Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of humanity, connection, love, unity, harmony and beauty, 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 team, 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, accommodation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

May 3, 2013

Femininity and Feminism in Tango (II)

When the opposite sexes tango together, something mysterious happens: attraction, feelings, connection, romanticism, synergy, etc. The gratification of tango comes from the fact that it is danced by a man and a woman. The man leads the woman with his torso to bring her feminine beauty into full play. The woman surrenders to him and uses her femininity to allure, comfort and reward him. The two opposite sexes support and complement each other, make each shine brighter in the other’s company.

Some people argue that with practice anyone can play either role equally well (see Comment), which I doubt. Men are not good at playing the feminine role not because they are not given the chance, but because they are born masculine. A man does not have a woman's soft, light and flexible body. Nor does he have her psyche evolved because of women's reproductive nature, their need for beauty (to attract male), affection and security. These traits impact how women dance. On the other hand, women do not have the build and strength of men. They do not have the male psyche evolved because of men's hunting nature, their need for taking initiatives, keeping under control and protecting their loved ones. If men and women were naturally good at the opposite roles, tango would have been danced differently.

Not far from my house, a female goose is hatching under a tree, and a male goose is guarding nearby, preventing the female from being disturbed. I have to make a detour when I pass that tree because the male goose does not allow me get close. He is very protective of his partner. Can the male hatch and the female guard? I suppose they could. But that would not be as natural and fit. Masculinity and femininity are characteristics of the opposite sexes essential to the well being of the species. The male is typically strong, assertive, protective and aggressive, a good father and protector, if you wish. The female is typically soft, attractive, submissive and affectionate, a good mother and caregiver, if you wish. These characteristics enable the two sexes to attract each other and form a sustainable relationship for the benefit of the offspring. People often do not appreciate the way nature works and want to alter it. But, what is of nature comes from millions of years of evolution and is, as a result, the best, fittest and most effective way. Messing with nature often leads to disastrous consequences, such as man-made climate changes, environmental catastrophes, mysterious diseases, sterility, babies with birth defects, the derangement of natural orders between the opposite sexes, the decline of family, and the decay of the family-centered value system, etc. (See Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes.) Those who think they are smarter than God are harming us all with their ignorant interference with nature.

Good human values are based on what is beneficial to the humanity rather than an individual person or gender. The problem of individualism and feminism is that their perspectives are narrowed down to a single person or gender. Consequently, they confuse the good with the evil and the beautiful with the ugly. Greed is ugly, but is being justified as the pursuit of happiness. Selfishness is ugly, but is being beautified as asserting one's rights. Arrogance is ugly, but is being prettified as self-confidence. Masculinity is admirable, but is being vilified as sexism. Femininity is beautiful, but is being denigrated as female weakness, etc. Such ideologies challenge the traditional way tango is danced, labeling it as male domination and gender inequality. (See Tango and Gender Equality.) They want tango to be danced in such a way that men and women are undifferentiated, that the man does not lead but only offers suggestions (See Three Theories on Leading.), that the woman does not surrender but remains independent, that the woman may choose how, when and whether to accept the suggestion, initiate her own steps and lead the man or another woman, that the two partners maintain a distance from each other to prevent sexual advancement, and that tango embrace is being replaced with an open dance hold to allow more individuality and independence, etc. As a result, tango is transformed to something that is no longer tango.

Tango is based on the ideas that men and women are interdependent rather than independent, that masculinity and femininity complement rather than un-equalize the opposite sexes, that being a masculine male and a feminine female is attractive, beneficial and desirable, that the harmony of the two genders is arrived at through mutual respect, submission, accommodation and cooperation rather than resentment, animosity, confrontation and power struggle, and that love triumphs over hostility. While individualism and feminism focus on the individuality and independence of the individual person or gender, tango focuses on the oneness and harmony of their union. It asks us to be friendly, submissive, humble, adaptive, cooperative, agreeable and yielding. Tango proves that the two sexes can form a harmonious relationship by conforming to these values. Despite the challenges that tango faces in the West, it continues to exert positive influences on our societies, I believe, because unless we adopt its values, we are unable to fully enjoy tango and the relationship with the opposite gender. (See The World Needs a Different Philosophy.)


  1. Paul wrote: " They want tango to be danced in such way that men and women are undifferentiated"

    "They" are rarely social dancers, and almost always dance workers. The want comes simply from the economic realities of the dance class business. As does for example the recasting of men as "leaders" and women as "followers".

