Why Men Don’t Understand Sexism In Partner Dancing

IndyLady

Well-Known Member
#62
I believe I did not fall victim to that fallacy, for the following reasons:

1. My scenario did not actually depend on the relative suffering of the two women in it. It doesn't matter how badly the overtime shifts were needed, nor how distraught the social dancer was.
2. I did not dismiss one problem by arguing that it is less important than another problem. I took the position that one problem was very obviously a case of sexism, and the other problem was not.
3. My final point was not that the second woman's suffering was unimportant (I cannot think of a circumstance in which I would assert that about anyone's suffering); but rather to question whether it belonged in the same category as the first woman's.
These look suspiciously like "relative suffering" assertions, and an implication that the second woman's situation can be dismissed as a result:

Furthermore, if I may say so, a disingenuous appeal to sexism is a disservice to those who more genuinely suffer from it.
it's hard to also imagine her feeling sympathy and a sense of shared burden upon hearing the tale of a fellow woman who, dismayed that she is not able to get much time on the floor with desirable-to-her partners at social dances, blames men for her unhappiness.

There have been a handful of assertions in this thread that men also suffer from sexism in ballroom. What are some examples of this?
 

SDsalsaguy

Administrator
Staff member
#63
I am going to reiterate that given ballroom dance's practice within a broader social context, while an individual man may be discriminated against (for any number of reasons) this is in no way the same thing as the institutionalized sexism the article is written about. Ignoring this distinction is like ignoring epidemiological data because you know one person who doesn't fit what is, by definition, a trend.
 

Siggav

Active Member
#65
A few things on this

The OP is a lindy hopper and it was written from within the lindy hop cultural climate. A few things that might make it read differently to a ballroomer, I don't know.

First of all, things are very heavily geared towards social dancing both for super advanced people and beginners. The ballroom style dance only with one partner and compete isn't really a thing but it does mean that you run into a lot of other people when you dance.

Very good social dancing leads have a tendency to get put on a pedestal and that can lead to badness all around in the culture, sometimes referred to as "Rockstar" dancers, it's all a little bit messy.

Some of the finer points can be completely invisible to men because they don't run into them, while it becomes a death by a thousand paper cut thing for some women, where you run into it again and again, and each one isn't that bad but it just builds up over time like getting bumped on an already existing bruise.

Then there have been instances of sexual harassment and some serious issues in the global lindy hop community that were masked originally by the pedestals and hero worship of some very influential dancers, and that was utterly horrible and sort of opened lots of people's eyes so there is active work going on now across the world to try make the dance scenes the safe space they should be.

Also it will be community and scene specific. A lot of places are making a big concentrated effort to make things better, it's small things like not always listing the male partner name first when listing teacher couples, encouraging female leads and male follows, hiring DJs of both genders and in general trying to be the most awesome a scene can be.

The dance connection that the OP is talking about as being not as sexist is one where the dance is more of a conversation and you feel free to add to the dance and play even when you're following and where leads are nimble enough to be able to feel those additions and play with them as well without freaking out that not everything is being followed 100% to the letter or that they're loosing control of the dance.

Yes it takes quite a lot of practice for both people to get good at that but if you're too scared to even try for fear of being seen as a loud uncontrollable follow you'll never get there and that's most of what she's railing against in the post as I saw it.

Ive taught a class when we played with that and specifically as an exercise asked the follows in the class to be "bad follows" and really dance the music and do what they felt inspired to do but do it with confidence and it was rather amazing to see how much fun everyone (including the leads!) had trying that out and also how much space there is within the dance when both people are ready to give a little and listen.
 

DL

Well-Known Member
#66
These look suspiciously like "relative suffering" assertions, and an implication that the second woman's situation can be dismissed as a result:
Having thought it over for another day, I concede that much. It was my intention as I was writing to say both that the two cases were different, and that one was worse than the other. Last night, it seemed to me that I needn't *rely* on one being worse; but if that's true it's incumbent on me to devise such a scenario.

Nevertheless, it still seems to me that the two situations are *different*; and that a solution for one is unlikely to resemble a solution for the other.

I also stand by my specific criticisms of the article.


There have been a handful of assertions in this thread that men also suffer from sexism in ballroom. What are some examples of this?
Here are a few I have observed:
  • harassment: At a social dance, a well respected male pro is standing near benches where people are seated, facing the dance floor. A female student, seated among her friends, gives them a conspiratorial look, then reaches out and gropes his rear end, then leans back with a smirk. The pro starts to turn with an annoyed look on his face, sees the group behind him, and catches himself from reacting further.
  • bias: A male social dancer is told that he was perceived as a "himbo", because in general a reasonably attractive and competent leader could not also be very intelligent.
  • objectification: A beginner male dancer is devalued/belittled/excluded by various women in classes and at dances / a skilled one is "used" by the same women; both are gossiped-about.
To be honest I think there are plenty of other examples on DF itself. Now again I'm *not* claiming anything about relative incidence/effect of this sort of thing on men vs. women in ballroom. However I *am* claiming that as a man I've encountered this sort of thing in ballroom *and literally nowhere else*.

