During the wind-down of a friend’s party this weekend I was introduced to Zimbabwean contemporary sensual dance star Bev Sibanda. While I had heard of her before I had never seen any of her routines. I must say I was blown away to say the least but the conversation that ensued was more stimulating than the video itself.
The mixed crowd of mostly black Africans and one German was horrified by the video and the dialogue mimicked, by and large, that which has dominated the Zimbabwean media space since news of her arrest. Some expressed utter disgust (and as such a second a clearer video could not be played to the end) and others were unmoved and supported a girl at work.
Bev Sibanda’s artistry has under gone a fiery evaluation in the past which hit a new high last week when she was arrested for contravening the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act. One only wonders why the swaying hips of a single woman could rouse such emotive responses from the general public including the police. In a country with so much that is not going well I would have thought we had more to worry about (bread, butter and civil servant salaries, a crumbling opposition *hint, hint*) than the lewd-ity of a gang of dancers. But then again this is Zimbabwe!
While much can be said about society’s propensity to control women’s bodies and their sexuality which has remained despite the counterfactual of a growing industry that demands women’s ‘excessive’ (in my opinion) exposure of their bodies in order to succeed. We can all agree that while Jay-Z and Beyonce make for a charming power couple the means by which they have gained and maintain their electric appeal are quite different. There is no demand for Jay-Z to trounce up the stage in his underwear in order to fill a stadium. For his significant other however, sexuality is a big part of the musical package. It’s not just how well written her songs are or how well she carries a tune; in order to stay in that realm of success. There seems to be a draw for her to continue to push the boundaries of sexual exposure and nudity. This bar has been set for all other female pop stars in her league; Miley, Rihanna, Pink and our very own Bev.
The reality is, the world we live in now is not only hyper-sexualised but it is also fetishes the female body in such a way that for a woman to gain a certain level of success it comes with a price tag. I wonder if Bev and gang would have been this famous were they a crew of outstanding Jikinya (a traditional Zimbabwean Dance) dancers? Would Beyonce still sell out concerts if she was covered shoulders to knees and her show lacked the sensual teases? The success threshold is clearly different for female and male entertainers.
It is an interesting paradox really, on the one hand the conditions of success for a woman in entertainment are set such that she has to be half naked and on the other she is ostracised when she meets those demands. In this, I see a social injustice that privileges male actions showing its evil face and playing a hand in a series of events that have led to Bev being behind bars and the promoter of the event and club owner walking scot free.
As conversation brewed this weekend after watching the incriminating video more arguments were on the sanctity of Bev’s dances and less on the obscenity of a room full of cheering/jeering men who sounded like a scene fresh out of the movie 300! The level of hate that has been poured on Bev on social platforms and newspapers comments is astonishing. It’s as if the young woman chained all of her patrons to the floor and demanded their attention. As far as I could see in the video the patrons were positively scintillated by her body of work, there is clearly a roaring demand for her routines.
From a Christian perspective however, it is not so easy to form an opinion about Bev’s antics. If you’re familiar with the religion you’ll understand that there is an uneasy relationship between Christianity and bootie which always makes it hard for me to stake my claims as a Christian feminist when such issues are discussed. From a Christian eye Bev’s routines and outfits would be classified as dancing in the realm of lasciviousness or lewdness. Not only that, it also implicates those who participate in her shows i.e. patrons A.K.A mafans.
Without wanting to be bogged down on the technicalities of what constitutes lasciviousness, the original Greek or Aramaic meaning, historic cultural context, present day prophetic meaning, an Old and New Testament survey, godly dress and so forth I asked myself what Jesus would do in this case. How would He react to the social onslaught that has been targeted at Bev? It is hard to say, but here is my Precious thought on it:
Jesus came at a place and time where groups of people that thought themselves more holy than others and so deemed themselves custodians of godly living. From this pious pinnacle those people became religious police roaming the streets to catch people who did not comply with the law such as Sabbaths, offerings, and chastity to name a few. In their self-righteousness they became hypocrites who secretly transgressed the law but publicly sort to overburden people by selectively applying the law when in suit them. It is these people that John the baptiser called ‘a brood of vipers’ and Jesus called them hypocrites.
There is a famous scene in the gospels were a group of these self-righteous individuals brought a woman to Jesus wanting to stone her for an act they deemed wrong. Instead of ‘dealing’ with the woman Jesus was more repulsed by the level of misogyny and hypocrisy in the crowd wherewith He uttered the famous words ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’
Now coming back to Zimbabwe, a place that is riddled with so much corruption and endless webs of lies I wonder if we are not turning into the society that Jesus came into, one that chooses to selectively apply the law only where it appeases the self-righteous. While I do not deny that from a Christian stand point Bev’s performances are misaligned who am I to throw the first stone; who am I to raise a voice at her and not her co-accused. Am I that sinless to judge?
In this I find a resolve between Christianity, Bev and bootie; the problem is not with her. The problem IS with all of us who feel we stand on some sort of a moral high ground which gives us the right to throw stones on those below. In a society that demands that level of nakedness for success I guess I can understand that a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, I will not judge her for it. And that, is my Precious thought!