The dystopian future: hipster tango

“In Buenos Aires …”

… while some traditional milongas maintain a foothold there is a growing number of “neo milongas”. These are not the Gustavo Naveira Tango Nuevo trained people. Nope. These are the tatooed, dreadlocked hipsters you find in the gentrified inner city neighbourhoods of any Western metropolis. They are located in trendy theatre-type spaces with beer, kitschy art and often a live band playing Piazzollaesque tango music. If you thought that Tango Nuevo will be the ruin of tango think again. The Nuevo crowd still learn steps and wear proper clothing. Hipster tango dispenses with such formalities. High heels and dancing skills are optional, a matter of personal taste. There aren’t any rules really and the stale atmosphere closely resembles a hipster pub anywhere in the world.

You might think that this is a marginal trend but consider that when you come to Buenos Aires what you find is that the old city, in terms of architecture and manners, is on the decline and what one sees instead in the younger population (ie., under 40) what seems like well over half of the people have ample unsightly tatoos and dress according to the hipster code (though many women seem to be wearing very little at all), which comes complete with the requisite disdainful attitude. It seems to be some sort of a hipster nirvana, what would be a part of a city elsewhere is much expanded and mainstreamed.

Hipsterism is a nihilist, hedonist culture (if you can call it that), what used to be a subculture but here seems to be ubiquitous. There are at least two types: the yogic and the transgressive hipster. The yogic hipster is the spiritual vegan meditating type. They are underfed and have a superiority complex which can make them quite nasty and aggressive. The transgressive hipster is so countercultural that they all look the same, subscribing to a strict dress code of jeans, t-shirt, beard and/or dreadlocks and ugly tatoos that you can’t avoid looking at in amazement at the level of human stupidity and poor taste. They’re usually happy (if in poor health) as they keep themselves satisfied with beer, cigarettes, weed, junk food, skateboarding, and trash rock music. We’re talking about people over 30 by the way.

The Tango Nuevo crowd probably falls more on the yogic hipster end of the spectrum and they are to be found at locales such as DNI Tango which is a corporate yoga-inspired type of venture. The transgressive hipster type dive bars are cropping up, however, and I count at least three to five of them (depending on how you count). They resemble arty pubs or jazz bars catering to hipsters in inner city areas anywhere: beer is cheap, there’s beer food, the music is jazzed up for the contemporary taste and dancing skills are rudimentary. It’s tango for the post-90s hipster market to go along with tatoo shops, skateboarding fashion and Gothic rock or whatever rubbish they listen to. I will be surprised if this menace doesn’t take over completely within a decade.

Post Scriptum

Some useful advice from an older man to those considering tatoos and hipsterism:

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Introduction to culture and politics

It is impossible to write about tango culture without talking about politics at the same time. Part of the reason is that, whether we like it or not, everything today has become politicised. You can try to ignore the politics and try to focus on learning the basics of dancing technique and tango culture and it may work for you in some places. But its increasingly difficult to live in such a bubble and ignore the politics because they seem to have a tendency to take over everything, so might as well confront them head on and call a spade a spade.

Tango culture and politics are connected in a number of ways that are intrinsically connected to learning tango:

To begin with, the different styles of tango create disagreements and it is not clear what is the nature of these disagreements. Are we talking about different shades of a colour or different colours altogether? Can they coexist?

More deeply, there is the question of tradition and authenticity. This question bears closely on our approach to learning and will affect our success. Should we take a culturally relativist stance to tango culture, and view it as sui generis, an exotic culture of the south, or should we view it as continuous with European culture, with English country dances, the habanera and the classical tradition, esp. Romanticism?

How we decide the question of tradition and authenticity will determine the question of the basis of judgement and criticism, of deciding what is good and what is bad, and in that sense also our learning. Are judgements about authenticity a matter of insider knowledge of those who participate in the cultural practice of a given ethnic group, or is it more like the aesthetic judgement exercised with respect to say classical music, where we appeal to more universal principles of beauty and taste?

