The dance community has been having some very important discussions lately.

We’ve been having discussions around consent and assault. Taking about sexism and sexual aggression. Having conversations on homophobia and racism. Debating about cultural appropriation and honoring the roots of dances.

Invariably, there are a couple types of overreactions.

There are people at one end who don’t want to acknowledge problems in social dance – at all. Either they violently believe that they’re a non-issue, or they don’t want to “ruin their dance experience” by talking about them.

On the other end, we have people who read into everything as a majorly terrible factor that must be changed – and must be changed now. For example, people who demonize a teacher who accidentally says he/she instead of lead/follow, or a dancer who isn’t quite comfortable with opposite-sex dancing yet.

Why can’t we be reasonable and exist somewhere in the middle?

For example, I believe that there is some sexism in social dancing. I believe this because I have experienced it.

When I say something like this, I invariably get attacked by people who accuse me of ‘playing the victim’ and ‘being consumed by micro-aggressions’. I’ve seen similar attacks towards other authors and dancers who raise similar points.

Yet, most of the people I’ve met who are talking about these issues aren’t trying to get special sympathy. We’re simply saying ‘Hey, this is a thing. It’d be nice if there was some awareness to this, because it is more easily fixed when people are aware and acknowledge that some people don’t take me seriously as a woman. ”

Note the ‘some’- not ‘all’. Not even ‘most’. But some – and most of those ‘some’ aren’t even doing it intentionally.

This can go for anything. Whether it’s music history, sexism, homophobia, consent, assault, dance naming conventions… take your pick. No matter what you’re discussing, there’s no need to be an extremist.

You can agree with a concept without agreeing with all the points.

For example, you can agree with the idea that Nuevo Tango isn’t really tango, without feeling like it should never be danced. You can even enjoy Nuevo Tango and still think there’s a problem with the naming convention.

You can adamantly believe that NeoKiz is not ‘real’ Kiz, without asserting that every NeoKiz artist can’t dance Kizomba or is a bad dancer.

Whatever the topic, there’s no need to throw the dancer out with the old shoe.

Invalidating another person’s issue with your own doesn’t work.

This goes both ways. I’m totally willing to believe a guy who says some girls expect him to carry the dance – and give him majorly bad shade if he doesn’t. I don’t sit there and say, “But WOMEN! WE have problems!”

The correct answer is: “Well. That sucks. That shouldn’t happen to you.”

It’s possible to focus on one issue without invalidating every other issue that exists. It’s possible to simply say ‘women shouldn’t be taught to just follow’ without emphasizing ‘men shouldn’t be responsible for the whole dance.’

If we’re talking about what women are facing, it doesn’t have to be about men – and vice versa.

I get that some people feel like a topic is invalid if it isn’t all-encompassing. But, it doesn’t work like that. Just because someone didn’t mention the one issue that is important to you doesn’t mean the rest of the issues they pointed out are invalid.

Admitting there is a problem does not mean that you must be consumed with guilt about the problem.

Admitting that there are some imperfect areas does not equate a demand for overwhelming guilt, or a constant re-evaluation of everything you do while social dancing. It just means that you’re aware that there are some imperfect things.

For example, there’s a lot of discussion about the naming of sensual Bachata. There’s also a lot of discussion on what ‘true’ Kizomba music is, and whether Nuevo Tango should be a thing. These are all valid discussions.

You can absolutely love sensual Bachata – and still recognize that there was quite possibly a better name for it based on its influences. Even if you truly feel it never took any influence from another dance and is still truly ‘Bachata’, you can still admit and appreciate why the other side sees an issue.

Same thing with the sexism debate. No one is asking you to re-assess your entire approach to a dance every time you desire to lead or follow. We’re not asking every couple to switch their professional name to Lady’s Name before Man’s Name. We’re just saying ‘Hey! Here’s a thing that is rooted in a sexist origin!”

Do all of them need to be changed? No.
Do some of them? Yes.
Do we need to be consumed with guilt over what we do? Hell no!

A little knowledge, intellectual thought, and background into understanding what we do never hurt anyone. We’re not asking you to be consumed by it.

Avoid ‘Buzzword’ snap-judgements.

I’ve written many, many times about problems that mostly-women face in social dancing. In many, I purposely avoid mentioning that it is sexist. In most cases, both genders agree wholeheartedly with these articles.

However, the moment that ‘feminism’ or ‘sexism’ explicitly makes it into an article? Yikes – watch out.

Just because someone uses a word that you associate with bad things (like over-the-top ‘radical’ feminism) doesn’t mean that the entire argument is invalid. You’re a grown, fully-functioning person. You can see beyond a buzzword.

No one is forcing you to be ‘enlightened’.

No one is on a crusade to force you to subscribe to a belief system. If you go dancing once a week and want to enjoy a world free of any and all conflict, no interpersonal drama, and absolutely no thought onto the workings of the world – sure. Do it. Avoid reading online articles. Avoid talking to people. That’s fine.

But there’s really no reason to shut down the people who DO want to have these conversations with a “why can’t we all just shut up and enjoy social dancing? I don’t want to think about this”.

We’re more likely to resolve issues if we work together

We should be trying to reach points of mutual agreement – not stress the differing opinions.

The reason why is simple: a further division will never solve an issue. However, asking someone why they feel something and asking them for evidence to back up their opinion often leads to fruitful discourse.

Very often, you can even come to a new awareness of what other people are facing. And, you may find that the people you are discussing (instead of fighting) with take a little bit away from your point of view too.

Always look for the common ground. For example, you don’t have to agree with ‘always believing the alleged victim’ to agree that ‘sexual assault is bad.’

There is never sufficient reason for personal attacks.

I try to never respond with a generalization that attacks a person’s character if I disagree with an opinion they put forward. For example, if a guy says “I feel like women unfairly decline dances”, I don’t call him an “ungrateful, entitled asshole who needs to take a good look in the mirror and sounds like a horrible dance partner.”

Even if someone else throws the first punch, take them down by asking them to defend their arguments – without name calling. The second you devolve to the level of personal attacks is the second you no longer will get taken seriously – no matter how valid your original point.

No group is exempt from this. Whether you are on the side of ‘maintaining traditionalist values’ or ‘social progressiveness’, you have more class than devolving into an online troll and vindictive jerk.

Plus, if you engage online in a classy, dignified way, everyone else is looking at you with silent, online fist-bumps for your cool composure.

Overall, we’re better than a bunch of inflexible opinions.

We are a diverse, loving community. We’re able to be perfectly civil in person. So, why is it we are so extremist in our views online?

Let’s treat our online conversations with the same love and respect that we use when dealing with each other in real life.