December 30, 2006

Do you worry more about dancing or the kind of people who worry about dancing?

Dad tries to write an essay about a middle school talent show "without sounding like a prig." He sounds like a prig:
They writhe and strut, shake their bottoms, splay their legs, thrust their chests out and in and out again.
Reminds me of this:
They danced to the tunes of the gramophone, and the dance floor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips, and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire...
Do you worry more about dancing or the kind of people who worry about dancing?


Anonymous said...

I appreciate that every generation spends their time saying things about, "Those damn kids today!"

But, at least in many cases, we are talking about dancing an order of magnitude more sexualized than what the old folks tsked in the 50s.

I am sure you could find lots of deploring of "those scandalous clothes" in earlier generations yet surely you agree that the prostitot and presumably prostiteen look is at least unfortunate.

When 12 year old dancers are 1/16th of an inch of flimsy fabric from having to worry about pregnancy and their moves are inspired by strippers (I know pop stars like Britney go to strip clubs for dance move inspiration and that filters down) I certainly think the prigs have a point.

What the hell. These days I'm a prig and only mildly embarrassed about it! I (being very careful where I put my hands) embrace my prigishness!

cokaygne said...

Can't believe it! First to comment. The precedning posts and the comments thereon have left me so dismayed. This post is Ann at her best. Anyway, my response is that I would worry about the guy who would make and enforce a law that outlaws this kind of dancing. Next, I would worry about parents who encourage this sort of behavior in their own children, but defend their right to do so. Great post, Ann.

JohnF said...

It depends on the age of each.

Gahrie said...


I suggest you attend a couple of Middle School dances and observe the students' "dancing". I am a Middle School teacher, and do so regularly.

Their actions while "freaking" or "freak dancing" are explicitly sexual in nature. They involve such actions as the girl bending at the waist and gyrating her hips while the male grinds his pelvis into her, often with physical contact.
These are children aged anywhere from 10 to 14.

Believe it or not, it is possible to have differing standards for children and adults. I hardly believe it is fair to compare a father concerned with the over-sexualization of his daughter (something I thought you feminists were worried about) with the father of the modern Islamic Fundamentalist movement, especially at a time in history when we are fighting a war against Islamic Fundamentalists.

Gerry said...

I don't worry too much about dancing.

I don't worry too much about those who worry about dancing.

It's the ones who worry about the ones who worry about dancing who alarm me! I must be vigilant!


Gerry said...

Rats. I was really hoping that YouTube had the old SNL skit "Footless". Skunked again.

Pogo said...

It is the job of a responisble parent to become a prig.

I've seen these kids, some just 10 years old, copying dance moves from strippers. They crouch down until their faces are planted in front of a boy's crotch. Barely-faked intercourse is 'a dance move'.

Ruth Anne spoke of ProstiTots before. This is more of the same. And I don't really give a damn if someone finds me prudish for it. This is the reductio ad brittnium for girls.

So my question: because it's "just dancing", is there any line you'd find it unwise to cross for preteen girls? Can parents have any rules at all about pretend sex or actual sex?

Anonymous said...

Got it. As a feminist, Althouse is okay with immature kids taking on the sexualized mannerisms of rock stars and porn, until these kids are 18, and then if they pose in anything other than slumping shoulders, well than Althouse becomes the prig and those women become an embarassment and have no idea what feminism is about. And then you will also profess to have no understanding of why younger feminists might have a different understanding of feminism than you.


thefewandtheplenty said...

Is there any point at which these kids can cross the line with explicit dancing? Does Althouse believe such a line exists in dancing or when it comes to kids dancing is it anything goes?

bill said...

Chippendales Dance Off

Mark said...

I'm curious if Ms Althouse recognizes any limit at all beyond which she would disapprove of the "dancing" of youngsters. How degraded would it have to get before she would say that disapproving of it was not being priggish, but just decent? Or is being decent, or believing there is such a thing as decency, synonymous with being priggish?

I think these things exist on a continuum and the answer is not to say that you have to either say "anything goes" or else you are a repressive prig. You have to draw the line somewhere and say yes, there is such a thing as decency, and no it is not being priggish to point that out.

Again, Ms. Althouse, is there any dance floor conduct that you would consider indecent and wrong? And if so, does that make you a prig? And if not, why not?

Anonymous said...

Why was I just reminded of that adage, "Never assume. It makes an ass out of "U" and "Me?"


Anonymous said...

Althouse asked: "Do you worry more about dancing or the kind of people who worry about dancing?"

Depends on the dance.


Gerry said...

"Depends on the dance."

What if it is The Lambada, The Forbidden Dance?

Well? What then?!

Jeff Peterson said...

