Friday, March 7, 2014

Belly Dancing, Clickbait and Censorship on Salon.com

As many of you probably know by now, Randa Jarrar has an article in Salon about how White women are appropriating belly dancing and how much she hates that.
You can read the whole thing at the above link, but here is her concluding paragraph:
But, here’s the thing. Arab women are not vessels for white women to pour themselves and lose themselves in; we are not bangles or eyeliner or tiny bells on hips. We are human beings. This dance form is originally ours, and does not exist so that white women can have a better sense of community; can gain a deeper sense of sisterhood with each other; can reclaim their bodies; can celebrate their sexualities; can perform for the female gaze. Just because a white woman doesn’t profit from her performance doesn’t mean she’s not appropriating a culture. And, ultimately, the question is this: Why does a white woman’s sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, have to happen on Arab women’s backs?
Well qualified people will no doubt take apart her stupid arguments (some already have) or make fun of her or take the opportunity to say "I told you those ragheads are morons", but my beef is with Salon. When I first saw the piece today (via a tweet from Razib) I posted a short comment on it that went something like this:

"I dont think Randa is actually such a self-righteous moron. She must have a book launch coming up and she knew this piece would become the most "controversial" piece on Salon. Read the signs people!"

A few hours later there were over a thousand comments on the site, but my comment was gone. A lot of the comments (in fact, most of the comments) are negative, but yes, they do take her seriously by trying to answer her arguments instead of questioning her motives. None of them has been deleted.
So I tried again. I posted the comment again. It was deleted in 5 minutes.
Naturally I turned to Brownpundits.
So people, what do you think? do you think she is is completely sincere? or is there an element of cold calculation in this piece (i.e., did she deliberately take a position even she does not really believe in order to generate controversy)?
This is not a rhetorical question. I am really curious. ( btw, I am NOT looking for a discussion on the merits of her argument. I am sure some of our readers find some merit in her arguments, but that discussion is already going on at the Salon site and I suspect any argument with me will flounder because we dont share enough common assumptions).
Personally, I am inclined to think she is serious but the possibility that she did this specifically to cause a controversy (whether for a book launch or just to get noticed) is still there.
And why does Salon think that calling her a fool is OK, but suggesting that she may be an intelligent woman shrewdly exploiting an opportunity is beyond the pale?


(This picture proves that I follow her argument, even if I completely disagree with her)