Shit People Say About My Body

Deanna Peters, December 2016

Objectification, stereotyping and body shaming are harsh issues that I (a white, mostly-hetero, able-bodied, cis female) have encountered everywhere in dance, at every age. Below is just some of the shit that's come back at me over the years from teachers, choreographers, fellow dancers and audience members. Don't you just love being told, unprompted, what/who you are/are not?!

I like to hope that we are moving away from the idea that dancers and their bodies are solely for visual consumption, but every time I perform I am reminded, by the shit people say to me, that we have a long way to go to shift the perception of what a dancer (human being) is and can be. Not to mention all of the dismantling of language and other normative frameworks that we need to be doing around gender, sex, sexuality, desire… and so much more.

On a more positive note, these repeated reminders from outside, that I do not adhere to coherent, Eurocentric body expectations, are fodder that I often work from when making dance. These experiences support my research into how I might perceive and/or be perceived. However, I have yet to grasp what drives some people to say some of this shit to me:

  • How can you dance so much and still look like that?
  • It must be because you're Ukrainian… (which is a hilarious assumption, b/c I'm not!)
  • I wouldn't be lifting any more weights.
  • ...only if you lose those thunder thighs.
  • That's not a dancer's body.
  • You're not dance fit.
  • You should stop all of the physical activities you do and just go for long walks.
  • Pilates will lengthen your muscles and get rid of all that bulk.
  • You look great! It's the thinnest I've ever seen you.
  • Perhaps you should drink more soy milk, for the estrogen.
  • We don't have any roles for androgynous women.
  • You'd be bigger than all of the men in the company.
  • You're too heavy to lift.
  • We don't have any costumes that would fit you.
  • You're too athletic. Too manly.
  • You're too strong.
  • You're too tall.
  • You're soooo puffy.
  • You're just too big.
  • Get Deanna to carry it...
  • You're tough, you can handle it.
  • It's easier for you.
  • Are you sure you're not gay?
  • Your short hair is only making it worse.
  • I thought you were a man until you turned around.
  • You're not helping yourself… dressing like that.
  • Oh, you wear dresses?
  • I just can't believe how feminine you actually are.
  • I just couldn't stop watching your ass.
  • My friends loved your butt cheeks.
  • Can we touch them?

Here are some articles discussing the shit people say about other people's bodies:

THINK GENDER IS PERFORMANCE? YOU HAVE JUDITH BUTLER TO THANK FOR THAT.

SERENA WILLIAMS IS AMERICA'S GREATEST ATHLETE

PSA: YOUR TRANSPHOBIA AND BODY SHAMING ISN'T RADICAL

The Female Body of Punk

OLYMPIC BODIES: CAN YOU GUESS THEIR SPORT?

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