Belly dancing linked to positive body image
Body image is the way in which someone perceives, feels and thinks about his or her body, especially factors regarding shape and weight.
Past studies from the US and UK have shown that street and modern dancers hold a more positive body image of themselves than exotic dancers do. Researchers from Flinders University in Australia, noted there is very little research that examines how belly dancers regard self-body image and how belly dancing makes them feel.
Professor Marika Tiggemann, PhD, and team tested how participants of this potentially sexually alluring yet embodying dance form see themselves, and also sought to find out what they gain from it.
The researchers recruited 112 belly dancers from two dancing schools in Adelaide, Australia, along with 101 college women who had never participated in this activity before. Participants completed questionnaire measures of positive body image, body dissatisfaction, self-objectification, and enjoyment of sexualization
The researchers found that belly dancers scored higher on positive body image and lower body dissatisfaction and self-objectification than the college students.
Most belly dancers enjoyed the activity because it was fun, and because they get to perform interesting movements with their body.
Professor Tiggemann said this underscores the fact that belly dancing is an embodying activity that gives women a sense of ownership of their bodies. It allows women to be mentally and physically present “in the moment” and to feel good about themselves.
When it came to belly dancing and receiving attention from men, most women had rated the possible sexual nature of the activity as a lesser reason for enjoying belly dancing. According to researchers this supports the idea that women participate in this somewhat erotic and sexually alluring activity purely for themselves, rather than to feel sexier and more attractive to others
The researchers concluded that “belly dance represents an embodying activity, one associated with a number of benefits for its practitioners, including positive body image.” “It has also tested a critical prediction of the embodiment model of positive body image in the context of belly dance. In so doing, it has not only contributed to knowledge about the body image of one specific group (belly dancers), but also to a greater understanding of positive body image more broadly.”
In conclusion Professor Tiggemann stated “Belly dancing is an activity associated with positive body image, because participants tend to focus less on their external appearance, and more on the
experience and what they are able to do with their bodies.” “It allows women a rare, safe and creative opportunity for exploring and expressing their sensual and sexual selves.”
This study appears in Sex Roles.