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The power of the shimmy

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This week I learned that power comes to those who shimmy and shake

Adel Heine

Adel Heine

I am the Queen of the Office. Having been a garden variety editor for the better part of two years, suddenly, my fortunes changed and I am on top of the heap. And all it took was a few well placed shimmies and shakes.

Until recently I was unaware of the special powers I posses, but an article published on Salon.com spelled it out perfectly. When white women belly dance, they are not just partaking in some structured shaking of curvy body parts, according to Randa Jarrar. Like a flock of pale succubi, they are guilty of the act of appropriation and not of just anything, but of the very culture of the Arab woman.

Now, I have never really belly danced; I have never done a course nor do I own a costume. But, since nothing ventured, nothing gained, I decided to not let this stop me. Power was to be had. If I had understood this writer correctly, the smallest shake of hip or shiver of breast would make me a usurper of female Arab power, so after a few short moments of practice in front of my bathroom mirror I felt I was good to go.

The first victim of my inept quivering was one of the Art and Culture reporters who let one of her snarky comments float in my direction. Looking at her sternly I shook my bosoms in her general direction and watched her shrink. Victory was mine. The rest of the girls in the office were soon conquered as I put out my foot and rotated my hips and after lulling my female boss in a sense of false security with a double shot latte, a quick shake of the shoulders took care of business. Veni, shimmy, vici.

I am aware that I ignored Ms Jarrar’s passionate plea for us females of the fairer variety to stay on our own side of the cultural fence and instead used her knowledge to my own advantage, but then again that is what we do. We white women. And now that she was kind enough to open Pale Pandora’s Box, there is no more need for the subterfuge we have employed for so long. To each her own as long as she is fair, of skin that is, is the new slogan.

As more and more of my fellow pale sisters figure out they can rule the roost by ringing their eyes with kohl, I fully expect Arab women everywhere to rise up in defence of their culture.

One of the first places where change will come is in fashion. T-shirts can of course no longer be worn since they were originally designed for the American navy. Jeans will also disappear from the streets because they are not only iconic reminders of the American miners and pioneers in the West, the original designers were Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis. Enough said.

The vibrant restaurant scene in the capital, or to be precise the food court that is Zamalek, will dwindle. All the designer burger bars will lose their snooty clientele overnight; kofta is indigenous but patties are not. The few places that offer basic Egyptian fare, in cute containers featuring arabesque designs, were ahead of the curve and will thrive, but succulent sushi, aromatic Indian and savoury Chinese cuisines are now only served to those born in the country where the dishes originated.

And it does not stop here. Blues night at the Jazz Club is no more, and soon the venue will change its name all together. The ballet company no longer stages performances of Giselle or Swan Lake and those members of the symphony orchestra that are not of German or Austrian decent throw out their scores of Mozart and Beethoven. iPods all over town will only sport Habibi Wahishtini songs, until their owners realise that using US designed, Chinese made contraptions to listen to music reduces their cultural heritage and get together to ritually burn them in a feast of fanatical fervour.

As my colleagues scratch out their articles on papyrus and look enviously as I type away on my keyboard I wonder about the power they so foolishly gave up. What on earth made them think that my inept shimmying of hip or shaking of breasts reduced their heritage? If they had shown up wearing wooden shoes and doing one of the traditional dances from my country I would have thought it was hilarious but would not have felt diminished in any way.

If they would not have fallen for this cheap party trick I would have told them I find the premise of the article not just silly but particularly obnoxious, because it advocates a division between women from different ethnicities. That the world only stands to benefit from people learning about different cultures and partaking in traditions, and that maybe women should first tackle the inequality between the sexes before we start fighting amongst ourselves.

But, since nobody asked, I now enjoy all the perks of being all-powerful, and until everyone comes back to their senses, I am enjoying the view from the top.

About the author

Adel Heine

Adel Heine

DNE Art & Culture, and Lifestyle Editor


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