Saturday, March 8, 2014

Gender imbalance with 50% men?

The man on the left weights 100 kilos.
The man on the right weighs 70 kilos,
This is a gender-balance teeter-totter. 
Presently I am at an event with 90 men and 90 women--a so-called "encuentro."  Gender balance, right?  Not quite.  I see a lot of women sitting too much, waiting to dance as men sit at the bar or sit with their "tango date."  This is not evil or wrong.  In fact it is great!  Mature dancers who dance with only a few should be "special guests," because they are not really part of the gender balance equation.   We NEED people who sit a lot!  They subsidize our milongas!  No complaints about special guests.  At purposely gender-balanced events, special guest need a VIP seating area so social dancers do not waste time trying to catch their eyes for a tanda.  For the rest of us, one man = one man.  Or is that enough.  I don't think it is!

Presently "gender balance" is a simple addition equation:  One man + one woman = gender balance for tango.  If you prefer the simple one-women-to-one-man-gender-balance equation, then stop reading here.  Really.  Please stop reading here.

For those who prefer to go to an event that requires traveling a long way, wouldn't you prefer having organizers who develop to a better way of determining the participants' social tango I.Q.?

What is your Social Tango I.Q.?  
(Social Tango Individual-Quotient)
Especially men should consider what their social tango I.Q. is.  What do they offer to the community's
gender-balance value since women are the ones who usually suffer with the gender imbalance?  Of course, a social tango I.Q. applies to women, and even communities.  Towns are known for their social tango I.Q.  Have you ever gone to a workshop and milonga weekend, only to find that the locals danced only with themselves?  Maybe the I.Q. of yourself, others or even communities is in your mind.  Maybe it's added up in a vague way in your mind.  This is how my mind adds it up:

Assuming that all dancers are good dancers and have good hygiene, a tanguero's social-tango value at a milonga would go something like this:

Values: 1-5  (larger number is better)

1. Dances more than not.  Dancing 85% of the time or more = 5 points, and for the man who mostly sits, watches and dances less than 10% = 1 point.

2. Dances outside of circle of friends.  50% balance is 5 points, and only with his friends or girlfriend is 1 point.

3. Dances with all ages.  Five points is for dancing with all age groups, although mostly in one's own age cohort, 1 is ONLY in one's age group.  (It's minus 5 points for the creepy guy who only dances with females young enough to be his daughter.)

4. Watches for the tangueras who are not dancing enough.  Five points goes to the man who shows hospitality to the unknown guest and is kind to the woman who has sitten just way too much.  1 point goes to the guy who is obligated only to himself and pursuit of his own happiness.

I suggest three extra points for good hygiene, but certainly there can be people who can "earn" minus 100 points for poor hygiene.  (One hundred points means, "no way in hell will I dance with you ever again.")

The I.Q. Multiplier:  Talent/Experience
Not considering talent, a man in the above system could have a high score of 20 and the minimum score is 4. 

Sometimes I get 20 but often lower. Sometimes I avoid the woman who has not danced at all.  I may feel the need to take care of good friends after not dancing with them for a while or at the last milonga, or I do not want to dance with the (rightfully) sulking tanguera because I somehow sense that I am damned if I dance with her (she's pretty upset with all men), and I'm damned if I don't.  Perhaps my partner is not getting very many dances; so we dance more than usual.  Under the simplified system, I am always a one.  But what a difference between tonight's "one" from yesterday's "one" when I was dancing with so many woman who had been sitting down too long.  I said hello to some strangers and danced with them.  I danced with a beginner, and a wide ranges of ages.  Am I always just a "one" in the gender-balance question?

In gender balanced events, what women want differs from one woman to the next woman.  Certainly, my value system is different for each woman, or may miss the point all together for some women.  My "system of values" here is only a reflection, and nothing more.   

The possible 20 points above assumes that talent and experience for everyone is the same.  But of course it is not.  If we were to weight the values, an experienced/talented dancer might have a multiplier of 3 and a inexperienced dancer, let's say, might have a multiplier of 1 point.  Now this talent value can be used used to weight the dancer's value in a social setting.  For example, the great dancer with 4 social points x 3 talent points = 12 and the intermediate dancer with 20 social points x 1 talent point = 40. That makes the average dancer with 20 social points x 2 talent points far more valuable to create gender balance than the guy who is the king of dance.

Gender balance is more than the number of masculine or feminine bodies in a room!  Just do the math.  It is a bit more complicated than just 1+1=2   :-)


  1. It's a problem from Pushkin's "Mozart and Salieri" about "checking Harmony with Algebra", and it is also covered by Le Chatelier Principle which predicts that, regardless of the quality quotients of the dancers, men will dance less if women get too scarce, and women will dance less if men's numbers drop.

