Raising Your Physical Voice

I blogged about this a couple of years ago, but based on a conversation that I had yesterday, I think it bears repeating:

I’m very vocal about being a fat dancer.  I bring up my size.  Reasonably often, someone asks me why – why do I have to be so “militant” about being fat?  If nobody else is bringing it up, why do I?

Two years ago a judge named Cindi came up to me after I had competed.  My waltz dress that year was a beautiful crushed velvet gown with spaghetti straps that I loved and got lots of compliments on.

 Here I am in it:Here I am in it:

At the end of the competition, Cindi caught me at the elevators and told me that she “couldn’t stand to look at me”.  She told me four times that she couldn’t stand to look at me.  I just kept saying “ok”, with no emotion.  She kept getting louder and angrier, I kept saying “ok”.  She put her finger in my face and said  ” you have  NO BUSINESS wearing spaghetti straps”. I said “ok”.   She said “You’re such a beautiful dancer…with your arms out like that I couldn’t stand to look at you.”  I made the (very difficult) decision to be classy, and said “In truth I probably won’t choose to change the dress, but I appreciate that you took the time to tell me it’s such a problem for you.”

For a lot of my life, I’ve been an “exception”, and I hear the same thing from a lot of my large friends.  People say things to us :  I’m not attracted to big women, except you.  I would never take a class from a plus-sized aerobics instructor, except  you.  I think of all big people are lazy, except you.    Plenty of people think that it’s a good thing to be the exception, I don’t.

It means is that if someone looks at us and we challenge their prejudice, instead of taking a hard look at their prejudice, they keep their prejudice and stick us in the “exception” category.  That’s not ok and I’m not interested in being the exception.

It’s been said that dancing gives you a Physical Voice, and I agree. But it’s not just dancing that provides a physical voice, it’s all physical activities – just the act of being in this culture .  When people discount us as non-physical beings, or as unworthy of being looked at  because we’re fat, they are trying to silence our physical voice.  When Cindi told me that I should hide my arms because they are just too disgusting to be  looked at she was trying to silence away my physical voice.

The reason that I bring up my size a lot when other people would like to pretend I’m “normal”,  the reason I don’t want to be the exception, is because when anyone claims our physical voice, we claim it for all people; when any large person claims their physical voice, they claim it for all large people.  When we stand up for ourselves and raise our physical voices, we start to change perceptions, change prejudices, and make a difference.

So, how do you raise your physical voice?

Published in: on April 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm  Comments (8)  

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow, what a powerful reflection. Maybe along with teaching dance, you should be a spiritual guru! Anyone who has the strength to stand up under treatment like that has a lot of wisdom to pass on.

    I raise my physical voice by moving like the confident young woman I am, no matter the (formal, professional, religious) setting.

  2. I have started raising my physical voice. This year I cut my hair off. I was sick of hearing that it wouldn’t suit my face, That i needed a slimming style etc. I also hardly wear make-up these days.
    I am aware that I don’t have hair to hide behind anymore, and I’m aware that alot of people think it was a bad decision; but I’m so glad I did it.
    It also empowered me to be more provocative, more badass ;) I stand up for myself.

    • YES! A few years ago I also realized that I had long hair because of how I thought I SHOULD look, not because of what I enjoyed. I got really brave and pulled out the buzz cutters. Almost 3 years later I’m still rocking the 3/4″ buzz cut and LOVE it – because of what you said – I no longer have hair to hide behind anymore. To quote Ani Difranco’ “Itch” : “This is me, without my hair. Welcome to my naked stare.”

      • Keri,

        Bonus points for the use of an Ani quote! I love that you are rocking the 3/4′ buzz, so awesome!!!

        ~Ragen

  3. Please tell me Cindi was later involved in a thresher accident.

    (I’m crappy at compassion for my enemies, but I’m a black belt at schadenfreude.)

    • Nope. In fact she is still a judge. I appreciate your support. I don’t wish her harm as much as enlightenment – I’m fine with ignoring her but I hate to think that she could do this to someone who could really be hurt by it, even triggered into an eating disorder.

      ~Ragen

  4. Thank you for your openness. I am a paraplegic & your words can also apply to those of us with “other” body types.
    I believe that it’s important for us all to not have to live in shame because of how other people see us.

  5. Kind of a tangent, but what you’re describing with being the exception sounds a lot to me like something I call the ‘second person effect’, which comes up most times someone encounters an ‘implausible’ idea: The first time someone is told about such an idea, they tend to seemingly brush it off and ignore it – maybe giving it some lip service, but not actually taking it seriously. When the *second* person tells them about the idea, *that’s* when they usually ‘click’ and go from ‘that first person was weird’ to ‘this is actually a thing’. (Also, the second person usually has to be unrelated to the first – just having two people in the same social group say the same thing doesn’t generally work.)

    Point being, even if it seems like you’re not making a difference, you are – you’re setting things up so that when that person runs into someone else who’s rocking their fat body, they take that second person seriously.


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