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Welcome to May's Zameena!
Ramadan Kareem!

 

We hope you'll agree that we have another exciting, 
jam packed edition of
Zameena,

(the free, monthly, bellydance e-zine from Zara's Zouk's mother-daughter team Zara Dance & Sandra )

Our resident writer, Cassandra Fox (in photo above), ignites our passion with an amazing, thought provoking article, full of great actionable points and observations on body image  

Info Spot has important information on ownership of our photos from pro photographer and lovely dancer, Evie 

Music Corner gives you not just one but TWO new Egyptian songs to check out and shimmy along to

And as always there are lots of Zara's Zouk goodies to be found, plus a low down on events where you can meet either Zara or Sandra -- ENJOY xxx 

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Body Language: Why the Language We Use About Our Bodies Matters

by Cassandra Fox 
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As dancers we take pride in what we can do with our bodies.

We use our bodies to translate the language of music to something that can be seen visually while it is being heard.

It is pretty magical.

But what about the language that we and society as a whole use to describe our bodies and the bodies of others?

Often that is less than magical.
This and the following photo: Gigging at Tholos in costumes by Cassandra

I opened up Facebook on my phone the night before writing this. In my notifications I had been tagged in the comments on a post. I came to find that once again someone had reposted one of my dance clips on a Facebook page with a substantial following.

 I have a conflicting feeling of delight and disdain as I often do when this happens. The delight because someone had thoughtfully made a video out of little clips from some of my videos on YouTube, they credited me and as a bonus, they even complimented me. Being credited on reposts seldom happens so I am always appreciative when it does. The feeling of disdain comes from knowing the nature of the comments section. There is a feeling to seeing yourself publicly talked about in the third person, like you’re not actually a person with a sense of self and feeling, but just an item for public consumption. You feel reduced. You feel dismissed. You feel like you’re work is taking a back seat to the value of your aesthetic and inevitably to your “fuckability”.

I know all the facts. The good comments far outweigh the bad. It’s true. At one point I had done the math using a couple of posts as examples to create an average and came to find that typically less than 10% of the comments were negative. That’s 90% positive.
It is certainly nothing to complain about and a lot to be thankful and grateful for, which I entirely am.  
If you’re someone who leaves kind and thoughtful comments on the posts of others you should know that you might be responsible for brightening someone’s day. Good for you ❤️  ❤️

I know all the platitudes:
“Just ignore the haters”,
“They’re just insecure”,
“Keep doing you”,
“Focus on the good”.
Honestly, I agree with them. I do my best to live by them.  But they don’t lessen the visceral hurt one can experience from being publicly body shamed  or having your body questioned or judged when you’re just doing your job, or even just existing. 

As I type this, the above mentioned post has been on Facebook for 25 hours, has 197,000 views and 375 comments.  I quickly skimmed them based on Facebook’s suggestion of “Most Relevant” , so I did not read all of them  but I did find the following useful for my article:

“She better have 5 kids with that gut” (Man)

“Certainly has enough belly to dance with” (Woman)

“She has lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw her. Good job hunnay” (Woman)

“How can she exercise like that and still be fat?” (Man)

“She actually has the perfect body for a belly dancer … amazing” (Woman)

“She’s very good … I’m just surprised she’s not thinner” (Woman)

“Just why hasn’t she got a toned belly with those fantastic movements?” (Woman)

“If I looked like that I’d show it off too. Us sticks can only dream. Love watching her though very beautiful.” (Woman)
Good or bad what these comments have in common is that they contain an aspect of being about my body or body type, irrespective of my work or as a credit to my work. It is also interesting to note that most of the comments came from other women. It’s as if society has conditioned us to hate ourselves and other women or something, so we’re constantly hen pecking each other, instead of loving ourselves and others. Weird …
(The above comments are not the same as someone voicing the opinion of “I love/hate her body type” that while unnecessary and not really relevant is just personal opinion and at least does not feel like an attack or a request for justification. I hope that makes sense.)

