When tango emerged out of the primordial swamp the world was still in the grip of an oppressive patriarchy. It was a time of regressive practices such as lifelong marriage, religion, female modesty, enforced monogamy, complementary sex roles, homemaker housewives and breadwinner husbands. After many millenia we are finally emerging in a brave new world of feminization which liberates us with equal partnerships, atheism, no-fault divorce, serial polygamy, career women, single mothers, government schooling, alimony, welfare and affirmative action. A fundamental social transformation which ‘liberates’ women from their traditional roles at the cost of men (whose jobs and income must become sacrificed to the benefit of women who are not their wives) and the family (which must not impinge on state’s power to indoctrinate the new generation) is bound to have affected tango which is not a world unto itself and whose participants are bound to reflect in their behavior the norms of the brave new world.
The respective roles of the two partners in tango are not arbitrary or marginal to the practice. They reflect the place of sex roles in traditional society, ie., the ‘patriarchy’. In a traditional society men and women occupy distinct and complementary roles. Men are out in the world earning a living so as to provide for their family. To do so they must exhibit skills and characteristics such as planning, goal-orientation, and rational decision-making as well as a sense of responsibility for their dependents. Women look after the home and the children for which the husband provides. In this world the women seek the protective male energy and the men seek the nurturing female energy. These complementary roles are reflected in tango in which the woman lets the man lead and the man needs the woman to follow, and this complementarity of the roles and the provision of the respective type of energy offers the satisfaction of the dance.
In the new feminized world the two ‘partners’ are equalized in that men become more like women and women become more like men, that is, they both become more androgynous. Both partners are expected to be able to fulfill both roles and this is supposed to be natural. True, men and women still dress differently, but this has become a merely external matter of fashion more than anything else. The urban lumberjack look with bushy beards, Timberland boots and flannel shirts do not signal any corresponding masculine skill at physical labour such as chopping down trees or anything else for that matter. Similarly, hyper-feminine fashion with high heels, immaculate hair and copious amounts of makeup rarely signal actual feminine nurturing energy, which is typically expressed in a vacuous, narcissistic sassy attitude that men find superficially attractive but ultimately draining. Despite being based in our basic nature, the competent performance of sex roles beyond mere externalities does require long-term nurturing which no longer happens. The free expression of masculinity in boys is discouraged as ‘toxic masculinity’, whereas women are encouraged to ‘lean in’ and behave assertively like boys.
It has been observed that both sexes are to a certain extent capable of fulfilling both of the traditional roles: men can become more like women and fulfil the female role, and women can at times due to necessity or ability perform in male roles. Men can learn to cook, clean and look after children, and in some cases they even can dress and behave like women. Women can also work and provide for the family, have careers, and some girls who are tomboys even dress and act like boys.
Instead of viewing such behavioural plasticity as eccentric or marginal radical feminists, social justice warriors and transgender activists want to draw a general conclusion. Biological differences whereby men are better at fulfilling the male role and are interested in doing so, whereas women are better at fulfilling the female role and this makes them more happy, are a myth, a so-called ‘social construct’ that has no truth beyond the norms of an outdated morality. They insist that gender and sexuality are ‘fluid’ and people can pick and choose their identity, like fashion, as the current mood suits them. Numerical differences in occupations or incomes are then not due to men’s and women’s natural tendencies but must be explained by oppressive patriarchal practices whereby women are being actively prevented from advancing in their careers by ‘boy’s clubs’, or discouraged from going into certain professions by being saddled with artificial ‘sex roles’. Women who prefer the traditional roles of the housewife or caretaker and refuse to compete on the traditionally male career market are blamed for endorsing the patriarchal oppression of women.
So feminism, rather than allowing women to follow their natural preferences, rejects that such preferences exist, and instead blames women for not being competitive and career-seeking. Feminism wants and expects women to become more like men. The result is that we get women who are competitive but also angry and unhappy, in other words, women who are highly aggressive. They cannot possibly compete against men who are biologically designed for their role and are much better at it. But they are told that they ought to be as good as men at careers and various other competitive pursuits. The denial of the rather obvious biological differences leads to such absurd situations as transgender women easily winning in female sports. Only people in deep denial due to being immersed in an ideology of feminism could fail to see the obvious absurdity of what is being attempted.
Similarly in tango, the idea that same-sex tango dancing can be the same thing as traditional tango dancing can be entertained only by people who have been subjected to lifelong indoctrination into the feminist and social justice ideology. The problem, however, is much deeper than that because the current generation of goal-seeking career women and equally androgynous compliant men, having been subjected to decades of the sex-role denying public schooling, are completely unprepared to perform these traditional roles. If, as I claim, tango is dependent on performing these roles within the dance, the new androgynous tango is a completely new type of practice. But if it is, it is also equally completely unsatisfying if one comes to tango precisely because it offers the possibility of men being men and women being women.
Because these competitive career women do sometimes long to feel like women, and I also believe that the androgynous compliant urban lumberjacks do want to be allowed to feel and act like men beyond the external appearance. Unfortunately tango in itself cannot reverse decades of feminist indoctrination and gender fluidity ideology. What you end up with is the shadow of tango: an egalitarian, androgynous dance in which the roles are performed as a sort of formality, incompetently. The assumption is that the partners are equal, and the well-behaved men expect women to express themselves and compete.
In fact, much as with children, men express their protectiveness precisely by avoiding acting in an overtly protective way so as not to cramp the woman’s style, to give her space, so that she can ‘lean in’. Unencumbered by feminist scruples female leaders will lead in a way that women actually want men to do so, that is, in way that is assertive and yet protective. Women are encouraged and rewarded for ‘leaning in’ and taking the male role as men step aside. Since women are rarely aware of their own desires they sometimes assume that the women must be naturally better leaders than men. Since men have been warned that assertiveness and protectiveness are essentially oppressive they can hardly be blamed for doing everything to avoid satisfying the need. The result is that on the contemporary feminised tango scene we see the shadow of the dance, failing to satisfy our natural needs that originate in the biologically based sex roles.