Here’s an article thinking about the use of inclusive language in square dancing.
Since the advent of feminism, many organization and disciplines have attempted to show solidarity with their female friends and associates by adopting inclusive language, i.e. language which is free of assumed male dominance. While I can accept the principle of inclusive, non-patriarchal, non-gender-specific language, some of the implementations have been severely flawed. Let’s take Gay Square Dancing, for example.
The common custom used in all gay clubs (and by the callers who call for these clubs) is to call the people dancing the Boy’s part LEADS and the people dancing the GIRL’s part FOLLOWS. This particular custom should be dropped for three reasons (one political and two dance-related):
- Calling those dancing the Boy’s part LEAD and those dancing the Girl’s part FOLLOWS is chauvinistic, patriarchal and all of those other things inclusive language tries to avoid!!! Naming dancers in that way assumes that one person must lead and the other person must follow. Do the Girls really follow the boys when dancing a Teacup Chain???When dancing Cloverleaf, how can the girls be following the boys if they’re moving in the OPPOSITE direction?
- Using LEAD and FOLLOW instead of Boy and Girl is confusing and inaccurate. LEAD and FOLLOW can get confused with LEADER (one looking OUT of a formation) and TRAILER (one looking INTO a formation). If I call Heads Star Thru, Double Pass Thru, LEADS U-Turn Back – I don’t mean those dancing the boy’s part, I mean the couple in front. If I have the Sides Square Thru 4, Swing Thru and have the LEADS run or trade, I am referring to the one boy and the one Girl looking out of the wave, not to those dancing the Boy’s part.
- The terms Boy and Girl which I use almost exclusively when calling do not sound at all alike. These terms are readily understood by the dancers – even at the back of the hall. Boy and Girl are also easy to say when quickly delivering instruction s to the dancers and that keeps the flow of the dance intact.
Square Dancing does not lend itself readily to inclusive language. Square Dancing involves Goys and Girls, Men and Women, Gentlemen and ladies etc. If you want Square Dancing to be truly inclusive and an equal opportunity activity, insist on All Position Dancing and Dancing By Definition in which a square survives only if all members are able to dance all parts of all calls. Lt eh boys be courtesy turned by the girls once in a while; let the girls recycle the boys; and by all means let the men scream their way through a Teacup Chain. AAAAHHHH! Now, didn’t that feel good?