Why Men Don’t Understand Sexism In Partner Dancing

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#81
I was very recently reading an article in the New York Times, and when I came across one of those "hot button words," I stopped reading the article because to me it indicated the the author could not make their point without resorting a stereotype. And not in a way that acknowledges that stereotypes can often come from and lead to incorrect assumptions and bad decisions.

So, to clarify MY comment, it's not "sexism" for a man to offer to teach basic steps.
However, it could be considered a bad move in the world of dance etiquette, as DL noted.
Since I've always liked that bit about "what's good for the goose..." it would also be not "sexist" for a woman to offer to teach a basic step to a man. (But then, good luck with the ego issues!)

Personally, if I wanted to learn something from a woman (about dance), I would do that OFF the floor, unless it was not crowded, or at an AT practica.
But then, last night I asked someone to dance a two step, and she said she would do it if I taught her (On the floor!). But then, she asked, and two step is no where as hard to get across as, say, West Coast Swing, or any number of partner dances.
And, I regularly will point the right direction we are turning, etc, to people who clearly have no idea what they are doing when everyone is doing a line dance.
 

DL

Well-Known Member
#83
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.
It's a trap!

"You don't get asked to dance again when [...]" -- actually, one's perception of the reasons for this and the reality are very easily skewed. It's a notorious opportunity for misunderstanding, best addressed with thick skin on one side and generosity on the other.

"[...] teaching moments [...]" -- condescending? That's also a tough attribution to make with any certainty. However it may well be an etiquette breach. IMHO it's best solved with assumptions of good faith and clear communication rather than umbrage-taking or grudge-holding.

The only thing that can be described for certain in these kinds of conversations are the behaviors -- not the motivations for those behaviors.
 

rain_dog

Active Member
#86
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.
Wait, so it's sexist to not help members of your own sex? One could argue that's just good strategy (minimize your competition, encourage and make friends with beginners of the opposite sex)...

In all seriousness, this goes the difficulty I have with the whole discussion, namely that partner dancing (or at least Argentine Tango, the only dance I know) has strongly encouraged traditional gender roles, and the mechanics of the dance are structured around a lead/follow dynamic. Is that fundamentally sexist? I don't know. It might make for an interesting conversation.

Dancing seems to fall in a gray area where it's not quite at the same level as dating or sex, but it's also not a clearly gender-neutral activity, such as playing board games or bike riding (I suppose it's like a foot massage, to quote Pulp Fiction). Trying to suss out what is or isn't sexism is not always easy.
 

IndyLady

Well-Known Member
#87
Since I've always liked that bit about "what's good for the goose..." it would also be not "sexist" for a woman to offer to teach a basic step to a man. (But then, good luck with the ego issues!)
This is not something to gloss over though... I definitely feel like I have to be very careful about not bruising a man's ego if/when I say anything that could be construed as teaching, even thought he asked me to (I do not offer unsolicited advice). I'm not convinced that same care generally goes the other way (e.g. male instructing female).

Having said that, for the most part, the gentleman in the circles I run in tend to be much more humble than the offenders cited in the article. Most gentlemen that I have encountered really do want to learn and have fun, and they do wish to be enjoyable for a lady/follow to dance with and do not subscribe to the "well if she just knew her place we would be fine" theory. Many of them at the early stages seem to grossly overestimate the expectations and level of judgment coming from the follow side, at least IME.
 

IndyLady

Well-Known Member
#88
  • 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.
I won't deny that ladies do talk about men.... I've been part of a number of such conversations. But here are the points that generally come up:

Bad:
* Hygiene issues
* Arrogant attitude/jerking the follow around
* Unsolicited instruction, especially from someone who is not really expert enough to be offering tips

Good:
* Gushing over someone who is deemed to be a really good lead



Do men talk about women? I wish they did, so I could get someone to admit that there's a strong preference for an attractive, inexperienced lady in a skirt over the obviously more experienced, short-haired lady wearing pants (all else equal)... :)
 

DL

Well-Known Member
#89
I won't deny that ladies do talk about men.... I've been part of a number of such conversations. But here are the points that generally come up:

Bad:
* Hygiene issues
* Arrogant attitude/jerking the follow around
* Unsolicited instruction, especially from someone who is not really expert enough to be offering tips

Good:
* Gushing over someone who is deemed to be a really good lead
I have heard far less noble comments from women. I have heard far more noble ones, too.


