Saturday, August 28, 2010

Real boys can't dance

I was at my son's soccer party today and really had to bite my tongue at another mother's comment... one of the parents was talking about enrolling her daughter in dance this fall. Another mother said (and I wrote this down right away so I could quote it)
I wish I had girls. I only have boys so I can't put them in dance cause that would be a little, you know... (trails off).
A little what? Gay? I was about to tell her off right there, until I realized that we were surrounded by 5 year old children. I started to think about how to approach this when another parent stepped in and talked about the cute little boys in her daughter's dance class.

As a former dancer/ figure skater/ gymnast, I have heard the boys is my classes get ridiculed for being there by their peers. Were some gay? Probably, but then, some hockey players probably were too. Most were not gay. It is just another example of things that are designated as feminine being off limits for males.


  1. I'm a dance teacher at a local preschool where I teach little ones through age five. There have been a few times where the preschool teachers have "corrected" little boys who try to follow their peers to dance class by saying "You're not in dance, you're a boy."

    It's hard to fight gendered comments like that. I try to explain to adults that boys do very well in dance--especially when they are so young. It's all movement and strength and play. But they don't hear that.

    So, next I say, "The girls love having boys in the class. Boys are always so popular when they take dance."

  2. This is a highly appropriate post following the previous one... Just another way gender socialization creeps into life. Dear lord, it's everywhere!!

    On a related point, it is rather interesting that, whatever the failings of the Russian and Chinese Communist Revolutions, at their height they encouraged dancing as an art form amongst men and women. Especially in China during the Cultural Revolution where ballet was seen as the highest performance art and boys would go into classes with girls in order to become the next biggest dancer.

  3. Auraesque, that seems to be the only way to justify males dancing... especially if it is ballet... even on "So you think you can dance" they showed a male ballet dancer and the entire piece was about how he did it to be closer to girls instead of in hockey locker rooms with a bunch of guys.

    And thanks, JMP, that is really interesting... I have read a bit about how dance was encourage and discouraged in different cultures at various times and in specific contexts, but I haven't read about that... I might look into it.

  4. Is it just me, or are more and more people forgetting that being gay = having sex with those of the same gender? It's not synonymous with meterosexual, not with casually ignoring ridiculous gendered norms, but people act as if certain activities affect one's orientation, or vice versa. Sigh.

  5. Did you miss the memo? Gay no longer refers to the preferred gender of one's sexual partner, but to anyone who says or does anything that does not consistently fit into the little box that has been constructed regarding what is appropriate for people of a specific gender. Glad I could clear that up for you.... now where is my sarcasm alert button to attach to this comment...

  6. What I think is interesting about the mother's comment is did she think her son would be put into a flashy dance dress or sequined outfit and all dolled out in makeup. Personally, I wish I was in dance when I was younger, not only because of all the girls I would probably be friends with, but think of the occupation possibilities there could be. Being on Broadway in New York or performing in London, not to mention touring with musical acts or being in movies.

    This might be going off track from your post, but I am kind of shocked at what the younger girls are wearing when they are in dance recitals. Looks like a dance version of Toddlers and Tiaras.