Your initial and instinctive response might just be,
“Well it can’t be helped. That is the cost of putting yourself out there. You just have to deal with it and learn to ignore it”.
I used to think that and tell myself that constantly, even when it was happening to me. I would give that same advice to others experiencing it. I just kept going and did my best to absorb my feelings, I mean really, it is all you can do to keep going.  But this sort of thing is like a pocket of bacteria left to fester you can only ignore it for so long before you’re left with an abscess that bursts. It needs to burst to heal. It’s a sense of relief when it finally does. Sometimes in order to let it go, you have to let it out.  And then I had my epiphany,
WHY SHOULD IT BE THIS WAY?
Why is this the accepted norm? How can we change it?


How do we make this something we deal with less instead of something we have to ignore more?
Seriously,
How can WE change this?
Before you can inspire change in a community you have to inspire change in yourself.
It starts with you.
You are the only person whose behavior you can control.
You can’t make anyone change their behavior but you can hopefully inspire them when they see what you’ve done with yours.
Photo: Cassandra in her hand made dress and shawl
I am confident that most, if not all, of you who read this have been body shamed at least once in your life. I am even so confident as to say most of us have been body shamed or had our bodies judged more times than we can count.
I am almost equally as confident that you have at some point in your life body shamed someone else. I know I have, on many occasions.
Youth is a vicious time.  
It is okay.
Forgive yourself.
It is a sadly accepted social norm. It’s on the cover of magazines, it’s water cooler talk, it’s Facebook comment threads. It is the fatphobia, and the ageism that we live with. It is the objectification of women’s bodies that we exist with.
It is insidious and it is everywhere.
On the bright side, we can at least see one thing pretty quickly, we perpetuate what we are hurting from which means we have some power to work at it and create an improved environment. 
*Flexes *That’s right, we have an opportunity for change
*Happy dance*

It can feel like second nature to look at another human, particular female and want to dissect their looks. I know in my heart of hearts every single woman (and probably most men) at some point in their life have stared at themselves in a mirror or picture and dissected their looks. We have highlighted every perceived flaw, logged it and stored it. We have cut our-self down time and time again.  We’re so damaged from this that in a false and flimsy effort to rebuild ourselves we try to cut down another.  We think we are leveling the field at the time but it’s actually more like confidence clearcutting. The results are barren. We don’t want a barren landscape. We want a healthy, flourishing forest for our community.
So I googled “How do you start a forest?” and the first page I clicked on said: 
"The first thing you need is patience and knowledge that you are starting a long-term project”
How perfectly applicable,
Thanks Google
Learning to be kinder to your own body and to the bodies of others does NOT happen overnight.
You won’t do it one day and that’s it: you are pure love now, unicorns and rainbows for everyone. 
I wish it was that way, but fatphobia, and ageism are so ingrained that it takes a long time and a lot of work to unpack. 
Photo: Cassandra at home in one of her hand made costumes

Valuing ourselves on our perceived attractiveness is heavily rooted  in our culture as well. One does not throw these things overboard one night expecting to never see it again. There is an excellent chance you’ll see it on the shoreline next morning, waiting for you. You have to be patient with yourself, be gentle with yourself, and you just have to keep throwing it overboard until one day it hopefully doesn’t float back.
So here are some tips from my experience and current adventure in not hating my body and not hating the bodies of others, and some tips to hopefully improve the environment and experience for everyone.

Plant One Seed A Day.
One little seed, One little kind word. Start there. Look in the mirror and give yourself a compliment and try to cut yourself off before you criticize yourself. Take the compliment and run. 
It’s a free cookie. Just take it and enjoy it.

You Can Be Working Towards A Goal And Still Be Kind Yourself.
Maybe you really want to change something.  I believe in body autonomy and that each individual has to do what is right for them and their body, and their health. Just remember that you can be kind to yourself during the process, you can work towards self love while working towards other goals. And importantly that your goals are your own. You don’t have to enforce them on others or judge others for having different ones.
Call It Out.
When you find yourself looking at someone and starting to judge and dissect, call yourself out. Ask yourself,
“Hey why are we judging this other body? Its not your business and it’s not your problem. It’s fine as it is.”
Similarly when you are with someone and they start hating on the body of another (or their own body) call them out. Tell them that is an ugly thing to say, ask them where those feelings are coming from. Remind them that the beauty of the rose does not diminish the beauty of the lily. Remind yourself of this often too.

