Dirty looks, a degrading Facebook post and mockery: This was Kaylee Schmidt’s reality before she moved out of her residence hall.
Schmidt, 18 at the time, stepped onto the floor of her hall one day, fully dressed in her belly dance outfit.
But the women on the floor, who usually wore “smallish dresses” themselves, had an opinion, Schmidt said.
“I came out in my belly dance outfit once,” she said. “And there were girls at the other side of the hallway that started mocking me.”
Schmidt, the spokeswoman for the WSU Belly Dance Club, said the bullying went beyond mocking.
Women in the residence hall shot weird and dirty looks, and even posted a picture on Facebook with Schmidt and her belly dancing gear in the background.
“Someone had posted ‘Belly dance girl dancing off her little belly,’” Schmidt said about the post.
Belly dancing has a perception of being sexual or sensual, Schmidt said, but tribal style is earthy and modest.
“That’s not our goal to look like sluts and go around and show our stomachs,” she said.
Even though that’s not the goal, Schmidt isn’t the only case of a bullied belly dancer.
For Jessie Huntington, a member of the club, belly dancing is a female tradition.
“So when I think of belly dancing, I think of the women in my family,” Huntington said.
But her sister, a former member of the club, endured harassment while she was teaching a belly dancing class at an after-school event, Huntington said.
“A parent called her a terrorist sympathizer,” she said.
But the belly-dance women do it to have fun and forget about everything else around them, Schmidt said.
“We do it for ourselves. We don’t do it for anybody else,” she said.
Rebecca Liao, the club adviser, said the club is like a family.
Liao, a master’s student, holds practices two times a week. Liao and the belly-dancers learn more than how to dance, though.
“We are really accepting,” Liao said. “We taught each other to be accepting.”
The club offers beginning and advanced classes, plus the opportunity to be involved in the performing team, Crimson Grayce, Huntington said.
Crimson Grayce performs at Nomads Hookah Lounge in Pullman and at school functions.
People interested in joining the club can attend one of their practices. The club holds a general practice at 7 p.m. every Tuesday in CUE 518. Beginners can attend a Sunday session at 6 p.m. in Smith Gym 115.
“I see the transformation in all these students I’ve had,” Liao said. “They gain a lot of confidence from belly dancing.”