I suggest that in the current state the participants on the tango political scene take a culturally relativist approach. I believe that this creates a relativist political game where there are competing cultural paradigms that appeal to consumer choice. I do not find this very satisfying and suggest an approach that is traditionalist but draws on art criticism, esp. in music, rather than narrow cultural relativism. In developing this argument I draw heavily on the writings of the philosopher of art Roger Scruton.

Finally, there is the wider set of issues generated by the cultural revolution of the 1960s which has given us the current culture wars, postmodernism in the arts, radical feminism, misandry and anti-white racism. Although academic postmodernism goes hand in hand with cultural relativism, it goes further in that it rejects beauty, tradition and all standards of critical judgement. What matters is not truth but power, and so radical feminism is the first step in the oppression olympics where white men are, from the outset, at the bottom of the pile, viewed with derision as victimising all the oppressed groups.

This sort of sexism and racism could be ignored when it was still consigned to sociology, gender studies and dance schools of some universities. Now that it has entered the mainstream (everyone has an arts degree, it seems) it has a tendency to infect all aspects of life. I try to point out some of the ramifications of this in relation to tango, eg., how the growing attacks on the ‘binary’ nature of male and female roles and the coming ideology of gender fluidity is affecting the practice of tango.

Feeling: music as movement and expression


“Tango is a feeling”


Traditional tango dancers in Argentina are often heard saying that tango is a feeling and one has to express that feeling in dancing tango. There is the technique of dancing and there is the culture of the milongas, but in the end all of that is subsidiary to the ultimate goal of tango which is the feeling. Learning dancing technique and tango culture may distract us from this fact because we may suppose that learning these other things will ultimately guide us to attain that feeling, to experience it, and to express it in our dancing. Yet it seems that this outcome is not inevitable and that it is possible for a person to go through the whole process without succeeding in feeling what tango requires. It is not entirely clear whether feeling is something that one should automatically or naturally experience, or whether it is something that is also learned.

One may suppose that the feeling in question is just whatever one feels when one is doing tango. The problem seems to be somewhat like the problem of art: is art some specific type of work that we put in art galleries because it satisfies some artistic standards set by the critics, or as some postmodernist thinkers suggest, is it art simply by virtue of being located in the art gallery. downloadIn that case, could a fire hydrant be an artwork simply by virtue of being located in an art gallery?

If we want to claim that some people don’t feel the music we must provide some sort of a standard for telling the correct way of feeling the music. Here we must assume that feeling is not merely an individual and subjective experience, but is something that can be shared and agreed upon. Otherwise, how can two people dance if they have no way of telling whether they agree on the feeling. That means that the the feeling must be expressed in the way the dancer expresses, interprets and hence understands the music, which may be more or less correct or agreed upon.

The idea that the feeling of the music is a purely subjective matter might be in part due to the fact that a lot of music is listened to in silence without any overt expression. The paradigm of listening is people sitting and listening to a symphony. How are we to tell whether they feel the music correctly or not? However, there are fairly clear cases where music either does or fails to make sense to a person, and where different people can agree on whether the music makes sense to them. One such case is the case of tonal vs. atonal music. Most people who are used to tonal music find that they do not understand atonal music. 

The latter is music that most people do not understand. Wikipedia defines tonality as follows:

Tonality is the arrangement of pitches and/or chords of a musical work in a hierarchy of perceived relations, stabilities, attractions and directionality. In this hierarchy, the single pitch or triadic chord with the greatest stability is called the tonic. The root of the tonic chord forms the name given to the key; so in the key of C major, the note C is both the tonic of the scale and the root of the tonic chord (which is C–E–G). Simple folk music songs often start and end with the tonic note. The most common use of the term “is to designate the arrangement of musical phenomena around a referential tonic in European music from about 1600 to about 1910”. … Harmony in jazz includes many but not all tonal characteristics of the European common practice period, known as classical music.

