Why This “Girl in Tights” is Over the “No Homo” Defense of Ballet Boys

Being a boy in ballet can be rough. Like a lot boys with interests counter to expected gender roles, they can get targeted for being “girly” or “gay” (whether or not these things are true).

But let’s also pay attention to how we’re responding to this type of bullying.

The Real Man thing again? Eh, I know plenty of men who lift nothing and are still pretty real.

One of my least favorite defenses of boys in ballet is the “no homo” defense (with a side of misogyny). Growing up, I heard a lot adults tell boys who do ballet to respond to “that’s gay” comments by replying that they spend their days surrounded by hot girls in tights that they get to touch.

Now I can hardly blame a kid for saying what he has to say to get through middle school–though the adults encouraging it might be a different story–and I get that it sucks to have people make assumptions about your sexual orientation, but it always bothered me that:

  1. People care more about disassociating ballet from “gay” than disassociating “gay” from “bad.” (And what if that kid is gay?)
  2. As one of the “girls in tights,” these statements always made me feel uncomfortable and objectified.
  3. I also like girls, but I certainly never came to ballet class to check people out. I would be pretty offended if someone suggested otherwise—so why should it be different for boys, who are also probably coming to class for the purpose of actually learning ballet?

Because let’s be real, ballet is hard, and regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, you’re not gonna stick around long or get very far if you’re only there for the purpose of staring at butts.

What does it say about our cultural values that staring at butts (as long as it’s hetero) is considered a more acceptable motivation for boys in ballet than practicing a challenging art form?

Look, I want to erase the stigma associated with boys in ballet at least as much as anyone else–but we can’t do that simply by erasing gay boys in ballet and waving around flag of aggressive heterosexual masculinity. That only trivializes the commitment of male dancers, demeans female dancers, and devalues ballet itself.

If really we want to end a stigma based in homophobia and gender-policing, we’re gonna have to actually fight homophobia and and gender-policing. 


Credit to Asher for inspiring this post!


4 thoughts on “Why This “Girl in Tights” is Over the “No Homo” Defense of Ballet Boys

  1. Part of me is like, “OMG, where have you been all my life!” (Which, of course, is a totally me-centric entitled worldview thing.) Because you are so very, very good at making these things very, very clear, and now I can just, like, point everybody to you when I can’t explain myself 😀

    “What does it say about our cultural values that staring at butts (as long as it’s hetero) is considered a more acceptable motivation for boys in ballet than practicing a challenging art form?”

    Yes — this is it exactly. This, really bluntly, sums up so much that’s completely wrong with our culture; so much that’s bad for women and for men (and for everybody else, for that matter). I think I would have grokked this concept so much more quickly if someone had rolled up to me and put it like that years ago.

    Yet again, well said!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Nadia. The stigma toward men practicing ballet and wearing tights for ballet is PRECISELY why I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it almost all of my life. It has taken me until now (and I’m in my mid-forties) to figure out that for boys in ballet, it all boils down to 1. Support in practicing it and 2. Minimized ridicule for practicing it. Boys DO need to reassured that it’s ok to wear tights and practice ballet. I know this first hand because now that I’ve found a positive circle of ballet people who want you there in class, want you to well in ballet and teach you, it is SOOOOOOO much easier for a boy to WANT to stay with it. I’ve also made the mistake of telling, even close friends that I practice ballet, and it’s been a total disaster. I’ve been called gay, sissy, twinkle toes and when these names surface, it’s very difficult to want to continue with it. I’ve heard of boys getting beat up just because they practice ballet!!! THAT’S RIDICULOUS!!!! So women DO need to be more sympathetic if a boy has to say what he has to to justify his choice of activity. And it is also a REALLY bad idea for a male to let people in on the fact that he practices it…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey balletbrit,

      Thanks for your comment. What you’ve experienced really is ridiculous, and I’m glad you’ve been able to find a more supportive community now. As I said, I don’t necessarily blame boys for saying what they have to out of self-defense. And as much as I may wish otherwise, I get that a speech on the problems with prescriptive gender roles or heterosexism might not be the most immediately useful to a kid at risk of being beat up.

      I do have an issue, however, with adults promoting these “no homo” comebacks as an *adequate solution* to this sort of bullying, instead of actually fighting gender- and sexuality-based prejudice. I want to eventually live in a world in which no kid is harassed because of his nonconforming interests or sexuality, and “girls in tights” comments aren’t gonna get us there. I think we can do better.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment. Ask a question. I won't bite.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s