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  • Diana Thielen

How can we create spaces where everyone's needs matter?

Thoughts about Radical Contact 2015

I came to the Radical Contact meeting with not so more than a few thoughts and wishes about that gathering. One idea, which made me happy in advance, was the chance to connect the enthusiasm about Contact Improvisation (and movement as Yoga and Dance in general) and political activism.

Quite late in my life I’ve found the theoretical corroboration of my hesitations, troubles and sadness as a human being and in particular as a female educated/gendered person in this society.

With my studies of education/gender studies in Berlin, I get access to information and theories, which lead me to reconsider personal troubles I’ve gone through and also allow me to analyse the social norms we are surrounded by.

Rather than “just” being one person suffering from individualized circumstances, I also contextualize the position I hold in this society. (Including the awareness of my privilege as a white, able-bodied and middleclass person). I don’t want to say that personal dramas, traumas and environments are not valid to think about. Instead I’d like to share, that some of my dramas and traumas could be also contextualized in a wider context: Being raised and educated as a woman, I share for example the experience of daily sexism with many other female bodies.

So at the moment I will keep this specific example: The confrontation with daily sexism. Dance/CI and Yoga spaces are not independent of social behaviours and norms, therefore holding similar mechanisms as any other scopes of action we are familiar with.

The Radical Contact Meeting (2012-present) seeks to bring the practises of CI and investigated body politics together ( to propose the body as a site of reflection for reconfiguration of social norms and hierarchies.

On an example of one specific experience I have made recently at the RC 2015, I want to share the reflection I went through. I also want to share the potential resource of the restorative circles ( which have been used in order to create a social justice practise respecting all participants as equal humans within a conflict situation.

Saying in the beginning of this post that I had little expectations when I travelled to the RC, I missed something quite important: I expected a frame, where every participant has reflected already on their own position within society. To specify: I did expect for example CIS-male[1] persons as allies and did also expected from myself to be a trustworthy ally for marginalized persons/people. As I become more and more a part of the RC, the more I’ve understood that the RC offers a potential platform where the cultivation of social justice offers reflection of our (embodied) behaviours. And not just on a theoretical level.

The RC group was so diverse in experiences of the different fields of political activism and CI, that some conflicts couldn’t be avoided. I would like to see these conflicts as the potential to grow and learn.

Here is one example of a conflict I experienced and how we used a restorative circle to try to address the issues it raised:

On my way from Göteborg to Tokalynga where the RC has happened this year, I got the great opportunity for a ride by car. I was super thankful and happy, to not be taking public services. A very comfortable chance!

Sitting on the seats in the back, chatting about queer/feminist issues with my travel mates, the person in the front (whose wife was the driver of the car) took off his shirt. He was sitting topless, enjoying the sun, and exchanging some words with his wife.

[1] Die Vorsilbe ‚Cis‘ wird benutzt, um auszudrücken, dass eine Person sich mit dem Geschlecht identifiziert, dem er*sie bei der Geburt aufgrund seiner*ihrer Genitalien zugewiesen wurde. ‚Cis‘ ist somit das Gegenteil zu ‚Trans‘. ([]=cis, letzter Besuch 9.9.15, 12:34 Uhr)

This situation was a slap in my face: I am so annoyed by the daily sexism I am seeing myself confronted with. I have had several discussions with cis-male friends about the sexism inherent in the male-only privilege to be publically topless and was already pretty upset and disappointed by some talks I have had before.

And now this! I really got angry. I simply did not understand his action. In my understanding there were only two possibilities. One is that he is familiar with the feminist discourse, knowing his position as a cis-man in this society and is nevertheless using this privilege of being topless. Or, and this option simply was difficult for me to imagine, he never had to rethink and renegotiate his behaviour.

From this moment on I saw everything he said or did with a hypercritical eye. I kept on asking myself why he would be interested in a radical left orientated gathering of people, which seeks for safer space and clearly challenges the social norms (which are built on a patriarchal concept) , if he has never thought about equality and privilege.

So with the help of some people we initiated a restorative circle, where I confronted him (and me!) with this conflict situation.

The process, which brings all components of the conflict together (the ones who acted, the ones directly impacted, and the wider community) is based on a dialogue, which on itself is openly shared in the circle and guided by a community member. This process gave me the chance to articulate my concern as well as allowed me to understand the other side of the conflict. The person who acted could formulate his feeling of being excluded, due to the fact that many persons of the group seemed to be familiar with a special terminology. As well as sharing his wish for his little family of living in a society which offers its members more freedom, (nudity being an important part of that).

Besides of him, me and the hosts, three other humans have participated. One person was sitting with me in the car and is also considering himself as a straight cis-male person. He shared his journey of becoming an ally of the queer/feminist discourse. Which also confronted him sometimes with his individual human wants and the sensation of being restricted by the discourse.

The circle gave me the possibility to speak up. I’ve faced the trauma of being a female educated person with an ongoing sexualisation and objectification the society brings with. Because I could also listen to the inner conflicts and needs of the person who acted, the process created some mutual understanding.

My wish to share this experience is a product of the healing potential I am sensing in it. Even though the restorative circle was a pretty exhausting experience; I am still appreciating the chance to see the other person’s perspective. And it’s not just the other perspective. It is also a little journey of listening to each other and going some way of the path to a more equitable and inclusive culture.

If you wish to get more information about the restorative circle, please check the website ( I also did not deepen the discourse which in my feminism socialisation plays a big role: The constant question if a CIS-male person can be topless in public, without supporting the patriarchal system. (The patriarchal system on itself creating the sexualisation of female bodied person, who can’t be topless in public.) This has many different perspectives, and I would not see myself in the position of “knowing the truth”…nevertheless I have the wish to share my thoughts and experiences. Please don’t hesitate to write me!

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