Memories around this body part arise not only or primarily from the dance world. Perhaps in common with many other women, my butt memories take me into the larger cultural arena where women are ogled, commodified, and categorized according to degree and volume of “tits and ass.” How can I explain, or explain away, that backward but primal female desire to attract male attention—in high school corridors, at dances and socials, on city streets—an attention that, scurrilous though it may seem from a position of critical distance, at a certain tender adolescent age seems to celebrate and affirm one’s entry into the mysteries of womanhood? It is a craving to be included in the culture’s contested narrative of femininity: a collateral pride and shame around the nubile female body, simultaneously prized and objectified (and, as we later come to learn, often abused and vilified). I had that craving! As a teenager it was already clear that I wasn’t going to have much to show in the way of breasts. With my frontal “limitation” in mind, I needed to work my other extremity to get a rise out of the guys. And I had a little something to work with: an arched lower back that could be utilized to emphasize a high rear end. I could arch my back (thus pledging allegiance with armies of young women from all walks of life, including the high-fashion models of today and the burlesque stars of yore) and “stick it out,” giving male onlookers something to ogle. But then, as I began to seriously study dance and work on my posture, something unsettling happened. As I self-consciously walked the streets of Harlem (where I grew up), groups of young men, instead of flirting with me, cracked up at my straight posture and lack of sway in my hips. At least once, instead of yelling out “Hey, baby!” as I walked by, someone called out “Hey, teacher!”
KeywordsBlack Woman Music Video Brick House Dance Company Sway Back
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