Contra Dance and Sexist Terminology: Two Perspectives

July 31st, 2011
contra, feminism
Two different views:

A: The terms 'lady' and 'gent' used in contra dance are not ok. They indicate that which role you dance is supposed to match up with which gender you identify with. Which is not only limiting, but when you consider that the 'gent' generally leads and the 'lady' generally follows, it is sexist. Anyone can lead, anyone can follow, and a culture where men are supposed to tell women what to do is not one I want to be a part of. We should say 'lead' and 'follow' and make it clear these have no connection to gender.

B: No; contra dance is not a led dance form. When you say 'lead' and 'follow' you accept this sexist practice of leading that comes in from swing, blues, etc. One of the beautiful things about traditional contra dance is that either role can suggest something. There is no 'lead' or 'follow' role, only two people paying attention to each other and dancing. The terms 'lady' and 'gent' do have a connection to gender, in that most of the time women dance the 'lady' role and men dance the 'gent' role, and renaming them doesn't change that. We should dance with respect and equality, with neither role taking precedence over the other.

Update 2011-08-01: There is ongoing discussion on facebook and google plus

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