For all the boys who called me “exotic”

I had heard it enough to know you meant:

That I was desirable so long as I was shrouded in that cloud of mystique
(which was mostly just the fog in your eyes
but I didn’t have the heart to point out the difference)

And your foggy eyes lit up when you saw in me
Some alien freak here to show you a whole new #$@%ing world
So I tried to say that I’m really from this planet
And you’re not really the center of it
And between the deadness of Venus and Mars
We’re all life on Earth just trying to make it

But as you looked down to Earth
All you could see
Was some exotic fruit here for your consumption
To suck on the flesh and throw out the core


Despite my best efforts, I seem to have become one of those people who writes emotional poetry on the internet. Oh well. 

Is your “Trick-Shaming” of Dancers Sexist? (why she’s “flashy” and he’s “unbridled”)

“I’m sick of seeing a bunch tricks and turns and crazy extensions instead of actual dancing.”

“Dancers these days are becoming more of athletes than artists.”

“She’s good, but such a competition dancer.”

Lamenting the rise of extreme athleticism at the expense of artistry  is a recurring theme for professional and armchair dance critics alike. And while this set of concerns is probably as old as theatrical dance itself, the recent explosion of dance competitions in both training and popular entertainment has provided the dance world with plenty of gratuitous turn sequences and ariels for unamused viewers to roll their eyes at.

I certainly have my own tastes when it comes to athleticism in dance, but I’m not here argue whether these critiques are “right” or “wrong” in whatever case (though it is worth mentioning that the line between “tricks” and “dancing” is subjective and changing over time–let’s not forget that there was a time when 90 degree extensions in ballet were considered excessive).

Instead, I want to point out a common double standard when it comes to these critiques of virtuosity on the concert dance stage–a bias that I realize I have fallen into myself. “Trick shaming” is disproportionally harsh on female performers, even when men as a group are whipping out the most flashy moves.

Consider how a man might be described after performing a sequence containing seven pirouettes, some impressive turning jumps, and a backflip:

“A fearless performer, bursting with unbridled power;””Such raw energy!”

Now consider how a woman performing similar steps would more likely be described:

“That was flashy and distracting;” “She’s an impressive technician, but not a mature artist;” “It’s hard to take the piece seriously with all those circus tricks.”

Maybe those jumps were eye-roll-worthy and maybe they weren’t, but there’s something wrong when the gender of the performer is the determining factor.

So why is she “flashy” while he’s “unbridled?” 

The comments about female performers echo standards of femininity which warn that women shouldn’t be “too much:” too powerful, too loud, too confident, too attention-seeking and showy (even while performing in a literal show).

Another factor is that we’re just more used to seeing men dancing virtuosically by default. In standard classical ballet repertory, for instance, there aren’t all that many opportunities for men to explore types of movement outside of big power moves (which also sucks if you happen to be a dude who likes adagio). In a culture which values sports as a marker of masculinity, the athleticism of male dancers is often used to affirm their masculinity, and therefore respectability. 

But it’s not just that we prefer to see men doing tricks because of gender roles–we also interpret it as something fundamentally artistically different. Masculine bravado is seen as somehow more expressive, serious, and artistically valid than the female equivalent, which is dismissed as cheap circus tricks, with the performers as mindless “trick ponies.”

There’s a certain language of primitivism we use to describe male virtuosity (that “raw energy”), like we’re so sold on athleticism as an innate male trait that we see a man whipping out a la second turns as expressing some deep primal masculine energy (meanwhile a woman doing the same is an overtrained technician).

And sure, there are some showy moves that come more easily to the average male dancer’s body as opposed to the average female dancer’s (and vice versa), but it’s a big stretch to call any technical dance vocabulary “natural,” regardless of sex or gender.

Just to be clear:

alex wong

This is not natural.

pirouette

This is not natural either.

spinjump

Or this.

tilt.gif

There is no gender to which this is natural.

 

At the core, this is about seeing men as more serious and artistically legitimate than women. It really does matter that female dancers are less easily seen as artistic and mature than male dancers, because they’re also less likely to be given choreographic opportunities or to be offered leadership positions in companies when they retire from performing.

So whether you find turn sequences cool, kind of annoying, or a plague upon the art form, I hope that judgement stands regardless of the turner’s gender. Be as much of a snob or a fan as you wish, but make sure you’re doing it fairly. 

It’s Time for Men to Apologize More

Ever wonder why articles on gender differences in language automatically assume that men are the standard and women are doing things worse? Yeah, me too.


Is it time for men to stop diminishing their credibility as leaders with their diction and syntax patterns? A linguistic analysis of professional communication shows some marked gender differences, which can only be interpreted as indicators of male incompetence:

Men disproportionately underuse apologies, appearantly neglecting to account for how their actions effect others. Perhaps this is because men are not raised to develop the skills of accountability or empathy needed for a functional work environment.

They are also less likely to use “just” as a qualifier in describing even their most trivial activities and intentions. Such language gives the impression that they overestimate the scale and importance of their own work, not fully aware of the larger workings of their organization.