  2. Great article. Very insightful and true.


  3. I'm on the unfortunate leader side of this, being a low-intermediate leader. So all those followers in the article sitting on the sidelines refuse to dance with me, because I assume they're waiting to ask a leader who's slightly better than themselves.

    The biggest problem with getting dances in Tango is the general competitiveness. Everyone wants to dance with someone better than themselves. So a pyramid forms with people like me, trying to learn, caught in a catch-22. You can't learn if you can't dance, but you can't get dances unless you're as good or better than the person you're asking to dance.

    So when I can get a dance at milonga, its usually with an unskilled follower wearing far too much perfume who no one else will dance with, but who's already refused me a couple times.

  4. I have to agree. 50%/50% is only balanced when there is a condition where the women don't want to dance as much such as a cement floor.
    There are of course, off nights and those times when you should be selfish, but the community should matter.

  5. Does that mean that women on the average tend to dance a lot, dance outside of their circle of friends, dance with men of different ages (weights, shapes, statues, etc..), accept dances from men are not too popular, and be more spectacular dancers?

    I do not know the answer, but I thought I'll through the question in.

  6. I don't dance with a stopwatch in my hand and I don't dance with followers who follow badly AND are heavy AND have bad balance. For that reason I'm somewhat reluctant to dance with unknown ladies.

  7. I have generally found your writing to be very egalitarian, but I am very dismayed by the patriarchal tone of this entry. It seems to me that by attempting to hold men responsible for the women's enjoyment of the milongas, you strip the women of their power to take control of their own enjoyment.

    Ultimately, women determine gender balance, not men. The high attrition rate of men in the dance is likely due to a lack of social intelligence of the women. For example, I was a very slow learner, and would never have stayed in this dance if not for the encouragement from only two of dozens of women in the community at the time. If those two hadn't been there, I wouldn't be dancing now.

    Another example: I know a man who was a promising dancer, but recently quit because after 3 years of dancing a couple of times a week, because his wife was critical that he did not dance as well as I do. She gave no consideration to the fact that on the average, I danced 3-4 hours every day for over a decade. She also gave no consideration to the fact that he had worked much harder and had progressed much farther than she has. Because of her attitude of entitlement, we have lost a valuable member of our community. Ironically, she still shows up, and complains about the lack of good leaders.

    If we are going to weigh the value of men in the community, let us do the same for women. In my experience, they have far more influence on the social character of a milonga than the men do. In my community, it is not unusual for men to outnumber women two to one, and still some women sit. Conversely, even when women outnumber men two to one, there are several women who dance as much as they want to. Perhaps if more women aspired to that level of social intelligence, there would be a lot more men showing up to dance.

  8. Hey there!

    I really enjoyed this post. I think it's great and applies to both sexes. The title seems to refer to tango workshops, etc. which attempt to maintain a gender balance. Are you implying then that this effort is not very helpful? I'd agree, but maybe for different reasons. :) LT

  9. I fully agree. I would maby add that the rules apply both to man and woman. What is appreciated in life - taking care that other people wouldn't feel excluded - should be even more appreciated in tango community.

    Those scary woman which seem to hate man... :).
    It is only naural that when woman is very eager to dance and does not get any invitation (for not being known in local community or for being just a beginner) she gets more and more tense. The longer she does not dance the less chances she has to get invited. To begin with she has no opportunity to show that she acctualy can dance and as the time passes man subconsciously presume she simply can not or choose not to do it.

    Than as her eagerness to dance does not lessen and invitations do not come she feels more and more excluded. Consequently man acctually begin to perceive her as being angry.

    Finally, when at some point someone asks her to dance her muscles are already so tense that the dance may accutally prove to be much beneath her abilities.

    That is why it is important to find such person with little chances to dance early in the milonga, and she may prove to be a kind and not so bad dancer.

    And I write so much about it because I think some tangueros do not understad it at all, though some do.

    What woman often practice to avoid this awkward feeling of waiting and not being asked is talking with each other. This way they begin to feel at ease and that is what attracts man's eyes. Paradoxically man get angry for this reason cos that makes it more difficult to send an invitation.

    Therefore man conclusions that woman should not talk on milongas. A paradox indeed :)

    But it is also on the woman part to include a newcomer into local tango community. If a new female dancer is kindly greeted by woman community it is not probable she will feel that much excluded and awkward, and that gives her chances to actually dance :)

    That is my female perspective. A perspective of someone who has gone through tough beginings of going to milongas with no partner and who now, still a beginner, dances with almost everyone to everyone's enjoyment (or at least I hope so).

