One hundred years ago when immigration to Argentina was at the peak, the gender ratio in Buenos Aires was five men to one woman. In other words, fifty men would compete for dancing with ten women in a typical milonga. The situation was so unfavorable to men that most men did not even have the guts to invite women. They would only spy at a distance and wait for women to nod at them, only then dared they venture to dance with the goddesses. That was 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 in the dance 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 men capable of making her completely satisfied. Self-centered peacocks, therefore, had little chance to compete with the milongueros who mastered a comfortable embrace, exquisite musicality and the ability to accommodate, pamper and protect women. Laymen may think of milongueros as some goof-offs. (See Tango and the Outlook on Life.) But if you believe that surrounded by a battalion of admirers the goddess would pick a mediocrity or that she would be fooled by fanfares, you certainly underestimated the goddess. Even today, women cast their eyes only on the best. They don't want a man who is sloppy, who feels insecure, who does not have a comfortable embrace, whose musicality is not perfect, who uses the arms and hands to lead, who can't do cabeceo, who doesn't know milonga codes, and who is short in manner, not to mention in those days. Therefore, the milongueros are thoroughly steeled tango elites who have great knowledge and skills on the dance, music, codes, culture, lunfardo and the ways of the milonga world. (See Milonga Codes.) 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. 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 of nobility, 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. Today the gender ratio in the milongas becomes one man to one point five women. In addition, women are instigated to compete with men for dominance and the chivalry of the milongueros is criticized by the feminists. (See Tango and Gender Equality.) As a result, men do not respect and cherish women to the degree they used to. Nowadays even a beginner who can't walk stably dares to obligate a woman to dance with him and use her as a foil to his self-centered exhibition. One has to reckon that a failure of feminism. Feminists thought the two sexes would be equal if women were as strong as men, little did they realize that once women lose femininity, they are no longer the goddesses in men's eyes.
Dancers today need to learn from the history and reflect on their attitudes toward each other. Masculinity and femininity are nature's way to bring the two sexes together. For their common interests women cannot lose femininity and men cannot lose their love for women. Gender roles play a crucial role in keeping the two sexes in harmony. (See The Gender Roles in Tango.) Deranging the 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 women and quit to play the masculine role. Tango was created as a bridge uniting the two sexes. I pray it remains that way.