Speak / Silence


Frankie 100, photograph my own.

Trigger warning: This post deals with sensitive material surrounding testimonies of many very brave women speaking up against Max Pitruzzella who raped them. While no explicit details will be on this post in the interest of younger audiences (my students) , full accounts can be found on the ineffable Jo Hoffberg’s facebook and Ruth Evelyn’s page. Further details about the ‘booyah’ club can be found on the group page for Lindy Hoppers Against Rape Culture. I encourage readers and dancers of all ages to find a way to break the silence.

I have no words. Nothing will do. When people take privilege and lord it over others, when peace is threatened by malice…cruelty bears an ugly scar on humanity. Even that sentence sounds wrong and does the situation no justice. As someone who has survived similar circumstances, I wonder how to talk about this issue. My attacker was not a dancer, but I knew him. We were on a date when similar situations described by Ruth and others like her occurred. I blamed myself. My friends blamed me. I was called several names, most of them linked to derogatory terms. I lost my friends and my entire support system in a foreign country. I cannot imagine what that fear does to you in the hands of a community we love.

Today is a time of mourning. In the past, I have blamed, fumed, and wrought myself wrong in fury. Today…today, I don’t know how to feel. Only that lindy hop used to be an escape for laughter, joy, and all things beautiful. Yet, the more things I learn, the more I feel disenchanted with the dynamics. We leap for joy, we sing, we rabble-rouse. That’s lindy hop for me-that sort of defiant laughter in the face of a cynical world.  Now, I fear it’s escape of a different sort, another way for cruelty or …evil to rear its ugly head. Has dancing made us better people? Or has it made us numb to certain power inequalities?

“You’re not alone. It’s not your fault.” We say these things. We mean it. But how, HOW do we stop injustice from happening again? How do we prevent it from ever happening? How do we reverse blood already spilled? Speaking up matters. Talking matters. If we do not speak up, I think the very earth will cry out.

Stigma prevents us from healing. Stigma suffocates and hold tights to silence. Thoughtful dialogue changes things, but what can truly repair the hurt? I don’t know yet. I’m still in the process, and lindy hop played a huge role in my healing process. However, I wonder if the community can also bear its teeth some times. I see new dancers excluded, I have excluded people myself (I think I am expert at alienating others, if anything). How do we be kinder? Braver? Better?

I don’t know yet. I sit in a bustling cafe, and I feel alone today. Perhaps tomorrow will bring a different horizon.