Building on my last blog post I wanted to touch on the topic of gender again (oh, Nancy – here she goes again). Again, this is up for discussion and perhaps you’ll disagree – but I’m going to say it. Why don’t we value or see many female leaders? Also, why don’t we value individual instructors, and in particular, female followers who lack a regular partner?
Other then the DecaVitas who are the prominent same sex couples where it’s irrelevant of their gender? Similarly, who are the prominent male follows? Where do they teach? Cause I want to go there!
With exception, I know many instructors who feel anxiety around not having a regular partnership or transitioning from one partnership to another. It’s harder to market, more unfamiliar. I recently made the shift to try and assert myself as a partner dancer and teacher more and I feel this anxiety often. We respect female follows like Jenny Thomas, Sylvia Sykes and Pamela Gaizutyte but do we hire them as much? Do we listen to them as closely? Do we pay them as much as an unattached male lead? I think probably not (that is an assumption on my part and I ask that you correct me if you know this to be untrue). Although, I am sure that male leads do feel the same way.
For years, I’ve understood that there is only so far I can go in my teaching without a teaching partner. It IS a partnered dance. I get that, but it is very hard to get noticed (I mean this to be, get gigs) if you aren’t in a branded partnership with a male leader, from my perspective.
I bring this up, not to stand on a soapbox, but to say that we it feels like we value male leaders more…and I wonder if this is because we are doing honour to the historical roots of the dance. And I also wonder if it inevitably creates the kind of environment where we conflate egos and fall down as a community. If we are talking about creating safe dance environments shouldn’t we also take a cold hard look at our opinions on gender in lindy hop and our resultant hiring practices. As an organizer, you can book whoever you want! It’s your event, it’s your call. I know that if I am present, dance well, am fun to be around and have some hustle that I can be successful – it just takes time…but yeah…why do I feel the pressure to have a male partner? I want to understand why I feel this way.
In the meantime, what can I/we do about this?
Just some thoughts: I can work on my leading and be as confident competing and teaching as a lead (things that I am currently more comfortable with as a follower). I can take my Swing Patrol colleagues classes as a leader and demonstrate to my students that it’s important to have both skills. I can explicitly encourage my students to learn the opposite role. I can give feedback to event organizers to hire teachers who work together but are not necessarily a branded partnership. I am already really aware of gendered terminology in my teaching and do my best to continue to teach gender neutral roles and also can hold others accountable on and off the social floor for their gendered language. Not in an adversarial way but in a way that promotes equality and respect for both roles.