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To Be A Woman Is A Delicate Dance

Arts And Entertainment

To Be A Woman Is A Delicate Dance


Discretion: This is a creative piece that includes themes such as abuse, sexual assault, and self harm are mentioned. Viewer discretion is advised.

She envisions the societal battlefield of sexism, and brings it to the barre. Dancing is a choice she made. She finds freedom in it.

She stretches her back and it hurts. but this is a show, play the part. The whole world’s a stage upon which her pain is romanticized. Her pain is romanticized. This romanticization is seen as less, because it is an indicator for a person with estrogen.

Turbulent thoughts swirl around like wind. These struggles are shoved down, yet ingrained like the thoughts on how to be pleasing. Specifically for men, by men: what her gender is the most well-versed in.

Stepping over the invisible tape, she has left her space as a woman. But how she tiptoes around men, delicately to preserve their ego. 

One thought at a time. Her partner spins her, and as she gracefully turns, she is released from social constraints. Her rhythm increases and she begins to rebel from her position. Plie, plie, gain control while focusing on her sharp turns. Two fouettes. Enough. Be small. Too outspoken; no, she’s less beautiful. That’s enough.

If she slips up, her prey is watching–His ever-present male-gaze.

She pulls herself together, with the corset she wears. A graceful sweep of the arm, like a swan, long arching extended. Head up, chin up, assume the position of what is expected of her: thin, white, aryan, like a doll. Things are easier if she looks like that.

Controlled movements but always flowing. She can have it all?

But don’t be too heavy. Don’t be a grumpy hag, must remain feather, frolicking, flighty, but never frank. 

Hush, woman.

Butterfly, light encapture. Poise, but don’t take up space. Shrink. She can control one thing, and that’s her body–Which is why she struggles so much with her image of it. 

Always one step ahead the game, cannot displease. Be pretty, always. Don’t worry her silly little mind.

Her back arches as she molds into the meat ready for the barbeque lit on the flames of her confidence, beauty, and willingness to take up space.

She slowly cooks. She is whittled down. Be beautiful they say, be less aware.

Ballotte, cambre, pique, little, good. Demure. Grand jete. Calm down. Too much. Her ambition to break from the chains of weighted expectations is unattractive.

“Relax, we aren’t not here to hurt you,” they say. She’s been taught to be hypervigilant or she might be blamed for her own flames smoking her.

She lands as softly as a mouse. 

She whisks her head around: competition is around her; other women.

Will the spectators still love her when she is not young and beautiful? Their perception is tied to her self worth. 

But she never asked for attention. No lady should do that. Somewhere between prude and slut–  the lines are as clear as the boundaries she told him that night when he drank on his friends’ expectations.

But her first lesson learned was to take any sort of male attention: harassment, abuse, criticism as a sign of affection.

“He yells at you out of love,” her mother would say.

“He used to act like that to me, but it eventually stopped. It will eventually stop,” she would say. “Just don’t talk to people about it, or it will make it worse.”

She slipped up. Off-beat on pirouette. Don’t show emotions now.  Cry when not seen. The edge of the words provide an edge for the blade into her skin only for her, and never disclosed nor discussed.

After the show, she is dismissed. At least she was paid. Not as much as her male coworkers. But she’s been told she shouldn’t complain. Shouldn’t have expected that much anyways. Look at the other girls, they say; you could have it worse. 

“Over-dramatic. Be the cool girl. Brush the tears off; he’s watching.” Lose any autonomy; your thoughts become invisible, like the disregard to this rampant inequality in this world today. Still, the learned degradation of her gender is rooted in her feet that are arched upon the floor as she takes her final bow of the ethereal. 

Her clock is running out, and she is aging. She has no plans for her womb, but society does. Motherhood must be the final leap. And if it’s unplanned, it’s not your choice, it’s your senator’s. Hurry, attract now.

Nude photos sent to the beloved spread like a wildfire. Hot to the touch. Alluring to the eyes that yearn for domination. Giving into his desires is easier than saying no. Hidden, intimate, is what it should have been. But some lambs will be victims to the lion. And that’s okay, because boys will be boys. They will not have consequences.

But come on now, get over it; it’s the new era. Time to pursue the double edged sword of beauty and brains.

Be hardworking, but not too ambitious. Glass slippers that tread on glass ceilings. 

Promotion? Sure. We’ll relocate to a more intimate setting in his bed, drinking on her and she complies as necessary to attain a position in a man’s world.

She is let go. Her entertainment in attempting to succeed has been a fleeting fun, not for her, of course. Somehow, her life, her existence– is an audition to play the role of the Madonna or the whore. 

On to the next girl, who does not ask for it like her.

Even though they beg for it.

She is their worst fear. She is their biggest fantasy.

After all, being multi-dimensional is only accepted if you have the y-chromosome.

Reclaiming our bodies and our gender is not what they want. 

This is evidently not her choice.

Women are expected to live in this box of societal expectations, as represented by Bill Mack’s “Liberated Enigma” sculpture at Austin’s A05 Gallery. This poem is about these expectations. 
Photo by Grace Parmer

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