In other words, tonal music respects certain relationships between notes whereby a ‘key’ or ‘root’ note establishes the tonality and the functional status of the other notes of the scale. The interval or distance from the tonic note determines the character of the note and what can be done with it, eg., whether it is possible to begin and end a phrase on that tone. The relationships between the tones have a push-pull relationship such as that they create tension, gravity, etc.

Tonality is an organized system of tones (e.g., the tones of a major or minor scale) in which one tone (the tonic) becomes the central point for the remaining tones. The other tones in a tonal piece are all defined in terms of their relationship to the tonic. In tonality, the tonic (tonal center) is the tone of complete relaxation and stability, the target toward which other tones lead. The cadence (coming to rest point) in which the dominant chord or dominant seventh chord resolves to the tonic chord plays an important role in establishing the tonality of a piece.

Because of these features of tonal music, we understand or feel the music when we perceive the relations between the sounds in terms of movement. Movement in music and its various ‘spatial’ characteristics are generated by the relations between the different tones. Musical movement is not inherent in the physical sound. Rather, it is ‘intentional’: we hear movement in the line of notes as connected and moving even though there is nothing that is literally moving in the physical sound and each pitch is separate from another. There may be silence between the notes, but we still hear a continuous line of tones connected in a melody (Scruton 2009).

The intentional character of music is expressed in language through spatial metaphors such as distance and movement. Music moves and it moves faster or slower, moves up or down, etc. Music has rhythm and beat, both of which are to be distinguished from the musical metre. Scruton argues that music can have beat without much rhythm. Rhythm arises out of the music and its accents, and generates the forward motion. Music can have beat without much rhythm, and vice versa, music can have rhythm without a strong beat. In the Western classical tradition up to the 20th century rhythm has been generated by the musical line. With the emergence of the drum kit the beat is introduced from the outside to music that has relatively little of either rhythm or beat.

So what room is there for a person to fail to understand tango music and how would that be manifested in their dancing? If we consider for a moment how one learns to play a piece of music on an instrument, the quality of the playing depends on things like rhythm and expression. Rhythm refers to the grouping of notes, accent, emphasis or suspension. Suspension, playing a note on an offbeat and holding it till the first beat of the next phrase, is present music that is syncopated which includes tango. Expression has to do with the phrasing of notes, the correct gesture, dynamics (playing loud or soft), crescendo (gradually increasing loudness), and so on. A teacher will make gestures to communicate to the student how to play a given passage. Otherwise, the performance will be mechanical and without feeling, like what one might get from software that plays from a written score.

We can see here that learning musical interpretation in dancing is going to be very much similar to learning musical interpretation in playing. Scruton suggests that it is possible to divide music that is influenced by speech and song, and music that is influenced by dancing. If tango emerged as dancing music then its beat and feeling will be strongly connected to the movement of dancing, eg., one should be able to tap one’s foot to it. The music will have a pronounced beat or pulse that’s danceable. There will be a perceptible ‘on’ and ‘off’ beat, and if the rhythm is syncopated, the ‘off’ beat will be emphasised and suspended, driving or dropping into the ‘on’ beat of the next phrase.

Now, different tango orchestras will interpret tango music with different emphasis, with more or less beat, rhythm or expression. This makes the task of interpreting the different recordings in dancing somewhat complicated. However, dance education devotes the majority of the time to movement and little or not time to learning how to listen to tango music. This is largely due to the prevailing false idea that listening is not a skill. One should already know what one likes and that’s the end of the discussion.

But the idea that listening and experiencing music is spontaneous and effortless is a new one, and it has really only arrived at a time of pop. Pop music (including Rock, RnB, Rap, etc.) is really a new kind of thing that departs from prior musical traditions, and moves away from the Western classical tradition. Western classical music has evolved to a high level and requires effort and cultivation in order to understand and appreciate it. Pop is based on a very narrow set of structures, in particular, an ostinato backing which is external to the music and which appears to require no effort to enjoy but is actually addictive. Pop music requires the harmony and melody to be fitted to the ostinato rhythm which absolves the music itself from generating a rhythm through melody and harmony.

