A hundred years ago when the wave of immigration to Argentina was at the peak, the gender ratio in Buenos Aires was five men to one woman. In other words, in a typical milonga fifty men would compete to dance with ten woman. The situation was so unfavorable to men that they did not even have the guts to invite women. They would only spy at a distance and wait for a woman to nod at them. Only then dared they venture to dance with the goddess. That's the origin of cabeceo. (See Women's Role in Cabeceo.) Before a man was able to dance with a woman for the first time, he had to spend years to practice with other guys and did not dare to try for real until he had completely grasped the craft. He had to be extremely careful with the woman also, fearing to lose the favor of the goddess if she felt slightest discomfort. Men's cherish and respect for women has since become a notable feature of the tango culture in Argentina.
In such a gender ratio, the privilege of dancing with a woman was granted only to guys capable of making her completely content. Self-centered peacocks, therefore, had little chance to compete with the milongueros who mastered a very comfortable embrace, exquisite musicality and consummate dance skills. Laymen may think of milongueros as goof-offs. (See Tango and the Outlook on Life.) But if you believe that surrounded by a battalion of admirers the goddesses would pick a mediocrity or be fooled by fanfares, you certainly underestimated the goddesses. Even today, women cast their eyes only on the best. They don't want men who are sloppy, who feel insecure, who do not have a comfortable embrace, whose musicality is not perfect, who use the arms and hands to lead, who can't do cabeceo, who don't follow the codes, and who are short in manner, not to mention in those days. Therefore, the milongueros are a group of thoroughly steeled tango elites with great knowledge and skills on the dance, music, codes, culture, lunfardo and the ways of the milonga world. Like the knights in the medieval Europe who were gallant, honorable, generous, kind and respectful especially to women, and like the samurais in feudal Japan who were loyal, courageous, simple in living and preferring death to dishonor, the Argentine milongueros are a group of sophisticated specialists who follow certain tenets also. For them, tango is the religion and milonga codes are not only guild regulations but life principles as well. One may say that, though without the title, the Argentine milongueros are a comparable class to European knights, Japanese samurais and Chinese literati. Their doctrine is the chivalry, bushido and Confucian orthodoxy of Argentina.
Times have changed. The gender ratio in the milongas now becomes one man to one point five women. In addition, the chivalry of the milongueros is criticized by the feminists, and women are instigated to compete with men for dominance. (See Tango and Gender Equality.) As a result, men do not cherish and respect women to the degree they used to. Nowadays even a beginner who can't walk well dares to obligate a woman to dance and use her as the foil to his self-centered exhibition. One has to reckon that a failure of feminism. Feminists thought that the two sexes would be equal if women were strong as men, little did they realize that once women lose femininity, they are no longer the goddesses in men's eyes.
Dancers of today need to learn from the history and reflect on their attitude toward the opposite sex. Masculinity and femininity, which are resulted from millions of years of human evolution, are nature's way to unite the two sexes. For the good of the human race women must not lose femininity and men must not lose their love for women. Gender roles are crucial in keeping the two sexes in unity and harmony. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.) Deranging natural law that regulates the two sexes will have serious consequences. (See Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes.) I wish men will always cherish women the way they did when there were five men to each woman. I wish women never cease to be feminine and quit to play the masculine role. Tango was created to be a bridge uniting the two sexes. I wish it remains that way.