That's part of the reason I opine that ballroom is a bad example for a sexism discussion. IMHO, ballroom is distorted in certain ways that make it a poor basis for highlighting the biggest component of sexism's effects, i.e. unfair obstacles encountered by women specifically because they are women.

Another part is that partner dance, yes, has clearly-defined gender roles. That's not inherently awful: men and women *are* different; and on DF in general and in this very discussion we see both men and women who enjoy the traditional partner dance dynamic. However, despite flexibility among dancers (e.g., witness much prior DF discussion that *yes*, women can and should ask for dances if they like), those role definitions can really muddy a sexism discussion.
 

DL

Well-Known Member
#67
Yes it takes quite a lot of practice for both people to get good at that but if you're too scared to even try for fear of being seen as a loud uncontrollable follow you'll never get there and that's most of what she's railing against in the post as I saw it.

Ive taught a class when we played with that and specifically as an exercise asked the follows in the class to be "bad follows" and really dance the music and do what they felt inspired to do but do it with confidence and it was rather amazing to see how much fun everyone (including the leads!) had trying that out and also how much space there is within the dance when both people are ready to give a little and listen.
This seems like this is a case of people needing to establish the right relationships with each other in order to experiment/learn in certain ways; and of you helping them to establish those relationships. Is that a fair characterization?
 

Hedwaite

Well-Known Member
#68
"Men on this side, women on that side."

Seriously? As many times as I can think of it, I will say "leaders X, followers Y (vice versa, actually, if you think chromosomally), but a lot of times, I just say "Guys, blah, blah, blah," and "Girls, such and such". I am not sexually oppressing anyone. If anyone feels oppressed because of this nomenclature chosen for brevity, they're the ones choosing to make it their problem. I'm trying to figure out how clear "People line up here, and Other, but Equal People line up here" sounds to a group of newbs who don't know what a line IS yet, and at that point, are too afraid to ask.

I don't appreciate the author using a stock photo of what appears to be an ethnicity of women who are noted for being oppressed by gender inequality to justify her whine on not fitting into her own dance community. Using a culture who stones women for minor infractions while men walk free from the same crimes is like comparing Joan of Arc's persecution and execution to the ridicule Miley Cyrus faced for acting like an infantile attention-whore. (Oh, wait, ERB beat me to that point...) What DOES that picture have to do with "I'm not sure I'm receiving enough respect from within my dance community, and guys are to blame"?

Number two's "opposite sex partners use mistakes as condescending teaching moments" occur more from woman to man in nearly all of our classes (which is why we teach people "don't think of WHO did something wrong, think of WHAT is wrong, and how you BOTH can work TOGETHER to fix it). What does one of these Oppressed People whine about when their own gender does the same thing to them? EVERYBODY uses mistakes as teaching moments, either overtly, or in their own minds.

3- Partner dancing is an exchange of the possession of initiative, and that is grossly oversimplified because brevity is not my strength when typing. You can't have TWO equal entities ALL the time. One moves, the other responds, creating an action-reaction event until one thing or another changes, and there has to be ONE person with a sense of direction.

If you want to wax BDSM with specific gender roles as male/Dom, female/sub, then who really has the power, if the submissive within the "scene" has a safe-word, and can end the whole thing just by uttering it? Not the Dom. He's directing where it's going, until she says otherwise. Unless it's planet Gor. And I don't recall Norman writing about any erotic ballroom syllabus positions. Not that I should even know what that means.

Being called "sexist" is as much an insult and personal attack as being called "crazy" is a hot button for many women. It defines a character and personality trait people find negative. When the word is thrown into an argument, it effectively dampens the other side and takes away their ability to do anything but support the argument. "Oh, you're not? Well, that's exactly what crazy/sexist people say". It's a dirty trick the equivalent of "Pocket Sand!"

The author says that women are tired of being "protected", yet that's exactly what she's asking for, when complaining that men don't walk on eggshells nearly enough around women and consider their fragile feelings and egos and try to avoid offending them. If you want freedom from oppression in the dance world, dance solo- then it's only on you.

This is my favorite nugget right here, that sums up the whole problem with sexist, entitled women:
"So long as you don’t argue (either subtly or overtly) ... I respect your role in the community."


Whatever. I want a sandwich. Any of you guys want me to make you one while I'm up?
 

twnkltoz

Well-Known Member
#69
And another thing: maybe sometimes sexism isn't always a bad thing. Bear with me here, and I am speaking of one specific aspect of this argument, not all sexism. Some sexism is definitely bad.

Sometimes, some people get up in arms about it when there really isn't an issue. Yes, perhaps the original lead/follow roles were assigned during a time when men made all the decisions and women were expected to be quiet and look pretty. Now, we have other reasons for sticking to those roles (tradition, the height/weight factor, etc). But even if you want to call it sexist that men "get" to lead, what exactly is wrong with that? Most women I come across are perfectly happy to follow and let the man have the responsibilities of leading. I less often have men who ask if he can just let his partner lead because she's better at it. I lead very well, but generally prefer to follow. So...where exactly is the problem with this tradition, especially since in most places women are welcome to learn to lead if they wish?
 

