If I had had the Girls Raks Bellydance and Body Image Program when I was a girl, I would have had some tools to resist the beauty ideal demands of the media. In the eighth grade when I put Nair on my sideburns, burning the skin off of my face, I didn’t know any better. I just knew what was around me. At thirteen, I knew that if I had hair on my face, I needed to remove it. Quick. I felt ugly and ashamed. In my eyes, I was a hairy monster. With Girls Raks in my life, I would have learned about the media and institutional oppression and the beauty industrial complex. My eyes would have been open to a deeper, more inclusive understanding of beauty. I would know in my bones that I was beautiful.
If I had had Girls Raks when I was a girl, my pain over feeling like I was not enough and too much would have been reframed for me. When I was a girl, I felt like I didn’t fit. I was not enough of this or too much of that. I would have understood that who I am, with the full body that I carry in this world, is perfect and whole. I would have learned to embrace my body rather than obsess about changing it. I would be seen and heard and valued for being a bright young woman of color. I would be praised and affirmed for my courage, my strength and my heart.
If I had had Girls Raks when I was a girl, I would have known that dance is for everybody and every body. When I was a girl, I didn’t dance. Fat, self-conscious and shy, I thought that dance was just not for me. It was for those girls who were lithe, long-limbed and graceful, not me. With Girls Raks in my life, I would have been introduced to the idea of size diversity in dance. I would have learned how to close my eyes and feel the rhythm of the music and connect to my body. I would have an appreciation that dance movements look different on different bodies, and that is absolutely okay. I would have discovered the secret joy and passion that lives inside of me with dance.
Now in its third year, the Girls Raks Bellydance and Body Image Program is a Bay Area treasure. Our 2012 Girls Raks summer session is just around the corner, and we need your support to provide scholarships for our students. Please donate $20, $50, $100 or whatever you can. The program tuition is $250 per girl, and it’s our goal to enroll ten participants this summer. Please make your online tax-deductible donation via our fiscal sponsor, Dancers’ Group.
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