Sexism and Ballroom: A Married Perspective

Happy Monday, dear readers!

Let’s talk about sexism and ballroom.

So I’m a recently-married lady, and before that I was an engaged lady for about a year before adding the second ring to my hands. (I’m a rebel–I wear the wedding band on my left and the engagement ring on my right in an attempt to remain symmetrical.) As I may have mentioned here before, my husband Sven and I met through ballroom, at the university club. We now go out dancing socially together at least once a week–and that has given me ample time to gather data.

And I have noticed a disturbing trend in the time since we got engaged and I had the bling to prove it.

Yissss bing

On maybe a dozen occasions, gentlemen who wish to dance with me will come up to Sven and–to him and him alone!–say something along the lines of “Can I dance with your fiance/wife?”

The sad thing about it is they probably think they are being courteous and polite. You know, don’t infringe on another man’s territory, don’t incur jealousy, don’t take what’s his without asking.

Oh, wait.


Because that’s what it bloody well is about, dear readers. They see me as belonging to Sven as a result of our partnership, and in order to borrow what belongs to him, they have to ask. It’s embarrassing, infuriating, and exposes the somehow still-underlying idea that a woman is the property of her husband.

Spoilers: NO. Just no.

Sven is the best, as without fail he’s told the ask-er “why don’t you ask her yourself?” and they usually get a little flustered and try to explain themselves, before I just get up and dance with them to end the awkward. I seethe, we dance, I say thank you with the bare minimum of politeness, and then move on.

To be clear, I’ve never really confronted these men about this issue, because I’m at a party and I don’t want to get huffy and make a scene. I just want to dance and enjoy myself. I think once at salsa I said something like “you know, you don’t have to ask Sven,” and got nothing more than a half smile and nod before the introductory cross-body-lead to start the dance.

But I’ve been thinking, after this latest example, whether it would be productive or petty to refuse to dance with men who do this. Because, after all, if they don’t respect me enough to ask me to my face, why should I expect them to respect me on the dance floor? On the other hand, would rejecting them really teach them about sexism and my autonomy as a human being, not the property of another?

SO! People of ballroom: If you approach a couple, and you wish to dance with one of the members of that couple–ASK THAT PERSON and not the partner. We are all individuals with our own desires, and unless one member of the couple LITERALLY has the other on a leash, you should assume they will want to make their own decisions.

Maybe think twice before asking to dance

To end on a positive note, the good things that has come out of all this are the conversations I’ve had with my other male friends. I’ve mentioned this phenomenon to many of them, and without fail they respond with some version of “that’s awful.” And on Friday, it happened right in front of two of them, and when I returned to my table they were discussing it, disgust flitting across their faces. Maybe it’s cheesy, but it warms my heart to see men of my generation realizing the little things, the small bits of sexism that pop up here and there. The more people have that realization, the closer we will be to an equal world.

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