Feministen tanzen den Tango

Nachdem ich anhand von Quidditch illustriert habe, was an Universitäten heutzutage unter „Forschung“ verstanden wird, wende ich mich jetzt einem anderen wichtigen Thema zu: dem Tango. Kathy Davis hat für die Zeitschrift „Feminist Theory“ einen Artikel dazu geschrieben: „Should a feminist dance tango? Some reflections on the experience and politics of passion„.

(c) Jenny Mealing / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tango-Show-Buenos-Aires-01.jpg
(c) Jenny Mealing / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tango-Show-Buenos-Aires-01.jpg

Bevor ich den Artikel gelesen habe, war mir gar nicht bewusst, dass es in Europa eine Subkultur von Tango-Tänzern gibt, die Unsummen in ihr Hobby investiert: In Unterricht, passende Kleidung und Reisen, vor allem nach Argentinien, dem Mekka der Tangotänzer. Auch wusste ich nicht, wie sehr der Tanz die Genderista beschäftigt. Kathy Davis von der Universität Amsterdam, die Autorin des besprochenen Artikels, hat ein ganzes Buch darüber geschrieben – genau wie Marta Savigliano, die heute an der Universität von Kalifornien (Riverside) lehrt, wie Maria Törnqvist von der Universität Uppsala und wie Julie Taylor von der Rice Universität. Prof. Dr. Paula-Irene Villa, eine deutsch-argentinische Soziologin, die heute für Gender an der LMU München zuständig ist, hat ebenfalls mindestens sieben Aufsätze zu dem Thema beigesteuert. Man sieht, die haben einen Riecher, für die wirklich wichtigen Dinge im Leben.

Man kann deren Problem mit dem unserer Lieblingsgermanistin vergleichen. Fräulein Strick strickt gerne. Warum auch nicht? Gerade wer arbeitslos ist und viel Freizeit hat, benötigt Hobbys. Aber stricken? Das klingt nach „Heimchen am Herde“, so gar nicht feministisch; das Private ist doch politisch. Also wird das Hobby ideologisch verklärt. Stricken ist nicht länger einfach nur Stricken, es wird zum „critical crafting„; so kann auch die Feministin von heute mitmachen.

Beim Tango stehen die tanzenden Feministen vor einem ähnlichen Problem. Der Tanz entspricht ganz und gar nicht ihren Idealen:

Tango seems to be the most extreme embodiment of traditional notions of gender and heterosexuality. The appearance of the dancers, their movements, but also the lyrics of the music, and the codified interactions between dancers in salons (the venues where tango is danced) are all permeated by hyper-heterosexual and old-fashioned meanings of masculinity and femininity. Tango, therefore, not only seems to be the performance of passion, but it is also the performance par excellence of gender inequality: feminine subservience and masculine machismo.

( Es ist also nicht  verwunderlich, dass sie auf Returns of King für Tango schwärmen 😉 )

Gräbt man ein wenig in der Vergangenheit, kommen noch mehr Probleme zum Vorschein:

Some have tackled the tango’s history by uncovering the gendered, racialised, and class dynamics of its emergence in the dockside slums of Buenos Aires at the turn of the twentieth century where it was a dance that was popular among migrants and prostitutes, but shunned by the Argentinean elite as disreputable and lower-class. They showed how tango was subsequently and repeatedly appropriated abroad, becoming in the process ‘whitened’ and desexualised enough to be acceptable to a European audience as well as the affluent classes back home.

Aber manche Feministinnen tanzen nun einmal für ihr Leben gerne Tango, etwa Kathy Davis selbst, und geraten so in einen Zwiespalt (“affektive Dissonanz”):

When a feminist dances tango she experiences a disjuncture between the experience and the politics of passion, between desiring something and yet knowing that she should not. This particular passion undermines her political or normative commitments, making her nervous, uncomfortable, and just a little conflicted.

Das Ziel Kathy Davis’ lautet daher: “saving face and reconciling my passion for tango with my credibility as a feminist”.

