Every time I write an article on taking care of your partner on the dancefloor, I get a response that goes something like this:
“When I dance with a lady, I take care of her. It is a man’s job to take care of a lady, because she is the fairer sex. On a dance floor, I must therefore make her safe and comfortable, because I am responsible for protecting this fragile gender.”
Or, if they’re feeling really brazen…
“It is up to the man to understand what the lady wants, because women cannot know for themselves. They are creatures of intuition and feelings, not rational thought. Men must use reason to understand the needs ladies don’t understand themselves.”
People really do say this stuff. Sometimes, the responses are shorter. Sometimes they’re longer. They all have a similar pattern:
- “I/Gentlemen, “Lady/Woman”
- Male/Female binary in the Lead/Follow roles
- Taking ownership of ‘protecting’ the follow
- Giving themselves a pat-on-the-back for being such a great partner
If this is you, this is not great partner behavior. It is sexist behavior. Usually well-intentioned sexist behavior, but still sexist.
***STOP! Before you get defensive, read the article. Do not jump to the bottom of the comments and start ranting before you actually read and understand the point that I’m trying to make here. This behavior is sexist – well-intentioned or not – and it does not mean that I hate you as a person. It does not mean you are TRYING to be sexist; only that this is a sexist behavior. It is critiquing a behavior – not you as a whole person. ***
Women are not fragile, breakable butterflies that you must carefully shelter on the dancefloor because we are female. Our ‘fragility’ depends on many factors, including:
- Our dance experience
- Our health
- Our fitness level
An advanced dancer can protect themselves better than a beginner. A physically healthy person can take more dance-pressure than someone with an ailment. Our fitness level determines what our body is capable of. All these things apply, regardless of gender. A male with a health issue is just as prone to injury as a female with a health issue.
When a follow complains of a behavior that makes them feel unsafe, they are not saying that ‘because women are weaker, or more prone to upset’. We are saying it because it’s something that we face – just as you face backleaders, self-dippers and over-stylers. We are not being ‘sensitive’, we are voicing a concern.
It isn’t about you ‘protecting’ us, it’s about you respecting and caring for us. BIG difference. That care and respect flows both ways: Lead to Follow and Follow to Lead.
As a result, ‘taking care of your partner’ applies regardless of gender and dance role. A follow should take care of their lead, and a lead should take care of their follow. This involves several things, like:
- Respecting their personal space requirements
- Not forcing movements
- Not self-dipping
- Being aware of people around you, and hazards to your partner
- Being responsible for your own body movements
- Compensating for your partner’s shortcomings
Women are human beings. On the dancefloor, we are equal to every man dancing. The same courtesy you extend to us, you should extend to the other men as well. If you are leading a man, your responsibilities are the same as leading a woman. Always. Without exception.
This is the true concept of ‘gentleman’: treating all on the floor with dignity, respect, and care.
I don’t care how how small some women are; we are people. Treat us like people. We are not an object you are responsible for handling. We are not an infant that you need to handle with care. We are a partner. And partners are equal.
Think of a business venture: if you partner with someone, it means you are their equal. In contrast, an employee is more of a responsibility. When you assume that you are needed to ‘protect’ your follow because they are the weaker/fairer/more emotional sex, you are making them less than a partner. You are making them a responsibility. Making a follow a responsibility creates an imbalance in the power dynamic, which should never happen in a partnership.
Please, leave the ‘fairer sex’ rhetoric in the past. It has no place on a modern dancefloor. If you view yourself as a Gentleman, update your use of the idea of chivalry. Don’t ‘protect’ women because we are ‘weaker’; ‘care’ for us because we are your ‘partner.’ It makes a world of difference.