Because there is no ostinato backing in classical music or tango the forward motion and rhythm is created through melody and harmony: grouping, accent, and emphasis. Rhythm is here to be distinguished from the musical metre. It is commonplace to hear that while milonga music is 2/4, tango is 4/4, and vals is 3/4. These, however, designate the meter in which the music is written, that is, the way that the musical bar is divided into sections. Rhythm, however, is not created through these and it is possible to have music in these meters that have little or no rhythm. For example, not all music written in 3/4 can be danced to as a waltz. Rhythm is also different from the pulse or beat. The pulse or beat is the point where you would clap or tap with your foot. But rhythm consists of all the up and down beats and stresses that happen in between, so that you have different rhythms with the same sort of beat.

So the first step to learning to dance with feeling, with the correct expression and interpretation, is to learn to listen. Dancing tango is difficult because one has to move with the partner to music. If we dance complicated patterns we will have little attention left to give to the music. Then we will be dancing mechanically, robotically, without expression. At first it is better to develop the practice of listening to a given orchestra without dancing. If you feel like moving you can stand and make gestures with your hands like an orchestra conductor. This gesture will flow into your body and ultimately into your dancing. Start by listening to music you can easily tap your foot to. When you’re finally on the dancefloor, dance to music that you are already somewhat familiar with. Before venturing out, give the music a few moments of attention and have caught onto the gesture that it elicits. This is the gesture that you communicate to your partner as you move into the first step.

Source:

Roger Scruton (2009) Understanding Music: Philosophy and Interpretation. Bloomsbury Academic.

 

Appendix

Here is a series of videos that are helpful in understanding music:

[1] Examples of atonal music, which Roger Scruton thinks we don’t really understand because we naturally seek tonality.

 

[2] A lecture explaining tonality and atonality with examples:

 

[3] Listening to tango music is more like listening to classical than to pop, so the following videos apply to tango as well:

 

 

[4] Interpretation classes with Benjamin Zander are very instructive on how to think about emotion and interpretation in music:

 

[5] A lot of useful insights into the history of music (classical music was originally for dancing), structure and layers in music.

Tango as culture: anthropology vs. criticism


Ethnomusicology is the study of music from the cultural and social aspects of the people who make it. … It is often defined as the anthropology or ethnography of music, or as musical anthropology. (Wikipedia)


 

When a student starts taking tango classes the discourse of tango is established by the way the teacher and others talk about the genre. Lets for a moment ignore the commercial aspects of this discourse and assume that the student manages to ignore all the talk about workshops, privates, and trips to Buenos Aires, and tries to break through all of that to try to get a deeper understanding of tango, the dance, the music and the culture. What they will inevitably arrive at is information that can broadly be called ‘anthropological’. He or she will find that tango is a culture confined to a specific area (Río de la Plata), practiced by its inhabitants, with music that is specific to that area and these people. To get an in-depth knowledge of tango one needs to be a sort of anthropologist, namely, to learn about the music and culture of these people who inhabit this place.

In characterising this framing as anthropological I am being generous and somewhat disingenuous because it is really touristic, or an impoverished sort of anthropology. A real scientific anthropology would utilise sophisticated comparative methods, eg., it would demand knowledge of music theory, and would compare this culture to other cultures to draw objective conclusions. What the tango student is faced with instead is a picture of a culture that is sui generis, that on the standard narrative, emerged out of a meeting of European and African cultures around the middle of the 19th century, that it is a popular culture, meaning not a culture of the elites but rather of the common people, and that produced a unified cultural idiom that we recognise as uniquely Argentinian.

We notice that this narrative creates a mystique about the form implied in the image of the Argentine people as having a natural talent to elicit emotional responses that the touristic consumers seek to acquire. It renders tango foreign, other, and exotic. It also gives those who are native to the form a special insider knowledge that requires no justification, proof, evidence or reasoning, on the assumption that cultural practices require no external justification: it’s just what people do. It is, as Wittgenstein put it, a ‘form of life’.