Aber bevor wir uns dem eigentlichen Problem zuwenden, können wir uns noch einmal vergegenwärtigen, was die Genderista unter Wissenschaft versteht:

As Carolyn Pedwell and Anne Whitehead (2012) note in their excellent introduction to a special issue of Feminist Theory, feminists have always been engaged with questions of affect, emotion, and feeling. Feminist scholarship began by challenging scientific authority that gave precedence to reason, objectivity, and value neutrality over emotions, subjectivity, and political engagement, thereby opening up space to explore embodied experience as a source of knowledge and a resource for a passionate and partisan feminist politics. In the wake of challenging the focus on rationality within mainstream science, feminist scholars might have begun a sustained exploration of the phenomenology and contradictions of passionate experience. For example, they might have investigated the ways that passion can be joyous, exciting, and exhilarating, yet also unsettling, disruptive, always just a little out of control. Or they might have explored the ways passion as embodied experience can become a transgressive activity in the context of late modernity, something which ‘incites rebellion [. . .] against the monotonous repetition of everyday oppressions’ (Delgado and Mun ̃oz, 1997: 10). However, this has not been the feminist agenda when it comes to passion. Feminist scholars, for the most part, have been less concerned with how passion feels or what it means in people’s everyday lives than in uncovering its role in the psychic legacies of sexism, homophobia, colonialism, and slavery.

Viele versuchen erst gar nicht, sich an den üblichen Standards wissenschaftlicher Forschung (Objektivität, Vernunft, Trennung von Politik und Wissenschaft,…) zu orientieren. Emotionales Geschwurbel und politischer Aktivismus stehen im Vordergrund.

Das zentrale Gefühl beim Tango-Tanzen ist die Leidenschaft (passion), sie muss genauer untersucht werden. Aber vertiefen wir zunächst die feministische Kritik am Tango:

[Prof. Dr. Paula-Irene] Villa begins her analysis of tango by framing it as a gender performance a`la Judith Butler. Tango, like many other gender performances, imitates heteronormativity, calling attention to hierarchical differences between the sexes, literally, with every step the dancers take. Women, already immobilised by impractical clothing and uncomfortable stiletto heels, are forced to follow their partner’s lead, dancing backwards with their eyes closed. According to Villa, women can never become ‘full subjects’ when they dance tango because they are not allowed as followers to initiate steps. She wonders how any woman could feel anything but stifled and unhappy when she is ‘confined’ to a small space (the embrace) over which she has so little control and where she is dependent upon the whims of her (male) dance partner. In her view, the very performance of tango is hopelessly skewed against women exercising their autonomy.[…] The separation of the roles according to the sex of the dancer, the performance of the dance, and the gendered organisation of the salon culture all reproduce traditional notions of gender. By accepting a ‘retrograde’ gender regime as part of what makes tango ‘authentic’ (i.e. ‘typically Argentinean’), European dancers reify gendered hierarchies as essential for the production of passion (Villa, 2001: 249)

Villa hat erste Vorschläge zur Rettung des Hobbys parat:

As she puts it, European men and women are already so firmly convinced of their autonomy and independence that they can afford to ‘play’ with different identities in accordance with their own desires. For them, tango provides a pleasant, but reassuringly temporary diversion whereby they can adopt exotically different, restrictive roles that they would reject in their ordinary lives. One might conclude from Villa’s work that combining tango and a feminist commitment to egalitarianism and consensuality in gender relations is a mission impossible. However, she leaves some room for transformation, here, again, drawing upon Butler’s work. In her view, queer tango – as rapidly emerging dance culture and as transgressive feminist ideal – not only ‘denaturalizes’ gender, but it ‘de-genders’ tango (Villa, 2010: 162). Tango is queered when new generations (of non-Argentineans) refuse to faithfully perform the gendered norms of traditional tango. It happens when they don androgynous cargo pants and comfortable shoes instead of sexy clothing and high heels. Tango becomes queer when women refuse to wait patiently until a man asks them to dance or when a follower interjects her own steps during the dance. And, most radically of all, tango is queered when the gendered binary between leader and follower is disbanded altogether and partners constantly – and with passion – switch the roles of leading and following.

