Whirr2005-02-15
Dancing Without Gender
I went contra-dancing last night, and it was wonderful. Somehow, Hannah and I managed to get perfectly in synch on this one dance, and just began switching two or three times a set, almost without noticing.

In contra-dance, one dancer is the "leader" and the other the "follower". The leader is in charge of, most importantly, starting and stopping a swing so that it ends in time for the next dance move. Throughout the dance the leader and follower perform different moves. Traditionally, the leader is refered to by the male gender, and is expected (at least in our dance group) to be male, while the follower is refered to as "the lady" &c. &c.

"Switching" refers to the practice (possibly started by me, but greatly enjoyed by Hannah) or changing who gets to be the leader. This is usually done at the end of the line, when the couple has to wait a few minutes before dancing again... Hannah likes to do it spontaneously, with little warning. Suddenly, before you know it, you're in charge... then a few moves later, you're following again.

I really like following. I love the sensation of leaning back (although not too far, I'm learning how to avoid breaking my partner's arms) and closing my eyes and just spinning! It's a great feeling.

I have certainly become more and more sensitized to gender issues these past few years, largely because of Katya but also because of some things I've read on my own (Raising Cain and others).
I still have a lot of questions. I'm not sold on the idea that gender is a purely social concept (but I'm not certain enough to reject the idea, either... I'm preceisely agnostic). I also like being a man, although I have a lot of trouble figuring out what it means to enjoy being a man while also maintaining that the male / female distinctions are, at best, meaningless.

I just wish it were as easy to change gender personae in real life as it was last night at the dance, though.
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