Recently, while doing research for a paper, I happened to stumble across a very interesting article online. The article wasn’t useful to me for the purpose of the paper because it wasn’t an academic source and it wasn’t relevant to my topic, but it got me thinking about some connections that hadn’t occurred to me before. The article argued that ballet was anti-feminist because it places the ballerina in a role that is very different from that of a male dancer, and because the plotlines of most ballets idealize a feminine image.  Ballet requires a distinction between genders because females are supposed to look feminine and males are supposed to look masculine.  While the author was not harsh in her statement, she made it quite clear that she thought that ballet was demeaning to women because it doesn’t contradict gender stereotypes.

My first reaction was to disagree with the argument because anyone who dances knows that a female dancer is not weak and fragile. The ethereal and feminine image that is associated with ballet is only attained by years of hard work that requires just as much strength and endurance as athletic training. Besides that, not all ballet choreography makes use of that image. Not every female ballet role is a fairy or a princess, especially not in contemporary choreography. That being said, I have to acknowledge that my favorite ballets are, for the most part, the fairy tales, and that one of the things that I love most about ballet is the grace and elegance that, as the author of the article pointed out, is a stereotypically feminine ideal.  While I wouldn’t necessarily call ballet anti-feminist, I wouldn’t try to argue that it is feminist either, and if artistic directors tried to tamper with classical ballets to make them more feminist, I would see that as a terrible loss to the art form.

Actually, that relates to how I feel about modern feminism in general. Certainly, I wouldn’t want to go back to a time when I wouldn’t have been able to vote or to go to college and work towards a career, but in this time and place, I’m not subject to those kinds of discrimination, and I have no problem living in a society where men and women have different roles. In fact, I think that modern feminism goes too far and is actually demeaning to women. It denies the value of the ‘traditional’ role of women, and it looks down on females who ‘conform’ to conservative values. On a related note, I am not offended by conservative politicians’  ‘anti-feminist’ views about social issues, but I am offended to hear someone wonder why women would vote for a certain candidate with those views, especially when I had voted for said candidate. Conservative people don’t hate women; feminists hate conservative people, even the conservative people who are women.

To make the connection that I’ve been implying, both classical ballet and ‘old-fashioned’ ideas of femininity are, in my opinion, more positive towards women than a feminist view of art or society. It is not demeaning to women to acknowledge that there is a difference between males and females, especially not when feminine traits are considered good, and in the case of ballet, idealized. Furthermore, anyone who always analyzes art, literature, and history from a feminist perspective is missing out on other interesting or significant points. Some people may choose to look at the world and see gender discrimination everywhere around them, but I’d rather look at the world and see everything all around me. If girls and women should have the right to choose who they want to be, I’m exercising that right and choosing not to be a feminist.