    "tango is transformed into something that is no longer tango."

    Such class culture factors have very little effect on traditional social tango dancing. Rather than transform it, they simply derive from it a different dance form, leaving the original unchanged. Eventually each new instruction-based tango dance form gets a different name to distinguish and market it, as did what are now known as International Tango and American Tango.

    "[Dancing] tango is based on the ideas that men and women are interdependent rather than independent, that masculinity and femininity complement rather than un-equalize the two genders, that being a masculine male and a feminine female is attractive, beneficial and desirable"

    Well said. On that we agree!

    1. No, do we not.
      How do you think, evolved the Tango in the first decades of the last century?
      The heartbreaking romanticism exist and developed because of the absence of women and the social pressure not to be in Relationship with an other man. Especially with seaman. It was the only possibility to be together in public as man.
      And what woman did, was not for interest.

      Please overcome your vintage view about sexuality and bounding to role model, and open your heart for a more general humanity and altruistic view of Tango.

      If you can overcome this views, you can dance with your same gender in Milonguero style too, and you can find all of your so far posted Feelings in this relationship too.

    2. The fundamental issue is the purpose of sex. Those who think sex is only for pleasure believe one can have sex with anyone including members of one's own sex, which from an individualistic point of view is a matter of personal rights and freedom, and they want the society not only to recognize their rights, but also provide means for all people to embrace their view and way of living.

      Those who think sex is a responsibility relating to the procreation and upbringing of the next generation, on the other hand, believe the above view and way of living is detrimental to the best interests of the society and humanity as a whole. (See my post: Tango and the Relationship between the Opposite Sexes.) Individualism is a cracked ideology because we are not just individual beings but also social beings. Absolute personal liberty at the expense of the best interests of the humanity is fundamentally harmful to the individuals as well. Your tango is a part of your lifestyle; therefore, it is not a matter of opening up and trying new things - a persuasion that drug dealers often use. It is choosing a way to dance that is consistent with your value and way of living. As to the history, I believe your interpretation is not based on solid research but fairy tales that really live in your mind.

  2. All tango dancers will not agree with you, but I DO. Tango is communication between a man and a woman in the embrace. There are roles. Change them, and as you said, tango is transformed into something that is no longer tango.

    I like what Chris wrote about class culture giving new names for marketing purposes. It's sad that no one is learning a social style to enjoy a lifetime.

  3. Hi, Paul,I totally agree with you on "Good human values are based on what is beneficial to the humanity rather than an individual person or gender". It is so beautifully said and so wise. Freedom and human rights movements led people to put a lot of emphasis on individuality and as a result, the inflated self image lessens our ability to view the world as a connected whole. This inflated self image is also probably the root cause to many modern psychological ailments and problems: loneliness, depression, and mental disorder. If we can zoom out and see ourselves as a tiny one, rather than the one, in this big universe, a fact that has not changed a bit since the big bang, we may again find the beauty in the ancient natural law and adopt the right perspective towards the self and the rest of the world.

    I had a few Tango lessons by now and was deeply touched by this beautiful dance. I am a woman with strong characters in other people's eyes. When I first started, I experienced a lot of struggle, questioning, and doubt. As you have explained in your excellent blog, unless we adopt the appropriate values and mentality for this dance, we can not dance the real Tango. As a matter of fact, unless the man and the woman take the right role, they can not even get the dance going. They will be constantly on each other's toes. No agreement, no harmony,no beauty. Then one day luckily I met a partner who did all the things you mentioned that a good leader should do, he guided me, protected me and let me shine. And without me knowing I surrendered all my wariness and entrusted myself to him. The steps followed naturally and smoothly. At that moment, I knew how Tango should be done and how beautiful it can be when it is done right, when a man is a man and a woman is a woman.

    Looking forward to more of your sharing.


    1. Dear Anna, I appreciate deeply what you said because it summarized so well the theme throughout this blog - and you did it with such simple elegance. When I first started this blog, it was just about tango. But I soon discovered that in fact I was in search of the missing humanity in ourselves, without which tango loses its soul. Tango awakens the humanity in us because it forces us to zoom out and see ourselves as a tiny one and connected whole, to understand our interdependence and weakness, as reflected in "the ancient natural law," and to appreciate the beauty of Creation from a macro or cosmological perspective, as you eloquently put it. The individual is trivial. The strength of mankind comes out of our cooperation. This truth, as attested by tango, must not be forgotten no matter how much we have achieved. Please write more! My best wish to your tango!