Die bereits progressiv-erleuchteten Männer und Frauen des Westens können sich also ruhig ein wenig Rollenspielen hingeben, wenn das ihren Wünschen entspricht. Die Frauen ziehen sich etwas bequemeres an und gehen auch einmal auf die Männer zu, anstatt nur darauf zu warten, selbst angequatscht zu werden. Besonders radikal ist es, während des Tanzes die Rollen zu tauschen: Queer-Tango, mal führt der Mann, mal die Frau. Gleichheit und Gerechtigkeit auch beim Tanzen.

Marta Savigliano, Autorin des Buches „Tango and the Political Economy of Passion„, ist pessimistisch bezüglich solcher Rehabilitierungsversuche des Hobbys:

Drawing upon feminist and postcolonial theory, Savigliano places tango in an explicitly political perspective – a ‘politics of passion’, as she has so aptly called it. Her focus is on the gendered, ethnicised, and geographical disparities which tango as a heterosexist dance with colonial overtones represents. For her, encounters between men and women on the dance floor are always sites for the exercise of heteronormative power relations between men and women as well as for ‘othering’, cultural imperialism, and economic exploitation. […] The crux of her argument is that tango’s popularity abroad is just one more case of cultural imperialism – an asymmetrical encounter whereby the Feminist Theory political, historic, and economic asymmetries between the global North and South are played out on the dance floor (1995: 73–106; 2003). In her view, tango generates a political economy of passion that draws upon the same rules of exoticism that are part of any colonial or imperial project. Tango feeds the ethnicised and imperialist fantasies and desires of the white Europeans and Americans in search of the passion they are missing at home without their having to endanger the privileges they enjoy as inhabitants of the global North.

Das klingt alles sehr weit hergeholt. Wie viel Tanzschüler wissen wohl genaueres über Argentinien, den Hintergrund des Tangos, die damalige Kultur? Was hat der Tango, gestern und heute in Argentinien, ob von Touristen oder Einheimischen, mit den Tanzbemühungen hiesiger Tänzer zu tun? Da muss man schon kräftig biegen, um den Zusammenhang herzustellen.

Und wer lässt sich den Spaß am Kochen und Essen dadurch verderben, dass die Erfinder des Rezeptes oder gar Züchter der Zutaten irgendwelche Leichen im Keller haben?

Savigliano äußert sich auch zum Queer-Tango:

Unlike Villa, Savigliano does not see queer tango as an unproblematic subversive remedy for the gendered hierarchies of tango. Indeed, she shows how queer tango has become a trendy tourist attraction in Buenos Aires, and, as such, recycles the same tired imperialist dynamic of exoticisation that is present in tango in its more traditional forms. […] In contrast, the queer tango dancer from Europe or the US can perform her or his subversive persona in a context where the ‘right to choose’ (one’s partner, one’s style of dancing, one’s comportment in dance venues) meshes neatly with liberal desires for diversity and commitments to individual freedom. Same-sex dancing may even provide a reassuring signal in European and US tango salons that, despite their claim to be offering ‘authenticity’, they have not become too traditionally gendered (Savigliano, 2010: 140). She shows that most Argentinean tango dancers are less able to enjoy the perks of a cosmopolitan lifestyle which are open to tango dancers in the global North. Since the collapse of their economy and the devaluation of the peso in 2001, they are compelled to stay at home, while their foreign counterparts can travel the world in search of new dancing experiences. While Savigliano is appreciative of the ways queer tango has subverted some of the heteronormative conventions of the traditional tango salon, she ultimately argues that under globalisation it is still a commodity, and, indeed, a commodity which can be consumed for its ‘transgressiveness’, without altering asymmetries of power between North and South.

Es geht weiter drunter und drüber: Vom Tango-Tanzen hier nach Argentinien, über die Heteronormativität hin zur Globalisierung und schließlich zur Wirtschaftskrise – und dann wieder zurück zu den hiesige Tanzstuben. Wie mein Homöopath immer sagte: Alles hängt mit allem zusammen!

