details of interview
Role of the Interviewed: dance student
Age: 13 (at the time of the narrated episode)
Type of radicalization: diversity, discrimination, gender
Historical period collocation: 2008
Date/Country of the Interview: 09/11/2018 Italy
Interviewer: USMA in collaboration with FISPPA Dept., University of Padua
Story collected by: Alice Scurti
This girl appeared different from the others of the group: her body was bursting and robust, with “masculine” characteristics that distinguished her from the typical “female” dancer. Her attitude was also not very delicate and light as commonly expected by ballet and modern dancers. Moreover, the country of origin of the girl also played an important role in increasing the distance between this girl and the rest of the group. She is a Roma coming from Romania and although she had grown up in Italy, local people perceived her as having a “gypsy” look.
From the very beginning, J. was victim of insults because of her body shape and her ungraceful way of approaching the dance. That happened both during classes and in the locker room. She was attacked in particular by the group of the most talented girls, always ready to line up as a group in front of her and laugh at the difficulties she encountered in the discipline. In many occasions, they were discussing about her gender and sexual appearance in presence of J., talking as if she was not there. In particular they could not understand how she could be the way she was, having the body she had. Also J’s mother was targeted, when, like all the other mothers, accompanied her daughter to classes. In fact, the mothers’ group never tried to include the “gypsy-looking” mother of J.
J. and her mother came to the gym avoiding looks and comments, and used to leave in the same way. Often the comments and laughter were fed by the teacher herself, who never avoided talking in very negative terms about the girl, even when she was not attending class. The most difficult and inexplicable episodes occurred at a certain moment of a lesson, when an exercise of “jumps” aroused a lot of anger in the teacher that, observing the girl’s little capacity in the exercise, began to insult her and compared her to an elephant, accompanied by the background of laughter of the other students. What bothered the teacher was J’s lack of harmony. Objectively, J. was often a bit out of time. However, insults, lack of experience in the dance and the difficulties she encountered to integrate into the group worsened the situation.
Personally, from this experience on, when I found myself in similar situations, I always tried to find possible solutions and put them into action as soon as possible. I do not want to fell again as not being able to react and do something. Therefore, to those who are faced with these situations, I would advise to reveal the problems of the group, talking with the other teammates and the teacher, and look for a greater support also in the family.
To people who live in situations similar as J. I would like to suggest to find a way to fell strong and react. Of course, sometimes indifference could work, but it is important to show emotions and who we are to remind these people, of questionable sensitivity, that we are all human beings and that these actions and words provoke negative feelings that are able to destroy the person who suffers and to ruin the group wellbeing.