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Sorry I Don't Dance: Why Men Refuse to Moveby Maxine Leeds Craig
Synopses & Reviews
That men don't dance is a common stereotype. As one man tried to explain, "Music is something that goes on inside my head, and is sort of divorced from, to a large extent, the rest of my body." How did this man's head become divorced from his body? While it may seem natural and obvious that most white men don't dance, it is actually a recent phenomenon tied to the changing norms of gender, race, class, and sexuality. Combining archival sources, interviews, and participant observation, Sorry I Don't Dance analyzes how, within the United States, recreational dance became associated with women rather than men, youths rather than adults, and ethnic minorities rather than whites.
At the beginning of the twentieth century and World War II, lots of ordinary men danced. In fact, during the first two decades of the twentieth century dance was so enormously popular that journalists reported that young people had gone "dance mad" and reformers campaigned against its moral dangers. During World War II dance was an activity associated with wholesome masculinity, and the USO organized dances and supplied dance partners to servicemen. Later, men in the Swing Era danced, but many of their sons and grandsons do not. Turning her attention to these contemporary wallflowers, Maxine Craig talks to men about how they learn to dance or avoid learning to dance within a culture that celebrates masculinity as white and physically constrained and associates both femininity and ethnically-marked men with sensuality and physical expressivity. In this way, race and gender get into bodies and become the visible, common sense proof of racial and gender difference.
If you want to learn about masculinity, ask a man if he likes to dance. One man in this study answered, "Music is something that goes on inside my head, and is sort of divorced from, to a large extent, the rest of my body." How did this man's head become divorced from his body? To answer this question, Maxine Craig sought out men who love music but hate to dance. Combining interviews, participant observation and archival research, Sorry I Don't Dance uncovers the recent origins of cultural assumptions regarding sex, race, and the capacity to dance. From the beginning of the twentieth century through the Swing Era young men of all races danced. But in the 1960s suburbanization, homophobia, and fragmentation of music cultures drove white men from the dance floor, and feminized, sexualized and racialized dance. Sorry I Don't Dance reveals how changing beliefs concerning gender, race, class, and sexuality over the past half-century have redefined what it means to be a man in America.
About the Author
Maxine Leeds Craig is Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies at the Univeristy of California, Davis. She is the author of Ain't I a Beauty Queen?: Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Searching for Dancing Men
Chapter 2: The New Woman and the Old Man
Chapter 3: Becoming White Folk
Chapter 4: Dancing in Uniform
Chapter 5: Managing the Gaze
Chapter 6: Stepping On and Across Boundaries
Chapter 7: Sex or "Just Dancing"
Chapter 8: Conclusions
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