Kathy Davis, die Autorin des Artikels, gibt sich mit den Kritiken von Villa und Savigliano nicht zufrieden, sie will es genauer wissen:

It started with an ethnographic exploration of tango salons in Amsterdam, which is one of the tango centres in Europe, and in Buenos Aires, which continues to be regarded as the Mecca for tango. I observed dancers’ interactions on and off the dance floor and interviewed men and women who were passionate tango dancers, all of whom danced tango at least twice a week and some even twice a day.

Ein löblicher Schritt: der Versuch einer empirischen Annäherung an das Thema.  Nach welchen Kriterien sie Tango-Salons und Interview-Partner ausgesucht hat, erläutert sie leider nicht. Die untersuchten Personen verbinden mit dem Tanz meist etwas ganz anderes. Viele können es nicht in Worte fassen, und manchmal kommen sie mit solchen Erfahrungen:

Some would even start to cry when remembering a specific dance experience and then proceed to tell me about how it resonated with the death of a parent or partner, a divorce, or just missing their homeland.

Also nichts mit Wirtschaftskrise, Kolonialismus und so. Tod des Partners, Scheidung, Heimweh, die üblichen Probleme des Lebens.

Zurück zum eigentlichen Anliegen:

Nearly every woman I spoke with, for example, explained why she, who was so used to having control over her own life, was prepared to ‘surrender’ herself to her partner in tango. For example, this is the way Kate, a teacher in her mid-fifties, described her passion for tango:

„You know what my perfect dance is like? It’s like nothing bad is going to happen to me. I can close my eyes and just enjoy that this man is going to take care of me and make sure I have everything I can possibly need [. . .] I know what this sounds like [laughs]. I know there are two of you and it’s important to satisfy the other person. I know that’s all true. But I’m just telling you about my desires here.“

Das ist natürlich ärgerlich. Während ich den Ausführungen Savigliano nur wenig sinnvolles abgewinnen konnte, erschien mir der Vorschlag Villas als ein pragmatischer Ausweg. Aber er hat einen entscheidenden Haken: Bei vielen gibt es gar kein Bedürfnis nach Rollentausch. Manche Frauen wollen beim Tanzen nicht führen. Sie haben in ihrem Leben genug erfahren, was Selbständigkeit wirklich heißt, das unzählige Nachteile damit verbunden sind. Und dann genießen sie es, wenn sie wenigstens beim Tanzen geführt werden.

Einige Männer geben ähnlich unerfreuliche Antworten:

I like being the boss, but I could never do it so openly in my work. You know, you always have to negotiate, make sure everyone is equally involved and on board in the decision-making. But in tango, it’s OK, it’s a good thing to take the lead. I love it when my partners close their eyes, it’s like they’re saying, ‘Lead me! Do what you want! I’ll follow you wherever you go!’ (Leo, sixty-year-old lawyer)

Es gibt Tango-Tänzer, die wollen führen, und es gibt Tango-Tänzerinnen, die wollen geführt werden. Beide ergänzen sich hervorragend. Probleme gäbe es nur, wenn beide führen wollten oder beide geführt werden wollten. Eigentlich sollte sich das Thema damit erledigt haben. Nur wenn man sich freiwillig ideologische Scheuklappen aufsetzt, wird das ganze ein Problem – ein Problem zu dessen Lösung man dann dutzende fürstlich bezahlte Professoren und Dozenten benötigt. Und als Lösungsvorschlag präsentieren sie dann auch noch Queer-Tango, während man selbst Tango gerade wegen seiner ganz und gar unqueeren Natur liebt.

Welches Ausmaß die Unterwerfung unter feministische Ideologie bei einigen annimmt ist sehr bedenklich. Das Auseinanderdriften ihrer realen, vollkommen harmlosen Leidenschaften und dem, was die Ideologie von ihnen verlangt, erzeugt bei ihnen einen so großen inneren Konflikt, dass sie sich genötigt fühlen, ganze Bücher dazu zu schreiben. So etwas würde man doch normalerweise nur von sehr religiösen Menschen erwarten, die nicht damit klar kommen, was für böse Sünder sie sind.

