Hip-Hop and Shake, or, Can you be a twerking feminist?

Last night I had a two and a half hour class on feminist literary criticism. We waxed poetic about if it is possible to have an écriture féminine (feminin writing); we debated the subalternity of the female voice; we bemoaned the state of the women within this phallocentric world; we discussed texts that questioned if we are born woman, or made woman.

And then, at 7:00, I dashed across campus to jump into my weekly “Hip-Hop and Shake” class. Simone de Beauvoir, Hélène Cixous, and Gayatri Spivak were instantly replaced by a slew of rappers reminding me that white girls can still shake it.

I ask you, does the latter undo the former? Maybe… ok, probably.What does the presence of such classes, filled with such songs, and attended excitedly by such women tell us about the modern feminist condition?  Rap is not exactly the bastion of respect and gender equality. But people, this class is so much fun. Remember last year when I had a semester long love/hate affair with spinning? This semester it is Hip-hop and Shake, a class where you dance like an idiot at a a club for an hour and then congratulate yourself for working out. Yes. This is my jam.

Because really, I love dancing. But I hate clubs. Why can’t there be awesome dancing and thumping music in nice well-lit venues with ample seating, clean toilets, respectful dance floor co-horts, and a wide selection of tasty snacks? Oh, and why do those places always have to get exciting so late? At Hip-Hop and Shake I can dance intently and still be in bed by 10. Excellent.

But do not let my epic wedding dancing of 2013 convince you that I am any good at this fitness pursuit. No. Us from the French program cower in the back and try to keep at least part of our body doing what the instructor is. I can get the hips in line, or the hands, but for goodness sake, not both. And can I have it explained in writing, with diagrams and a flip book how to do a “body roll”??? Because I am just not there. Sometimes we have to do these supposedly sexy jump-up fall down and slither up things, and let me tell you: caught a glimpse of myself flopping around in the mirror and it was objectively traumatizing and not sexy. More like a seal flopping on bed of hot coals.

Perhaps there is more than meets the eye with this class. Phrases yelled by the instructor like “If you can’t shake what I’m shaking, shake whatever you’ve got!” (affirmation of the beauty of all body types?) and, during the twerking tutorial session, “Twerking is hard, I know. It’s because our foremothers didn’t have to twerk to lure in their prey but now we do!” (recognition of evolving standards and difficulties for women?)  give me reason to pause and wonder what are the societal implications of a room full of women makin’ it rain like their life depended on it.

Furthermore, it must be mentioned that this is a class attended almost exclusively by under-gradaute perky women who are most definitely honing their in-class skills on the weekend. There is a serious age gap upon which I like to blame all of my hip-hop inadequacies. Tonight the instructor announced that we would be playing an “old-classic,” at which I was obviously expecting Will Smith from you know, before he was a TV sensation. No. What came blaring out was “Soldier Boy.” Don’t get me wrong, I learned the whole dance in my dorm room during a particularly nasty college winter. But how did all of them know it? I did the math, and it came out when most students in that room were in middle school. Go ahead, feel old with me here.

Let it not be said that my hour of intense hip-hop does not have real life applications. For instance, in the semiannual event that I find myself in a place of crowded and dark dancing after midnight, I shall have a number of routines at my disposal. But importantly, half way through the class, we split down the middle and have a DANCE BATTLE. For those of you who have not seen all of the Step Up/ Bring It/ Dance It? Save those dances/ Center Stage is Where it’s At films (all of which, conveniently, have the exact same plot), you know the type I’m talking about. Ones like this:

Back and forth we go, one side dancing as hard as possible against the other, even though in the end — we are all winners on the dance floor. Might I take this moment to recommend to the many politicians and world leaders that I’m sure read this blog, that we adopt the dance battle method for current and future political disagreements? (Pause to imagine Harry Reid and John Boehner dancing to “Billy Jean” to resolve the next debt crisis. Obviously Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi are backup dancers.)

In the end, I take my sweaty body home each week, wondering why I haven’t received more calls to take my talent global. Nevertheless, I shall continue to dance. And perhaps in the end, Hip-Hop and Shake is the embodiment of feminism at it’s finest: we are all equals on the dance floor. And we have scared away all the men.

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22 Responses to Hip-Hop and Shake, or, Can you be a twerking feminist?

  1. I don’t think being a well educated and smart woman means we need to quit being women, and being beautiful is part of being a woman. So dance away.

  2. Rebekah says:

    When I was exceedingly pregnant, going stir-crazy and feeling all creaky and swollen, I would sometimes turn up my club music really really loud and dance all over the living room. It made me feel better, and I think Ellie liked it. She likes to dance with me now. :)

    (But if I ever see Harry Reid and Paul Ryan shakin’ it on C-SPAN, I think I might go blind from horror. Or laughter, I’m not sure which.)

  3. Kate says:

    i feel like, and i could be wrong, but i feel like you might like swing dancing. it’s a recently discovered thing for me. incredibly fun and i never ever feel degraded.

    • Hannah says:

      See, I don’t really feel degraded…. more like bad that I don’t feel so. But I do love swing dancing. I started in college and love whipping it out whenever there is an opportunity.

  4. beckydancer says:

    Love this post. I feel you! Love to dance, too old to twerk in public. LOL.

  5. Angela says:

    I’m a lover of ALL kinds of dance and music especially African dance and Hip Hop. But the terms “Hip Hop” and “Rap” are used so interchangeably and I think that’s why some women may have difficulty with shaking their arse and feeling like their degrading themselves. I am truly a lover of hip hop which is more of a lifestyle but rap I’m typically not a fan of. Hip hop speaks to a variety or people, the culture of that time but Rap is just a subcategory of hip hop. But can I get down and twerk, oh most definitely, I love to dance :). But can I also learn specific choreography and flow with the beat? You betcha because dance runs through my veins like my blood. It’s fun, exhilarating and there’s freedom in it. So I too say dance away!

    • Hannah says:

      Thanks girl! You are so right — I am probably pretty sloppy with my terms… owning five Celine Dion cds doesn’t exactly qualify me as a hip-hop specialist. ; )

  6. Melanie says:

    “Because really, I love dancing. But I hate clubs. Why can’t there be awesome dancing and thumping music in nice well-lit venues with ample seating, clean toilets, respectful dance floor co-horts, and a wide selection of tasty snacks? Oh, and why do those places always have to get exciting so late? ”

    This is exactly how I feel in paragraph form.

  7. Heidi says:

    Me and Callan have almost daily dance parties. You should come dance with us…any dancing is fun with a toddler. :)

  8. Amanda says:

    I need I need I need a dance battle. NEED. THIS.

  9. Yajaira says:

    Wow, that class sounds like so much fun! I say if you love it, keep doing it. :)

  10. Pingback: Weekend ~ 3/14/14 ~ Secret Codes | DCTdesigns

  11. Emily says:

    Hahahaha! The last two sentences of this post are HILARIOUS!

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