8 November 2016

Balancing beauty

“I thought of wearing this one. But maybe I’m showing too much skin.”
“I don’t know what the others will be wearing. Hope I won’t be too overdressed.”
“So sad that the girls are undressing just to get dances.”
“That looks awful.”

Most of us women dress up before going to the milonga. Since we started dancing, we’ve spent lots of money on tango dresses and too many pairs of fabulous shoes. And every evening before going out, we agonise over what to wear, we pick matching jewelry and shave our legs and put on makeup and paint our nails and try desperately to find a nice way to wear our hair so it’ll actually look good throughout the milonga, even though we know that no matter what we do, the hair is going to look ridiculous after three tandas.

So why all the fuss? Seriously, all this time worrying about tube tops sliding down and skirts riding up and splits moving to the wrong place. And don’t get me started on the makeup issues we’re having. Why can’t we just wear something normal and comfortable so we can focus on the actual dance?

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Dressing up for social happenings is a big part of human culture, of course. And for me, it’s a big part of going to the milonga: to dress up even on a grey and boring Thursday, and to arrive in the milonga and meeting all the other dancers - men and women - who all have made an effort to look beautiful. I actually love that part. But if we're to be a tiny bit cynical about it, we also hope that looking good will help us getting more dances. Dressing up helps us finding courage and confidence to invite people, and it helps us getting noticed.

But it has to be done just right, doesn’t it? We ladies, we have to balance carefully. We need to make sure that we look good, but not too good. This involves carefully hiding our ugly bits and showing our good bits - although without showing too much of the good bits, of course! If you make a misjudgement of how many percent of the good bits you’re showing, or if you accidentally mistake a bad bit for a good bit, all kinds of things may be said about you.

You might be criticised because your body isn’t beautiful enough. The fashion industry already taught us what we should look like, and society in general have been monitoring us since we were kids, so by now, it’s our responsibility to know our place in the body ranking hierarchy. Believing you’re beautiful, and showing yourself as such, is only really accepted if you're meeting the standard.

On the other hand though, you might be disapproved of because your body is too beautiful. If you’re showing too much of your good bits, you might be accused of not playing fair towards the other girls since you’re actually feeling good about yourself and therefore able to shamelessly use your good bits in the competition to get the best leaders. You shouldn’t be too confident!

Of course, you also risk being pitied because maybe actually, you’re not being confident enough. If you’re showing too much of your good bits, someone will make assumptions about your lack of self esteem since you obviously believe you have to undress to get dances.

It could also be that you’ll be held responsible for not being feminist enough. If you’re showing too much of your good bits, you’re reinforcing the idea that looks are necessary to get dances. Actually, you’re spoiling the men so they’ll stop thinking with their heads and start thinking with their d*cks, and in the end no one will want to dance with the women with the bad bits, even if they’re great dancers.

I'm sure it's even more intricate than this. But to sum it up, we're stuck between fashion, morality, and politics, between liberation and censorship, even in the milonga. 

Yes, I’m being polemic! But I’m quite sure that all women have these thoughts - sometimes about others, and too often about ourselves. I do realise it’s a very complex matter. But I’m thinking that if we want to make it easier for ourselves, we have to make it easier for the others, and in order to do that, we need to let go of jealousy and criticism. For me, this goes beyond competing for dances in the milonga. I believe that dressing the way you want should be part of being a free individual, and it’s important because every day, millions of women are hiding their body due to the rules and the shame and the fear that comes with different types of objectification. And I don’t think that hiding our bodies helps to win over the fashion tyranny and the morality tyranny. Let’s not support what brings us down. Let's support each other and - ultimately - ourselves.