The anthropological framing is severely detrimental to the teaching and learning of tango. To come to participate in the practice one needs to ‘go native’, ideally by way of lengthy stays in Buenos Aires. Tango teaching and learning consists in finding out ‘what people in Buenos Aires do’. In terms of music, it consists in learning the names of the orchestras, their recordings, and something about the history of the Golden Era.

The anthropological approach to tango education asks the student to emulate a cultural group without asking for reasons. However, since there is no real justification given or necessary this framing leads naturally to the idea that tango ‘evolves’. Since there is no particular reason to want to emulate this group beyond one’s touristic consumer preference it leads naturally to the idea that just as Argentinians created their local tango culture foreigners can take those aspects of tango that suit them and create their own ‘nuevo’ or ‘transgressive’, or ‘alternative’ or ‘whatever you wish to call it’ tango. On the other hand, the anthropological framing gives traditionalists no basis for criticism of the new developments if they already promoted the idea that their own practice is sui generis, specific to a place and people, and therefore an unjustified set of preferences.

The problem is that an anthropological framing is descriptive without being in any way prescriptive. Without some sort of a norm or standard of judgement that is exernal to the culture it is not clear how we are supposed to get from an is to an ought. As a result tango traditionalists, while they reject non-traditional forms of tango, have really no way to argue against them. One wants to say that the traditional tango practice is more authentic, but why should one prefer authenticity in a postmodern world which rejects such notions. Moreover, there are economic barriers to acquiring the authentic thing in terms of cost, finding teachers, getting information, etc. If these things have excessive economic cost why not settle for what is available and affordable?

Of course the natives do not see the matter in that way. They feel that there are values in tango that are not merely utilitarian and so would reject that one could replace them with a cheaper substitute. But so long as they are stuck in the anthropological frame those values are no different from the values of any other cultural group: they represent the sentimental attachments of one group of people. Unless one has some other reasons for wanting to assimilate to that group this approach cannot really have any wider appeal.

To have an appeal that is wider and more universal what is necessary is not anthropology but art criticism. When we say that something is a work of art we do not mean that it is art of a particular cultural group. Art is assumed to have more universal appeal and, given that, the art critic’s job is to find a language of expressing these universal values thereby providing reasons for preferring some works over others. The art critic must find a language that identifies features that characterise good art and provide for standards of good taste.

The idea that tango is a popular form seems to invite an anthropological rather than a critical frame but that does not necessarily follow. Jazz is a popular form and yet it is subject to criticism no less than classical music. Thelonious Monk is considered art whereas Kenny G is generally viewed as kitsch. Cultural critics even address pop and try to provide reasons why Elvis Presley might be better than Genesis.

Like ethnomusicologists (who are a type of anthropologist) critics use comparative methods, and must know something about music theory and the history of music. Both, ethnomusicologists and critics differ from the natives in that they try to draw more general conclusions about the cultural practices, but they differ from each other in that the goals of ethnomusicology are primarily descriptive, whereas the goals of criticism are primarily prescriptive. Criticism does require an adequate description, so that disagreement about description, ie., about the facts, will make a difference to the critique, but in the case of criticism there is a normative component, that is, there is the assumption that things are to be preferred on other than merely personal, subjective or consumption preferences.

To the contrary, art criticism has assumed that art ought to stand outside of the sphere of mere utilitarian or consumer values and that it has a higher moral dimension. That is why the distinction between art and kitsch is so central to criticism. This distinction does not touch objects that are cultural artefacts of some group because the members of the group attach an authentic significance to these objects. However, some writers (Adorno?) have suggested that these artefacts become kitsch as soon as they are purchased by a tourist who does not attach that significance to these objects and for whom they are mere decorative trinkets. The question is whether this is not precisely what happens to tango when it becomes a mere object of touristic experience.

