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 and give up their life for 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 on their heads. Their skirts wave in the air as they dance around you. They are passionate, affectionate, submissive, gentle and seductive. Their smiling eyes do not avoid your gaze. They embrace you warmly with their breasts touch your chest. 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 that 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 gentle, 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 a beautiful painting. In Europe and North America, some people reject this idea as sexism and male domination. They deny gender differences and gender roles. They demand 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 dance hold to avoid sexual harassment. They want the man not to lead but only offer suggestions. They assert the woman's rights 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 the same-sex relationship 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

December 11, 2012

Private Whispers in the Milongas, by Sara Melul

The milongueros, who are the true personalities of the milonga, have the custom of quietly talking with their partner between one tango and another. These whispers sometimes knit a plot that becomes a love story. Others are memories or anecdotes of one night in the milonga. At times they remain just a lovely conversation. The important thing is that, for us who come to dance, these conversations form an essential part of the warm, embracing atmosphere and one of those most important and gratifying moments. Surely there exist many thousands of such examples which different women receive daily in the milongas.

  • How well we dance together! You have eyes that I want to eat. I dance better with you; you awaken the creativity in me.
  • For me dancing tango is like flying, to surrender to you as a dream, and to enjoy it.
  • I am going to tell you something that perhaps you will not like: The brightness of your eyes makes me blind.
  • Do you always come here? Where else do you go to dance? I ask in order to follow you until the end of the world.
  • Goddess, if I were God, I would have you in my kingdom, but I have you in my arms.
  • I congratulate you because with you one can dance very well.
  • How I enjoy dancing with you! Each tanda passes by in a breath!
  • When we dance together I feel your body.
  • You have a tiny waist that I am afraid will break.
  • To dance with you is like a dream…how can I not be very happy, I have the best woman, the best music, what more do I need?
  • I am enchanted with you, you dance like the goddess, beautiful, free, nothing worries you!
  • After dancing the first tango with you, how could I leave now?
  • They made this tango for you. It is called “to the grand doll.”
  • Since I met you there is no other woman for me! I will come next week just to dance with you…
  • You dance divinely…do you understand me? One only would want to know, to touch you and dance all night…
  • You are something unbelievable. One can dance with you all night without being bored.
  • I want to dance with you and catch your perfume!
  • I want only to enjoy you in this dance…we will not talk. I am jealous when you do not dance with me…
  • It is incredible how you dance. You are a monument to femininity.

Contributed by Sara Melul, El chamuyo en las milongas