Why do we always justify our sons decision to dance with statements of stereotypical masculinity
I am currently at an unrest with myself and even this post has been a tough one to write. As some of you would have seen, I shared an image of Arnold Swarzeneger training in ballet to this page and the most brilliant Scott Gormley commented:
"As a father of a male dancer and the producer/director of Danseur I am concerned by posts that try to prove it’s ok to dance by using these hyper masculine imagery to prove it’s worth. It is ok for EVERYONE to dance no matter!"
It made me really sit back and rethink about what is it that my son needs to see and read about that will help empower him to keep enjoying his dance experience and not be phased by the stigma. And Scott is right - my son doesn't just need to see images of men - that he doesn't relate to - doing ballet. He needs more role models of young men and boys dancing now that will normalize the image of dance and help inspire him.
I for one do not want to merely justify why sons decision to dance. I don't want to keep having to make statements such as "Even Arnie took ballet lessons" or "Rugby players / footballers take ballet lessons in their training" - why should I have to justify and make someone else feel secure in my sons decision to dance?
And yet as a parent I naturally make these comments as soon as I see a negative face being pulled by family members or if a comment is made by someone about ballet being for girls. And my natural go to is to raise the points that ballet is good enough for these "masculine men" then it should be good enough for my son.
However what really is that teaching any of us? That in order to dance, we still need to be of a certain masculinity? A hyper masculinity, a man of muscle and a specific male imagery - because this isn't the image of my son right now and even if he dances for the next 15 years, his body will never look like Arnold Swarzeneger.
My Boy Can was created to help my son and indeed anyone else's son feel supported and respected for being themselves - their OWN self and help families discuss and find positive ways to empower their boy who doesn't conform to the male social stereotype. My Boy Can Dance campaign has been the best tool currently for my dancer son to feel confident in his love for dance: As the images of 1000's of boys of all ages, all sizes, all races, all sexualities, all different genres of dance celebrating the fact that they dance and are supported in their dance; has had a much more positive impact on my son than seeing a rugby player take a dance class.
He relates to the boys dancing, he belongs to that community of people, he enjoys knowing that they can and do dance and he engages in the discussion of #Myboycandance.
I believe we need to stop trying to justify our sons masculinity in order for the stigma of Male dancers to change. But we also need the dance community to stop marketing dance as something just for girls. In writing this post this morning, I have spent the best part of today searching for an image that will support my post. Yet in every search I put into Google and Pin Interest with Ballet Dancer - every image was of girls/women ballet dancers or pink ballet slippers. This isn't inclusive of the boys who choose ballet.
We need to start saying and believing Dance is for everyone! And to do this, we need books, TV shows and our own dance schools to believe in that too. When we see dance being depicted as something anyone can do, then the language and attitudes of "ballet is for girls" will change accordingly.
Photography : Gemma Griffiths Photography Words have been added to the image by MY BOY CAN with permission by Gemma Griffiths Photography.