  10. If there isn't a "Gender Balance" at a local Milonga, and there are few "Leaders", I try to dance with more partners. I usually go with my Partner, and have done so for about the last twelve years, she loves to dance and I basically go because she wants to, I feel uncomfortable when other followers ask her if I might dance with them, as I am sometimes not motivated to dance to a a particular "Orchestra" or piece of music and don't want to be offensive, but at the same time, wouldn't be inclined to ask that particular person to dance anyway.
    In Tango, as in many other aspects of life, we tend to gravitate to groups of people that we like, for whatever reason. Should we have to compromise what we enjoy, and who we enjoy dancing with so that we create a gender balance? I understand that there are "Cliques" or groups that form and tend to dance with members of those groups exclusively, that doesn't bother me, because I don't dance because I want to be in any "Group". I dance because the music attracts me and because I'd hope to enjoy the connection with the partners that I'd choose for my own reason. I've had the unpleasant experience to ask someone that I didn't know to dance, only to find that they weren't very careful about "Personal Hygiene", some were excellent dancers, but I always hear women saying "(this guy or that guy) never asks me to dance.", I also see some leaders that sweat profusely, If I see a woman dancing with a leader that has sweat all over them, I'm not inclined to ask that woman to dance at all, ever.
    Everyone is different, that is what makes life interesting, but lets not get into rating systems, as the old axiom goes, "You pays your money and you takes your chances."

  11. Sean wrote: "It seems to me that by attempting to hold men responsible for the women's enjoyment of the milongas, you strip the women of their power to take control of their own enjoyment."

    I think you misunderstood the post, Sean. In couple dancing, women have no "control of their own enjoyment" when there are no men to give them that enjoyment.

    Anna wrote: "... taking care that other people wouldn't feel excluded - should be even more appreciated in tango community."

    A real tango dance community is necessarily exclusive. Closer inspection of an inclusive tango dance community usually reveals it to be at core just a tango class community.

  12. Wel, obviously a lot of the problems would just disappear if inviting were symmetrical. I wonder in which century such gender balance will arrive in the tango world (just scientific curiosity. As a male I enjoy, of course, the extra power the traditional move gives me).

    Talking about gender balance...TT, w hich math do you suggest for female leaders?

  13. the author of this blog (and some of the male commentators) has become a little smug in the last few posts...yes you have made it to being part of those who make it difficult for newcomers to integrate, well done! i prefer the earlier posts where you actually had some compassion for them...

    having said that, you are right, one to one isn't enough for the reaons you said but the maths is much simpler than that, there should be many more men than women (from a woman's point of view, it makes tango sense, and we would then become the smug ones)

  14. @ Aimée-- the hard thing about writing a blog is that often people do not read the post itself carefully, and then by reading the comments have totally forgotten the content of the post. You say "you have made it ... difficult for newcomers to integrate...." My blog has always been about taking care of the beginners and integrating all levels together. Read the blog again, and if you have the courage, please make a remark about you earlier statement, which is 180 degrees from the tone of my blog since 2009.

  15. as a female/follow, i am awful at following the rules of cabaceo and of males doing all the inviting. i suppose i have the benefit of a small, patient community, but i try very hard to dance with everyone i can. if i see a beginner lead, i go out of my way to pester them to dance with me. if i see a lead i don't know, unless they look really otherwise engaged, or for some reason i feel intimidated, i go out of my way to get them to dance with me. i don't know how much anyone owes anyone in the activities we take on in our spare time, but i certainly appreciate the leads who dance with a broad variety of people. i think the more inter-dancing there is, the more opportunities dancers have to improve their dance and get to know one another, which strengthens the community overall. (but i also think everyone should get to sit out and chat, too, sometimes, if that's how they feel)

  16. People like alice automatic are all too rare. When I'm more experienced I will strive to be one of them.

  17. I have been organising Encuentros in Europe for about 10 years. In the last years, I started to overbook men.
    Although I do not gender balance my event, but rather rolebalance them and also allow dancers who switch roles, I always allow for some extra men.
    Why: because guys IN GENERAL (independent of age or status) dance less than women. They arrive late, they chat, they go out for a smoke, they are tired... And they get stressed, when they feel that they have to dance too much. Not all of them of course - but there is a strong tendency. Whilst most women want to dance all the time - also the leading ladies. This is why I always invite some more men (all leaders) than women. That makes everyone happier.
    Although some men are intimidated at the beginning when I tell them that there are more leaders than followers. Often they think that they will get to dance less and that the competition will be bigger. Until they notice how many of their colleagues spend their time at bar. ;-)

    1. Melina, since you observe a lot as a DJ, organizer and sit-a-lot-and-watch professional dancer, I am sure that you have seen this phenomenon. I haven't, but I do not sit much at all--perhaps three tandas in a 5-hour milonga and one tanda in a 4-hour milonga.

      My wife thinks you are right about women dancing more -- at encuentros. She says that it is like being at a wonderful dinner where there is enough food the ladies (finally). Most dinners they have attended don't have enough food. So they "eat" a lot at milongas -- starved for dance nourishment. I do hope that over time your come to terms with your low esteem of men voice here and elsewhere ( You are a talented teacher at the highest level. You are a great spokesperson for social tango, but if men were a race, your statements could be justifiably called racist.


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