A major reason for the anthropological approach to the dissemination of tango has to do with the consumers themselves. Earlier generations have grown up with an intuitive understanding of the difference between real and fake, art and kitsch. With modernism in art and academic postmodernism we have an attack on the idea of authentic art. Modernism in art, music and architecture relentlessly debunks all traditional notions of good taste and renders everything equal and relative, a matter of personal preference and only worthy of attention if it is interesting or better, transgressive. proxy.duckduckgoModernist artists such as Andy Warhol elevated consumer products to the status of high art, and the ordinary person can no longer rely on art criticism for guidance on good or bad taste, being thrown onto the wasteland of loud consumerist promotion.

Given the loss of any basis for judgement of good or bad taste, the learner is thrown rudderless on the ethnodance market to figure things out for themselves. They are now supposed to know what they prefer without being told what they ought to prefer. Since the ordinary person, with the now standard schooling in non-judgementalness, cannot be expected to bear such a heavy burden they simply follow the guidance of the loudest marketers and the crowd. Contrary to what one might otherwise expect the contemporary tango is a case study in unscrupulous, vapid consumerism and crowd behaviour. It is hard to believe that people capable of discriminating judgement could respond positively to the dressed up kitsch promoted on tango websites and Facebook pages.

What is the alternative to the anthropological and consumerist paradigms currently in power? The conservative view of art, music and culture, at least the one that we have inherited from romanticism, is that culture is the realm of authentic values that transcend ordinary utilitarian and merely hedonistic values. Writers on culture have recognised for a long time that all traditional societies distinguish between sacred and profane values. In European culture art has come to occupy the place of the sacred, and the aesthetic experience of the art object is not regarded as having a merely utilitarian significance. Art, including painting, music, dance and ritual, is the domain of sacred values or ends, and as such has a moral significance. Bad art is not merely unpleasant, but rather, pleasant or not, it is morally bad. Listening to bad music and surrounding yourself with kitsch art makes you poorer as a person. It debases rather than elevates because it is a source of easy satisfactions and fake emotions that do not demand any effort or sacrifice.

Art criticism is difficult because it is not easy to identify why certain art is better than other or what makes it morally elevating or debasing. People were once able to follow their gut instinct and normal people still are highly suspicious of art that occupies contemporary art galleries, atonal music or modernist architecture. They still prefer to see classical architecture even if some are still drawn to the modernist curiosities, although it is questionable that they would choose to spend much time in them or live near them once they have taken the obligatory snapshots. In the same sense the consumer tango that we are served nowadays is largely a disposable product, a way to spend an evening in a foreign city.

An alternative to the anthropological framing is a view of how dancing makes us better and brings us closer to others. Traditionally dances have had a moral and truly social dimension in bringing people together. This more authentically moral, social and elevating aspect has been supplanted with ideas about exoticism, authentic cultures, tourism, fashion and hedonism that are typical of kitsch ethnodances like LA Style Salsa, Bachata or Zouk. Anthropology and tourism have inadvertently directed tango into a seedy, degraded neighbourhood on the false assumption that it has only the barest connection to European culture and is the product of the latin brothel. Sadly that is a framing and a narrative that appeals to people already predisposed to be drawn to easy ‘transgressive’ touristic experiences.

Related:

Sex roles: is tango compatible with women’s empowerment

When tango emerged out of the primordial swamp the world was still in the grip of an oppressive patriarchy. It was an era of primitive practices such as religion, lifelong marriage, female modesty, enforced monogamy, and complementary sex roles: homemaker housewives and breadwinner husbands. After many millenia we are finally emerging out of the darkness into a brave new world of feminization which liberates us with atheism, equal partnerships, 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 be 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 new utopia.

The respective roles of the two partners in tango are not marginal to the practice. They reflect the place of sex roles in traditional society, the putative patriarchy. In traditional society men and women have always and everywhere occupied distinct and complementary roles. Men have been out in the world either hunting or, more recently, earning a living so as to provide for their family. To do so they had to exhibit skills and characteristics such as planning, goal-orientation, and rational decision-making as well as a natural sense of responsibility for their dependants. Women looked after the home and the children, for which the husband provides. In this world women have evolved to seek the protective male energy and the men to 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 much of the satisfaction of the dance.

