“You’re trying to be a lady but you’re more comfortable being a tramp,” were the words of Bruno Tonioli. The audience and her partner laughed along while the shock and embarrassment registered on the face of Lil Kim.
DWTS has a patriarchal foundation to begin with because it never challenges gender roles or sexuality. Though clearly Lance Bass is gay, the idea of him competing with a man was never given serious consideration outside of the gay and lesbian community as ultimately DWTS is about reminding others that performing the roles encoded to their bodies is of paramount performance.
Since the show has been on the air there have been plenty of dances that were highly sexual and yet it is the black woman that is called a tramp when she does a dance that is not in the least bit sexualized. What is this but the articulation of the jezebel construction? Tonoli felt safe making the commentary that he did because black female bodies are deemed always sexually available.
When white female dancers perform what is considered a sexy dance, the judges comment about how hot the dance was and rarely to never is it personalized in the manner that it was with Lil Kim. When Tonioli looked at her he did not see a woman, he saw a black woman and all of the negative behaviours that have been inscribed to our bodies for the purposes of exploitation. The eternal jezebel construct exists so that our bodies can be violated at will and this is why black female bodies are often deemed “unrapeable”.
It is quite easy to declare Lil Kim unladylike because that is a term restricted for white females. This is projected as complementary, however it serves to control the behaviour of white women. The conflation of “purity and goodness” and our continual capitulation to a gender performance based on submissiveness, is a direct result of viewing the world through a coercive male lens. This approach further divides white women and WOC, in that we learn to view each other as binary opposites even though we both share in gender based oppression.
The lesson learned from this is that sexism hurts all women, even when we are attacked differently. DWTS has become quite popular and projects itself as entertainment based model of the ways in which men and women are meant to interact with each other. The problem is that this version specifically supports a patriarchal view of the world and this necessarily means the disciplining of women. Just because it is wrapped in foot tapping music and a glittery costume does not mean that it is not riddled with rot.
H’/T EUR This N That