Men are unlikely to introduce their statements with an acknowledgement of their subjective existence, such as “In my opinion,” or  “I feel,” instead stating their opinions as if they were indisputable facts. This suggests they subscribe to the fallacy that they are neutral observers uninfluenced by their personal standpoint and experiences–an mindset especially inappropriate for companies with international operations.

In a typical mansplainy fashion, men are also less likely to hedge “I might be wrong,” or “I’m not sure,” to acknowledge when they are commenting on something they are terribly uninformed about. This unrealistic over-estimation of the scope of one’s knowledge is warning sign for brash, uninformed, and ultimately disastrous business decisions.

Would anyone trust leaders who seem so irresponsible, egocentric, and irrational? With these flaws, it’s hard to understand why men still seem to dominate corporate leadership positions (After all, what kind of organization would encourage selfish and risky behavior?). Maybe it’s a result of historical inequality or something, but now that sexism is over (so I’ve heard), men will quickly loose their ground unless they learn to project a more responsible, considerate image.

Of course, we can help fix this problem by asking men to constantly monitor their language to avoid gender-typical patterns, but given that language is so deeply ingrained, real change will only come through the purchase of my products.

I offer speech coaching for only $250 a session to help men de-gender their speech habits. For those unwilling to make that commitment, I have developed an app which will scan your email drafts to identify and correct overly masculine language (No, it can’t interpret meaning, intention, or context, but it can indiscriminately sprinkle in phrases like “Sorry,” “I feel that,” and “Does that work for you?”).

Of course, the issue of men in the workplace goes beyond just language. I have also published Stop Leaning on Me, a guidebook for young ambitious male executives hoping to rise above the of lack of personal responsibility and regard for others that plague leaders of their gender (pre-order your copy now for $50).

After all, when it comes to undoing the results of long-standing and socially pervasive gender inequality, the one person who needs to make the change is you.


Seriously though, I do understand where the “don’t say sorry” movement is coming from: it is worth looking at how internalized sexism affects confidence in language, and “fake it till you make it” can be a useful personal strategy in some situations. But the emphasis on female-language-correction seems to be missing the point–and conveniently, getting women to pay for it.

A Brief Demographics Survey

Select the option that best describes you. It’s for diversity or advertising or something.

 

Note: I think this is easier to answer than most demographics surveys. I mean, potato sack, duh.

 

Smile

Guy : Hey, pretty girl, you should be smiling! A girl like you should never look so blue.

Gal: But what about the failures of the American political system, my parents’ medical issues, and my student debt?

Guy: Oh. I thought that girls only look sad because they don’t know they’re beautiful.

Gal: Naw, I’m fine in that department.

kdyedpx

 

Monetizing the Man-bunhead

The great and controversial man-bun: with the increasing number of guys rocking the ‘do, it has also drawn a strangely passionate camp of critics. So let’s just take a moment to reflect on the full power and potential of the style.

Interestingly, most of the scathing anti-man-bun manifestos (manbunifestos?) come from men, though they often mention that women find the look unattractive as evidence that buns are insufficiently (hetero)sexy and masculine (two apparent prerequisites for existing). To which I just have to respond #NotAllWomen.

Beyond aesthetic appeal, there’s also a feminist case to be made for the man-bun. In a fashion scene (and world) which typically accepts masculine as the default–“androgynous” fashion is mostly limited to women in suits–it’s refreshing to see a traditionally female style as the standard for a cross-gender trend.

There is the question of why we can’t just call it a bun, since it looks like, acts like, and well . . . is one. At first glance, the name “man-bun” seems to fall into the same category as pointlessly gendered items like “lady hammers,” girls’ and boys’ pickles, and “bronuts.”

But let’s focus on what’s really important here: money. “Pointlessly gendered” is kind of a misnomer, since products are usually gendered for the very deliberate point of selling you stuff. Like dude, before you get caught wiping your nose with your wife’s girly generic tissues, you better buy your own box of mansize Kleenex. And while a real man typically wouldn’t be caught dead buying yogurt, you can’t turn down this Powerful Yogurt which can “find your inner abs.” And ladies, even though all these razors work the same, we know you’ll pay extra for the women’s blades.

Unfortunately, the man-bun lacks this potential for commercial exploitation, given that it doesn’t cost anything to tie up your hair.

…until dance accessories suppliers come in, that is.

manbunheads

While man-buns have typically taken on a casual, semi-sloppy aesthetic, a little marketing push is all it takes to create a new class of man-bunheads striving to make the perfect man-bun with no wispies or flyaway strands.

Like their tweenage trina counterparts, they’re gonna need some extra-sturdy bobby pins and hairnets.

For men who feel that their buns are not quite voluminous enough, there’s the man-bun doughnut (or bronut?)

bun doughnut

Not to mention all the additional accessories to personalize the look.

model manbun

Even better.

beckham

But will they learn to crochet these things like we did?

So let’s cash in on this quick before the man braid takes over.

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!