TRIGGER WARNING: This post tells stories of physical aggression and sexual violence towards a woman contact improvisation leader.
Published Feb, 2023
This post is from a woman CI Jam facilitator who has chosen to remain anonymous.
I run a jam. And I have run this jam for a long time. There have been many moments of joy and satisfaction and support from my community, but what follows is also part of my story. These incidents are in no particular order and I have not made any attempt to go into a lot of detail. I am tired and angry, and I do not want to do the labor of working hard to get these stories out. These happened as recent as two months ago and spread across from when I founded my jam. So here they are…
- I have had a man yell outside the entrance of my jam for half an hour after I denied him entrance because he was breathing heavily and dry-humping women while dancing. I went home that night, walking alone to the subway, scared I would be attacked. When I reached the safety of my home, the trembling began and my entire body shook.
- I have faced a tirade of verbal aggression and physical posturing from two men as I locked up the studio alone after a jam. They were upset with how I ran my jam. As they yelled, they stood in the doorway blocking my exit from the studio. I went home and the trembling began and my entire body shook.
- I have been emailed death threats from a person not happy about how I run my jam. Upon reading the email, the trembling began and my entire body shook.
- I have been sexually assaulted on the dance floor. This was not at my jam but at a jam abroad that I was invited to teach at (so still my workplace). After the shock wore off, the trembling began and my entire body shook.
- I have had someone grab my foot and rub it against their penis as we had one of those talking-as-we-dance dances. We were discussing disagreements about how I run my jam. After the conversation, I went home and the trembling began and my entire body shook.
- I have received email threats of rape and murder to my family members from a person not happy about how I run my jam, and the trembling began and my entire body shook.
- I have been sworn at multiple times over the phone while some is telling I am running a witch trial against them and after the call and the trembling began and my entire body shook
- I have been sent emails from someone not happy about how I run my jam telling me they know where I live and that they might come for visit, and the trembling began and my entire body shook.
- I have called the police to make a report about a jam attendee that I felt was a risk to the public due to a jam-related sexual assault that involved them. When the police came to take the report from me, they berated me with authoritative postures. They told me I should not have called them when it was obvious it was a personal issue between me and this man and I was wasting their time and tax dollars. I kept saying “I called you in case there were other reports against this man. I called to get this incident on record in case there is a pattern”. They just kept being mad at me. When they left the trembling began and my entire body shook.
- I have been yelled at in the hallway by an irate jam attendee for a significant amount of time in front of a crowd who stood and watched. Afterward, I found a washroom stall and closed the door and the trembling began and my entire body shook.
- I have received numerous instances of online bullying (to many to list here) that I feel set example of aggression that others are more likely to follow in person and online. After each one and my entire body shook.
It is impossible not to gender this, because all this aggression has come from men.
And I say “no”.
I often think people have no idea of the danger women in the CI community face doing the job of running a dance jam. We are women leaders, which in itself can be triggering for some men. We have the dangerous job of holding people accountable to community guidelines. We are visible targets with a known location that we show up to weekly.
I am a front line worker doing a risky job and it is especially risky because I am a woman. It is also risky because there is little community awareness about just how dangerous the job is. Lack of awareness leads to lack of support for many female CI leaders.
And I say lets make this visible.
My jam is my workplace. I am not at a party where I can walk out of a room or leave or decide to never go back if I don’t like the energy. It is not a relationship I can leave if I do not like the person’s fighting style. This is my workplace, where I show up weekly to do work I am passionate about.
I do not shy away from debate or constructive critique. I am up for that. I like heated debates where through a mutual build I can argue passionately with someone about our differing opinions. What I am describing is unwelcome aggression and threats. And aggression and threats are not constructive criticism.
You might think these types of things do not happen in your CI community. My guess is that woman, whose job it is to hold people accountable to community guidelines have similar stories especially if there is not community awareness of the risk of their job and they are doing the job with out sufficient ally-ship and support.
And I say to these men you might think it is no big deal. You might think I am being overly sensitive. You may think you are free to express yourself in this way. You might not realize what you are doing is occurring within a context of a history aggression and violence against women. You may not even realize your impact. Yet I say “no”. Nothing thing makes your behavior okay. I say “no”. And I say to these men: please, do better.
I say to the community let’s do better.
Post note: I have decided to remain anonymous to protect myself from backlash. I also understand that by doing so I may have just spread out the backlash amongst female jam leaders across the globe whose communities might think this post is from them.
Wow. Of course I believe the stories, I have seen similar, and heard of others. Thank you for your bravery and perseverance and continuing to hold CI to account!
On Wed, Feb 8, 2023 at 9:42 AM Contact Improv Consent Culture: Building