Don’t Blame Your Body Type.
Your body type is not the problem. Seriously, it's not.  There is not a move in this dance that you can or can’t do well because of your body type. Technique is technique. Musicality is musicality.  Feeling is feeling. They are not dependent on body type. Stop making excuses and get to work. Conversely don’t credit the body of another for being the reason why something looks good or looks better. Shimmies aren’t absolutely better on bigger women because they “have more to shake”. Belly rolls aren’t absolutely better on flat stomachs where you “can see everything clearly”. You might prefer one aesthetic over the other and that’s fine, you can love a big juicy shimmy on a fluffy set of hips, or a snaky belly roll on a long lean torso. Those are both beautiful things, but they are not what makes them inherently better over other  shimmies or belly rolls. Chances are if a move looks really good on a dancer it’s because they have worked really hard at it.  Don’t diminish that. THERE IS NO PERFECT BELLY DANCE BODY. There are just dance bodies. Be the creator and captain of your own aesthetic. Own your individual beauty; develop your dance around your body and your spirit.

Don’t Dress Your Fatphobia Up As Health Concerns.
Someone else’s health isn’t your business. Unless you are their health care professional that they have reached out to or they have asked you directly about their health and body, it’s not your business and it’s not your problem. Don’t worry about someone else’s body. That random person’s obesity is of no threat to you and poses no harm to you. You’re just being a jerk.  Fat does not automatically mean unhealthy any more than slender or muscular automatically means healthy.  Fat does not mean unfit anymore than thin means fit. Stop using body type as a health guide.  Stop using assumed health status as justification for publicly body shaming people.  

Remember Health Is A Privilege.
It’s easy to say, “Well, so long as you’re healthy” but its easier to forget that there are invisible illnesses, chronic conditions and that “good health” is not something everyone can achieve.  Someone can be doing their best and still be “unhealthy”.  There are societal barriers to health and health education as well such as classism, poverty, and racism. Be kind, don’t assume, and stay in your lane unless you’ve been invited out of it.
 
Give Genuine Compliments.
Telling someone something nice that you genuinely mean feels really good. Like the grocery store cashier’s style? Tell her! Like your mom’s greying hair? Tell her!  Like your doctor’s glasses? Tell her! Like the way your cousin calls to see how you’re doing instead of texts? Tell her! Think your friend is a great mother? Tell her! Like your bestie’s chesties? Tell her! Like that random girl’s butt? Tell her, actually maybe use your discretion on that one, but you get the idea.

Avoid Compliments With Qualifiers Or Caveats
Just give the compliment, forget the qualifier. She doesn’t look good “for her age”, she just looks good. Period. Exclamation point! She is not a good dancer for a pudgy girl, she is just a good dancer.  And while I know you think you’re being kind, saying something like “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful” does not help the big picture. Someone can be fat AND beautiful.  It’s not an either or thing.
Step Back And Just Listen.
When someone has been body shamed and is openly talking about it, the best thing you can do is just listen and let them vent. We don’t need solutions, and we are not fishing for compliments. Don’t tell us to just ignore it, we know that. Chances are we have already ignored most of it and we do that all the time. Sometimes we need to literally get that negativity out of our system and just vent.  
Photo: Cassandra selfie at home

Also, its okay to let yourself vent when you need to . Don’t hold in your hurt or your farts.  Yes, you read that right. Just want to make sure you’re still with me here, and that you’re not holding your farts in.

Stop Calling Curvy/Plus Size/Fat Women Brave, Or Telling Us How Much You Love Our Confidence.
I know you mean well. Honestly I do as I have been on both sides of these comments in my lifetime. But no matter how well intentioned it is, It feels like a low key complisult. Because I know my fellow thin framed dancers rarely hear it, and I know you’re saying it because you know I am not the standard of beauty/not thin/ fat and you think I am brave for being out here anyway with my fat ass on display and because of this you admire my confidence. I used to try to take it as the intended compliment but it never sat right with me. Now, 90% of the time it just feels patronizing.  I have simply done my job that I have worked hard to be good at. I don’t feel brave for doing so. The only risk is the risk of judgement of my body … which would not be a risk if we stopped endlessly obsessing over how bodies looked, see where I am going with this?
I am not brave.
I won’t even go on a roller coaster.