IndyLady

Well-Known Member
#70
So...where exactly is the problem with this tradition, especially since in most places women are welcome to learn to lead if they wish?
I agree with you for the most part about women leading, though I have encountered women who do not like to be led by other women. I confess I'm sometimes one of those women, esp when it's a new female instructor who's on a leading power trip...

On the flip side, being a man who wants to follow is a different story around here. My husband finds it way harder to find following opportunities outside of instructors... even some of our very good friends, who are very aware that he is heterosexual and married to me, are not comfortable leading him, or even watching him follow someone else. I am in a generally more conservative area (though it is mixed), so ymmv. But on the whole, he encounters way more side eye and rejection as a follow than I do as a lead.
 

twnkltoz

Well-Known Member
#71
I agree with you for the most part about women leading, though I have encountered women who do not like to be led by other women. I confess I'm sometimes one of those women, esp when it's a new female instructor who's on a leading power trip...

On the flip side, being a man who wants to follow is a different story around here. My husband finds it way harder to find following opportunities outside of instructors... even some of our very good friends, who are very aware that he is heterosexual and married to me, are not comfortable leading him, or even watching him follow someone else. I am in a generally more conservative area (though it is mixed), so ymmv. But on the whole, he encounters way more side eye and rejection as a follow than I do as a lead.
Sad, isn't it? So, is it fair to discount his experience, just because what many women face is worse?

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in this thread in particular, but speaking in general. It's become fashionable in the past couple decades to man-bash, and the article in the OP is the perfect example. Men are vilified for the bad experiences women sometimes face while dancing. But a good portion of the examples given can be perpetrated by anyone, or they should generally be attributed to simple lack of skill or ignorance rather than a concerted effort to disenfranchise the opposite sex. Want more examples? In the "olden days" of television and movies, women were portrayed as weak, easily confused, lost without a man to guide them. Thankfully, that is over. Now, many TV shows and movies portray men as being stupid, clumsy, or evil. How is that OK? We don't talk about men facing sexism because it isn't fashionable. Maybe what women face is worse--ours often comes with harassment and lost opportunities--but that doesn't make any of it OK or acceptable.

So the point with the "men face it too" argument is not to discount what women go through. It's to say, "Hey, we're all in the same boat to one degree or another. How do we fix this?"
 

Rhythmdancer

Well-Known Member
#75
A bit about inexperience. The article talks about two things that I find to be very similar with regards to experience level or comfort level— dips and hijacking. If you don't have experience with either, if someone does it to you you're not going to like it. You to be able to read and gauge your partner because if someone can only dances straight figures, don't hijack them. If they don't support their own weight well/aren't balanced don't dip them. A lot of the charges of sexism from the article are really charges of inexperienced/bad dancing.
 

Rhythmdancer

Well-Known Member
#76
There article actually got me thinking the last few nights when I went social dancing. Is it sexist of me to offer to teach the basic steps of a dance when it's their first day and they don't know it?
 
#78
There article actually got me thinking the last few nights when I went social dancing. Is it sexist of me to offer to teach the basic steps of a dance when it's their first day and they don't know it?
Would you offer the same to a new male who you noticed was struggling? If yes, then it's because she's having difficulty/new, not because she's female.
 

DL

Well-Known Member
#79
Two people agree to dance. One clearly knows a couple of basic steps. The other clearly doesn't.

Now we enter the "teaching on the floor" issue, not a "sexism" issue. In general, it's bad form between strangers for one to presume to teach the other. It's also bad form for one to ask the other to teach. However, at the moment one requests a dance of the other, it could be made clear that one is unaware of the basics and willing to learn, in such a way that the other has the option of *limited* teaching *or* seeking a different partner for the dance.

In short, I think this is best viewed from a "dance etiquette" perspective, rather than a "sexism" perspective. One of my favorite sites for etiquette now appears to be available only via the Wayback Machine (too bad!):
http://web.archive.org/web/20010414133837/http://www.ece.rice.edu/~aria/etiquette.html#Teaching
 

Rhythmdancer

Well-Known Member
#80
Because you're male?
There are two examples of sexism from the article which both under certain circumstances are paradoxical. "You don’t get asked to dance again when your opposite-sex partner can’t get you to do what they want." and "Your opposite-sex partners use mistakes as condescending teaching moments (even when you’ve been dancing for a decade)."

There are times when you'll ask someone to dance and they're brand new to dancing and you'll see them struggling with the rumba box. With just dancing boxes and nothing else sometimes they'll ask for help because they keep getting their feet mixed up. Sometimes I'll notice it and I'll offer some simple advice like always step forward with you left foot and back with your right or don't look down because that often makes dancing harder. This would qualify as a teaching moment.

Let's say in the same situation, the person can't dance a box and they struggle all throughout the dance with just doing the box. Because I can't get them to dance the box properly and don't dance with them because of that. This would qualify as the not dancing with someone because I can't get them to do what I want them to.

I typically take the dance etiquette approach similar to what @DL posted but the grievances listed in the article provide a different analysis of teaching moments/unwanted dance partners. I wonder what those that agree with the article think of the proposed situation.
 

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