Tango is making me critically rethink something I hold dear: Feminism. Now of course there are many kinds of feminism, but I fall into a category of feminism that, among other things, tends to scoff at the idea that gender is binary and women should act like women (i.e. get dolled up, be sexy, act feminine, etc). Some recent posts are reminding me that tango embraces the gender binary, encourages dancers to play up gender stereotypes. Am I a hypocrite for talking about gender in one way and dancing it in another?
I was never really a girly-girl as a kid. I always wanted to be more like my brother, hang out with his friends, prove that I could be strong and rough and tumble. I got hand-me-down dresses from cousins with different body types. I didn’t care about fashion or makeup or anything like that. As I got older I started to care more, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I really revamped my wardrobe, started thinking about playing up my feminine side more. When I started dancing tango, I increased my attention to shoes, style, walking seductively. And I do like that feeling; I like being in touch with the very feminine part of me. The Woman.
But I am still uncomfortable forcing that on other people. Does tango have to turn a blind eye to contemporary gender issues? Is it closed to people who have breast-reduction surgery and a hysterectomy in order to better fit zir non-gendered sense of self? I know many women who have learned to lead, and men who know how to follow – how do they fit into this gender-specific tango? I wonder if this sense of a gender binary is more about the social scene of tango rather than the dance itself.
I know that I love having a venue in which to dress up, to look womanly and be appreciated for it, but I would not consider a less feminine woman (or even someone who is genderqueer) to be any less qualified to dance tango. To me this isn’t an issue of age, or body type, but rather the sense that you have to embrace your inner woman to be a true tanguera.