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How patriarchy gave us awkward shuffles at every party

Strobe lights illuminate sections of the dance floor like a spotlight. People are moving along to the beat. Dancing has proven to be a universal form of expression, a language that has no barriers. When humans witness dancing, they feel a unique effect of spreading an individual message despite their background or previous experience. 

Within dancing’s intrinsic values lie notions on race and gender, and a wall of separation seems to exist between the male gender and dance. A taciturn view of masculinity affects men in ways both tangible and intangible. 

Dancing is an art form that is perceived to be predominantly feminine, and a simple google search of dancers features several women before a male dancer is shown. While this is not inherently wrong or discriminatory, it creates a culture in which men may not express themselves in certain ways, especially with their body. 

Due to this, most men from Western cultures typically feel awkward when dancing, and this unresolved dynamic shows itself primarily at parties and social gatherings. Leaning against the wall and surveying the room has more profound consequences beyond the dance floor.

Men typically learn values from their families and the media, and depending on how they were raised, most of them did not take dancing lessons as a child. Additionally, most media portrayals of men showcase white, straight, muscular and powerful individuals who are always seen as well put-together and straight-edge. 

Forms of expression such as dancing seem foreign to most men, and practicing them in public or private would likely enlist snickers from their loved ones and friends. Fluidity and expression are not encouraged in patriarchy, and by subjecting the male ethos to such a rigid standard, they prevent men from being their most authentic versions of themselves and create a culture of consistent dismissal of one’s emotions.

Men are more often than not taught to be silent, especially when it comes to their emotions. This historical precedence of silence translates in their maturity and actions on both a mental and physical level. 

Because most of my male friends have never been taught to actively look for male dancers or find alternative ways of expressing themselves, they have no idea how to respond when the opportunity presents itself. As a result, it is easy to retreat into a shell, to stay rigid and firm or to just deny the opportunity to dance altogether. 

This inherent stigma of dancing is not prevalent in all cultures: Anand Bhatt is an Indian-American pop star who has performed all over the world, and he reflects how dancing is celebrated in Indian culture. Latin-American and Caribbean men are also well known for their dance moves and rhythmic music. 

Scott Cupit is the owner of the London-based dance group called "Swing Patrol," and he has done studies on the relationship between men and dancing in different cultures. He found that men from different cultures resist dancing for different reasons. 

Australian, British and Western cultures create an atmosphere of fear: Australian men often feel as though they are too “macho” to dance, British men tend to feel awkward and shy while dancing and therefore tend to shuffle awkwardly and white American men are more often than not embarrassed to express themselves in ways they are not comfortable with.

The reality and repercussions of this institutionalized thought are that they teach a whole generation of men to be uncomfortable in their bodies. Men dominated dancing well into the 19th century, and this trend only stopped when women started dancing en pointe and created the relationship between dancing and femininity. 

To reconnect with the groove of our forefathers, men need to break from these archaic perspectives of believing that dancing is strictly a feminine art form. They prevent us from growing and limit an entire gender from finding freedom. 

For men to become more comfortable in their bodies, they need to remove themselves from the stigma involved with dancing and realize that true confidence and validation comes from expression, not repression.

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