I opened Facebook to find a very sad video of a pregnant woman winning a twerk contest. As a former athlete I was actually impressed with her flexibility and coordination. I mean I've hurdled, played volleyball and basketball while pregnant, and biked and walked, but I still could not imagine my body moving in the way that hers did. Amazing as it was, sadness rushed over me as men cheered and threw dollars at her as she split, twirled and gyrated on the floor. I wasn't disappointed with her act, I was disappointed in the fact that (as an online observer) she was definitely not in control of her body... She was an object of shock and discomfort. And although she may have felt empowered, the fact that she was dancing for men throwing dollars and ended up on a ratchetry sight (sites that display the worst of us usually from the least economically empowered) was huge to the narrative of the "control" she actually possessed.
To my terror my daughters pop up over my shoulder. They've never seen twerking and I've done my best to keep them away from today's watered down and degrading pop version of "hip hop". The kind that is perfect at objectifying women’s bodies, uplifting violence, poverty and coonery to a very simplistic, unimaginative beat. They have no clue about any of this stuff, so this video melted their eyes.
Big Sister: Mom what is she doing?
Me: It's called twerking
Middle Sister: Wow, OMG... what is that. I mean your body can do that? It looks kinda gross but why is there money?
Me: Ok so look... She is dancing for money but she is also pregnant.
Big Sister: Why would you want to dance for money? Doesn't she have a job?
Me: Well some people make money dancing like this. We don't want to judge but I don't want you guys thinking this is a viable profession. She has a baby inside her.
Big Sister: Oh. My. God... mom how would her child feel if they saw their mom dancing like that?
Me: I don't know. How would you feel if I danced like that?
Big Sister: It would be embarrassing. I wouldn't want my friends to know.
Me: I'd never do that to you. But we all have a choice what we do with our body because it is ours. You can't let anyone ever force you to do stuff with your body that you don't want to do. Either by paying you or harming you. It's yours and you choose what it does. Also we don't judge what others do with theirs as long as it isn't harming us.
Me: You want people to like you because of who you are, not because of what your body can do. This goes for not just sexuality but for athletes, dancers, models... Sadly people get trapped in letting their vessel define their lives.
This is all I could remember because kids deplete memory resources. I'm sure there was more. Essentially I don't want my daughters growing up judging other people's acts of empowerment but I want them to feel empowered to take risks and push their bodies while not being defined respectively by them.
None of these images are mine