A discussion into why our sons feel that ballet is for girls and what needs to change
"No mum, I don't want to dance anymore. It's for girls" Boy aged 4 years old.
How do I argue with this statement? I personally can until I'm blue in the face, because I believe that dance is for everyone and as an adult, I don't worry so much what others think anymore.
But to my small child. A dance lesson for him is a room full of girls in their pink leotards and tutus and pink ballet slippers. With a female dance teacher. So when he is told "ballet is for girls" - he looks around and processes that information. Yes in his lessons, it really does look like it is.
I couldn't fault the dance school, his teacher was inclusive, the lesson structure was gender neutral and she was wonderful with my son. Parents of their mini ballerinas have a tendency to indulge in the pink and tutu cuteness that comes with going to a dance lesson, especially at baby/toddler/pre school level - when it's advertised as a fun dance session. An introduction before you start pre primary ballet and have a set uniform.
It is frustrating as a mum with a son who enjoys ballet and tap, because once he is teased for "being a girl" or "ballet is for girls" to show him otherwise is harder to prove when it isn't the norm yet. I didn't realise how powerful the stigma was for boys, until my child was facing these comments and I could see why he felt he should rethink his decision to attend lessons. And funnily enough, the comments were made by adults and little girls.
4 years old and already facing negativity for enjoying something that socially is stereotyped as a girls activity. And what do I have in my corner???
No male children's characters who dance ballet. Angelina Ballerina was all we could find.
No male ballet teachers in our local area.
No boys classes to bring the boys together in our local area.
No other boys in his dance classes his own age to share this with.
It has been a joy to see all the families share the #Myboycandance pictures as it has allowed me to show him a world of others out there, dancing, performing and sticking it out regardless of the stigma.
My Boy Can Dance project is created to show our boys that dance isn't just for girls. To encourage the support needed for our boys and their families that do dance and to keep supporting each other within our dance community. It is also to raise awareness to the negativity that surrounds boys who dance and the social stigma attached to dancing. To normalise boys who dance into the mainstream and stop linking it to sexuality or female gender.
What have been your experiences as mums of dancers? What do you think needs to happen in order for change to happen? How do your boys stay dedicated to their passion?