Do men talk about women? I wish they did, so I could get someone to admit that there's a strong preference for an attractive, inexperienced lady in a skirt over the obviously more experienced, short-haired lady wearing pants (all else equal)... :)
Men and women alike are attracted to attractive partners. One of my favorite quotes from "Beyond Dance Etiquette" (emphasis added):
http://web.archive.org/web/20000415050233/http://www.ece.rice.edu/~aria/beyond.html#Popular

Attractive individuals are popular: In dancing, as anywhere else, good-looking people have an advantage. Men, especially, will gravitate to pretty women. Women, while lamenting the shallowness of men, will behave similarly. But if you are not among the lucky few whose beauty turn heads, remember that although nature is not equally kind to everyone, we all have our strong points. Attractiveness may help in getting the first dance, but for the second dance, personality, sense of humor, and good dancing skills can easily win out over cuteness.
 

IndyLady

Well-Known Member
#90
Men and women alike are attracted to attractive partners. One of my favorite quotes from "Beyond Dance Etiquette" (emphasis added):
http://web.archive.org/web/20000415050233/http://www.ece.rice.edu/~aria/beyond.html#Popular
As an aside, I wonder how that would fly on the other forum where I am a regular, where the conventional wisdom is that women don't care as much about looks, we're only after money/power/status.

So if both sexes are guilty, is it really sexism or just another "jerk" behavior?
 
#91
So if both sexes are guilty, is it really sexism or just another "jerk" behavior?
Is it even "jerk" behavior, or just part and parcel of the human condition? We're innately visual creatures (I don't have the stats handy, but vision gets far and away the most neurons to process sensory stimuli), and by default you're going to see a stranger before you ever hear them or interact with them verbally in almost any social context. So before they ever have a chance to show how they're a nice person/have intriguing thoughts/have a great sense of humor/whatever other personality traits there are through their words, you've already taken in their attractiveness and visual cues about their personality (posture / body language). And that's just part of human biology, not something to be decried as awful or sexist/racist/xxxx-ist (though it is something people should be generally aware of as they're forming opinions).
 

Hedwaite

Well-Known Member
#92
I think people try too intently not to offend each other, and in turn, they become offensive in another way. Just be offensive one way- it's easier, and you don't have as many barnacles.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#94
NPR did a really interesting report on our unconscious reactions to things just last week. The sociologist whom they were interviewing managed to present the findings without being judgmental about why those reactions where there.
 

IndyLady

Well-Known Member
#95
NPR did a really interesting report on our unconscious reactions to things just last week. The sociologist whom they were interviewing managed to present the findings without being judgmental about why those reactions where there.
That sounds very interesting to me. Any highlights you can share?

Is it even "jerk" behavior, or just part and parcel of the human condition? We're innately visual creatures (I don't have the stats handy, but vision gets far and away the most neurons to process sensory stimuli), and by default you're going to see a stranger before you ever hear them or interact with them verbally in almost any social context. So before they ever have a chance to show how they're a nice person/have intriguing thoughts/have a great sense of humor/whatever other personality traits there are through their words, you've already taken in their attractiveness and visual cues about their personality (posture / body language). And that's just part of human biology, not something to be decried as awful or sexist/racist/xxxx-ist (though it is something people should be generally aware of as they're forming opinions).
Well, "awful" might be too strong a term, but basing your actions/behavior/treatment of others on their perceived level of attractiveness is not something I can condone or just write off as acceptable human instinct. Of course there are exceptions to this in certain situations, but this would seem to fall under the "don't judge a book by its cover" adage.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#96
Any highlights you can share?
It wasn't sexism, but another "ism."
Having just checked, it was PBS NewsHour, not NPR.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And how much of it is human instinct, human nature to make that decision? Right now, I’m not threatened by these dogs that are right behind us, but some part of me as a human being looks out at a street and says, am I threatened by that person or am I not? It’s kind of a survival instinct.

DAVID AMODIO: It is. This is going on all the time in the back of your mind. You have to — as a human being, to survive, you have to be ready for anything at any moment. So it’s always there. It’s just a matter of trying to stay focused and treating people like humans.


CHRISTIAN RUDDER: In dating, you judge people reflexively, in the same way that you might — it’s maybe not the same, but similar to how you might judge someone at a job interview, or when they try to rent your apartment or apply for a loan. It’s very much the data of the first impression.

SUMMER ANNE: Like, I have piercings. People judge me based on that. They think that, you know, I’m a punk, oh, I don’t have a job, or I’m young.

MAN: I mean, everyone has…

MAN: Stereotypes.

MAN: Stereotypes. Yes, everyone has stereotypes. Everyone does.
 

twnkltoz

Well-Known Member
#99
I also think that sometimes we spend so much time talking about what is offensive that we start being offended by something because "it's supposed to be offensive!" Without actually looking at whether, logically, it really is. I think that happened a lot in the OP's article. He's telling me what to do! I'm supposed to be offended by that so I am!
 

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