Tango dancers have to make sense of experiences that are both fervently desired and yet at odds with the cultural or normative parameters of their normal identities and the shared cultural world view in many late modern societies […] Their struggles to reconcile their desire for tango with their ‘emancipated’ selves outside the tango salon are not so much about imitating retrograde gender roles, as Villa would have it, but rather engaging in some playful transgression of the ubiquitous norms of gender equality. The normative commitment to gender equality makes power differentials politically incorrect and, in so doing, makes it difficult to engage in many of the rituals that made the performance of gender erotic and pleasurable

Die Interviewten haben also die feministische Ideologie auch schon so weit internalisiert, dass sie sich gezwungen sehen, ihr Hobby gegenüber der Genderista zu rechtfertigen. Und sie lassen sich dadurch auch noch den Spass verderben. Eine sehr traurige Entwicklung.

Tango thrives on difference, allowing partners to encounter one another across the gulf that divides them, to find a space outside time and space where all boundaries magically disappear. It offers them a temporary escape from the norms of sexual equality which many people find important in their everyday lives in order to temporarily pursue their desire for passion. They can leave behind their normal or socially acceptable identities as progressive, enlightened members of late modern society without having to worry about disrupting their egalitarian relationships in their everyday lives. Thus, dancing tango produces gender relations that are neither retrograde nor emancipated, but rather – somewhat paradoxically – a very contemporary compensation for some of the costs of late modernity.

Ich hätte hier einen besseren Vorschlag: Hört doch einfach ganz auf, vertrottelte Social-Justice-Warrior zu sein. Kümmert euch nicht darum, was die „Progressiven“ von euch denken. Die moderne Arbeitswelt fordert schon genug Entsagungen, da muss man sich nicht auch noch in der Freizeit dem Diktat dahergelaufener Sittenwächter unterwerfen.

Die Genderista sieht das natürlich anders:

So, where does this leave us with regard to the rhetorical question I raised at the outset: Should a feminist dance tango? And, more importantly, what is it about feminist scholarship which makes it easier to analyse the politics of dancing tango than the embodied, passionate experience that it evokes? […] The dance scholar Jane Desmond (1997) has rightly argued that dancing should never be seen as an unmediated, transparent expression of pleasure and passion. Dancing is invariably embedded in hierarchies of difference and power and, therefore, rarely free of the tensions and antagonisms that are produced by gender, heteronormativity, and differences in class, ethnicity, generation, and national belonging. This is true whether one is talking about ballroom dancing, salsa, or the lindy hop (Eriksen, 2011; Johnson, 2011; Wade, 2011) and tango is, obviously, no exception. Moreover, as a global dance that has crossed many borders, it bears the burden of its entanglements in the histories of colonialism and imperialism in which it emerged and is deeply implicated in the present realities of global economic disparities between North and South. Originally poor but always moving upwards, white but with some traces of colour, colonised yet with a touch of barbarism in the process of being civilised, tango was and is ‘a perfect candidate for the modern capitalist condition of the exotic’ (Savigliano, 1995: 110) and, therefore, a welcome object for feminist and postcolonial critique.

Feministen haben es schon schwer.

  • Sie haben das Private zum Politischen erklärt.

  • Sie vertreten einen Hypermoralismus.

  • Sie folgen dem Prinzip „alles hängt mit allem zusammenhängt“, setzen Dinge in einen Zusammenhang, die auf den ersten Blick nur wenig miteinander zu tun haben.

Wenn man das alles ernst nimmt, ist man in der Praxis unweigerlich eine ungeheure Spaßbremse. Selbst eine Tätigkeit wie Tanzen kann man nicht mehr einfach so genießen. Es muss analysiert werden, Machtgefälle aufgedeckt werden, Heteronormativität entlarvt weden, usw. Der Gleichheitswahn fordert seinen Tribut.