Disarm The Words Intended To Harm.
Take ownership of the word fat. I would see comment threads were random people were arguing whether or not I was fat, or fat enough to be called fat. These confused me. So, if I am fat enough to be called fat it would be okay to use it as a hurtful term to tear me down?
And what about those who are unquestionably fat,  why is their body a baseline insult? Fat carries with it many assumed judgements; lazy, inactive, unhealthy, over eating, fast food eater, etc. Personally I think the way to deal with this is to own the word, and make an effort to disarm it.
Someone calls you fat?
Say “thank you”, or “so what?”

Fat should not be something we fear or mock, it should just be a neutral descriptor like thin, blonde, brunette, short, tall etc. It should not be used as an insult.

Remember We Are All Dealing With Insecurities And Body Image Issues, But From Different Positions.
All of us, even those who are the perceived standard of beauty, will be body shamed and probably have experience with it. But even so, thin privilege, fatphobia and ageism are real. You can be body shamed while still benefiting from these things. That’s how big this is.
That’s why we need to stick together to keep throwing fatphobia, ageism etc. overboard, or maybe we can bury it or burn it to the ground!!!!! Till there is nothing left but ashes! Then everyone go and get burritos.

Thank You For Reading This.
I hope you have found it helpful and I hope that I was able to convey that everything said here was said with love and empathy.  I am not an expert, and I don’t have this all figured out from a pinnacle of self-love perfection, I too am figuring it out as I go and making mistakes along the way.  To me what matters is that I make an effort to listen and try to learn from any mistakes and that I forgive myself and others that do the same. We just have to keep learning and moving.
P.S.
Actually I have tried to pick up multiple feral cats.
Maybe, just maybe, I am a little bit brave after all …
Playing around on this drum solo whilst waiting to dance for a private party - enjoy!

Soca, my first musical love, dancing on 
"Ragga Ragga" by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires

Want to learn to belly dance with me?
Private classes available via Skype, to book, email me at: cassandrafoxdance@hotmail.com 

Join me on Patreon, all tiers are just $10 a month:  
www.patreon.com/cassandrafoxdance
The  introductory “New to Dance Enthusiast” is for those new to belly dance or for those wanting to review their basics. It has technique tutorials and practice videos you can access and learn on your own time.
I also have a "Dance Drills and Thrills" tier for intermediate and up belly dancers, designed to get you dancing. Weekly follow along practice videos to build stamina, and motivate you to get moving. Not a lot of talking, just a lot of dancing and moving.

I will eventually be adding a Caribbean dance tier and a costuming tier as well so stayed tuned.
Hate the internet?
Want to learn in person?

See here for workshops and get shimmying with me in person!
 
May 25th to 26th 2019 Syracuse, New York, USA
3 Early Girls Presents Cassandra Fox
 For more information Click Here: 
July 5th and 6th2019, Hunt Valley, Maryland, USA  
  Dance Creativity Body Acceptance Convention

For more information  Click Here:
 
August 30th to September 1st 2019, Londrina, Brazil
 Arabic Festival Interacional

For more information Click Here:  
Love the internet? 
Find me here on my social media just click:
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Photo: Sweetberry, a My Little Pony who was on my desk when I made my YouTube account. 
A big Zameena THANK YOU to Cassandra for a thought provoking article 
- we all do need to love ourselves and each other more!
Cassandra is back with another Resident writer edition in August!! 
www.ZarasZouk.com
Your Body, Your Rules, 
Your Online Bellydance Shop


We also go mobile &
you can make an appointment to visit us in London UK
Call or text: 
07854023948
SHOP ASSUIT HERE
#weloveourcustomers
Check out our customers in their Assuit buys from Zara's Zouk.
The lovely Alanya and Roxane Grant
Info Spot 
What you need to know about your rights to 'your' photos
with GUEST WRITER and expert: 
Evie Kalila
BA (hons) Photography, Media Producer

Dancers love sharing their pictures on social media, so why should you be bothered about copyright laws?

