If I can’t dance, this is not my revolution: women in public space

We have already talked about the right of women to have their own room, about the power of the monsters that live on the margins of the social scene. But it must be taken into account that public space extends between both options: a place where people show themselves, but also where they can be observed, watched, violated… Public space has res extensivethe street, the squares, the common places… But in the 21st century, that public space is also filtered through the digital in the private, through the network that connects the rooms themselves.

A frequent slogan (and of uncertain authorship) in demonstrations is: “If I can’t dance, your revolution doesn’t interest me.” Is it possible to put the body, be, and even dance, in that public, digital and material space, without suffering violence?

Own room and room connected between precariousness and privilege

Remedios Zafra, in her essay Fragile. Letters on anxiety and hope in the new culture has added a new dimension to the site: connection through screens and networks. It is a virtual, chaotic, abstract space to which we (post)human beings constantly transfer our consciousness.

During the covid-19 pandemic we have experienced the need to have our own room where we can confine ourselves or pass the disease. For the most privileged people, the individual rooms were not prisons, but rooms connected to the city and the world, like the “global village” that Marshall McLuhan imagined.

Thanks to this we have been able to keep each other company, know that we were still there, worry and take care of each other. This is also a horizon of possibilities for the monsters that inhabit the margins. In the words of Remedios Zafra:

Outsiders are alone and connected at home, we talk, we are together. This “outsider” power urges us to experiment in the sphere that was previously only private, seeking to dismantle the sparkling commercialized happiness around work-lives. You know, recover (recover) the “bitter” or critics of culture, those who feel disconnected from “unreal loyalties.”

The virtual space could be a kind of extension of one’s own room, a window from the margin, where one can discuss and question the rules of an outside world that has been closed off.

Concha Méndez, walker

When we go outside, virtual or physical, how and where does each body show itself in relation to the others?

Women strolling through the modern cities of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries had the audacity to come out of the confinement of their own room to publicly display their inadequate (they shouldn’t be there alone) and monstrous bodies (unworthy women: tomboys, “ tribadas”, transvestites like George Sand or Maruja Mallo and Margarita Manso, who put on the costumes of Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí in the cloister of the Santo Domingo de Silos monastery).

Concha Méndez Cuesta (1898-1986), one of the most audacious strollers in Spanish poetry of the 20th century, strolled through the outskirts of cities, under subway stations, in industrial estates… Or climbed into a car at full speed.

I like to walk deserted cities at night of Concha Méndez by Inma Cuesta.

The testimonial and poetic work of Concha Méndez poses the challenge of inhabiting public space, of exercising the right of women to walk alone, calm and in peace, without the paternalistic protection of any guardian. The right to put the body where “it was forbidden for women to enter (…); and we (she refers to herself with Maruja Mallo), to protest, we stuck to the windows to see what happens inside.

The desire to put the body to experience and express pleasure appears in the poem “Jazz band” from his book Concerns (1926):

Cut rhythm.

Vibrant lights.

hysterical bells.

Fulminant stars.


Overflowing liquors.

Kids’ games.

Crazy chords.

Jazz band. Skyscraper.

Diaphanous crystals.

exotic whispers.

Metal groan.

The body dances in this poem. With the dance, it is present in the public space. The female body is not a mere captive object of the sexualizing or violent gaze of a cisheterosexual man; Nor does he allow himself to be reduced to monstrous consideration for occupying that space.

I can talk? I can dance?

Every act is born from a subject that executes it. We are conditioned by our bodies, also by the inequality of the circumstance of each starting point. We need to have our own rooms where the urgent is put on hold, to be able to talk and talk at length, with full attention. We need, of course, the connected space, free from external violence, where to console the sadness of the monster.

But reality also requires inhabiting outer space, where life “happens”, where the right to be experiencing and expressing the pleasure of lives that deserve to be lived must be exercised. A space where your own voice resonates, or where you can dance, as in Concha Méndez’s poem, without asking anyone’s permission.

Of course, we will need a collective vision that makes it possible to rethink and transform our location and, with it, the circumstance that links us to other bodies and other lives.

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