In the new feminized society the two partners are equalized: men become more like women and women become more like men, that is, they both become more androgynous. Both sexes are expected to be able to fulfill both gender 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. gearjunkie_legacy_imagesThe urban lumberjack look with bushy beards, Timberland boots and flannel shirts no longer signal any corresponding masculine skill at physical labour such as chopping down trees or anything else for that matter. Hyper-feminine fashion with high heels, immaculate hair and copious amounts of makeup rarely signal actual feminine nurturing energy, which is instead expressed in a vacuous, narcissistic sassy attitude that men find superficially attractive but ultimately draining.

Although based in our basic nature the competent performance of sex roles does require preparation and training which the government schooling characteristically neglects or worse, actively discourages. The free expression of masculinity in boys is increasingly viewed as ‘toxic’, whereas girls are encouraged to ‘lean in’ and be more assertive.

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 in times of need perform in male role. Men can learn to cook, clean and look after children, and in some cases they even 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 and marginal, radical feminists, SJWs and transgender activists draw a different conclusion: the sex differences between men and women are a mere social construct, a vestige of an oppressive patriarchal system of men’s power over women, gays, transsexuals, minorities, etc. Further, they insist that gender and sexuality are fluid and people can pick and choose their identity like fashion, as the mood suits them. Sexual identity is subjective and we see a proliferation of gender pronouns and other similar outrages.

Radical feminists view statistical differences in occupations or income levels not as caused by the differences in the choices that men and women make but the oppressive patriarchy whereby women and other oppressed groups (but mainly women) are prevented from career advancement by a ‘glass ceiling’, and are discouraged from going into certain professions by being saddled with artificial sex roles. Women who choose the traditional role of the housewife or caretaker are browbeaten for their complicity in the patriarchal oppression of their sisters.

So rather than allowing women to follow their natural preferences radical feminists reject that such preferences exist and instead attack traditionalist women who refuse to be competitive and career-seeking. time_newellemmettRadical feminism wants women to become more like men. The result is that we have a generation of women who are competitive but also unhappy, angry and aggressive. They often cannot easily compete against men who are naturally gifted—or perhaps encumbered—with high levels of testosterone, upper body strength, and an autistic persistence. But they are told that they ought to be as good as men at careers and various competitive pursuits. Denial of such differences leads to situations like transgender ‘women’ easily dominating female sports. Only people in deep denial, having been immersed in the ideology of radical feminism, could fail to see the obvious absurdity of what is being attempted.

Likewise 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 radical feminist ideology. The problem, however, is much deeper than that because the current generation of career women and compliant men have been subjected to decades of government schooling that seeks to erase sex differences and leaves them completely unprepared to perform these traditional roles. If tango depends on the ability to perform these roles within the dance then the new androgynous tango is a completely new type of practice. But as such it is unsatisfying if one comes to tango precisely because it offers the possibility of expressing one’s sex role.

Because the competitive career women do sometimes long to feel like women and likewise the compliant urban lumberjacks do sometimes want to be allowed to feel and act like men beyond mere external appearance. Unfortunately tango in itself cannot reverse 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 mere formality. The assumption is that the partners are equal and the compliant men expect women to express themselves and compete.

In fact men express their protectiveness precisely by avoiding acting in an overtly protective way so as to not cramp the woman’s style and to ‘give her space’. Unencumbered by potential accusations of toxic masculinity female leaders lead in a way that women actually want men to do so, that is assertive and yet protective. Women are encouraged to ‘lean in’ and take the male role as men step aside. Given the background female empowerment ideology it is but a small step for these women to draw the conclusion that they must be naturally better leaders than men. Since men have learned over time that assertiveness and protectiveness on their part is essentially oppressive they can hardly be blamed for doing everything to avoid satisfying this need. The result is that on the contemporary feminized tango scene we see the shadow of the dance, failing to satisfy the very needs it would naturally meet.