Sascha Radetsky wrote an article in Newsweek about the challenges of being a male dancer– the stereotypes, the misunderstandings of what the profession entails, and the social adversity of being one of the few men in a male-dominated profession. I actually think it’s a great article and I’m thrilled when a mainstream publication such as Newsweek devotes attention to dance.
However– and far be it from me to imply that someone’s experience is not authentic, important, or to be taken seriously– I wonder how relevant such a complain is in the world we live in.
Radetsky writes, “…I find myself slightly guarded when I tell people what I do. Like some sort of incurable blight, the male-dancer stereotype has taken root and metastasized in our cultural consciousness.
“In our culture, girls are encouraged to take ballet; boys receive no such endorsement, except of course from ballet teachers or exceptionally supportive parents. The boy who perseveres in dance must have a genuine hunger for it, must be uniquely motivated and dedicated, and must develop a truly thick skin.”
Ok, fair enough, but what about girls who wish to pursue careers in the still male dominated fields of engineering, medicine, business, law, or politics? Their difficulty is not in being respected by their fellow females (though they may face that from their more old fashioned counterparts), but in breaking in to entrenched male centric norms. Many times it’s not even overt discrimination, but a fear of the new. It seems that in dance, it’s not for lack of encouragement by the establishment; if anything, male dancers are in demand and face much less competition than females simply due to numbers.
It is indeed admirable the passion, drive, and disregard of others’ opinions that it takes for males to succeed in dance. However, I’m not seeing so many news stories about women who succeed in typically male-dominated fields, or that wage gaps that still exist between men and women.
I see a disproportionate number of men in leadership positions in female dominated fields. Education, social work, and non-profits overwhelmingly employ women, yet I see many, many directorial and supervisory positions occupied by men. Likewise in dance, I see a disproportionate number of men in leadership positions, as well as choreography and direction.