We have a problem in Canada. Funding cuts to important health services and healthcare organizations are being threatened in Toronto and occurring nation wide. HIV criminalization is increasing stigma, and stigma kills. There won’t be a solution until people acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, which is how Lisa and I found ourselves at a No Pants No Problem dance party a couple of weekends ago.
Created by Toronto activist and feminist hero, Jessica Whitbread, No Pants No Problem is the ultimate safe space: A sex-positive, anti-stigma, pantless dance party where people are encouraged to explore their sexuality while thinking about safe sex and gender norms. Proceeds from the September 10th party were donated the AIDS Committee of Toronto (via the AIDS Walk for Life) and the International Community of Women Living with HIV.
Dropping drawer for charity creates an intense level of body awareness. Now that we’ve had a couple of weeks to reflect, I asked Lisa how she felt about the experience:
“I have spent years covering my legs in various ways, showing no more than necessary on my lower half. In fact, last summer was my first foray into shorts. In addition to raising awareness about sexual health and rights, No Pants No Problempresented a chance for me to challenge my self-image and break out of my constrictive inner dialogue. I debated with myself over what I should wear to a pantsless affair: shorts, a skirt, just undies? Part of me wanted to go pantsless and rock some cute underwear, but in the end my fear won and I ended up in a short, tight, and bright dress. The dress was still outside of my comfort zone, so I feel that I challenged myself in the spirit of No Pants No Problem. And you know what? The crowd was so fun and non-judgemental that I regret not fully taking up the pantsless challenge. Next year: 50s-style pantlessness calls my name. Seamed nylons and heels, anyone?”
Me? I took the pantless plunge. Sure, I felt shy, but I also felt sexy and excited. For me, the lesson of No Pants No Problem is that an important part of activism is to engage people. When we’re engaged we’re free to communicate, to break the silence around the effects of stigma, the importance of safe sex, and the rights of people living with HIV. Conversation makes change possible.
Seeing a room full of strangers, dancing half-naked and having fun in their bodies.