"Women have the continual unfortunate reminder that their outer appearance is more important than their abilities"-Ansley Jones

                                                                                                           pic courtesy - Anshul Gupta
Ansley Joye Jones aka Jukebox is a dancer, dance scholar, writer, rapper, singer, hip hop feminist, crochet and jewellery designer and women’s rights activist.  An active researcher, she attends conferences and festivals such as the Black College Dance Festival, the American College Dance Festival, Florida African Dance Festival, the Florida Dance Festival, the National Hip Hop Political Conference (where she won passes to the conference, transportation and housing for a hip hop essay contest), the New York Capoeira Festival and the 1st Ginga Brasil-CDO Women’s Encounter & Semi-Annual Batizado. She also presents her choreography and research at conferences such as the Congress on Research and Dance (CORD) Conference: Dance in American Culture. Recently, Jones traveled to India (May 2014) with the Next Level Program; an initiative of the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill and the U.S. Department of State to teach  peace and conflict resolution through hip hop culture.

Do you think the music arena is a place where women can be empowered to effect culture and politics?

Most definitely! Art makes people see things from a different perspective. Through art people learn to respect others for what they do. This is a normal thing for men in society; to be respected for what they do rather than be judged by their outer appearance. For women in patriarchal societies this is a luxury. Women have the continual unfortunate reminder that their outer appearance is more important than their abilities. Because art shifts the focus from the human being to the message of the human being, women’s ideas have the potential to be accepted, respected and admired. And-- many times they are.

Have you faced resistance in your career for advancement, or do you get political, religious or cultural resistance for being a woman taking the stage? (If so how do you deal with it)? 

Yes, I would say both.  I have faced resistance in my career and cultural resistance for being a woman. When I went to college I ran into a crew called Chief Rockaz. I was enamored by them and asked them to teach me. One member named bboy X-man took it upon himself to try and sleep with me instead of teach me; he would invite me to practice and  then drive me to restaurants for dinner--.and to his house on our last encounter. When he realized that wasn’t going to happen, he started alienating me from the group and the hip hop community. It worked for a while because the other members were indifferent, which is the same as condoning the behavior. They were the only group there and my only way in. So I started capoeira because it looked like breaking.

I had a similar experience with men in capoeira. My ex-mestre (master) Bundo pressured me to sleep with him and when I refused, he treated me badly and wouldn’t advance me to the next cord. So I quit his capoeira group. Even though the experience was similar, I learned in capoeira. This is because students pay to take class. Hip Hop dance is still an underground art form so one’s learning is up to the most popular person in the community. I started teaching myself how to break with capoeira moves until I met Ciprian Gontea, aka Bboy Radio from the same crew. He was different and was the first man to respect me and teach me something. 

I grew up in hip hop culture where only men are allowed in the forefront. However, this is not exclusive to hip hop culture because the majority of the world’s societies are patriarchal. And in patriarchal society, this mentality exists anywhere that a person can be commended for something, which is almost everything! We are taught to believe that certain forms and careers are male-dominated, but I have evidence that this is untrue. Women are in everything and are in it in abundance, but patriarchy doesn’t allow space for us in the forefront. Rather, we are shown only men who participate in the form, which gives us this illusion of male-dominance.

The way I deal with it is to continue learning no matter how hard it seems. I create my own opportunities if there are none. I check to see if there are any women who want to learn and we learn together. Every bit counts so even If I take one workshop a year, I never quit completely. If one quits completely then they give up their power. I am where I am now because I never quit.

How do you see portrayals of women in music videos and elsewhere?

Portrayals of women in hip hop music videos are terrible. All of the women are very light-skinned and scantily-clad. Their main purpose is to be the object or prize of the man along with his cars and money. The same thing happens in commercials and on tv shows. This is to promote a white-supremacist idea of beauty while encouraging women to display their bodies for men. It happens in all communities of color (or non-white communities) all over the world.  One can see the effects of this pressure on women because skin-whitening cream exists in all these communities--and it’s selling. It’s shameful. While in India I noticed the actresses in bollywood films and on commercials all had white skin. All of the celebrities in the back of the newspaper had white skin.  While in Patna I saw women who were my complexion and darker. And I thought to myself “This imported idea of beauty is in every society that European people have invaded.” 

So girls have more issues they have to deal with including colonialism. I think it is terrible that we are treated like soul-less bodies and those who do this should know that this is the evil they participate in. I work against these pressures by counseling women and girls on how to combat these issues mentally, emotionally and physically. In addition, I make sure women and girls know that it is detrimental to us to compete. We must stick together to create unity between ourselves and teach men who are willing to learn how this affects them as well. There is so much work to be done. And dance has been the most rewarding way for me to instil these ideas in the global consciousness of women.

What advice would you give to young girls who want a career in music? 

Go for your dreams because who says you can’t and why not? Pay attention and eliminate those who discourage you or don’t encourage you. They shouldn’t be in your life. Women must decide that their worth is not about pleasing others. So I urge women and girls everywhere to nourish their souls. That’s the only way to even out the evil inflicted upon women in this world; to be what they don’t want you to be, yourself.

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