I have been trying new things lately. Hey, it’s fun!! Last week I played the bass during worship at MBCC — something I’ve never done before. It wasn’t anything fancy, but I was competent, and I really enjoyed it.
I also started taking Lindy Hop lessons. I have never been a very coordinated or graceful lady, but I saw some kids doing this rad dance at a bar, loved it, asked them how/where they learned it, and signed up for lessons. You go to an hour-long lesson, then you get to stay for a dance party that lots of other people come to. I had a ridiculously fun time. I was a bit apprehensive about going by myself, but dancing with strangers is surprisingly great, especially if you’re a follow. You don’t have to know what you’re doing to look like you know what you’re doing — you just have to be dancing with a confident lead. I like that the leads do the work in social dancing, because it means I just get to hang around, look pretty, and get asked to dance!
There is no doubt that partner dance is an arena where gender roles are alive and well. Although the teachers made the disclaimer that men didn’t have to be leads and women didn’t have to be follows, any two partners do have to fill those opposing roles to make the dance work. The actual partners can be any combination of sexes, but one still has to fill the dominant role, the other one the submissive.
In all honesty, I like social roles. I like the specificity, the clear expectations. To me, it’s not stifling — it’s satisfying to know exactly what to do and to then do it well. It fosters in me a positive sense of self-worth and identity. But I do understand how, if taken too far, applied malevolently, or forced upon the unwilling, these roles can be quite harmful.
I took a workshop last weekend at a social justice symposium about privilege, and we spent some time thinking about our privileged and oppressed identities. Historically, being a woman is an oppressed identity — but I realized that I don’t see it as such. In my life, I embody certain aspects of the traditional female gender role that I like and disregard other aspects that I don’t like.
I like cooking for my man, being a good hostess, allowing myself to be led by a competent leader, taking care of others, being supportive and loving, giving input but not always making decisions. I believe that some situations call for a little demureness on my part. I like to think I embody quiet strength, steadfastness. But I don’t want to be kept down or controlled; I want to express the opinions I have, feel that my voice is heard, and be able to make my own decisions.
I know that the reason I am able to shape the gender role I embody is because of privilege — white, middle class, straight, etc. I can make these decisions because of the many people who came before me that sacrificed and fought to make that reality. I’m grateful that I live in a world where I’m not held down because I’m a woman — that having a say in the course of my life and donning an apron to bake a cake aren’t mutually exclusive. It is with great honor that I play this unique, important, valuable, and powerful role as a woman in my world and my relationships.
“when you’re hurt, you heal others. when you’re in need, you give. because of you, i am living the best that i can live. oh, sweet darling girl, i’m so glad you found me. oh, sweet darling girl, your power surrounds me.” -ben kweller