The question usually comes up when you have spotted your image being used to promote a business or product, without your permission.
So who actually owns your photographs? Do you give up your rights when you share them on social media?
 
Copyright is a complicated subject and is often hidden in the boring small print, yawn!  So, I have tried to simplify in this short article.
 
The rights to any photographic image belong to the ‘creator’, which in the majority of cases is the photographer. If you have taken the picture yourself, the right is automatic and doesn’t require you to do anything. A professional photographer can license out the image or sign over all rights to the artist (dancer) or to the business that has commissioned the shoot.
 
I recommend that dancers make sure they have an agreement in writing before they start the photoshoot. If this isn’t agreed the photographer actually owns the images. However, in order to sell them, the photographer will have to have a ‘model release’ in place i.e. your signed agreement that they can sell them for commercial purposes.
 
Companies cannot by law use any images for commercial purposes without agreed permission from the ‘creator' (the photographer) and a model release in place.
 
Equally, you can’t sell your dance photographs to a picture library; even if you paid for the photoshoot, unless you have an ‘all rights’ agreement with the photographer to show to the picture library.
 
So what about social media I hear you ask?
You still own your images, but as soon as you sign up to Facebook and Instagram you grant the platform a very broad license to use your images. The license covers: ...…’non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty free and worldwide licence to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display’ ..... your content. ‘royalty free’ basically means that the social media site can re-sell your images and you don’t get a penny.
 
But to be clear these rights belong to the social media site and it doesn’t mean that anyone can use your images once you have posted them to social media.
 
Anyone using or sharing your image needs to obtain your permission. Simply crediting the original source is not sufficient. Even for ‘regramming’ the user is responsible for obtaining the right to use any content they share. If someone shares your picture without your permission, you can report them to the social media site.
Music Corner
with Zara Dance
The first song I am sharing with you is by super star Assala and is called, "Bint Akaber" which translates to, "The Most Beautiful Girl" this song has a modern sounding beat with a traditional Saiidi miszara riff - enjoy!
The second video I am sharing is by a, not so famous, Shaabi singer from the Egyptian music channel Shabyat. It has only just been released so who knows if it will be a success? He maybe a future star. It is about typical Shaabi stuff - issues in life, drinking and drugs. I am sharing this song because I like the dancer in the video, not sure who it is, but I enjoyed. HOPE YOU DO TOO.

Also we have very similar costumes to this dancer at Zara's Zouk so check them out Click Here

For full song translations of this song OR any song contact my friend Ahmed of Lighthouse Arabic Acadamey and quote Zameena for a discount. Click Here 
Updates and where to find Zara Dance and Zara's Zouk
NEW BLOG: Check out Zara Dance's latest blog on the difficult subject of getting jealous of fellow belly dancers, Not just a discussion, it also gives great coping mechanisms if you find yourself getting a little jealous.    
Read Zara's Latest Blog Here
We are so excited and honoured to say that
Zara's Zouk will be at Raqs Sharqi London.
And, there's the chance to WIN a professional costume from Zara's Zouk if you enter and win the competition - so have a go!!
We hope to see you there - info below!
Thank you for reading this far
We hope you enjoyed!
 
Also, THANK YOU to Cassandra
and Evie for their helpful and informative articles.

Here is an Egyptian Fanoos, a lantern which  is the symbol of Ramadan in Egypt. This one was gifted to us (you can see our pic on it). We wish you all a HAPPY RAMADAN and if you are fasting we send you love and strength in this time. May all your prayers be answered.
Zara and Sandra xx 
If you enjoyed the article please share the love and tell your friends. If you are reading from an external link subscribe so you never miss an issue. xx
If you enjoyed Zameena please share the love and tell your friends. If you are reading from an external link subscribe so you never miss an issue. xx
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