(this is technically a part I, part II will be published on 10/02 and be a sort of "list of demands/suggestions for how we can do better)
Ok y'all, I need to say something that's been on my mind from my very earliest days in the blues dance scene, and I can't keep quiet any longer. This is probably close to the mother of all unpopular opinions, and I don't just mean some followers will post angry reacts, but close friends and even lovers will be straight up pissed at me, but it needs to be said.
This scene earlier this summer decided collectively, decisively, and in a unified show of strength and anger that it would no longer tolerate....what? The naming of random pairing competitions to no longer be called Jack and Jill.
This debate was no debate, it lasted less than a week before every major event started changing names, people called for boycott, and dissent was completely stamped out.
Do I really care what you call these comps? No. But something needs to be said loud and clear about the message this (inter?)national outrage sent:
Above and beyond all things, this scene cares about white women and their comfort and not much else. After all these years, the one thing that arises all the outrage and demands for instant change is the fragile feelings of predominantly white women and white non binary dancers.
Here's the thing: the minority members of this scene noticed and pretty much all felt the same thing: their so called allies stabbed them in back. Those like me who have spend our time in the scene promoting it's history and culture got a very clear message: that mission is hard & esoteric compared to making the scene always and forever a safe space for a very specific group
Things that have taken years and years barely move at a snail's space. My friends still have people constantly confuse them for other members of the scene, touch their hair, fetishisize them and ask them to do the work of understanding the dance for them, yet in this arena: people were willing to publicly argue and bully organizers and boycott national events
After all this time I'm still fighting the tide to make this dance popular, inviting and authentic, and it's suddenly clear that those who don't care at all aren't nearly as dangerous as those who care a lot about only themselves.
Where is your outrage when events hire bands and DJs and teachers who don't represent the dance? Where the demand that blues dancers know and understand anything about black culture vs them having to respect your gender politics, food preferences, and language guidelines before they can attend?
You know I could give a fuck about what comps are called but attention and focus matter, and once again hugely influential members of the scene have shown their focus is squarely on themselves.
Now, I know ya'll are going to want to say, what? that this is transphobic and sexist, that I don't understand, that these names are toxic and patriarchal and hurt and discourage people from participation? Here's the thing: everything we do is trade offs, we can't and don't have it all and putting energy and attention into some things leaves none for others.
When we choose to care about these things while other things get neglected, the neglected can't help but draw lines. We can't help but notice how much more people care about catering to peoples very specific demands of language, and food, and how they want bathrooms set up, compared to respecting black bodies, blues history, blues music.
Where is the tide swell of dancers bullying and boycotting events until they hire more black teachers and historians of dance? Asking events to stop hiring non-blues bands and white swing bands in place of black musicians? Pledging a portion of their profits towards charities and arts centers? Demanding that curriculum be based only on teaching actual blues dances? A more robust code of conduct?
Some of this stuff also isn't anything you can pinpoint but it's there. Whenever I explain to any new person what the blues scene is like, if they come into our space I have to give them a short lecture on liberation politics, radical feminism, the use of proper pronouns and polyamory and not making heteronormative assumptions, but do I have to tell them anything about black people, blues music, or black culture, to make them feel welcome in this space? Not one fucking thing.
This is our culture and we have made it what it is. I urge people to swallow their initial outrage and really do some soul searching and ask themselves what they really care about, and how it's come across that most of ya'll only really care about one thing: white problems and white comfort.
I'll close with asking you to do one thing before you respond, ask your non white friends(do you have any???) how they feel about jack and Jill, how uncomfortable they feel at blues dances , how many times dancers have inappropriately touched their hair or confused them with the only other dancer in their scene of the same race, and then come back to me.
And if you do that soul searching and really think you aren't part of the problem, then I say congratulations, this post isn't about you, and don't divert attention to yourself otherwise.