Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit 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 people and species. 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 women. They choose women to be their life partner. They treat women better than they treat other men. They are more generous to women than to other men. They work hard for the women they love, and they fight for them and give up their life to protect them. Women, too, like 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, cherish, 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. They are the most attractive women that I know. They dress femininely and wear flowers. Their smiling eyes do not avoid your gaze. They are gentle, soft, affectionate and submissive. They embrace you warmly with their breasts touch your chest, and dance seductively, waving their skirts. Passionate, sentimental and sensual, they twist their body in your arms, entangle their leg with your 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 and protective, and women to be soft, submissive, 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 flowers; together they make a blossomy tree. One is like the brush and the other the pigments; together they create beautiful paintings. In Europe and North America, some people reject this idea as sexism and male domination. They deny gender differences and gender roles. They want tango to be void of macho posturing, gender inequality and intimate displays. They want tango partners to keep away from physical contact, maintain a distance from each other, and dance in an open hold to avoid sexual harassment. They want the man not to lead but only offer suggestions, and they assert the woman's right to reject the suggestion, to initiate her own steps, and to lead the man. They want tango to be danced by same-sex partners as well, women lead women, and men follow men. In short, they want tango to be a gender-neutral dance and the milonga to be 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. As a result, women, too, see themselves less and less as women, and more and more like men. In order to compete with men, women need to be strong, ambitious and aggressive like men. Many become violent, mean, sloppy and overweight, as they do not care about how men see them any more. And 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 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 understand 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.

Related Reading

Femininity and Feminism in Tango (II)

The Gender Expression in Tango


  1. Wow, it just keeps getting worse as I read through these blog posts. A woman can be feminine and still be equal with a man. I'm not sure what you mean by competing with men. We aren't trying to compete with men. Women just want to be respected for the work we do, whatever that work may be. You are actually blaming women for men choosing to have sex with other men? How on earth do you actually find that logical. I guess women are to blame for men cheating on them as well? There is one simple fact in all of this that I can share with you as a divorce attorney of 11 years. When a man lets a woman control the relationship, the relationship is doomed. When it is a partnership with mutual respect given to the man's role and the woman's role, then it should, in theory, thrive. If a man is passive with a woman, she will take control in a power vacuum. I have to be a strong woman..I have to know how to be aggressive and intimidate when or if I need to. I also have to know when to be soft and feminine and respect my partner's masculinity and allow him to be a man and feel like a man. Those things aren't mutually exclusive in a woman Paul.

  2. I am sorry I cannot totally agree with your legalist and power struggle approach. The causes of cheating are complicated, as you know it. One's approach could contribute to the other's violation, although the latter is the one who crossed the legal line. As to tango, I believe the "if he is aggressive so I have to be intimidate as well, or he is weak so I have to take control in a power vacuum" approach, is not the right approach. One has to rid that kind of attitude to dance tango well.