The two of us have been passionate about movement for years and, even though we have experience in different styles of movement, we both feel such a sense of empowerment from them. We feel there are some interesting questions that surround this, hence our interest in the depiction of the female form and empowerment within women.
Since I turned 14 I have been dancing with various street and hip-hop squads in the area. This is something I instantly fell in love with and seemed to have a natural flare in. My involvement with hip-hop dance ranged from competing nationally to choreographing for local squads. What I loved even more was being part of an all-female dance squad, dancing to all-female hip-hop songs but using aggressive and masculine dance moves. Styles such as krumping and clowning were often used and we would highlight these through wearing masculine clothing (baggy trousers, T-shirts and heavy chains around our necks). Often the music choice used was female rappers who would rap to show how strong and independent they are, almost voicing ‘’we don’t need a man’’. They seem to take a male role in their songs and I feel that this is the same role I took when dancing. I feel that when dancing hip-hop that I am empowered, I feel strong in my sex and hope that the moves chosen challenge a male audience as well as inspire women. However, on the same page I am not sure that copying masculine movements really does empower. Is this something that we feel we have to prove we do as well in as men? Why haven’t we found our own style as women that isn’t the aggressive style or the over-sexualised style? We feel like we are dancing for ourselves and for other woman and yet we are using moves invented by men. Are we still dancing for ourselves?
I began kickboxing when I was 15 for a bit of exercise as I had just stopped training as a gymnast. I chose kickboxing because I wanted to try something new, a new competitive sport that I had no experience of before. I trained with both men and women for years and eventually obtained my black belt. The training in this martial art is extremely intense and competitive but there is a huge amount of guidance and support to teach you the techniques and the right mindset to achieve your goals in the art. There is a very natural thought that this sport is male dominated, and when entering competitions and sometimes training sessions this was a constant looming thought. Within training sessions where men would be involved I found myself naturally becoming more competitive and keen to show off the skills I had gained, alongside demonstrating my strength and power. Within competitions, more often than not, it would be men refereeing, therefore I believe not only was it the competitive environment challenging me, but also the idea of looking weak in this sport in front of a man was not something I was happy with shall we say. Achieving this level of skill in this sport has given me great confidence as a woman to believe I can “handle myself” in a confrontational situation. I also find it interesting to reveal to a male and to gauge their reactions to this information. There is a strong sense of losing my femininity once they are aware that I am a black belt. I often feel there is a change in how they view me as a woman, as my vulnerability is lessened. I feel that the image of a strong women may not be attractive and actually more intimidating. This is something I struggle with because for me it does not feel stereotypically womanly, and by discussing this with a male my relationship with them changes. Having said that, sometimes it can be quite liberating to know the way I am now being viewed has changed and how. I am by no means saying that all men react in these set ways, but it is my natural feeling and I often question why.
Ultimately, we both have felt a sense of empowerment within our chosen styles of movements as I am sure many women have. But is this empowerment real or is reaching success to the same extent as men what we are really thinking? We believe we want to create our own path now, but will we ever be able to get past the feeling of the male presence? If not, is that what empowerment is now? Are we always going to have to be challenged by this male presence? Is that okay? Maybe we will never know and maybe it doesn’t matter as long as it is making us happy, but I bet there are moments all women can think back on and relate to. Food for thought, or in this case movement for thought.
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