Friday, September 16, 2011

What to do with Tango Kitty Litter

The Tango Tomcat must face what now has become quicksand.

"Kitty Litter" is what I call the many new tangueras who fall away from tango because of inappropriate behavior in the tango community.  And who caused all the Kitty Litter -- all the newcomer tango kitties who have been "trashed"?  The Tango Tomcat; that's who.  He's the one who stalked too many new Tango Kitties as they arrived into the tango community with starry eyes, so fully in love with the joy of movement.  But they left when they no longer felt psychologically or physically safe.

Here is my challenge to tangueros/tangueras everywhere.  Staying in your own lane is not the primary floorcraft rule, as some people believe.  Staying in your own lane and being blind or a turning a blind eye is not okay.

Practical Things to Do
I was emboldened by this project by Clay Nelson's article on community building.   He had a short paragraph about predatory people, whom he called "toxic people."  He felt strongly that these toxic people could seriously damage the tango community if no action were taken.  He suggested that the men in the community gently confront any "toxic" person and if he does not respond that he should be shunned.  Easier said than done, but very concrete advice.

But even more than Clay, the private emails and Facebook messages tell me that this sordid subject must be addressed by more than just the men.   I assure you I would rather write poetry and about the magic of tango, but I feel advocacy for others is a part of my job as a tanguero.  Yet, it is not just a tanguero's job to promote tango as a Safe Place!  The first rule of floorcraft is NOT just "dance in your own lane," as I have said above.  So what is the primary rule of floorcraft?   The first rule of tango floorcraft is "cause no harm and protect," not only your partner but everyone on the floor.  Although navigation and this rule are mostly a man's job, women too have this job.  (See Tango Etiquette, Chapter 3, part II.)  This first rule in floorcraft is the rule of safety.  If a particular milonga's dance floor is unsafe, then many will not go any longer.  Senior tangueros and tangueras need to take an active role in making their community a Safe Place both physically on the dance floor as well as psychologically safe.  I would argue that tangueras are especially equipped to make the tango community a psychologically safe place.

Clay's article turned to the men to take action.  In my next blog,  I will suggest what the women can do, and what the consequences to the senior tangueras will be if they do not protect especially the new females in the community.

From much thought on this subject and many minutes talking to a tanguera, who happens also to be an expert witness at murder and partner abuse trials, I am convinced that any tango community which has a huge gender imbalance is caused by the both men AND women failing to take action to protect the newest women in the community.  Sure men have their role (mentioned above), but women need to guide newcomers by gently teaching tango etiquette to new tangueras -- right away.  Too many do not know what a cabeco until they have been dancing for years, or still are asking experienced tangueros to teach them on the dance floor.

Next blog:  "The Cause of Tango's Gender Imbalance":  why tango etiquette preserves gender balance in the tango community, and has a huge role in creating a psychological and physical safety for women.

Hasta la próxima,

Photo credit of kitty quicksand.  [For animal lovers this cat is not actually in sand; he is sticking his head out from a hole in carpet.]