Tango-Tänzerin Kathy Davis versucht zu retten, was zu retten ist. Sie holt zunächst noch einmal aus:

The feminist philosopher Sandra Bartky (1990) has been particularly interested in those experiences and practices that are passionately pursued by some women and yet at odds with their feminist politics. One of her most memorable cases – and it is one which is useful as a parallel for thinking about the experience and politics of tango – concerned a young feminist who was deeply ashamed about her masochistic fantasies which, as she admitted, tended to revolve around a host of normatively problematic experiences like ‘painful exposure, embarrassment, humiliation, mutilation, and domination by Gestapo-like characters’ (1990: 46–47). Bartky argued that feminist attempts to smooth out such contradictions between experience and politics along the lines of ‘masochism is bad because it reproduces relations of domination’ (the sexual determination thesis) or ‘if that’s what you want, just do it’ (the sexual voluntarism thesis) were both problematic. The former is problematic because it ignores the fact that the structures of feeling that give rise to politically incorrect desires then pervade people’s imaginations and Davis shape their sexuality to such an extent that denying them would be cruel and probably futile as well. As Bartky (1990: 57) puts it, one cannot simply replace a politically undesirable or oppressive sexuality with a politically desirable feminist sexuality, even assuming that one could define ‘feminist sexuality’. Given the enormous variation in sexual desire and practices among women, this would be not only oppressive itself, but probably impossible. However, the ‘just do it’ position is also problematic because it ignores the significance of shame and unease as understandable responses to behaviour that is seriously at variance with one’s political principles (Bartky, 1990: 60). In the case of the young woman who was deeply troubled by her fantasies, her shame is just as much a part of who she was as her sexual desires

Ja, ganz richtig. Tango ist nur ein exotischer Spezialfall eines viel allgemeineren Problems. Die realen Bedürfnisse von Frauen (ob in sexueller oder anderer Hinsicht) wollen häufig so gar nicht zu dem passen, was gemäß feministischer Ideologie wünschenswert wäre.

Bartkys Vorschlag dazu: In der Wunden rumpopeln und sehen, was daraus wird. Vielleicht kann man die Gefühle ja irgendwie für die feministische Theoriefindung nutzen:

Bartky’s approach, which has received little attention from contemporary feminist scholars of the ‘affective turn’, is not only concerned with the relationship between principles and passion; it is an approach which is both empirically grounded and critically reflexive. She believes that feminist scholars should treat any disjuncture between their own (and others’) experiences with their political or normative convictions as something to be confronted and explored rather than smoothed over or neatly explained away. Passions invariably evoke existential unease and contradictions – between, for example, ideologically discursive commitments, on the one hand, and transgressive desires, on the other hand. Bartky invites feminists to embrace precisely those emotions which they find the most disturbing and use them as a resource for doing feminist theory. This not only implies that feminist scholars need to ground their normative, theoretical critique of passion in a grounded analysis of what the experience of passion feels like and what it means to those who have it, but it also suggests contradictions between feminist theory and embodied experience are a useful starting.

Und schließlich der Vorschlag Davis:

Does this mean we should ignore the feminist postcolonial critique of the politics of tango? Of course not. However, I would like to offer a modest provocation in the direction of critical scholarship that privileges the theoretical and normative discourses of feminism and postcolonialism to explain passion while ignoring its most basic ingredient – namely, that people love what they are doing so deeply that they cannot help themselves and have to keep doing it. Instead, I would suggest a more grounded and reflexive approach to passion is called for – one that uses the embodiment of passion as an affective, sensual attachment with political implications as a site for exploring the contradictions and entanglements, the constraints and the possibilities that are part of any activity which is pleasurably intense and fervently desired, yet unsettling and perhaps even profoundly disturbing.

Naja, so wirklich befriedigend ist das nicht. Feministen leben in einer traurigen Welt. Sie glauben wirklich, sie könnten mittels feministischer Indoktrination und Verhaltenskontrolle einen neuen Menschen erschaffen. Und dann wird alles bedenklich, was dem Projekt zuwiderlaufen könnte. Jede Kleinigkeit muss „kritisch“ hinterfragt und gerechtfertigt werden, selbst wenn es um ganz banale, menschliche Bedürfnisse geht.

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