GMA and how we can create change.
Our Founder Jana Bennett's thoughts and response to the awful GMA clip of anchor Lara Spencer making fun of Prince George for taking and enjoying ballet. Read below.
"For change to happen in the non-dance world, we need to be fierce warriors leading the way in advocating for gender equality, acceptance and openness within our own industry.
Today, I have seen dancers and non-dancers alike irrupt in righteous anger towards the way GMA belittled and make fun of Prince George, and as a whole, boys who dance. I have heard and read countless stories of my incredible male colleagues who endured extraordinary hardship growing up and throughout their career, for being a male in a field that is often thought of as the epitome of femininity.
I first want to say that the GMA piece was disgusting. I was disheartened to watch an anchor promote gender stereotypes within the dance world that have hurt so many over the years, and today, these comments additionally triggered a lot of pain. Viewpoints like these are what stop so many boys from pursuing their dreams in dance. As a director, teacher and peer to many brilliant male dancers, I’m saddened and angered.
As many aspects of humanity live in duality, I think it is imperative that we understand that this bias against male dancers is rooted in a long history of gender inequality, bias and ignorance. I believe to make systematic change in the way the public sees men in dance, we must acknowledge and take responsibility for the changes we need to make within our own industry regarding gender.
When someone makes fun of boy who dances, they are drawing on the archaic notions that there are inherently different life pathways and roles for males and females. This ideology comes from the thought that women are less than men and therefore, need lighter and easier careers because they would not be able to keep up with a man. While those who know dance understand the great depth of physical, mental and emotional energy the art form requires, for a very long time, dance has been thought to be a more trivial and feminine career choice. So the thought is, when a man chooses to be a dancer, he is diminishing himself by putting value in what is thought to be a feminine vocation. It is important to recognize that when GMA or others make fun of boys dancing not only are they belittling men, but they are also enforcing archaic views that a woman is unequal to a man.
Even though I’m not able to touch in it extensively right now, we also need to acknowledge that with such a gendered activity such as dance, it can be very easy to think only in terms of “he” / “she”, and that there are many voices outside of the traditional gendered norms that need to be represented in the conversation too.
While this outwardly seemed to be a GMA mishap, I personally believe this is one of the effects of many years of ignoring gender discrimination, bias and inequality within both our world and dance industry as well. So the question becomes, how can we be the leaders of change?
For starters, if you are a parent, it is fully supporting your son if he asks to take a dance class. As a professional dance company, it is promoting gender equality through the practice of hiring females equally in choreographic and artistic leadership positions. As a teacher, it is being more aware of the pronouns used in class and the exclusivity of “he” and “she”. As a choreographer, it is being mindful of rape-culture, gender biases and choreographic choices that support a harmful culture. As an audience member it is letting go of the phrases “she dances too sexually” or “he does not dance like man”. As a dancer it is loving and encouraging ALL of your peers no matter what they look like or how they identify.
These are a few steps we can take to create within our industry, but in reality there are so many more!!! While GMA’s position on men dancing was disappointing to say the least, I do think it’s imperative as humans who identify as dancers, that we lead the way through action in our industry first. If we choose to ignore the gender inequality, stereotypes and biases that thrive within our current dance world, how can we expect the non-dance world to be the propellent of change either.
Let’s be a beacon of change. "
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