Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of connection, love, unity, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a community and people. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.
December 23, 2012
Femininity and Feminism in Tango (I)
Since the beginning of time men and women are best friends. Men like and cherish women. They choose women to be their life partner. They treat women better than they treat men. They are more generous to women than to other men. They work hard for the women they love, and they fight and give up their life for them. Women, too, like and cherish men. They always try to attract men and win men’s hearts. They trust themselves in men, devote their love to men, unite with men and follow men’s lead. Men and women need, complement and complete each other. Their friendship has been, for the most part, a love story.
In the milongas of Buenos Aires, I witnessed this love story. I found myself experience a wonderful relationship with Argentine women. On the outside Argentine women do not particularly strike me as more beautiful than other women, but they surely left an impression in my heart when I danced with them. Passionate, obedient, gentle and seductive, they are the most attractive women that I know. They dress femininely and wear flowers. They gaze at you intently to get your attention. They respond to your cabeceo with a joyful nod. They embrace you warmly with their breasts tenderly touch your chest. They twist in your arms, entangle your leg with their leg and wrap your body with their body. Femininity is not their weakness but strength, and they know how to use it to make you feel special. They may be professors, doctors and CEOs in real life, but in the milongas they are just pure, natural, simple and lovely women. That tango is invented by them is not accidental, it is in their blood. Argentine women are the personifications of femininity and affection. Dancing with them is truly one of life’s most gratifying experiences. (See The Gender Expression in Tango.)
Without femininity tango will not be the same. Tango requires men to be strong, decisive, dependable, protective and thoughtful and women to be obedient, gentle, agreeable, feminine and beautiful. Men and women play different roles in tango as they do in life. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.) One is like the trunk and the other the leaves, together they make a blossomy tree. One is like the brush and the other the pigments, together they create a beautiful painting. In Europe and North America some people reject this idea as sexism and male domination. They oppose gender differences and gender expressions. They demand tango to be void of macho posturing, gender inequality and intimate displays. They want tango partners to keep a distance from each other, stay away from intimate contact and dance in an open dance hold to avoid sexual harassment. They want the man not to lead but only offer suggestions, and they assert the woman's rights to reject the suggestion and to initiate her own steps. They reassign gender roles by imitating men, playing the masculine role and promoting same-sex partnership, etc. In short, they want to make tango a gender-neutral dance and the milonga like a workplace where everybody conducts in a politically correct way. (See Tango and Gender Equality.)
The masculinization of women in Europe and North America has an undeniable impact on how tango is danced in these societies where the modern way of life encourages women to put on uniforms, hide their gender identity and join the work force to fight like men. Many women choose career over marriage, success over family and independence over relationships. They push legislations to protect women’s rights and equal opportunities and prohibit men to see women as sex objects. They refuse to be treated as the weaker sex. As a result, they, too, see themselves less and less as women and more and more like men. In order to compete with men women need to be tough, ambitious and aggressive like men. Many become violent, mean, sloppy and overweight, as they do not care about how men see them any more. They raise violent, mean, sloppy and overweight daughters, expecting them also to compete with men when they grow up. Violent women produce violent murderers, as the world has just witnessed in Newtown, Connecticut. When women behave like men, the relationship between men and women deteriorates, the institution of family disintegrates and children lose parents. When women cease to be feminine, they become less attractive to men, who then turn to the same-sex relationships for help. You wonder why "marriage equality" increasingly becomes a discourse in our societies? When women lose their soft, loving nature that has been the balance to men’s aggression, the world is becoming a more dangerous place.
What femininity is to the humanity is like what green is to the environment. (See Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes.) I am nostalgic for the missing femininity in our women. I think the world is nostalgic for that, too, which is why people around the globe find Argentine women and their dance fascinating. If you dance enough tango, as do the Argentine women, you will realize that turning women into men just doesn’t work in tango, as it has caused more problems than solving any in other social discourses. That being said, I remain hopeful thanks to Argentine tango, because in tango men and women have to be who they are created to be for their common good - different yet balanced, divergent yet united, distinct yet complementary, and opposite but equal.