Friday, February 12, 2010

Dance, Dance, or No Revolution?

Thanks to reader Virginia Raymond, who recently responded to IntLawGrrls are we too pink? query with a link to a wonderful story from Emma Goldman's autobiography. For those, like yours truly, who've not read the book, here's the detailed version of the one-liner often attributed to Goldman, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution":
At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha [Alexander Berkman], a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.
I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business, I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things." Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world--prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own comrades I would live my beautiful ideal. [Living My Life (New York: Knopf, 1934), p. 56]
As Virginia notes, and regardless of what one thinks of Goldman's more controversial political positions, this little vignette epitomizes pink -- fierceness and radiance, principled action and joy, a sharply critical voice combined with dedication to a cause bigger than oneself. Like the Chilean widows and mothers who danced the cueca solo in protest, to be pink is to speak out about injustice despite the very serious risks in doing so, in the process transcending barriers between the public and private sphere, and all the while embracing the vibrancy of life. In other words, without dance, how can there be a revolution?

1 comment:

Naomi Norberg said...

Thanks for posting this Jaya, and thanks Virgnia for sharing the link.