I'm the father of a fifteen-year-old daughter. I don't want to see my daughter pregnant before she is mature enough to choose a man who will be a good partner, father, etc. (nor, incidentally, do I want my sons spoling some other father's daughter's chances). I would be very concerned to see my daughter dancing in the manner described in the piece, especially at a school-sanctioned function. I was a teenager myself once, and I remember the urge my friends and I had to violate the taboos established by adults when they weren't around to enforce them; when the behavior described in the piece is what's publicly allowed and praised, what sort of behavior will be required to give kids the frisson of transgression? If I had concerns like this I would be raising them in my kids' school or school district and seeking to establish standards at that level; I would not be seeking a state or federal law regulating dances at middle schools, much less contemplating violence against anyone who disagrees with me about this. I suppose it's possible that some Americans concerned about this might be driven to do some things they shouldn't, but to run immediately to Qutb for comparison strikes me as obtuse and offensive.

The Unknown Professor said...

I may have a severely skewed sample, but well more than half the fathers I know would side with the author of the piece. I realize thatevery generation pushes the boundaries set by the previous one, but just damn! - these are 10 year olds we're talking about.

Maybe I'm just too conservative, but I think it's a dad's job to let the kids enjoy being kids for a while, and not to let an oversexualized culture turn them into miniature adults complete with stripper-inspired moves.

Joe Baby said...

The current practice of teens and pre-teens calling each other terms like whore, hooker or slut (or worse) is alarming...and my friends who are teachers simply refuse to go there with the parents, knowing that they will be harshly questioned at every step of the way.

This tends to result in sarcastic responses from the teachers, which in the end might be the best tactic.

LarryK said...

This guy does not sound like a prig - if you "define deviancy down" long enough, at some point a boundary-pushing pop culture will validate the concerns of the prigs of generations past. On the other hand, I think his conclusion that slut-culture is constricting girls' prospects in life is too sweeping - after all, it's well known that girls are outperforming boys academically at all grade levels and women continue to make substantial inroads in all walks of life.

I also think htat linking this guy's impressions to Sayyid Qutb, of all people, is a pretty cheap shot. It is not unreasonable in principle to draw a line between what's decent and what isn't, particularly where pre-teen children are involved. In the Qutb passage you cite, he was appalled by college age couples dancing to Frank Sinatra's "Night and Day," and his solution was a vision of Islamic purity that, among other things, veiled women from head to toe. This guy, on the other hand, just wants eleven year old girls not to emulate strippers. They're on different planets both with respect to the validity of their concerns and the nature of their responses.

Anonymous said...

Was I worried about dancing? No more than everything else. I am a father, when the kids were young it was my job to worry about everything.
Luckily I was senior enough to bring home my patrol car by the time my daughter started dating. This was a help.
Seriously, though, as a father I remembered what a pig I was as a boy. I did the best I could with my sons, and my daughter, that included some serious rules about the dirty dancing stuff. Must have worked, all of my grandchildren were born to married parents.

Kathy said...

I realize thatevery generation pushes the boundaries set by the previous one

That is perhaps true, but it doesn't mean we should continue to loosen the boundaries in all areas indefinitely. IMO, what is now considered acceptable behavior for children in the realm of sexual expression and also dress is not good for children. It does not allow them time or room to truly be children, before they take on adult responsibilities and behaviors. Of course, other parents can make their own choices for their own children, but I would certainly be disapproving of behavior like that described in the article. Dancing is not necessarily just harmless fun, you know, despite our bias to the contrary.

Were the old folks in the 50's wrong to tsk, as gerald hibbs mentioned in the first comment? Maybe by tsk-ing at behavior that wasn't too far over the line, they discouraged more egregious violations of the cultural taboos. Now we've progressed to the point where there are few standards of behavior that parents and other responsible adults feel comfortable requiring children to adhere to, because to uphold standards of behavior is to be a prig. I guess I don't see priggishness as the ultimate evil. . .

Anonymous said...

"What if it is The Lambada, The Forbidden Dance?

Well? What then?!"

Depends on the dancers.


Daryl Herbert said...

every generation pushes the boundaries set by the previous one

Which is why more "worry[ing] about dancing" is necessary. If you don't worry at all about the dancing, kids will do such extreme things as to force you to worry.

I've been there. I have freak danced (not in middle school, though). I had to sit through plenty of school assemblies where the cheerleaders danced like strippers, put on skits involving simulated sex acts, etc.

It was horrible. Well, not really. But I can see why parents don't want this for their kids, and I sympathize with that.

amba said...

I only worry about NOT dancing.

But seriously: these kids are too young to even want to be dancing like that. They're too young even to spontaneously want to shock their parents! The dancing is not about feeling good, it's about obligatory self-display, and it's not even about biological urges, just about peer pressure, fashion, and a leering, pedophilic culture -- and you wonder just how far the crotch-grabbing and slut-thrusting have to go, how far they can go, before they implode and reverse.

Peter B. said...

During last year's American Idol, critics, including Althouse, complained when Paris Bennett sang lyrics that were "too old" for her. But Althouse is now giving a pass to 10-year-olds who competitively simulate sex acts, while questioning those who would object? I guess singing about an intimate relationship is worse than simulating sex acts.

Harkonnendog said...

If the generation after these middle school kids wants to up the ante they're going to have to dry hump on the gymnasium floor. Or maybe the girls will spray white shaving cream on their faces from phallic cans, with rhythm, of course!