was surprised at how early in life that my daughter knew the difference between girls and boys. I was even more surprised when I could see that she was trying to catch the eye of boy. So we should not be surprised to know that our daughters and sons are aware of each other in ways that we do not want to admit.

When that little girl is shaking her ass, she ain’t dancing, she is shaking her ass. That is what the little boys see. That is what the little boys talk about in the locker room. As grown men we have not changed, that is what we are talking about now.

The idea behind this might be pure. We want our children to learn these dances; we want to give them something different to do, something cultural even. But that is not the reality.

And the way little girls talk is not that much different. I have heard the little girls talking about boys at age 11 and 12. My daughter if four and she asked me the other day do I think a boy she knows is cute. For her, I am interested in helping her mama in her education on becoming a woman and what that means, and how she should be treated by men.

Once she understands what she has to offer this world, and is secure that she can hold her own and not rely on any man; if she still wants to “drop it like it is hot”, let her.

But we do got a lot of learning before we get to that point.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched RIZE (after reading this post)and I can say it has not changed my mind about this type of dancing for young girls. Not only is it inappropriate, it is dangerous. It is dangerous because sexual pervasion is rampant in this country. Rape, incest, child porn, pedophilia, are all alive and well in America.

Unfortunately, young girls (babies even) are often the victims. They cannot protect themselves because they can't see the hunger in the eyes of their would be perpetrators. These foul people are like eagles perched on high looking down on their prey or a hunter stalking his next catch. The victim becomes aware of imminent danger when it is too late. Before the victim knows it, he or she is upside down being used and abused.
If you look into the eyes of those who are nonchalantly standing in the crowd, you will know what I mean when I say everyone is not looking at these girls with admiration of how well they can master a dance step. Some people are looking at them with words aptly coined by Nelly: "good gracious, ass is bodacious..."
Young girls are victimized every day by brothers, fathers, uncles, friends of the family, coaches, teachers, priests, classmates, dates, babysitters, Internet chat rooms, etc. We cannot therefore encourage them to "do that dance" in front of any old audience and not also tell them you better watch out for the big bad wolf.

There are lots of opportunists out there looking for their next victim. It is not the victims fault when she is victimized, but once the damage is done, the victim has to deal with it for the rest of her life. So I say, don't strut your stuff in front of just "any ole body". Have some pride, some self-respect and discretion. The "love, life, or innocence" you save, will be your own.

3:39 PM  
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