Saturday, December 17, 2005

Guys and gals and dancing dolls

Strictly Come Dancing.

I admit to enjoying it. It's fun to watch, I love the sparkly costumes, and the feats of movement are artful and impressive. However, it is a show that upholds the gender contructions of masculine and feminine, and for that reason it also makes me uneasy. I try not to watch the female dancers' feet, for example, because the heels they are wearing make me wince. High heels seem to be made specifically so the female foot is twisted into a shape into which it does not naturally go, they are known to cause serious problems for the health of feet, they distort a woman's walk, making her wobble and thus look vulnerable; vulnerability being a feminine 'quality' in connection with masculine strength and aggression. A woman's mobility is severely restricted by heels, the boundaries in which she may move are confined. She does not walk with her feet firmly on the floor as men may do; she takes up less space, walks less easily, suffers pain (masochism being seen as thoroughly female) and thus is easier prey for an assailant.

The dress of the female dancer is always designed to accenturate the parts of her body that in our society are considered feminine, with comfort and ease of movement invisible as concerns. The female must always be shorter than her male partner, another way in which she is shown to be taking up less space. These things register with me when I'm watching at the same time as the skill and sparkle of the spectacle are dazzling me. I can't help but analyse.

The specific purpose of this post was for me to discuss the last dance given by Colin and Erin, which evidently puzzled the TV audience as much as it puzzled me. In their last performance, the dancers were dressed up in suits (the masculine costume) and each 'danced' with a dummy in a ball dress. The dolls were floppy, with their feet tied to the dancers' shoes, their heads fell forward and sported long manes of hair. The dancers pulled them around the dance floor, leading their lifeless partners. I wondered for a second why Erin had dressed as a man rather than a woman and danced with a female dummy rather than a male one, then it hit me. The women dancers can be replaced by dummies. The men cannot. The rational point is, of course, that the men lead the dance, and so naturally they cannot be replaced by lifeless images. Aside from the patriarchal origins of men leading women, something inside me was very shocked that the idea of the feminine partner leading a dance was less imaginable than a female dancer being replaced by a puppet. Femininity is all about 'being': passivity, modesty, humility. Being as opposed to doing, a function which a doll can perform even better.

I also wondered if Erin and Colin were perhaps being sponsored by the manufacturers of blow-up dolls.

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