Alastair Macaulay: Colonial Thinking of the New York Times
We’ve all encountered them before: those pseudo-feminists whose idea of equality is measuring how barbaric a culture compares to Western gender roles. There are those who refuse to believe that war bonnets are not to be worn by white hipster girls or the sexualized caricature of a Native American woman who claim that keeping tradition of indigenous cultures is “sexist.” And then there are columnists like Macaulay of the New York Times. His review on the Banga dance of the Likha Dance Ensemble goes as follows:
The Philippine ceremony was a nicely picturesque exhibition of sexism. All the women balanced earthenware pots on their heads and then piled them on the head of one kneeling prospective bride. The bride then had to rise and dance, with this pagoda almost her own height on her head.
Meanwhile her bridegroom raised his head to crow, like a cockerel, without once offering to help her. Yet these women, dressed in flesh-colored outfits that made them look approximately bare-breasted, danced lusciously. More movement was happening in hips than in feet or legs.
How lucky we are to have white dance critics save us from our barbaric ways and then oogle our women’s bodies!
That was obviously sarcasm.
If you read the rest of the article, you’ll notice the scope of his understanding of cultural dances matches very well with Western notions on what cultures are “valuable.”
The Banga dance of the Kalinga is not about sexism. The Kalinga are known for fierceness of the men. Banga displays another aspect of the culture. This dance showcases the rare mixture of strength, stamina, beauty, and grace of the culture. Perhaps the notion that culture is not just a costume for special occasions but can be found in the simplest of routine is a foreign idea to a writer whose idea of skill is directly tied to a ballerina’s weight.
The article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/arts/music/15festival.html?_r=2
Likha here: http://www.likha.org/galleries/cordillera.asp
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